Fred Larsen

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A photo of Fred in a street-friendly-version of his second 1929 Ford Model A roadster. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.
Fred racing the roadster at a dry lakes event. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.
Fred and Marylou Larsen with Stella and Don Cummins during a 1954 Pomona Drags event. The gang are chilling on Fred's 1929 Ford Model A Roadster. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.
"Beauty and the Beast." A photo of Marylou with "Miller's Missile" during the 1955 Bonneville Nationals. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.
In 1955 Fred bought Ak Miller's rear-engine roadster, "Miller's Missile." The roadster featured a tube frame and a 1927 Ford Model T body. Fred installed a fuel injected 1952 Chrysler 331 cu. in. engine in it, and ran it at the lakes as well as local strips. This photo shows Fred with the roadster in 1956. The car has a brand new flame paint job for the season. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.
In 1957, Fred flipped his 1927 Ford Model T roadster at Bonneville. "I tore my face and head all to hell, he told Dick Martin. This photo shows the roadster as it appeared after the accident. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.
Fred showing off his helmet after the accident in 1957. "The mag broke off, hit me on the back of the head, and took my helmet off. I went sideways and over backward 180 feet when I hit the first time. The car was going backward upside-down, and I slid on my head on the salt. I had 180 stitches on my head and face," Fred told Dick Martin in an interview. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.
Fred's 7th car was a front-engine Modified 1927 Ford Model T Roadster. Running a 1932 Ford chassis, the car set a record every year from 1959 to 1964. This photo of the racer was taken in 1964. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.
Fred and Don Cummins with their first Streamliner in 1966. Don and Fred took the Streamliner to Bonneville in 1966. It ran a two-way average of 255 mph. One of the international records they were aiming for was the 248-mph Class D record set by Rudolph Caracciola in a supercharged Mercedes Grand Prix car in 1939. They set eight F.I.A. records in 1967 with a best of 275 mph, shattering Caracciola’s 28-year-old mark. The Larsen & Cummins Streamliner became the world’s fastest 3L car holding the one-mile F.I.A. record of 310.26 mph. Photo from The Fred Larsen Photo Collection.

Fred Phillip Larsen,Jr. (02.23.1922 - 03.24.2003) of La Miranda, California was a pioneer hot rodder, dry lakes racer and drag racer. He is a lifetime member of the 300-MPH chapter of the Bonneville 200-MPH Club, and the holder of multiple World Land Speed Records for streamlined vehicles set at the Bonneville Salt Flats.


Born in Illinois, Moved to California

Fred was born in Oak Park, Illinois, February 23, 1922. He grew up in Culver City, California on the west side of Los Angeles.


Muroc and First Car

In 1936 Fred attended his first dry lakes meet, as a spectator at the Muroc dry lakes.[1] In 1938 he built his first hot rod, a 1925 Ford Model T roadster. Fred's Model T featured a modified roadster body. The engine had a "Ricardo" flat head and a Winfield updraft carburetor. Power was transferred through a Chevrolet transmission. Fred owned the Model T for about a year.[2]


2nd Car

Fred's second car was a 1928 Chevrolet roadster. He built the car himself, and it was powered by a 1928 Chevrolet four-cylinder engine. The engine ran an Oldsmobile head, high compression pistons, a Ford T camshaft, and a Winfield carburetor. The Chevrolet roadster body was replaced with a lighter 1927 Ford Model T body. This roadster turned 85 M.P.H. at the dry lakes in 1940. Fred owned this roadster for about 18 months.[2]


Graduated High School

In 1940 Fred graduated from Alexander-Hamilton High School. After high school, he attended Santa Monica Junior College for one year, taking a commercial art course.[2]


Machine Shop

For a year, Fred worked in the machine shop of Auto Parts store.[2]


3rd Car

Fred's last car before the war was a 1929 Ford Model A roadster. The roadster ran a four-cylinder Model A engine with a 4 inch bore, a Winfield cam and head, and two Winfield carburetors. The block was also ported and polished. The roadster ran 112 M.P.H. at the dry lakes in 1941.[2]


4th Car

In 1942 Fred joined the Navy. While in the Navy in 1948, he built a 1929 Ford roadster with a special frame that used the center of a 1932 Ford frame and kickups from a 1925 Chevrolet. The roadster was one of the first cars to use a belly pan and hydraulic brakes.[2] Fred drove the roadster from California to Connecticut and then all over the eastern seaboard. He drove it back to California where he turned it into a lakes and drag-race car.[1] In 1950 he was able to compete in racing again.[2]


Culver City Screwdrivers

After returning to Culver City, Larsen joined the Culver City Screwdrivers car club. As one of the clubs in the Rusetta Timing Association, it was responsible for setting up the racecourse on the lakebed. Fred and the other Screwdrivers would arrive at El Mirage at 7:30 a.m. to mark the course.[1]


Don Cummins

In 1952 Fred met Don Cummins in the Navy. Both were from Southern California, and they became neighbors in civilian life and successful partners in racing.


5th Car

In the 1950s Fred's interest in drag racing evolved, and he bought Ak Miller's rear-engine roadster, "Miller's Missile," in 1955. The roadster featured a tube frame and a 1927 Ford Model T body. Fred installed a fuel injected 1952 Chrysler 331 cu. in. engine in it, and ran it at the lakes as well as local strips.[2]


"I Tore my Face and Head All to Hell!"

In 1957, Fred flipped the roadster at Bonneville. "I tore my face and head all to hell,'' Fred told Dick Martin. "The mag broke off, hit me on the back of the head, and took my helmet off. I went sideways and over backward 180 feet when I hit the first time. The car was going backward upside-down, and I slid on my head on the salt. I had 180 stitches on my head and face."[1]


Don Cummins' Pick Up

After the crash, in 1958, Fred helped Don Cummins build a 1929 Ford Model A pick up truck. He installed the engine from the damaged roadster and ran it on gasoline. Fred set gas roadster record at the dry lakes of 170 M.P.H. He also set 1/2 mile drag record of 150 M.P.H. with the roadster.[2]


7th Car

Fred's 7th car was a front-engine Modified 1927 Ford Model T Roadster. Running a 1932 Ford chassis, the car set a record every year from 1959 to 1964.[2]


Retired from the United States Navy

In 1962 Fred retired from the United States Navy, after distinguished service in WWII, the Korean War, and the initial stages of the Vietnam War. Serving aboard the USS Jacob Jones, DE 130 he participated in the massive antisubmarine warfare campaign in advance of the allied invasion of Normandy and later served in the USS Tortuga, LSD 26.[3] In 1963 L.A. Times summed up his success: "The most consistent winner at the annual Bonneville speed trials for the past five years has been a retired Navy chief petty officer from La Mirada, Fred Larsen."


Moon Equipment Company

ın 1962 Fred went to work as a machinist for Moon Equipment Company. "Dean Moon was a very hard person to work for," Fred told Dick Martin, "but it was 10 minutes from home, I had free run of a machine shop, and he needed me to go to Bonneville."


Mickey Thompson

Working with Mickey Thompson. Fred assisted in the construction of the first Indianapolis 500 racing cars to make extensive use of titanium.[3]


Shelby's Cobra

Fred built the prototype for Carroll Shelby's Cobra at Moon's shop. "Dean put me on lend-lease to Carroll Shelby, who leased part of the building from Moon. In 1962 we picked up an AC Cobra chassis and body. Ford sent the first motor, a 221. Mel Chastain and I put in the motor, transmission, and driveline, and I built those outside headers. Carroll kept dragging header guys in to look at my configuration. They said, 'You can't beat it.' When Shelby moved to Venice, Californi, he asked me to go with him. I said no," Fred told Hot Rod Magazine.[1]


8th Car - The Larsen & Cummins Streamliner

Fred teamed up with Don Cummins to build his first from-the-ground-up race car, using the classic slingshot, front-engine design. Lynn Yakel designed the body, applying principles of aerodynamic airplane design. Don and Fred built the chassis and the motors. The genius of the chassis design was that it could have been run on the salt without the body. Everything was tucked inside. Two engines were built for the roadster, one for the D class, and one for the E class. The engine size could not be any larger than 183 ci to compete in D class, and 120 ci for the E class. A 1959 Chevrolet 265 block with a 5/8-inch destroked crank was used to create the 183 ci V-8. It ran heads from a 283-inch Chevy and 4-71 GMC Blower. The estimated horsepower was 450. For the second motor Fred wanted 120 inches. "After building the 180, I knew I couldn’t get a Chevy that small and still get valves in it, so I built a 240 and left half the pistons out. I staggered them; every other one in the firing order was left out—two center pistons on one side and two outer pistons on the other. The Potvin blower hung right on the front of the crank. That gave me my 120 inches," Fred told Dick Martin.[1]


Don and Fred took the Streamliner to Bonneville in 1966. It ran a two-way average of 255 mph. One of the international records Fred and Don were aiming for was the 248-mph Class D record set by Rudolph Caracciola in a supercharged Mercedes Grand Prix car in 1939. They set eight F.I.A. records in 1967 with a best of 275 mph, shattering Caracciola’s 28-year-old mark. The Larsen & Cummins Streamliner became the world’s fastest 3L car holding the one-mile F.I.A. record of 310.26 mph.[1]


Fred campaigned the car himself for a couple pf years. Shige Suganuma, who was selling Moon's Speed Equipment in Japan approached Fred about sponsoring the streamliner. Later on, Shige bought the entire company, and he asked Fred to come back to work for him.[1]

National Hot Rod Association Lifetime Achievement Award

Fred raced the lakes for over 60 years, and he broke land speed records every decade from 1959 to 2000. In 1997 Fred and Don received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Hot Rod Association at the 1997 California Hot Rod Reunion.[1]


Retired

In September, 2000 at the age of 80, Fred set a 258 mph record and decided to retire from racing. He still went to work for Moon Equipment.[4]


Passed Away

After a brief stay at Whittier Medical Center, Fred passed away in his sleep March 24, 2003. Fred was survived by his wife Marylou.[3]


Friday, September 19, 2003 Fred's ashes were spread behind the Mike Nish Streamliner when it deployed its parachute. Marylou flew in from La Mirada with a group of friends to take part of the event.


Fred Larsen's Cars

Fred Larsen's 1925 Ford Model T Roadster
Ak Miller's 1927 Ford Model T Roadster - Miller's Missile
Fred Larsen's 1927 Ford Model T Roadster
Fred Larsen's 1928 Chevrolet Roadster
Fred Larsen's 1929 Ford Model A Roadster
Fred Larsen's Second 1929 Ford Model A Roadster
Fred Larsen's Third 1927 Ford Model T Roadster
The Larsen & Cummins Streamliner


References



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