Monday, April 17, 2017

Dick Woodland's beautiful vintage
midget race car

On display in the Estrella Warbird Museum entry hall and gift shop area is this beautiful pre-war “rail frame” midget race car which is part of the Richard “Dick” Woodland collection.

Richard Sawin of Seekonk Massachusetts began construction of this car in 1938 or 1939 but sold it partially completed during 1940. Due to the shortages of World War II the  second owner did have the car ready for its racing debut until 1946. Mr. Sawin later sold plans to build a  similar front and rear cross spring midget race car during 1946 through a classified advertisement in Popular Mechanics magazine

The car is powered by a “flathead” Ford V8-60 engine which displaced 136 cubic inches from the factory and produced 60 horsepower with 6-to-1 cylinder compression. The output of this engine fitted with aluminum cylinder heads and fed higher octane gasoline through dual Stomberg 97 carburetors for racing would have been considerably higher. 

This car is displayed in the colors of the Bowes Seal Fast Company although Mr. Woodland is fairly certain that the car never raced in this livery. Mr. Woodland believes that at some point during its racing career, this car was owned by Roscoe Morris “Pappy” Hough famous for his team of “five little pigs” midget race cars that raced up and down the East Coast. 

At some time, possibly under Hough’s ownership the car was driven by William “Shorty” Cantlon a veteran midget driver who was killed in an accident on the 41th lap in the 1947 Indianapolis 500-mile race. Cantlon 43 years of age drove the front-wheel drive #24 bright orange ‘Automobile Shippers Special’ owned by Lou Rassey while wearing a matching bright orange shirt and helmet.

All photos by the author, who extends his appreciation to Dick Woodland for maintaining the Woodland Auto Display.

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