Robert Langford Modini Stack (01.13.1919 - [[05.14.2003) of Hollywood, California was a famous movie actor and early dry lakes hot rodder. Bob is best known for playing Elliot Ness in the TV-series The Untouchables, a role he played from 1959 to 1963, but he started acting in 1939.
Bob's father died when Bob was nine years old, and Clark Gable kind of became his surrogate father. Bob had a passion for exclusive automobiles, and he used to send away for catalogs of Talbot Lagos when he was a kid. From he was about 12 years old he used to go skeet shooting. That was what the top-of-the-line actors of Hollywood did at the time, and Bob especially remembers seing cars such as Gary Cooper's Duesenberg and a 540K Mercedes. Who had the hottest cars were always the big question amongst the actors. They would bet thousands of dollars and take their cars out racing. They all had drivers, they didn't race the cars themselves, so it was all more a matter of showing off than a competition. It was a matter of pride. Living in Hollywood, Bob was surrounded by exclusive cars. He remembers that J. Paul Getty would pick up his cousin in a lavender Duesenberg with the stacks coming out the side. There was also a Bugatti showroom about four blocks from his house on Wilshire Boulevard. The racing bug bit Bob at an early age, and it all began with a fellow with an old Model A named Al Jepson. Al was a former bullring racer and he raced at Indianapolis as a mechanic. Bob went by his shop one day, and Al offered him a ride in his hopped up Model A. Bob remembers that the car had all kinds of special work done to it. You couldn't see it, but when he heard it go he knew it wasn't the way Henry Ford designed it. Bob and Al went cruising down Santa Monica. They spied some gow jobs, and Al jabbed it and speed shifted through three gears and sucked the goggles of them all. That was it for Bob, he was now bitten by the bug. After that, Al built a 1931 Ford Model A roadster for Bob, that Bob raced to a record of 115.68 mph at the Muroc Dry Lake at age 19 in 1938.
Bob's first car was a 1934 or 1935 Willys Knight. It had a hand throttle, sort of like an early cruise-control, and Bob would pull it out all the way and keep the car chugging along at top speed, about 65 mph, all day long.
Bob was also interested in speed boats, and Bob and his family brought the first three-point hull hydroplane out to California. The hydroplane featured an Al Jepson built engine, and they had number one as a racing number for three years. Named "Thunderbird", Bob's championship-winning 18-foot three-point hull boat could top 100 mph in 1941.
Ed Winfield was a good friend of Bob, and he built up an Ariel Square-Four motorcycle for Bob. One time, while running up to Lake Tahoe with the stuntman Carey Loftin in the middle of the nigh, Bob nearly killed himself in an accident on that motorcycle.
After winning four Emmy awards for The Untouchables, Desi Arnaz, the shows executive producer, bought a 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL for Bob as a gidt. Bob kept on to the car, and he still owned it in 1998.
Robert Stack's Cars
Did You Enjoy This Article?
Kustomrama is an online encyclopedia dedicated to traditional hot rod and custom cars. Our mission is to protect, preserve and share traditional hot rod custom car history from all over the world.
- Find out how you can become a contributor.
- Forward this article to a friend.
- Subscribe to our newsletter and receive updates on Robert Stack and other subjects featured on Kustomrama.
Help Us Make This Article Better
If you have additional information, photos, feedback or corrections about Robert Stack, please get in touch with Kustomrama at: firstname.lastname@example.org.