Charlotte's Oldest Hot Rod at GoodGuys Show
The Hudson Motor Company introduced the Essex Terraplane in 1932. Designed to compete for scarce Depression-era dollars, the Terraplane was a small but powerful car, built to Hudson¿s exacting standards. With the best horsepower-to-weight ratio of any 1933 model, the Essex Terraplane quickly became a favorite among early hot rodders.
This particular 1933 Essex Terraplane, now owned by Frank Spittle of Cornelius, has been burning up the streets of Charlotte for more than 60 years.
¿Willie Thompson bought the car out of a junkyard on Wilkinson Boulevard around 1940,¿ said Spittle, who has owned the car since 1968. ¿He gave it to his 14-year-old brother, Jack, when he joined the Navy right after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Jack had just gotten his license and, at 14 years of age, owned one of the fastest cars on the streets of Charlotte.
¿Jack owned the car until about 1953 when he sold it to Bob Harkey. Bob raced sprint cars and later ran in the Indy 500 several times. He acquired a Cadillac engine out of Buck Baker¿s NASCAR championship racer and put it in the Terraplane,¿ Spittle added. ¿Harkey then sold the car to Bob Lawhorn, who along with body man extraordinaire Joe Mears, refurbished it.
¿I fell in love with the car the first time I saw it coming back from the 1961 National 400 when I was only 17,¿ Spittle continued. ¿I would occasionally see the Terraplane on the streets of Charlotte and dream of the day I might own it.¿
Spittle¿s dream eventually came true.
¿I bought the car from Tommy Zeman in 1968 and redid it to late 1960¿s street rodding trends. However, its Cadillac engine was no longer the hot setup, so I bought a supercharged Chevy out of a gasser and put in it. Presto, it was once again the fastest car on the streets of Charlotte. I never lost a race with it, but I had hard time getting anyone to race me with the GMC supercharger sticking out of the hood.
¿More than 30 years later, people still talk about seeing the car years ago and are shocked to discover I still have it. I have had a great time owning the car all these years and I¿ve had a great time getting in touch with all the previous owners,¿ Spittle concluded.
Spittle has invited all living former owners of his 1933 Essex Terraplane to attend this weekend¿s GoodGuys event and there promises to be plenty of ¿bench racing¿ among the group.
The 10th year of this wildly popular show will see the California-based GoodGuys organization bring scores of pre-1972 hot rods, street rods, customs, classics, musclecars and trucks to Lowe¿s Motor Speedway from across the country.
Also included in the weekend¿the fastest growing show on the GoodGuys calendar¿is a manufacturer¿s midway, model car and pedal car show and a chance to ride around the famous 1.5-mile oval at 130-plus miles per hour in the passenger seat of an authentic NASCAR Winston Cup race car.
Saturday night will see the return of the popular ¿Cruise Under the Lights,¿ where more than 1,000 hot rods and customs will take to the 1.5-mile superspeedway for several laps.
Admission to the K&N Filters GoodGuys Southeastern Nationals presented by A Sani Can is $12, with children ages 7 to 12 admitted for $6. Children 6 and under are admitted free. Parking is $5.
Event hours are Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, visit www.good-guys.com or www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205.