We love it when a piece of history is put in our path and on rare days, we can actually link it to hot rod history. Today is one of those days as we spotted a vintage video from a bygone era. The video is titled “Midget Motor Mania – Vintage Model Car Racing,” and is part of a larger series “Adventures of a Newsreel Cameraman.” These were shorts done in 1938 and produced by Truman Talley and narrated and edited by Lew Lehr. This series was produced in the 1930s as part of the Fox Movietone News, famous for the newsreels before motion pictures in that time.
In addition to the historical perspective of being a video shot for Fox Movietone News, one of the earliest and longest running of all the American Newsreels, the series featured the most important stories from the 20th century. Twice a week, the newsreel kept American audiences abreast of current events while introducing them to foreign cultures and traditions. The bi-weekly newsreel covered domestic and international politics, emerging technologies, fashion, sports and human-interest stories, often ending on a light humorous note and thus establishing a format that newscasters continue to follow to this day.
Where this video has a brush with racing history is when tether car and slot car racing crossed paths with Vic Edelbrock Sr. of the famed Edelbrock parts manufacturer. As the description of this video points out, before there were RC cars, tethered cars and slot cars were popular with boys and men of all ages. From the 1930s to the 1950s, these cars often competed at local tracks. Most of these model cars were shaped after the very popular midget race cars of the day.
As the Edelbrock history explains the story, professional midget car driver Ed Haddad had been given some nitromethane-based fuel sold by a company called the Dooling Brothers of Los Angeles. The Dooling Brothers were manufacturers of aluminum midget slot cars that used this fuel to power their 6.1 cubic-inch single cylinder engine. The fuel scared Haddad, who thought it might blow up at any time, so he brought it to Edelbrock, who had already heard of the miracle fuel.
The first run on the dyno was proof that the nitro fuel worked, but the ratio and parts had to be designed around the fuel. Edelbrock Sr., continued to work with the fuel until he had the right combination to produce larger amounts of power than the Ford V8-60 engines were thought to be able to produce. As a result, the Edelbrock V8-60 midget turned heads by beating the mighty Offenhauser-powered engines of the day. This was the stuff that legends were made of, and all because of fuel used in model cars. That…. is the rest of the story.