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History II

1934 Ford Pickup A true champion among hot rod haulers Words and photography by Mike Bumbeck
This 1934 Ford is a legend of South San Francisco hot rod history. Champion Speed Shop co-founder Jim "The Smiling Irishman" McLennan built the truck with his son Bob in mind from the beginning. While the shop has closed its doors, Bob now proudly owns and drives the supercharged Chevy-powered truck--whether the journey is 10 miles to work or 350 miles to Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California. As it has since 1953, the truck carries parts and serves as a tow vehicle for the Champion Speed Shop front engine top fuel slingshot dragster. The once utilitarian pickup truck got its original hot rod stripes with an Oldsmobile engine in 1953. As soon as Chevrolet sussed out the overhead-valve small-block, Jim shoehorned one into the truck and the shop dragster--a tradition that continues today. The current 350-cubic-inch small-block Chevrolet is equipped with a Cragar V- belt drive that spins a Roots GMC supercharger to produce roughly 400 horsepower. The Ford embodies the hot setup in hot rods through five decades. The suspension is a combination of an independent rear suspension from a Jaguar and a Bell front drop axle with disc brakes. Power goes from the engine through an automatic transmission, and hits the pavement through a set of tall final-drive gears. A steady foot on the throttle dispatches interstate miles at a velocity that the 75-year-old truck was never designed to achieve. Parts are far from what gives this Ford truck its soul. History rides along. The Ford was striped by the legendary Tommy "The Greek" Hrones, not once, but twice. Jim McLennan and Andy "Rodfather" Brizio wanted to get into the first Oakland Roadster Show. Word was there was a pinstriper in Oakland, California, named Tommy The Greek. McLennan and crew took the truck across the bay. Legend has it that, after the gang watched Tommy lay down the paint, he asked them if they liked his work. Of course, was the answer. "Oh yeah? Watch this. Nobody watches me stripe!" said The Greek, as he smeared the damp enamel line down the side of the truck with a rag. Andy and the rest of the crew had to hold Jim and Tommy apart, but Tommy was only goofing around with Jim. Fresh stripes went on, and the pickup made it to the first Oakland Roadster Show and many subsequent shows. Jim and Tommy became the best of pals. The Ford was repainted in the Eighties, and again striped by Tommy The Greek. This paint, along with an award-winning interior and set of staggered- width Tru-Spoke wheels, is what the truck still rolls with today. Though Jim has since gone on to the great drag strip, the twice-striped hot rod has passed from father to son, and is still running strong. This article originally appeared in the May, 2011 issue of Hemmings Motor News. Mike Bumbeck can be found at
Small-Block Chevy-Powered Champion Speed Shop Mouse Saws Through the Elephant Jungle
Written by Cole Coonce
Photos by Ted Soqui
The Champion Speed Shop dragster is a front-engine Top Fuel car out of South San Francisco, California, that features a couple of distinctions: first, a bulbous cockpit canopy from an outer-space movie buttressed by a swoopy, streamlined body with sumptuous, saucy red paint thicker than marinara; and secondly, a small-block Chevy replica that gulps and pukes nitromethane like Beelzebub on a bender.