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Valve Cover Racers

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The '55 had been on the road a couple of years by the late '80's. During this time, at the car shows, there was a competition that started showing up here and there. It was called Valve Cover Racing. In short, it was putting a set of wheels on a valve cover and gravity racing it down a plywood ramp, kind of like soap box derby racing, only on a small scale. In one of the parts cars I bought there was a pair of aluminum Cal Custom valve covers. One of the valve covers had a crudely cut hole in it for an oil fill hole, making it virtually worthless. The other valve cover however was in beautiful shape. What do you do with a single valve cover? You put a set of wheels on it and make a valve cover racer!

I guess I had a few spare hours to put in the racer, but only after I found myself searching auto parts stores and junkyards for special bearings, I started to ask myself why I was putting so much effort in it. That was a question I couldn't answer, but the search for small friction free bearings took several weeks. I finally found what I was looking for in a vacume cleaner head and I found myself actually spending a couple bucks for parts for this thing. Next, I needed relatively large, lightweight wheels. These were found in a 1/4" sheet of lexan. The project took a couple weeks of my spare time and the final result was a fairly high tech looking work of art. In the back of my mind were thoughts of wasted time on a stupid toy.

Freddy had been watching me work on this toy and said he wanted one too. His was a little lower tech but pretty cool in itself. His was built from a steel Chevrolet script valve cover mounted on a 2x4 with rollerskate wheels.

The new toys found a home in the trunk of the '55, going wherever the car went. Whenever there was a valve cover race at a car show, the valve cover racers were put into action. It turned out they were very competitive racers from the start. Just entering in a race would get a nice T-shirt, being a finalist would get a small trophy or a couple bucks cash. After winning several races and collecting some really neat "stuff", I started to think that our efforts were not wasted after all. It was after winning a pair of $80 Rebock shoes that I came to realize these things was paying their own way! I guess the racers rode in the trunk of the car for a couple years before being taken to the trophy room and retired from service. At last count, the $8 dollar investment and some spare parts had accounted for maybe $120 in winnings!