One of the four mysterious photos Joe Gotelli – grandson of Ted “The Goat” Gotelli – dug out of a filing cabinet for me. While I had to find out what cosmic forces brought these elements together in front of a camera, they were also invaluable as the clearest images I had of the parts that made up this motor. Photo courtesy Gotelli Auto Supply; remaining photos by author, unless otherwise noted.
If you’ve been following along on this journey, you could probably imagine both the relief and trepidation that washed over me when I finally had the proof that this mystery Chrysler Hemi was exactly what I’d hoped it was. Relief that the gamble paid off, and I now owned a unicorn: a one-of-two fueler motor built by one of the great engine builders for one of the greatest speed shops during the greatest era of the greatest motorsport ever in the history of humankind in the entire universe, amen, but trepidation that I might break it.
But I could distract myself from any fears pretty easily by just focusing on these great old photos of Bruno, Ted Gotelli, the Organ Grinders, Gotelli Speed Shop, and the front-engine dragster they built and campaigned in the early Sixties, leading up to Denny Miliani’s death in the #19 full-bodied version of it in the summer of 1965. So, what was I going to do with all this evidence? We knew the motor hadn’t been run since it was rebuilt sometime around 1968. We also knew that Bruno first built it in 1962, but we can only assume it was pulled from the red-and-black Gotelli fueler in ’64, then sat on the shop floor until The Goat sold it to Ray Sharp in ’65 or ’66. Ray remembers Ted telling him it came “from a wrecked race car,” and we knew that it was rebuilt for his boat. Ray hurt the motor, and had Ted rebuild it again in ’68, but it never went back into his flat-bottom; instead, it sat on his own garage floor for decades. And that’s where Shea Shawnson found it in the mid ’00s.
My motor in the red-and-black version of the Gotelli fueler, on the floor of the machine shop behind the parts room at Gotelli Auto Supply in South San Francisco, California. The magnesium Thompson valve covers and upswept “zoomie” headers make me think this is probably 1963 or ’64. Photo by Bruno Gianoli.
Someone a lot smarter than me once said that we’re only stewards of these historic cars, and that we should do everything we can to preserve them while they’re in our care. Words to believe in, and while there’s no question I’d take the same approach to this Gotelli fueler motor, I knew I’d better get busy finding all the right parts it was missing. Good thing I had all those old photos for reference. At the same time, I knew just enough about old, mechanically injected blower dragster motors to know that they’re the exact opposite of what’s needed to run in a street car: loose tolerances, very little (or nonexistent) water circulation, and an all-or-nothing approach to air/fuel delivery. Certainly not built to idle through traffic or cruise at 1,800 rpm for two hours straight. But that’s exactly what I planned to do with it. A little nutty? I’d seen crazier things, but yeah.
Another in the series of four photos supplied by Joe Gotelli. This is the clearest image of all the details on the back of this motor. Look at that rear blower cover: a little painted Gotelli tag like the one on the girdle that started this whole journey. And why that machined window? We actually made the oil bracket for the correct Stewart-Warner oil-pressure gauge I found, and this photo made me realize I not only needed a timing ring for the magneto, but that the tach-drive base I had was wrong. It’s all about the details, now. Photo courtesy Gotelli Auto Supply.
So, Conder and I made a parts list, based on all the old photos of the red-and-black Gotelli car: a 6-71 blower, a timing cover, a crank-driven fuel pump, a “showerhead” fuel-injection setup, valley pan, blower intake manifold, blower pulleys, idler-pulley setup, and all the little bits that go along with these parts to make them work in concert. And they had to be historically accurate, based mostly on either small, original photos; sketchy, low-resolution digital pics found online; sometimes-fuzzy memories; and powers of historic deduction. This was going to be fun. Seriously. I love this stuff.
Gotelli’s listed in the back of a 1964 Mickey Thompson catalog. Google that address and you’ll still see the same shop in the same building.
A page from the Iskenderian Cams catalog of the era, showing a complete 6-71 blower kit with all the goodies for just under $500. Which would be just over $4,000.00 today. Which would still be a bargain.
My magnesium Thompson valve covers in a Mickey Thompson catalog. So, so pretty. Pretty, pretty.
Scotty Fenn’s Chassis Research print ad and T-shirts available in a Mickey Thompson’s catalog. Some things never change.
Roots-type superchargers had been used in drag racing since it got organized in the late Forties, but the GMC 6-71 really started to become popular in the late Fifties when the Chrysler 392 Hemi hit the tracks. Before so many speed-parts makers started casting their own purpose-built version of the 6-71, they were just cleaned up and refreshed stock units, right off a GMC diesel truck. Most teams would shave off the tabs used to hang the blower off the side of those GMC inliners, run a custom front bearing cover, an early aftermarket rear bearing carrier (to make room for a rear-located magneto), and a purpose-built drive snout before polishing everything. Not so with this one: Terrible Ted left the original tabs intact, and ran a stock front cover and a stock rear-bearing carrier with what looked like a handmade aluminum cover.
The stock, aluminum GMC 6-71 blower case I was given by a buddy. This was the workhorse of the motor blowers for decades. Still is, even though there are dozens of shops producing their own versions of it these days. Ted Gotelli used a stock unit just like this one, which made it the easiest of all the parts on the list to source.
The rotors that came with my blower were in decent shape. These things can be gouged pretty badly if grit gets sucked into the blower, but these don’t look bad. Also, I got a pinning kit: Since these things are hollow and the splined shaft ends don’t go all the way through, the rotors tend to spin on them at high rpm. Remember, these things were built for diesel truck engines and were never designed to spin as fast as a race car will ask them to.
The inside of the blower case mirrors the condition of the rotors, naturally. Conder had the case and rotors cleaned up, and we’re fairly certain it’ll do its job.
One of the great things about living in California is that old speed parts are, quite literally, laying around all over the place. A buddy gave me a stock 6-71 case and rotors that had been sitting on top of his shop refrigerator for years, and got the correct front cover from a stash another buddy had received from Cub Barnett Engineering; Tim manufactured the rear cover. The Iskenderian Gilmer drive snout was harder to find: Turns out, there were more than a few shops making these things in the early Sixties, but Gotelli ran an Isky unit with a distinctive black I.D. plate riveted to the top of it, which there doesn’t seem to be many of, anymore. The other end of this motor’s blower was a little trickier to find evidence of, as I had no clear shots of it, but there was plenty of evidence of a rare GT rear-bearing carrier plate on the later #19 car. I considered myself fairly lucky to find one, till Joe Gotelli showed me a mysterious old photo that featured the back of my motor, clearly displaying a painted brass Gotelli plate (that looked just like the one on the girdle) on flat-aluminum plate. Dangit. And I was really digging that GT cover, too. An old fueler’s blower is not only one of its most distinctive features, but its combination of parts really helps accurately date it, so we had to make sure this one was done right.
The Isky Gilmer drive snout with the black plate I used as my North Star on this search.
The stock front blower cover that came from Cub Barnett’s stash. You can see where the round drive snout mounts on the right, and the triangular “tri-plate” mounts to its left.
When we finally realized we’d have to make the rear blower bearing cover, we thought we’d have to fabricate a new Gotelli tag, too, until a good friend surprised me one day with an original, painted, never-mounted one! I couldn’t believe what I was holding in my hand: I’d never seen one before, other than the one that was hosed down in black wrinkle-finish on the motor’s girdle, and this one was perfect in vivid red and black. Really, this was the best score, other than actually getting the motor in the first place.
How cool is this?
Tim had the reveal machined into the aluminum plate, and it’s looking like 1962, bro!
The Intake Manifold
Vintage intakes are just cool. If you were trying to make a name for yourself in the early days of speed engineering, a line of cast-aluminum parts and intake manifolds were a signature must-have. The problem, in this case, was that intakes are really hard to see on a fully dressed front-engine dragster, and this one was no different. Old photos barely gave up any clues, but I had found a complete, era-correct Weiand piece, and I thought that job was done, at least until Conder noticed that there was just no evidence of a front-mounted pop-off plate in the photos we were working from. To corroborate his discovery, Gotelli’s magazine ads from the era didn’t feature the Weiand name. On the other hand, Tim realized that we needed an early Cragar manifold–a design that located the pop-off valves in its floor made by a name that Gotelli certainly featured in its 1962 ads.
The early Cragar blower manifold that found me. Notice the pop-off valves in the floor of the thing. Not really a design as effective as later models with the valves mounted to the front. If the motor coughed, the valves were designed to relieve pressure so the whole top end of the motor wouldn’t be cast off into the atmosphere. These looked as though they’d blast down toward the valley pan if activated; we all know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, don’t we?
Now, this specific intake is rare. Made in aluminum or magnesium, they’re even harder to find with their original pop-off valve parts intact. You’d think that fact would make them more valuable than others, but the design was flawed: if pop-off valves worked best in the bottom of the manifold, aimed at the valley pan, every maker would’ve been doing the same thing, right? So, as rare as they are, they’re only valuable to the .003% of the engine part-buying public doing ridiculous things like this, a fact that I’m constantly reminded of. Still, I was able to sell my Weiand and buy this Cragar, and all was right in the world. Conder had to work his magic on this one, though: It had eight port-nozzle holes that the Gotelli car’s didn’t have, so he conjured up some sorcery to make it look right.
Here, you can see (or not see, as it were) where Conder filled in the nozzle ports on the side of the intake, since this was a showerhead setup that never used nozzles.
The Valley Pan
If the intake manifold was hard to identify, the valley pan on this 392 Hemi was impossible to recognize. In this case, I figured I could use some creative license and replace that hacked-up finned-aluminum cover that was on the motor with something as cool as it was rare.
A page from Scotty Fenn’s Chassis Research catalog, showing his valley pan cover. Neat, rare piece.
And here’s the one I found. I had planned to hit the Portland Swap this past spring with this cover, the Isky idler setup, and drive snout on my list. A family emergency squished those plans, but all these parts came to me seven days later. Crazy.
Now, in the late Fifties and early Sixties, Ted Gotelli and the Organ Grinders were friends of Scotty Fenn – a mad genius whose main claim to fame was his K-88 slingshot dragster frame. Fenn’s company, Chassis Engineering, made those dragster frames, but also a complement of cast-aluminum parts. And his catalog of the era featured an aluminum Hemi valley pan cover blasting the Chassis Engineering name. I reasoned that it was totally plausible that this motor might’ve run one of these and put it on my must-have list.
One of the several old photos that show this mysterious Enderle bugcatcher design. Conder was all, “We’ll recreate it.” Which we did.
While the blower is a defining feature of an old race motor, its fuel setup is even more conspicuous. Carburetors? What type and how many? Fuel injection? What style? Gotelli used an Enderle “bugcatcher” mechanical fuel-injection system, with that easily-identifiable air scoop and three butterflies. But it was also a “showerhead” design: two fuel lines running into the driver’s-side of the scoop, with twin hard lines inside that looked just like wee showerheads designed to literally just dump fuel in great quantity down through the blower. Amazingly primitive fuel delivery system, but it was effective.
We started with a common, late-model Enderle three-rib bugcatcher, shaved off the ribs, and smoothed its face.
Conder drew the guide lines for each of the five humped ribs. Remember, this was all done using blurry photos and eyeballing it.
The (mostly) finished product. Lots of detail work to do, but you get the idea. You can see the showerhead ports Conder made in the side, too; trying to make it look like a cast piece is the hard part.
Now, this particular Enderle showerhead bugcatcher (see how this stuff starts to sound like a different language?) was unique. Every photo of it showed a five-ribbed design I’d never seen before. Pete Jensen said The Goat had gotten a few of these prototype designs from Enderle, but every one of them had either blown off the motor or was damaged when it “coughed” – a violent backfire that was fairly common at the time. I called Jim at Enderle and he told me that, in his 40 years at the company, he’d only ever seen photos of it. And weren’t there only a few ever made? It didn’t last long, though – the flawed design was replaced by the three-rib design still used to this day. “Good luck, Dan – lemme know if you ever find one…” Tim and I decided that the smart money was on fabricating a clone of this showerhead, so I sourced a Seventies-era unit, and shaved off the three ribs. Tim got to work making the five humped ribs, as well as drilling the side of the case and making two showerhead ports, then facing-off its nozzle-ported base to make it all look just right. Lots of work, but it was all so worth it.
The Isky idler setup I scored. The drive snout in the upper left corner of the pic was close, but not exactly what I needed. No matter, as the rest of the stuff was just right.
The Idler Pulley
Skads of different blower idler-pulley designs were sold over the years. But, of course, the Iskenderian slider-bracket-style this motor featured is one of the rarer ones. Of course. We found a complete set with bracket, pulley, bolt, and pillow block spacers, but then realized that the spacers wouldn’t allow the bracket to clear the timing cover. Tim turned this frown upside-down by not only having a custom set made that would allow everything to fit, but also that would allow coolant to be fed through them and into what was left of the block’s water passages. WIN!
The Weiand timing cover, Hilborn pump and some of the collected parts in their natural habitat, based on the photos we had found. Good times.
Timing Cover and Fuel Pump
Remember what I was guessing about Gotelli Speed Shop not featuring Weiand speed parts? That assumption sort of falls apart a little when I looked at old photos of this motor’s timing cover. It’s aluminum and finned, and looks an awful lot like a Weiand. Which are fairly easy to find, and, really, can’t at least one thing just be easy on this? So, then: Weiand, it is.
This is how we assembled the collection of parts and mounted them, based on all these old photos. My smartphone has more technology inside it than was used to put man on the moon; I think I’m putting it to good use, no?
The fuel pump seemed easily identifiable. Hilborn 150 pumps were really common back then, and this motor was no different. The pump extension was harder to figure out, but a buddy had a new-old-stock magnesium piece, complete with bearings and shaft, so that was that. Some things don’t need to be overthought, right?
The back of the motor, as we finished up the rear cover, bug catcher and manifold massaging. Here, you can see the Vertex magneto, too. We knew the original one had a red cap and a degree ring, but the tachometer drive on this one makes it sit way too high off the block’s deck. We’ll have to do something about that.
Vertex magnetos were sold by Ronco, but are now sold and serviced by Taylor – the spark plug wire folks. This was originally a small Ford mag, but Taylor just replaced the spindle with a Hemi version, freshened it up and sent it back to me, ready to light.
Blower pulleys are a sort of performance art. Nowadays, there are two basic different styles: half-inch pitch and a series of different millimeter-based pitch. In 1962, half-inch pitch was the only thing available, but you had dozens of different tooth-size pulleys to make up whatever combination of underdriven, overdriven, or 1:1 ratio of rpm you wanted out of your blower. We could see that this motor was underdriven – the crank pulley was bigger than the blower drive pulley, making the blower rotors turn faster than the crank.
Also, pulleys came in two-inch and three-inch width. I’ve heard conflicting opinions as to which size this motor ran, but I think the truth is that both were probably run at different times. Although, I’m guessing the two-inch pulleys were used first.
Since the old photos are so blurry, I thought I was seeing an Isky Cams tri-plate on the blower’s front cover, and I found this one, but I realized I was wrong about that, once I saw the close-up images of the motor Joe Gotelli showed me. I think it’s actually a Cragar piece, dangit.
This treasure hunt has been the most fun I’ve had with cars in a long time. I know some hotrodders who love the thrill of the chase more than actually owning and driving a car, which turns them into serial flippers. I’m not one of those guys, but I now understand how many endorphins fire off every time I actually find one of these rare parts. It can be addictive. But the biggest thrill has been piecing this old beast together and learning more about drag racing history, as well as the history of Gotelli Speed Shop and what motivated Terrible Ted and Bruno Gianoli to do what they did as they helped develop an entire industry. Now I not only had a blower motor for my Model T, but a 392 Hemi with incredible history and provenance. We just had to figure out how to run it as a reliable street-driven motor without eating itself alive. No problem, right?
The motor gently, gently being fed to the car. This will happen about 357 more times before we’re done. Ever hear a cherry picker groan?