December '18

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26 THE SHOP DECEMBER 2018 Steve. "He just didn't want to drive, so I got behind the wheel." Thus began a lifelong love affair with racing. SETTING RECORDS Ron's first claim to racing fame was at the 1964 Bonneville Nationals, where he set his first land speed record in Jerry Tucker's #707 C/Gas Roadster with an average of 168.975 mph. Ironically, the car was named Bankruptcy I, and while Tucker is listed as the driver, Ron actually set the record. Ron, however, is listed in the '64 Bonneville program as the driver of the Hope & Schottmuller Ford Falcon. He went 144 mph. Steve, meanwhile, followed his brother to Bonneville, where he and Hutchinson raced the '34 in the X/Supercharged Coupe class. They set a record at 129.614 mph. Just as Steve and Hutchinson were get- ting started, however, Uncle Sam came a-knockin' and on Christmas Eve 1966 Steve shipped off to Vietnam. While Steve was away, Hutchinson continued to race the coupe, swapping out the flathead for a 260-ci Ford V-8. Steve returned home Christmas '67 and he and Hutchinson entered the '68 Bonneville Nationals. The problem with Bonneville back then, however, was that you only got to race once a year. In southern California, meanwhile, you could drag race almost every night of the week. They entered the '69 Winterna- tionals. At Irwindale they were running under the C/Gas Super Charged record but at Pomona they did not fare well; conse- quently, they pulled the Ford and replaced it with a 454 Chevy crate motor that cost $750. They changed the cam, fitted Hil- born injection and ran a Turbo 400 tranny. On Dec. 1, 1972 Steve raced the '34 at the last drag race at Lions, losing to Ed Sigman in the final. "Our best time at Lions was 10.02 sec- onds," Steve recalls. Incidentally, he still has the coupe, which has been refreshed by longtime friend and teammate Jim Alvaney. Eventually, they deemed the '34 too heavy and in 1973 built a lightweight Anglia using the engine out of the coupe. The car ran 9.70s at 152 mph when the A/Gas record was 9.50 seconds. They made about 20 passes in the car, mainly at Irwindale, but one night the Anglia pulled a giant wheelie, came down, bent the axle and got sideways. Knowing it was going to be bad, Steve tucked up his legs and let 'er roll. When he finally stopped he was right-side-up and OK. The Anglia? Not so much. The following week, Steve's friend Dwayne Litkey dropped off a dragster in his front yard and said, "This is yours." Steve and Hutchinson installed the 454 out of the wrecked Anglia and went racing, pretty much 50 weekends out of the year—first with the front-engine dragster and then a rear-engine dragster that they bracket-raced. "It only cost $3 to enter and you got $25 if you got to the semis," Steve remembers. "If you were runner-up you got $50 and if you won, $100. We made good money." FUN AT BONNEVILLE In the interim, Ron had teamed up with Ron Benham, often described as "the Smokey Yunick of land speed racing." Benham was racing a Modified Roadster that Ron drove to some success. Benham even accepted a request from U-Haul to pull a trailer behind the road- ster at Bonneville, where Ron got it up to 142 mph. The roadster was eventually sold to Anglo American Auto Auctions and Bobby Unser drove it into the 200 MPH HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL "Rat Trap" took a tour of New Zealand. Steve was a development/test driver on the Shelby CAN AM spec racer. Ron, left, Michael and Brian Hope keep rac- ing all in the family. Steve's '34.

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