Scorpion V

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 History

 

The Scorpion V was the next to last car that Bobby Langley campaigned and was a typical slingshot dragster for the time with the exception of the unique bodywork that was Bobby's trademark. The car's chassis was built by Don Garlits with the body and drive train by Bobby and friends. This would be the first car Bobby had that he did not build completely himself. All of Bobby's cars made impressions and almost everyone who ever saw one of Bobby's cars remembers them. The car was not only memorable for its looks but was very competitive, as were all of Bobby's cars. Scorpion V won Top Fuel Eliminator at the AHRA Nationals at Green valley in 1964. Bobby and Ruth traveled all over the country match racing which is the reason Bobby and his cars are known nationwide.

The original chassis was built at the Garlits shop, probably by Connie Swingle. The chassis was delivered in the spring of 1964, with a cut down rear housing (the ends not welded on) and a front axle with radius rods. Bobby did the rest of the work himself. The chassis had two unique modifications that would lead to the car's later identification. In all other Garlits chassis of this time, the main hoop of the roll cage extended down through the shoulder hoop to the bottom rail; Bobby's chassis had this lower portion of the tubing removed just under the shoulder bar. Why this was done, is not certain but, could be because this car is much wider that most or to get more flex from the chassis. Bobby later welded ¼ inch square bars to the underside of the lower front tubes to prevent damage from scraping on return roads as it was a very low car. Bobby and Ruth campaigned the car across the country until 1966 when it was sold complete, less engine to George Fields. After Fields the next 38 years are a blank until 2004 when it showed up at the first National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green. That's where the restoration starts but first the history.

 

This is the earliest known shot of the car before Bobby had finished welding fins on the rear sides in 1964.

 

The car after the fins were added but before paint.

 

Houston, TX 1964
Forrest Bond Photo

 

Bobby and Ruth Langley at the 1964 AHRA Nationals.
Forrest Bond Photo

 

Scorpion V in 1965 with Bobby and Ruth Langley, son Jack and daughter Judy. The two men on the right are unknown.

 

 

In the pits at Lions in 1965.

 

"This is the Garlits chassis "Scorpion V" of Bobby Langley. This shot was taken at the 1965 Mickey Thompson 200 mph Invitational held at Fontana's "Drag City". That's me in the shot at age 15. This was the one AND ONLY time I got my hands (hand) on a top eliminator car. I was pretty shy back then and was very careful not to bother any of my heroes, but my Dad (also Bill Pitts) insisted that I "grab the rollbar" for the shot. If you'll look real close you'll notice that I'm just barely hanging on. This was another big meet with 64 cars going off on Saturday and 32 on Sunday. The big meets of 1965 were like "heaven" to me.
photo & commentary from Bill Pitts

 

Scorpion V in action at the 1965 Fuel & Gas Championships at Bakersfield.

 

 

A blown engine on the line caused Bobby to UN-suit! at the 1965 US Nationals in Indy.
Forrest Bond Photo

 

Bobby and "TV Tommy" Ivo during the 1965 US Nationals.
Forrest Bond Photo

 

A cartoon leading up to a Texas match race between Tommy Ivo and Bobby Langley in 1965.

 

These cockpit and blower shots from a 1965 Car Craft was very helpful for the restoration.

 

 

Bakersfield in 1966.

 

This 1966 pit shot shows the unique detail in the cars tail piece.

 

Bobby Langley - AA/FD - Amarillo, 1966
This was the standard Langley deal... Bobby and Ruth - period.

 

For Bobby setting the tires on fire was not that uncommon like this shot from the 1966 US Nationals. This is no engine failure! Many saw him do it one night at Green Valley (although not to this extent). (It was the night Ivo’s push car rear ended Tommy’s dragster). It was heard that after this run Garlits came over and ask Bobby “How do you do that?” Bobby said ..”I don’t know.”

 

Orangeline

 

Restoration

 

The Scorpion V's travels from the time it was sold by George Fields are unknown until 2000 when it turned up at an Arlington, Texas swap meet. The car was minus an engine and its unique body which, gave it the look of just another ordinary "old dragster" and hid its identity. The car was purchased by Robert Cassel and his nephew of Ft. Worth, Texas. They never got it running but, did drop a blown Chevy engine in it and put Santa Claus in the drivers seat for use as a Christmas decoration in the front yard. People told Mr. Cassel that it wasn't a pro built car and should not be run as is (At least that last part turned out to be quite accurate). Mr Cassel sold the car to Arlington hot rodder Charles Duran. He kept it a while then sold it to a Scorpion I collaborator Paul Adams of Dallas, Texas. Paul wanted it more for a prop for his large photo display of vintage drag and lakes cars. Don Ross told Adams that he thought it was the Scorpion V. Adams sought collaboration of this and asked Don Garlits to verify it's origin at Bowling Green in 2004. Don was quite busy but, did stop to look at photos and said, "I believe it is one of our cars, but could not say for sure with out seeing it in person". About a month later Ross and Adams loaded the car up and took it to Langley's home. Bobby walked around behind the roll bar rubbing his hand over it as he passed. He then looked under the bottom front rails where he had welded 1/4" square bar. He looked up, smiled and said yes indeed it was his # 5 car.

About a year had passed and Don Ross was in the middle of the Scorpion II B recreation for Don Garlits' museum when a fellow Named Bill Crosby came in to the shop looking for some one to build a chassis for a front engine dragster. They were looking at the Scorpion II project and all of Don's research photos which included several shots of Scorpion V and Bill commented " you know of all the dragsters that ran back in the day; I always liked was Scorpion V the best". Ross said, "What would you think if I told you where it is and it could be purchased". Bill just said "Oh No, what's the phone number". What happened next is Bill's own account of what started the restoration of Scorpion V.

"I took Paul Adams' number and thought I'd just go by and take a look at the car I last remembered seeing some 40 years ago. Bobby Langley is the reason I got hooked on dragsters and nitro cars in the first place. I was born and lived all of my life (at that time) in Ardmore, Oklahoma and was interested in cars since seeing my first drag race on a dirt strip in the early 50's at the local airport where a strange looking "car" with no body made spectacular runs followed by a cloud of dust. People called it a "rail job". Needless to say we didn't see any top flight race cars in Ardmore and in the early 60's we made a trip to Caddo Mills and there the belled tip exhaust of Scorpion IV shook my insides and blasted me with nitro fumes. Was that cool or what! What a car, long, low; a covering of the talc like dust so common to central Texas in the summertime gave a flat finish to the black dragster. The front of the car had a mouth with big teeth and a high curving back with the picture of a scorpion. If the car was intimidating the driver was even more so; a big man with a long black beard (nobody wore beards at that time) who seemed completely in control of the monster. From that time on I was a nitro junkie and Bobby Langley fan.

Several months, may be close to a year later (probably in late 1964) we heard that Langley would match race someone, whose name I now can't remember, at Green Valley Raceway in Smithfield, Texas and I had to see that. While sitting in spectator stands the announcer began his build up for the race and onto the fire up road pulled not the full bodied dragster I was expecting but, the longest dragster I had ever seen! It was evil looking with a brief black body complete with fins and spikes and such trimmed in red and white. Now by this time I had gotten deeper into drag racing and was building a B/Comp roadster (the old Rineaur & Cobb T) running an injected 289 Ford with my long time friend Fillmore Vaughan so, I had seen quite a few of the name dragsters but, again, this car was different, there was an aura about it. Was this digger cool or what! All of this went through my mind as I made my way to Paul Adams' house to view this icon's relic. Of course, restoration of a car like this would take time, money, skill, and resources. I knew I couldn't do it but, hopefully some one would, I was just take a good look.

Walking into Paul Adams garage is like walking into a drag racing museum, car club plaques, old photos, roadsters, lead sleds and there against the wall was…..the car. It was red, not black and looked kinda' shabby with a small block chevy bolted in it. The gothic body was gone, replaced with a composite body (that is one made with pieces of tin and aluminum) fastened in place with 10,000 pop rivets but,…beneath all this you could see the unmistakable loop of the roll bar, the single radius rods and the bracket for the steering idler arm that gave the original car that "broken in the middle" look. I began to think I could do this project, then I quickly came to my senses. Paul and I shook hands ….the deal was done. I owned the car that had lived in my memory for 40 years! I had no trailer to move it, no room in my garage to keep it, no tools left to work on it, my wife was out of town and didn't know anything about it. Was this COOL or what!

A few blocks away I began to think this thing through, only one solution…call Don Ross!"

"There could be only one person to handle this restoration and that was Don. Hand skills are good to have but without fully researching every aspect of a car you just have a pretty car, with Don you get the car as it was and any changes made to it must be justified."

Ross couldn't get the car into his shop until he finished up Scorpion II and then had some work to do on a T roadster so, Bill took it home and started to dismantle as much of the added stuff as he could and assess any damage that would have to be fixed. He initially envisioned a quick week or two to get the chassis ready but, as he removed more and more of the junk that had been added on, he began to see more and more things that had to be fixed; major things.

Ross was finally ready to begin in the early spring of 2006. Bill thought that it might be ready for Bowling Green in June! It wasn't… but, they were on their way. The years and moisture had not been kind to the old warrior; a lot of the tubing was rusted almost through from the inside out. Don began to replace the bad tubing and they started to look for parts. Their first parts hunting trip lead to their biggest find. While looking at a magneto at an area shop that sold used speed equipment they offhandedly asked if the shop had any old American Mag Wheels. "Yeah" they said and produced not just a set wheels but the original wheels of Scorpion V complete with the machined bullet centers that Bobby had made and were mounted with 10.50 M&H slicks (of course they didn't know what they were.. and Don and Bill didn't tell). They were off to a great start!
Over the next months Bill gathered parts via Ebay and through the local racing community. Ronnie Ussery had an old sliding bar idler bracket and pulley, Kenneth Rierson chipped in with a set of Avon Speedmaster tires, Floyd Head donated some blower pulleys and belts. They got some big help through a few sponsors; Dirty Joe's Chrome and Hands Off Polishing in Garland, Texas. Bobby lamented to Ed Iskendarian on the phone one day that it looked as if they were going to run a Howard cam and he had always been an Isky man. Well, Ed would have none of that and sent a good "cackle" cam to make the restoration complete. Tinker Faulkner, a sponsor on Scorpion I would handle the engine assembly, Craig Huls applied the shiny black paint (a Bobby Langley trademark) and Daniel Gay did a tremendous job of duplicating the striping. Paul Fuess will do the tuning on the engine and teach Bill the ins and outs of running a fuel car. The Scorpion V was well on its way back!

When ask about whole process of restoring the fabled race car Bill commented. "When you first start one of these restorations you wonder "How will I do this?" Well, the first thing you learn is to stop using the word "I". You learn quickly that you are not the only one that is deeply attached to the car. There are people all over county that remember where they saw the car and who they were with when they did. The car is part of many people's memories and they all give something toward its restoration. You soon realize that you are not the owner of the car; it belongs to everyone who has a memory of it, you are just the one that gets to keep it in your garage!"

 

This how the car looked when delievered by Paul Adams to Bill Crosby.

 

The very used Scorpion V, a Garlits 1963 chassis, after it was stripped. The chassis had many badly welded additions and about one thousand pop rivet holes.

 

They found the original American wheels that came off the car many years ago. The tires were totally stuck to this wheels. They had the wheels soda blasted then sprayed them with a protective coating.

 

The first step was stripping the "junk" off the chassis so it could be repaired.

 

After the hoops were cut off they were able to get some old bends from Don Garlits to replace the top and bottom hoops.

 

New hoops welded in place.

 

 

Chassis cut at rear of engine to prep for front half replacement.

 

Trimmed 1957 Olds rearend housing that will be used for alignment then finished for use in the car.

 

New main rails in place.

 

 

Engine placement is established with the rearend clamped in place.

 

 

With the main rails and front end completed the engine plate was set and marked for drilling.

 

 

 

Owner/caretaker Bill Crosby of Mesquite TX. gets his first fit in the seat. It's hard to fill the seat that Bobby filled so well.

 

 

Note that the front engine mounts are inside (not above) the rails, this is because the care is wider than the standard of the day.

 

The steering box and support were mounted next.

 

The wood is propped against the rear tire and the other board holds the rear header tube at 50 degrees. This can be repeated on the right side which is closer to the tire. The original zoomes pointed the last two tubes rite at the tire, this would not work on a Cacklecar.

 

Headers complete although not exactly correct. They do plan to make a set of headers to match the original configuration (for display purposes) in the future.

 

Clutch pedal and linkage in place.

 

 

The trick brake lever is cut from 3/4"X 2" aluminum bar. The fuel shut off lever was cut from 1" plate. This is not a c&c part,it was band sawed to front and side profiles. Hand ground to shape, belt sanded smoother then Sanded to 320 grit

 

 

Brake handle mounted and attached to Airhart master cylinder.

 

 

 

 

 

Rear end anti-rotation tube.

 

Sprint car shifter and bronze shop made throw out collar to slide coupler in and out of gear.

 

 

 

With the bell housing in place the drive shaft cover was fabricated.

 

Front cover modifications to allow the use of Isky type slid idler bar.

 

 

Finished water and oil over flow tank.

 

 

 

Throttle linkage mounted to engine plate.

 

 

.080" aluminum blank for the scoop bottom

 

Bolted blank to injector, curved sides and shrunk the end with thumb nail dies in pullmax.

 

Hammered out some of the waves and formed the end more then sanded out some of the dents.

 

Ready for the top section.

 

After three hours more work the top was welded on and all sanded.

 

Band saw cut fin before grinding and welding.

 

Finished scoop

 

Chassis ready for the body.

 

Finished seat made from .040" 3003 aluminum.

 

.040" fins and side panels tig welded but not yet worked sooth. This panel will be welded vertically to the rear panel.

 

 

 

 

 

The fin, as on original car is cut and ground from 1/2" aluminum plate . It was tiged on by applying all the heat on to plate till a puddle formed and dropped down to add rod to attach to .040".

 

The chute shroud is trimmed and a 5/16" lip was formed by bending gradually with pliers till past 90 degrees.

 

 

Unique scorpionesque blower pulley cover.

 

The next step was getting the chassis and all related parts painted. They are gathering in parts from Dirty Joe's plating and Hands Off polishing. Their painter is working on the body and a lot of small details still left to do. They will move the car to an assembly area in the next part of their building.

 

 

 

Assembly has started and the front end is hung. The chrome is by Dirty Joe's in Dallas. They got the front wheels with the chassis in bad condition and dirty so they dismantled them. Hands Off Polishing and Plating polished the hubs and rims. They got new spokes and nipples from Bucannen Spokes in California. They then had George Welborn at Catalina Cycle in Dallas replace the wheel and mount the NOS Avons.

 

Ross had most of the parts polished by Hands Off Polishing In Garland TX. But some parts had to be made, like the idler bar. Here Bill Crosby (the Owner of #V) is cleaning up the bar after polishing on buffing wheel. Bill hadn't looked at a mirror to see his new mustache. Later his hole face was black.

 

 

Danny Greenhaw came out of retirement to do the upholstery. Here he is fitting for the seems and will sew them and re fit for the top flap and snaps.

 

 

 

Newly polished old M/T valve covers from Hands Off Polishing & Plating in Garland Texas. Daniel, a local pen stripper painted in the fins red.

 

The painter and Don Ross' savior on the body work. Craig Hulls at speed laying out the scallops on the cowl.

 

Final assembly just two days before NHRR 2007 in Columbus.

 

Scoop and Tail section just back from painter, Craig Hulls and striper, Dannial Gay. They got these around dark on Wednesday, about 5 hours before they loaded to leave for Columbus.

 

 

Paul Fuess came in after noon and worked till 2:30 AM when they loaded up to leave for the 20 plus hour drive to Columbus.

 

Orangeline

 

The car made its debut at the 2007 National Hot Rod Reunion in Columbus. This is the Don Ross pit with both Scorpion 1, the original Bobby Langley unblown car, and the newly completed Scorpion 5 owned by Bill Crosby.

 

 

 

Bobby Langley tries out the seat of the newly restored Scorpion V.

 

Fireup in the pits.

 

 

Bill Crosby was in his brand new Scorpion V for the pre-Cacklefest parade but due to new engine concerns opted out of the actual Cacklefest.

 

 

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