Dirt track racing is an American institution, the simple set up of the race track means that it’s a style of racing that could be enjoyed in both country towns and larger cities – and as a spectator you can get close to the action, often separated by just a flimsy wire fence.
The cars that were built for dirt track racing were typically very simple, and often assembled from parts available at the local junk yard. This example was built by Tommy Garland of Buellton, California in 1948 just as the USA emerged from the shadow of WWII.
A Ford Model A chassis was sourced and a 1922 Model T body was then fitted, with a 1914 Model T rear turtle deck and lid. The grill is a sectioned 1932 Chrysler unit, and the engine is a 270 cubic inch Chevrolet inline-6, paired with a 3-speed manual Chevrolet transmission that only has second and third gears fitted.
That tape-wrapped steering wheel started life as an industrial circular saw blade, it has the teeth milled off and the four cutouts added, after Tommy had finished with the tape it was an exceedingly tough steering wheel that was capable of handling abuse from even the most enthusiastic drivers.
That unpadded driver’s seat was pulled from a retired WWII bomber, and the original seat belt was kept in place as a hat tip to safety – along with the braced roll bar.
Garland was a talented welder and amateur engineer, he built the triple exhaust manifold himself as well as that twin “elbow warmer” exhaust. Sig Erson provided a custom-ground camshaft and the distributor was sourced from a 12 cylinder Cadillac, but adapted to handle the higher RPMs of the modified straight-6.
The Track T was raced at Porterville, Bakersfield, Lompoc, Old Ascot, and the Thunderbowl for 6 years – it’s said that future Indy car driver Chuck Hulsey took the wheel for a few races when its usual driver Lee Hammock was running his Kurtis Midget car.
After its glory days were over, the car was stored by Tommy Garland for 30 years until it was acquired by local Buellton racer “Slick” Gaines – who displayed it in original condition at a local museum.
Original racers like this almost never survive in their as-raced condition, most are scrapped and a lucky few are restored to better-than-new condition