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Resurrection of a King
Part III: Early History of the King's Special
The new body was a knock-out! The styling was virtually identical to the early 'Morton and Brett' bodies created for the Indy 500, with a long, narrow hood, slender body, and boat-tailed rear end. Yet, this was a home-built body, one that varied by an inch or so in actual dimensions from the professionally produced Indy cars, but resembled them in almost every other aspect.
The cockpit, only 19" wide (TJ, Sept. 25, 1957) was carefully trimmed in a rolled and wired edge. Pictures of the car at this time show that upholstery covered the single seat and folded over the rear edges of the passenger compartment to provide an element of safety. Like its predecessor, the car still featured a wind deflector in front of the steering wheel. The radiator and shell were most likely modified from existing used car components, but the hood was unique, having large scoops on the lower panels where one might expect louvers. Careful detail went into providing trim that covered the frame area around the radiator, as well as delicate "tail fins" on the rear. The entire body was sheet steel over an angle iron framework, the latter being gas-welded, as electric welding was not available in most small shops in the '20's. As much as this body seemed so far removed from the one that crashed in 1929, if one is to compare the pictures of the two cars, the chassis and exhaust header are identical. The frame may have been replaced, perhaps axles and other "T" parts too, but the result was to have the same basic chassis that they had before. The wire wheels, too, may have been replaced after the accident, but the same style was used on the new version. The car and chassis were painted white, which was totally impractical, but it certainly made it distinctive. The car's appearance may not have enhanced performance, but it likely buoyed the spirits of the owners and driver.
The colour of the car was even more enhanced by the driver's behavior: Frank Colosimo "would begin a meet with a spotless starched white shirt" (TJ, Sept. 25, 1957) and expected to stay in the lead so that it, as well as his car, would still be white at the end of the race. Another antic that inspired his followers was to drive past the grandstand flashing $10 bills in attempts to have fans wager against him. Both car and driver did very well with the newest version of the "speed wagon".
A clipping from the News Chronicle (July 2, 1931) states:
The races in August were equally as good for the newly renovated car and colourful driver. As the same paper (NC, Aug. 3, 1931), first introduced the race:
and then followed up the following day:
The successes were not limited to the Lakehead track alone. By rail, and perhaps ship, the car was taken to distant cities to compete in top notch racing. As Ernie Boffa (a veteran racer introduced earlier in this story) exclaimed: "Another guy, King, built a Liberty Ford, the type used at Indianapolis, and I drove it for him on the tracks at Superior, Winnipeg, and elsewhere." The King's Special was well known from at least Wisconsin to Manitoba.
Anyone reading this and old enough to have heard about the Great Depression must be wondering how these races carried on when the economy had tanked. The Stock Market crashed in 1929, at the same time the King's Special did. Yet the races were continued at least as late as 1934, and the race car was rebuilt over the winter of '29 to be on the track for the 1930 racing season. Attendance, though, dropped. From 4000, the numbers fell to 1000 for the race described in the above paragraph. By 1934, according to an unidentified newspaper clipping, things had worsened:
The same article describes, perhaps, the last official race of the King's Special:
With the Depression, The Dark Ages seemed to have settled in as far as organized racing was concerned, but further research may show otherwise. Five decades would go by before someone, an outsider, who lived more than a thousand miles away, would take up the challenge of finding whatever became of the legendary "King".