Built sometime between 1948 -
53 at Lilly's Garage in Elwood, Indiana this homemade dragster
is believed to be the first vehicle in the state of Indiana produced
specifically for drag racing and for sure the oldest of all cacklecars.
It was constructed by the Lilly family and the late Bill Bronson
who resided in Tipton, Indiana. It was called the Bronson
Special and was campaigned at several racetracks (US30, Bunker
Hill, Stout Field, and Muncie Dragway) throughout Indiana. Bill's
grandson (also named Bill) even have a couple of old magazines
with photos that show he competed at the third world series of
Drag Racing in Cordova, IL in 1957.
His son, the late Larry Bronson
always told his son, Bill Bronson (who now has and restored the
car) it was built in the winter of 1948-1949. Bronson does have
a trophy from 1954, so he can date it at least to that timeframe.
Since its inception, this rail
has undergone many cosmetic updates. Bill Bronson campaigned
it initially as a rear engine 'belly tank' with a flat head motor.
Around 1958 he installed the '53 hemi motor that still resides
in the car today. Shortly before retiring from drag racing around
1966 the car was changed to a front engined 'slingshot' like
you see today.
This is the earliest photo of
the car taken in 1956 with the 'Stinger' dragster. This is the
dragster that the Lilly family built shortly after Bronson's
dragster was built.
Photo taken at the AATA Third
World Series of Drag Racing in Cordova, Ill. It's from a feature
done in January 1957 issue of Rodding and Restyling Magazine.
Smiley face and 'Talk to me Henry' were done by local pinstriper
without Bronson's knowledge as a joke; however he liked them
and kept the 'Talk to me Henry' until he switched to the Hemi.
The smiley face remains on the car to this day. (If anyone has
issue of this magazine, Bronson would gladly purchase it from
Another Photo taken at 3rd WSODR,
this one was featured in the first issue of Custom Rodder Magazine
in May of 1957 in a article titled 'Nitro for the Novice'. (Bronson
would also love to have a copy of this magazine if anyone has
Rear view taken on same
roll of film (probably on the same day).
Bill Bronson with car
Front view of Bronson in the
dragster in July of 1957 (date on back of photo is 07/06/57).
The youngest Bronson believes this is Stout field in Indiana.
Photo taken sometime
after the hemi conversion. Note: Potvin front mounted Supercharger.
Taken in the Bronson
driveway in 1961.
Photo taken in August of 1957
of Larry Bronson (at age 12) and Bill. The 32 Roadster was owned
and driven by Dick Kraft. Bronson has a SCTA tag from October
of 1948 when the roadster ran a ¼ mile at El Mirage 7.44
seconds at 120.96 mph (a rolling start). The car was given away
at the 1951 Indianapolis Auto Show. The eldest Bronson purchased
the car in October of 1953 and it is still in the family today.
Several time slips, believed
to be from early 60's. These include the lowest et time slip
on the car which is 10.55 seconds at 122.61 mph. Bill has spoken
with Mr. Lilly (original builder) and he believes that the car
ran over 170 mph before Bronson retired in 1966.
This photo taken in 1997 the
day Bronson pulled the dragster from the building behind his
grandparents property where it had been in storage since around
Photo taken at, Dan Sprinkle's
Garage in Tipton the day he and Bronson pulled the dragster from
the back building. As Bill recalls they pulled it out of the
back building on a Wednesday and he jokingly told Danny he would
have it running by the weekend. Sprinkle called Bronson the next
night to tell him that the motor was not locked, he found a starter
and if he would pick up some spark plugs, they would try to get
it going again. The old girl probably turned for 6 or 7 seconds
before firing. Not bad for sitting for over 30 years!
Photo taken during 'restoration'
process. Bronson uses the term very loosely because he simply
took the body panels off and repainted the car to what it would
have looked like in 1966. He did change out the transmission
and add a starter and battery so that it would be easier to get
on and off the trailer and start at car shows. Other than that,
It is same as it was when Bronson the elder retired from drag
Photo taken of the dragster at
a local show. Bronson isn't sure who gets a bigger thrill out
of this car, the people at the shows, or himself.
The Bronson Special on
display at the 2006 National Hot Rod Reunion.
Getting ready for the
Cacklefest at the 2006 National Hot Rod Reunion.
The Bronson Special made its
Cacklefest debut in 2004 Cacklefest at Beech Bend Raceway in
Bowling Green, KY. This was the first time that the car had been
on a dragstrip in nearly 40 years. Considering its history, driving
it was very emotional experience for Bronson.
The main reason I restored
the dragster was to learn more about it and my Grandfather (who
passed away when I was 3 years old in 1973).
Anyone having any photos,
videos or just stories that they would like to share, please
feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
for the assistance of many people I could not show cars for folks
like you to enjoy. Special thanks goes to my Wife, Cheryl, who
like all street rodding spouses, puts up with me working long
hours of getting ready for car shows in the summer and many more
long hours working on the cars in the winter.
Also, a special thanks to
my father in law, Mike Goodman and good friend, Danny Sprinkle
for all of their assistance over the years.
IN MEMORY This vehicle, as
with all vehicles shown under the Bronson Family name, is shown
in memory of My Grandfather: Bill Bronson, My Father: Larry Bronson
and my Mother: Patty Bronson.
Thanks, Bill Bronson