Another Morgensen Special?

From Alex MacGillavry:  "I bought this Chassis in Phoenix, AZ.  The man I bought it from has not been able to get me in touch with the person he bought it from, so far.   But from looking at old photographs and talking to vintage race car historians, chances are that this is a Morgensen Special, raced and/or owned by Tracy Bird."

"One race car historian remembered the car as the Morgensen Mercedes, because it had a Mercedes Engine in it.  The chassis has later been modified for a different engine, but I have not found out what type of engine that was yet.  In the pictures I sent you can see there seems to be a lot of family resemblance with the Morgensen Special that later came to be Ol' Yaller 1, but the front spring is different and there seems to be less triangulation in the engine bay. The roll bars and the forward mounted cut wishbones look like they are a later modification."

From Ron Cummings:  "We now know that Tracy Bird commissioned Morgensen and Boyd Hough to build a sister car to the car that later became Ol' Yaller I. It was powered by a Mercedes motor and looked just like the Morgensen Plymouth powered car. Jim Sitz tells me that it was even painted the same colors when it ran at Torrey Pines. Bird told Sitz, a few years ago, that he did not know where the car was. Alex has reason to believe that his chassis may be the missing Bird car." 

From former Ol' Yaller I owner Mike Larkin:

"Very Interesting. The rear end is very much like OY#1 but from the rollcage forward it's completely different. If it was built by Morgensen, I can't figure out why he didn't go with the torsion bars ??.   His Devin had them??"

From Alex:  "I would be grateful for any information that could help me restore this car."


Email from Ron Cummings to Dr. Ernie Nagamatsu about Morgensen's cars:

"Morgensen built and raced a Cadillac powered Glassbar bodied Special first. Dick raced this car against Balchowsky, driving the Vogel '32 Ford, at Torrey Pines around 1954. This was in the novice race and the two cars led the race at one point. I think this car may have used a cut down Ford chassis. I believe this is where Dick and Max became friends.

Then came the car that later became Old Yeller, note the original spelling. That car had a truss, almost space, frame and torsion bar front springs made from Ford leafs that were heated up and bent into a ninety degree angle. It was originally powered by a six cylinder Plymouth motor.Boyd Hough did a lot of the work, along with Morgensen.

The mystery Bird car must have come next. It looked just like the second car but the front suspension apparently did not use the torsion bars and the motor was a Mercedes unit rather than the Plymouth six cylinder motor. Noted historian Jim Sitz remembers Bird racing this car at Torrey Pines. The two cars were painted the same color scheme. Sitz says that the car was slow with it's Benz motor. Jim asked Tracy Bird about the car, a few years ago. Bird, who had also driven the car that later became Old Yeller on one occasion, did not remember where his car had gone.

Then came the Devin bodied Chevrolet powered car. This car used a simple 
latter frame, made of tubing. It also used the Ford spring leafs bent into 
torsion bars on the front of the car. This car did pretty well in races outside of California. It was not competitive in the California races. This car was sold to Stanley Sugarman who had Jim Connor do the driving. I believe Connor won a race in New Mexico with this car. I think it may have been scrapped but I am not sure about this.

Then came Morgensen's most successful car yet, the 250 Testa Rossa. Between California races the Ferrari was kept at Balchowsky's shop were Max serviced it. Most folks think Max hated the foreign race cars but he actually had a great interest in Ferrari. I remember hearing him give the owner of the
ex-Von Neumann 335MM Ferrari the complete history of the car's 4.1 motor
block after the engine put a connecting rod through the block at Riverside."

Next:   Another Morgensen Special -- 2

Back to:   Mystery Cars -- 2

Back to:   Updates