Bronson Special

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History

 

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 them)

 

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 it)

 

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.

 

Rear view taken on same roll of film (probably on the same day).

 

Bill Bronson with car around 1957-1958.

 

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.

 

 

Photo taken sometime after the hemi conversion. Note: Potvin front mounted Supercharger.

 

Taken in the Bronson driveway in 1961.

 

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.

 

Orangeline

 

Restoration

 

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 1966.

 

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 racing.

 

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 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.

 

Cacklest 2005

 

 

The Bronson Special on display at the 2006 National Hot Rod Reunion.

 

Getting ready for the Cacklefest at the 2006 National Hot Rod Reunion.

 

 

Orangeline

 

From the owner:

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: bill_bronson@hotmail.com bill_bronson@hotmail.com

SPECIAL THANKS… If not 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

 

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