Thanks to my father Ron Hier, I have a treasure trove of information about the early days of drag racing. For those of you in the drag racing world that are enthusiasts of the sports history, there is an amazing website that he brought to my attention called “Two to Go”. The site is a plethora of twin engine drag machines that evolved as a result of a ban on the use of Nitromethane racing fuel by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) from 1957 to 1963. The thinking of racers at the time was that if they were limited to running only gasoline in their fuel tanks then why not use two power plants instead of one ... to go faster, of course.
Upon discovery of the site, Ron found that the few twin engine cars that he knew about and raced against here on the West Coast were a mere fraction of these high horsepower two-timers actually built. To his amazement, there were about three hundred throughout the country! Every combination you could think of: Chryslers, Chevys, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, V8s, six cylinders, four cylinders, both injected and supercharged (blown), motorcycle engines (see related article). There were even some with two different makes of engine such as the “Odd Couple”, one blown Chrysler and a blown Chevy. Various setups were side-by-side while others were inline; the whole thing was a remarkable fete of innovative engineering. By the way, Ron Hier did drive the famed twin-engine Freight Train (see pics) - just long enough to blow it up.
Although Ron’s particular cars were always single engine, either blown or injected dragsters (see related article), he was always enamored with the sidewinders. A sidewinder is a shorter, dragster frame with the engine sitting sideways, usually in back of the driver with a chain and sprocket drive to the rear axle.
Ron Hier’s dream car
A good friend and sponsor of his dragsters, the late Lee Titus of Lee’s Speed Shop in Santa Monica California, decided to build a double engine sidewinder which Ron was scheduled to drive. He was thrilled with the whole thing as there were no twin sidewinders to date ... at least that he knew of. This also was not your average sidewinder - it was gear driven, instead of a chain. Two large sprocket-like gears were attached to each side of a special machined axle with special bearings. The back end of each engine would have a gear and idler assembly matching with the two main axle gears and would be driven by two B&M Torque Master converters, powered by two blown small block Chevys. It was Ron’s dream to drive this wild behemoth. The car was very well engineered and was on four wheels in its final stages, waiting for the torque converters; when for whatever reason, Lee decided to abandon the project.
Ron was devastated. His partner and himself didn’t have the means to buy the car and finish it, so it hung from the ceiling for a while in Lee’s shop but eventually disappeared and he lost track of it. Recently, while perusing the Two To Go website, what did Ron find at the bottom of one page … that’s right, the gear drive sidewinder on its wheels with his old friend sitting in Ron’s dream car in front of Lee’s shop in Santa Monica. He was taken back and thrilled that there were actually some photos taken of the machine. It’s too bad because Ron’s sure it would have been the car to beat and he would have been in the driver’s seat.
My father was part of the original drag racing scene and lucky for us, is still going strong at 82. Thanks to him for offering this information and hopefully I will be able to retrieve more valuable tidbits of facts and stories from him to share with you in the future.
Additional sources: Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing