Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bobby Grim 1957

(Jim Adams Photo)

The following was written by my father, Rick Johnson, and originally appeared in the Indianapolis Times newspaper and the October 9, 1957 edition of National Speed Sport News.

Bob Grim Cleans Up On Dirt

Earnings Top $25,000 For 1957

(Indianapolis Times Photo)

by Rick Johnson

Race fans generally look to Hollywood for their concepts of race driver’s lives.

Hollywood versions depict an exuberant, fun-loving chap that lives every moment as if it were his last and rides every race dodging old Father Time’s cruel scythe.

In reality there are only a few of that type. The rest are mostly a mild, gentlemanly bunch who drive race cars for a living. It is their job and not looked on by them as a hazardous profession.

Indianapolis can lay claim to one of these, namely Bob Grim. Bob has been racing, for a living, over ten years. Nine of these he has driven for one man, Hector Honore of Pana, Ill. Bob will tell you, if you ask about racing hazards, that the worst part of racing is driving to the track.

“For instance,” he said, “this year my boss and I have driven over 12,000 miles just getting to races. And the closest calls we had came on the road. I only had one spin on the track.”

Bob drives in the oldest racing association in America, the International Motor Contest Association, which has Joe Monsour, of Shreveport, La., as its president.

Bob says, “our organization is a no-limit one as far as engine displacement goes, but we have physical examinations, racing stewards, magnaflux rules and mandatory safety inspections at every race much like USAC.”

Grim got his start in Coal City right after the war when he and a few other boys got together and built up an old Studebaker to race at some of the tracks around the area.

“We didn’t win anything but a few thirds and fourths, but I got enough driving in to know that I wanted to do it for a living,” Grim said.

And so it started. Bob drove a few races and did very well. Then Honore spotted him and offered him a chance to drive regularly for him. Bob has been with him ever since with one exception.

Bob thought he would do better if he jumped IMCA and came to USAC. After three or four races he went back to IMCA.

“I just never felt right running up there,” Grim declared. “I’m used to running on a half-mile track and using knobby tires. I might give it another whirl some of these days though,” he added.

“I have driven on some of the best tracks in the U.S. and some of the worst,” Grim said, describing his working area. “I always drive according to the track…if it is rough you can only go so fast safely…the guys who get in trouble are the showoffs. You know a guy can drive too fast on a good track,” he said reflectively.

Bob has had only one serious accident in ten years of driving. That one came in 1954 at the Belleville, Kas., Fairgrounds. Grim was riding high, having control difficulties, when Bob Slater brushed him coming out of a turn. Grim’s car catapulted end over end and came to rest upside down and caught fire. Bob suffered some severe burns and bruises but recuperated fully.

This year in IMCA competition Grim has 22 wins, six seconds, three thirds and two fourths in 39 races. This has given him gross purses of over $25,000. He says that while this is one of his better seasons win wise, he did better money wise in 1948 and 1953, but that was because he raced more.

Grim has six more races schedules for the season, two in Nashville, Tenn., at the Fairgrounds, two at Birmingham, and another pair at Shreveport.

Grim’s competition sprinter is powered by a 250 cu. inch Offy.

When asked if he ever had any ambition to race in the “500” he said, “Do you remember what Jud Larson said when someone asked him how he liked the track? He said, ‘If they put about three inches of dirt on that thing I’ll feel right at home.’ That’s the way I feel,” he said.

Bob lives with his wife, Betty, and two children, little Bob, 8 years old, and Sue, 7, at 2214 Centennial.


“Oddly enough, the foregoing portion of this week’s column had already been written when a letter from out Kansas way came from Velma J. Reaser, in which some very complimentary remarks on the driving abilities of Jud Larson and Bobby Grim were expressed.

Velma’s question as to why Bobby has never driven the 500-mile race is answered in the foregoing article and oddly enough, is the same as another of auto racing’s driving greats on the dirt tracks who also has expressed the opinion that when they put dirt on the 500-mile course he would really give the rest of the drivers fits…we’re referring of course to the unexcelled Tommy Hinnershitz.”

-Gene Powlen, October 9, 1957, National Speed Sport News

Bobby apparently changed his mind. Indy...1959 Rookie of the Year. (Rick Johnson Photo)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

'Rudder' Could Add 15 mph To 500-Mile Race Speed

The following was written by my father, Rick Johnson, for the Indianapolis Times newspaper, in the Fall of 1957.

‘Rudder’ Could Add 15 mph To 500-Mile Race Speed

by Rick Johnson

Does it seem possible the Indianapolis “500” Mile Race could be run 15 mph faster next year?

It’s not only possible, it’s probable. A young mechanic has worked on and theoretically perfected an invention that could speed up the Indianapolis race, or any other race for that matter, that is run on a similar track.

John Totton is the man. His idea consists of a rudder mounted on the right side of the car that will hold the racer down in the grooves when extended at high speeds.

Sound simple?

It is a known fact that speeds have soared the last five years on the Indianapolis track. But, just how much more speed can mechanics and drivers urge out of their cars? It has reached the point where added speed is almost uncontrollable.

Here is where Totton’s idea comes in. His rudder, which will be placed at the center of the car or on the tail, will be pushed into the violent slipstream rushing alongside the car. Not only will this slow the car, much the same as a dive brake on jet fighters and bombers, but it will give the driver a controlled drift in the curves.

Totton contends, that with the rudder extended no more than 35 degrees to 45 degrees, the curve speeds at Indianapolis would soar as much as 15 mph.

The idea is not new. A.J. Watson, chief mechanic on the John Zink cars, experimented with a “rudder” on Troy Ruttman’s car prior to the last “500.” However, it apparently had no effect on the car’s maneuverability.

Totton said, “A.J. had his rudder placed directly behind the front wheel. It was in a vacuum. No wonder it didn’t work. Mine is placed further inboard. Watson knows it will work and he told me he’d be back next year with one that would work.”

The rudder, in Totton’s estimation, would do these things:

“Without a doubt, the driver would be able to corner faster with a curb put on the tremendous centrifugal force and drift. Also, all-important tire wear would be reduced. There would be less tendency for the tires to roll over and scuff in the curves.

“With a rudder, there would be less deaccelleration and acceleration and a great saving on the car brakes and fuel consumption. As a result of these things, a great deal of time could be saved from pit stops.”

Inventor Totton is no stranger to racing. He took up the sport in 1948 and voluntarily retired in 1955. He now lives with his wife and four children at Route 1 in Solsberry. Totton is well acquainted with some of the best wrench twisters at the track, and mechanics some himself.

He said, “Roy Sherman, the DA Lubricants mechanic, wanted to try my idea last year. But he didn’t have time to get it ready for the race. But if I get this patent I’ve applied for, then some of them will try it,” Totten said confidently.


Thanks to the intardnets and folks who are a helluva lot smarter than me, I have learned that the inventor's full name is John Mosley Totton, Jr. He patented his device in March of 1961.

Here is a full accounting of that patent. Click on the images for clarity and jaw-dropping detail!

Thanks to the U.S. Patent Office and FreePatentsOnline for the images and documents.