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Looking for Photos and Info on the Morgensen/Bird Special


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#1 metalshapes

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 01:43

Some time ago I bought a incomplete old road race Special.

With the help of Race Car Historians I have been able to find out which car it more than likely is.
We think it is the Morgensen Special that Tracy Bird raced in 1953.
http://www.tamsoldra...rgSpecial1.html

In 1954 Dick Morgensen started to race the sister car to the '53 car.
It was powered by a straight 6 Plymouth Flathead, but he swapped a Buick Nailhead into it for the '55 season.
After Margaret Pritchard's fatal crash at Torrey Pines, the car went to Max Balchowski, and became known as Old Yeller #1.

Unfortunately less is known about the '53 car
It was powered by a straight 6 Mercedes, and going by the info on old entry lists ( 2996cc), that must have been a 300 Adenauer Engine.
( introduced in '51, so that must have been an almost new engine at the time )
I have a DVD set by All Moss that has a still on it from this car racing at March AFB in '53, so I know the Racing number (#99), and the color combination ( Purple & Black )
The Car also shows up in a '54 Torrey Pines entry list, with drivers Tracy Bird,T.W.Warner Jr, and Dave Crane.
Racing number #52.

I've heard from several people that the car was unsuccesfull with its underpowered Mercedes engine, and the Chassis that I have has been modified for a different engine.

I have a LaTourette see through drawing of the '54 Morgensen Buick, which was done for a Sportscar Illustrated article.
And it shows a real family resemblence to the Chassis that I own.
Technical data mentioned in the article check out with mine as well ( the chromemoly tubes used and the diameter.)
And construction details ( the connected rear shackles of the rear suspension, the gastank brackets, the front mounts of the rear springs, the outside mechanical brake handle, brackets for the radiator, etc...)
Most brackets and tubing to support the bodywork are gone, they were ground off and painted over.
But stripping the paint in the places where the brackets were in the drawing shows the grind and weld marks on my Chassis.

The original welds on my Chassis are phenominal, and Dick Morgensens Fabricator Boyd Hough was known for his beautifull welding.
(Later modifications were obviously done by somebody else...)

All in all I'm convinced that my chassis must be the Morgensen/Bird car, but there are some big gaps in its history.

If I could find more period Photo's of both Morgensen Specials, that would really help me with the restoration.


Photo's that I am particularly interested in are the original Photo that was used in Allan Girdler's book "American Road Race Specials" Pg65.
It shows Dick Morgensen in the '54 car in front of Ken Miles in the R2 Shingle

And the Photo that was taken right after the fatal 1955 Torrey Pines crash, a still of it was used in the Speedvision " Behind the headlights" program.

( both of those would be the '54 car )


If anybody would be able to help me out with additional Info, Photo's, or People to contact, I would be really gratefull.

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 02:00

By enlarging and enhancing the pics on that site, I see it's got a '40-'48 Ford front suspension...

But rather unusually, it's mounted within the chassis rather than the more typical under the chassis... rather like some early Clubmans cars.

Interesting stuff. I'd love to see pics of the Chrysler and Buick-engined cars myself.

#3 metalshapes

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 02:14

Originally posted by Ray Bell


But rather unusually, it's mounted within the chassis rather than the more typical under the chassis... rather like some early Clubmans cars.


Exactly...

The cut wishbones that point foreward and are welded to a Swaybar are a later modification.

2 longer cut wishbones were pointing to the rear before.

The biggest difference between the '53 and the '54 cars seems to be the Front suspension.

My car has a Early Ford I Beam, with one leafspring.

The '54 car had a V8 60 Tube Axle, with leaf springs modified to work in torsion.

And the '54 car had a 4 bar ( link ), and it looks like mine had cut 'bones.

But the tube Shocks are mounted in the same place on both of them with simular brackets.

#4 Terry O'Neil

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 09:34

Possibly not of any significance to your seach, but the car raced at March AFB in 1954, not 1953.
In race 2, Dave Crane drove the car to 6th place, and in race 7 Tracey Bird went out on lap 21.
Could you post a picture of the car running at Mach AFB please?
Terry

#5 metalshapes

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Posted 17 September 2006 - 18:25

No, its all significant to me...

I'll go back and check.


In the info that you have, what was the racing number?


The image that I have is a still on a DVD.

#6 Terry O'Neil

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Posted 17 September 2006 - 18:54

The car ran on number 99 at March AFB in 1954.
Terry

#7 metalshapes

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Posted 17 September 2006 - 19:04

I must be a year off, then.

Thank you for the correction.