Ron Stearns, Bill Jackson
and Don Ratican at San Fernando Dragstrip in 1960.
1960 Nationals at Detroit
The Ratican-Jackson-Stearns drag
racing team was formed in 1958 with the building of a Fiat body
A/A coupe. The team was composed of Don Ratican the motor man,
Bill Jackson the chassis guy, and Ron Stearns the man behind
the wheel. The team members were Hollywood High School pals who
graduated the best of friends. 1959 saw the team build a new
chassis which was completed in February 1960. One of the high
points in the R-J-S team's career occurred when they ventured
to Detroit, Michigan, known today as the U.S. Nationals, at which
they scored a tremendous win. Another pinnacle in the teams brief
career occurred when they traveled to the 1961 Indianapolis U.S.
Nationals, and won their class for a second year in a row. This
victory topped all of the teams previous successes which included
wins at the World Series of Drag Racing in Cordova, Illinois
in 1960 and 61, as well as records set at every track that they
The demise of the Ratican-Jackson-Stearns
team came in 1961. R-J-S- sold their Fiat to Woody Duke of Santa
Monica, CA. Woody ran the car for eight months. He then parked
the old horse in his ivy ridden backyard for thirty years. After
the team parted ways, Don Ratican continued to build race engines,
Bill Jackson continued to build state of the art chassis, and
Ron Stearns left racing to pursue other interests. The three
pals remained in contact over the years, and they always had
an itch to reunite the team and relive past victories. Thirty-two
years after putting the old horse out to pasture an opportunity
presented itself that would eventually lead to team R-J-S coming
out of retirement.
Ron Stearns at Minnesota
Dragways in 1960 on their way home from the Nationals in Detroit.
This is a very rare color shot of the car (the only one we have).
Ron Johnson photos
R-J-S at Minnesota Dragways
in 1960 on their way home from the Nationals in Detroit. Don
Ratican setting the barrel valve prior to a run!
Ron Johnson photos
Classic flag start at
Inyokern in 1960.
This is a very poor image
but probably one of the last ever taken of the car in action
at the 1961 Nationals. The car was sold in late 1961 to Woody
The is what the car looked
like after sitting outdoors at Woody Duke's for 32 years.
Ratican, Jackson, and Stearns
were attending the Second Annual NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in 1993
held in Bakersfield, California. While eating hot dogs, sipping
sodas, and reminiscing with other racers; Ratican, Jackson, and
Steams saw Woody Duke a few seats over. The four men struck up
a conversation during which it was discovered that Woody still
owned the Fiat. When asked if he would consider selling the car
back to them, Woody stated that he still had hopes to restore,
and race the car himself. Don Ratican was hired by Woody and
together they restored the car. When they were through working
on the car, Woody, at the age of eighty-two, raced the car himself.
After running the car a few times Woody decided to sell the Fiat
back to the retired Ratican-Jackson-Stearns team in the summer
These are the only two
shots we have of the actual restoration but you can see that
the entire drivers compartment was replaced and obviously updated.
The only shot we have
of the car during the period Woody Duke ran it in 1994.
The car was first seen
as it is today at the 1996 CHRR with its original owners Ron
Stearns, Don Ratican and Bill Jackson.
The car made its Cacklefest
debut at the 50th US Nationals at Indy in 2004.
Its next outing was the
2004 California Hot Rod Reunion where Stearns tested out the
Push start - fired...
Since 2004 the RJS Fiat
has rarely ventured out of its home at the Wally Parks Motorsports
Museum but have plans to attend, and cackle, at the 2006 CHRR.