An update on the restoration of the Arizona Hard Chrome midget- almost ready to roar. Ron Trainor has provided an update on the restoration of the Arizona Hard Chrome V-4 midget engine:
"We are just about done. Took the injectors apart
to machine flats and to make the water tubes. He jumped on them right
away and I got the injectors back and back together. Found out I had to
order new injector stacks. Don’t ask me how I got 1/16 of an inch too
small. I should have had a machinist to measure them for me before I had
them chromed, but we have new ones on the way. Just little things
to finish up now such as fittings and hoses, breathers and mount the oil
Recently, the Editor came across this Richard
Cordsen photo of Gene “Tiger” Brown in a sprint car and based on the sponsor
name on the hood, contacted Ron Trainor at Arizona Hard Chrome to see if he knew more. Here is Ron’s story:
the original Hank Arnold “Twister,” also known as the “Arizona Hard Chrome
Twister”. Hank was a good friend of my dad’s and a super nice guy. My dad, Glenn, gave
him free crankshafts and was surprised when Hank put our name on the side of
photo of 'the Twister' courtesy of Jim
(this may be from the July 1963 issue of Hot Rod magazine)
“Twister” came from the fact that Hank who was always trying something new; he
tried using a GMC blower on a circle track car. (A 301 cubic inch Chevrolet engine equipped with a GMC 4-71 supercharger)
The car was a huge crowd favorite but not always successful.
There were many
blown engines, but when Hank finished a race, he won, and when he won, he won
big. It was not a particularly good handling car even though it was the first
car I ever knew of to have a Watts link on the right rear. But it really did
not matter how it handled in the corners because it was so darn fast on the
I can still remember the sound of those “zoomie” pipes with the
engine cranking out of the chassis coming off turn four and the left front wheel
in the air for as long as Hank had his foot in it.
Hank Arnold in the "Twister" inside Jerry Coons Sr. at Tuscon
photo courtesy of Bill Van
Hank ran the "Twister" for a few years, he met some guy that wanted to finance a
newer experiment for Hank to try. Hank sold the Twister and built a
conventional sprint car with a 427 Ford for power. It was also an ill-handling
car because of the torque curve and the heavy weight of the engine. In June 1967,
Hank was killed in an accident at Manzanita Speedway in the new car.
he had sold the "Twister" to the Gibson family, another bunch of nice people to
whom we also gave free crankshaft work. They kept the 'Arizona Hard Chrome' name
on the side of the hood and continued with Gene Brown as the driver.
It was not
long before they built a good powerful engine and got rid of the blower. The
car was never the same, but it did become more consistent, they won many races and
were the Manzanita Speedway champions.
In those days,
they called the racing cars “Open House Modifieds” and they all started with T
buckets or coupes but as time went by they became nothing but sprint cars
with T bucket bodies. When the California guys from CRA (California Racing
Association) would come to town with their fully chromed, trick painted, sleek
sprint cars it would drive them nuts to get beat by a local modified, which
Gene Brown did regularly with the Gibson car.
Eventually the CRA guys passed a
rule that all cars must have a sprint car tail section. They all thought that
would finally put an end to the reign of the old "Twister." After all, it had a
complete roll cage and it was built extra wide for the T bucket body, so there
was no way a sprint car tail would fit.
the rule changed two weeks before the big Manzanita CRA race, ‘Skeet’ Gibson, the
dad, said “Hey, I’ll tell you what, I’ll be damned if a damn rule change is
going to keep us from winning their damn race, and hey, I mean it.” The Gibson
family had owned a welding shop in the North West corner of the parking lot of
Manzanita Speedway since the nineteen fifties, so they were familiar with what
it took to fabricate and fix race cars.
Richard Cordsen photo
This picture is after two weeks’ worth of work the Gibson’s did to make the 'Twister' into a sprint car. Not the most graceful design, but you can guess who won the
race. I do not know everyone in the picture, but from the second from left is
younger son Billy Gibson, next to Billy is son in-law Gene Gilles, next is
driver Gene Brown, in the center is father ‘Skeet’ Gibson. Second from the right
is the oldest brother, crew chief, and engine builder Bobby Gibson, whom I
still enjoy seeing on occasion.
Hank Arnold, Gene Brown, Bobby Gibson, and his father,
‘Skeet’ Gibson are all members of the Arizona Motorsports Hall Of Fame.”
Thank you Ron!
If you love auto racing history, the next time you visit the Phoenix area, plan to visit the
Arizona Motorsports Open Wheel Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Their website is terrific too!