Model Racing Cars

1952 So-Cal Belly Tank Lakester

Alex Xydias and his So-Cal Speed Shop built the fastest unblown flathead-powered car in the history of Bonneville… a 1951 record that still stands! The mustered-out Army Air Corps B-17 engineer was looking for a way to put his Burbank-based So-Cal Speed Shop on the map in the hot rod culture that was booming in Southern California at the end of World War II, and a record breaking racecar seemed to be a natural. The So-Cal Speed Shop belly tank was built using a 315 gallon surplus P-38 centerline fuel tank (belly tank) as its body. Using the streamlined belly tank was a natural to this Air Corps veteran who knew that Lockheed had spent lots of time in the wind tunnel with these tanks making them aerodynamically “slippery” and they were available as war surplus for $5! In August of 1948, Alex installed a “souped-up” Ford 156 cu. in. V8-60 that he and hot rod pioneer Vic Edelbrock Sr. built. He towed the car to El Mirage dry lake and set a class record of 130.155. Initially the car was run as a streamliner, but the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) created a special class for these fuel tank cars calling them “lakesters”. Later at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Alex and his So-Cal Speed Shop team used the V8-60 to set a class record at 145.395. They swapped out the V8-60 for a larger 259 inch Mercury flathead and set another class record at 181.085. They then put in a 296 inch Mercury flathead and set yet another class record at 195.77 setting a one-way speed of 198.34 mph. This last class record was broken again the next day by Mal Hoopster running 197.88 in a Chrysler Hemi powered lakester in the same class, but the one-way speed still stands as the fastest speed ever achieved by a normally-aspirated flathead-powered car. At the 1952 Bonneville Speedweek, this car was voted the “Most Honored Car in the History of Bonneville”.


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