BRACKETT RACING

Interesting stuff from the fertile and sometimes misguided mind of Dave Brackett  

 

Just who is David Brackett?

Sometimes,  I'm not sure myself, but he IS one of the most interesting characters I've ever met. Like most geniuses, he walks the line between being insane and highly creative. His mind never stops and he can keep you up all night talking about ingenious ideas, stupid ideas, drag racing history and horrible puns. When I first met him, he was just this crazy nobody who built custom homes and helped us with the race car.  I soon realized that this man should have his story told and I decided to surprise him with this website.

Marc Buehler , Bradford's AA/Fuel Altered

                                                                            Click on images to see larger version and/or more pictures   

                                                            

Dave Brackett grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and like most kids in school in a water sports area, he drew racing boats and hydroplanes during classes. 
 That all changed when he moved to Southern California in 1958 as a high school freshman. His interests changed to race cars and hot rods. He took welding, machine shop, and drafting in high school, then got a four year degree in Industrial Technology, from Fullerton College, majoring in auto shop, welding, machine shop and engineering. Getting his drivers license in 1959, his first vehicle was a 1949 Cushman motorscooter. He had to be different, so he painted in light blue, with pink and yellow flames, and did some modest customizing.
  In 1960, Dave bought a 1930 Ford Model A, and started fixing it up. He put in a Ford flat head V8, built a ram log intake manifold for six Stromberg 97 carbs, built a straight tube front axle setup, did his own paint and body work, did the tuck and roll upholstery, custom nerf bars, headers with 8 drag pipes and later built a 324 cu. in. flathead motor.
 It was around this time, that Dave met Leon Fitzgerald, who had just opened Fitzgerald Racing Equipment in Fullerton, Ca. Dave started a relationship that lasts till today. He worked for Leon, running the counter, and reversing and welding wheels. Later he was building headers and altering chassis for Leon and friends. Dave's skills improved as he learned more about hot rods. In 1962, Jess Tyree hired Dave to build headers for Tyree Header Company of Fullerton, Ca. Again, Dave was learning more about racing.
   In mid 1962, Dave went to work for Mickey Thompson, in the Racing Division. He built headers, chassis, custom pans, worked on the Indy cars, dragsters, and the first Ford Thunderbolt. Dave's abilities had now reached the point he wanted to build a complete custom car. In 1963 he bought a 1923 Model T fiberglass body. He wanted to build a street roadster, but something different. He decided to build a C Modified roadster to drive on the street. He built a tube chassis, the motor, a 283 small block Chevy, with 6.71 Blower and 2 four barrel carbs, was set back 50% of the wheelbase. He lengthened the body 8" and molded in a custom dash and roll pan. A custom drive and rear suspension had to be fabricated to accommodate the short distance to the rear end. Sitting behind the rear end, gave the car a neat look and made it easy to wheel stand, which Dave did often, when he was cruising. For a street legal car, it ran well at the drags, besting 140 mph in 10.08. In late 1963, Dave left Mickey Thompson  to go back to college.
  Dave was drag racing his 23 Model T, C modified roadster quite often. He was usually the only car in his class, so he won a trophy and went home. This became boring, and he would talk with his friends and racing buddies about creating some way for different classes to race each other under some system of rules, or time handicap. He even spoke with C.J.Hart at Long Beach drags about this issue. It was some time later, that NHRA started bracket racing, perhaps named for Dave Brackett and his earlier efforts.
 Over the next several years, Dave built many cars for friends and many sets of headers. He worked for Muller Muffler Company of Anaheim, Ca., building custom headers. It was during this time that Dave met Tom McMullen (later owned McMullen Publishing Co.) they cruised together and helped each other with their cars, and in 1965, Dave and Tom lived together in a home in Buena Park, Ca. and enjoyed lots of cruising and working on cars. Dave helped Tom rebuild an Austin taxi cab with two small block Chevy engines called "Chevy Two" by mounting the motors and doing other welding and machining work. During this time, Dave worked for Hooker Headers in Ontario, Ca. It was during this tenure that he got to build the headers for the Summers Brothers "Goldenrod" land speed record holder.
Some of the notable cars he built during this time were, putting a 292 Ford V8 in an Austin Healy Sprite, keeping everything under the hood, and building the front end and headers for the McCulloch and Brown AA Gas Dragster. In mid 1965, Dave moved his operation to Anaheim Speed Engineers in Anaheim, Ca., back again with Leon Fitzgerald and his partner Glenn McCulloch, Dave's racing skills started to flourish. He built many lift chassis, headers, frames and was racing his street roadster. He helped Leon with his altered drag racers, "The Flintstone Flyer" and "Pure Heaven 1". He used his blown Street Roadster as a push car for the injected fuel altered.
 In late 1965, Dave decided to start his first business, having acquired the skills from all the previous ventures. He opened Brackett Speed Products in Anaheim, Ca. He built many headers, built numerous hot rods and race cars, a few notables being; a small block Chevy dragster for the Skinner Brothers of Brea, Ca.; three 55 Chevys with tube frontends and custom clips, one for Bradford's Crankshaft Service and one for Walt Buie; a 1934 Ford with early 60's Dodge engine, headers, lift chassis, tube axle, etc.; put a small block Chevy in a 1950's Volvo, with headers and put a Chrysler hemi in an Austin with chassis and headers. He also enjoyed building and racing go-karts with his friends.
  The business was now successful, so Dave decided to build his own Fuel Altered. He built a chassis and front end, and wanted to put a Messerschmitt body on the car, but NHRA said no. It was around this time in late 1966, that Dave was drafted into the Army, so he gave the fuel altered chassis to R.T. Reed, who got together with Leon Fitzgerald and finished the car. It was called "Pure Heaven II" and was one of the most successful Fuel Altereds ever. The car has been restored and is now in the NHRA Museum in Pomona, Ca., and Leon Fitzgerald has been inducted into the NHRA Hall of Fame.
  Dave spent two years in the Army as a missile repairman, and supply inspector. He helped a friend build a Willys pickup, and as always trying something different, making a complete wood bed with carvings. He also helped out with "Pure Heaven II", when they were on tour in his area. Dave did art work and leather work to keep busy, which brought him many awards in art and craft shows, but he was longing for his return to hot rods. In January of 1969, he returned to Southern California to resume his normal life.
When looking up old friends, he chased down Tom McMullen, who was now building chopper motorcycle parts in Buena Park, Ca. Tom immediately hired Dave and they started building one of the leading chopper parts manufacturers in the industry, "AEE Choppers". Dave started by improving jigs and fixtures to increase production, and hiring more people to build all the new parts Tom, Dave and the gang were creating. Tired of the chopper trend toward mostly Harley motorcycles, Dave started to build parts for Japanese bikes. The first complete chopper he built to help promote those parts, was a bike called "Really", a 350 Honda, a complete custom, rigid frame, raked and sporting a "Molly" paint job. This started a trend toward using more makes of bikes for choppers. Tom wanted Dave to make different accessories that were not available yet. Dave designed bolt-on and weld-on hard tails, side car kits, three wheeler kits, and complete rigid frames for many makes of bikes. He followed with new style exhaust systems, front ends, sissy bars, and helped with designing complete kits to build a chopper, called "Kit Bikes". He also did destructive testing to insure AEE products were safe, helped the government with safety studies, and wrote magazine articles about the "Chopper" industry.
  Dave mostly enjoyed creating new choppers. He had worked on "The Mindbender" "Woman's Pride" and other existing bikes, but Tom wanted to take something new and different to the 1971 Oakland Roadster Show. Dave drew up a radical three wheeler, that was really a five wheeler, with four tires across the back. Tom said "go", so with only 32 days till the show, Dave started. He built a frame and body all in one, put in two Sportster motors, a Ford automatic, modified a Harley rear end, with torsion rear suspension, and finished with upholstery by Whitey Morgan, and paint my "Molly". With paint still wet, Dave loaded the bike in the trailer and went to the show with Jim Clark. The bike, called "Big Twin", was a sensation and won the grand sweepstakes award. 
More new bikes followed. The "Supersport", the "Shovelhead", the "Big Four" and the "Trick Trike". All were designed and built by Dave and the support gang at AEE Choppers.
 While at AEE Choppers, Dave wanted to make more varieties of rigid frames for other brands, but Tom said no, so Dave started a company of his own making rigid frames for Hondas, Sportster and other foreign bikes. Working two jobs was hard, but he enjoyed the freedom of doing extra things and unusual bikes.
 He made a Honda 750 three wheeler from square tubing with a Model T looking pick-up bed on the back. He built his own tubing bender to form the frame rails, and a hydro press to punch and form parts. He then decided the market was ready for a complete newly manufactured chopper style motorcycle. Dave's side business, "Brackett Chassis Company", secured a license from the State of California, to manufacture new chopper bikes. The brand name was "Amani", the Swahili word for Peace. There were 5 bikes built, 4 two wheelers and one three wheeler. Production was stopped due to insurance problems. Around this time, a series of bubble gum cards was released with 66 cards featuring motorcycles. There were 9 cards of bikes Dave built or helped build. The work load from AEE and his own company was to great, so Dave left AEE Choppers to concentrate on his own business. He still had a good relationship with Tom McMullen, and sold frames to AEE Choppers.
 The extra time was a blessing, Dave started building more frames, designed and built a line of dragbike frames, and started an association with Action Fours, a local company specializing in Honda performance motors and bikes. He built a miniature version of a rear engined dragster with a 750 Honda engine from Action Fours, which was about 1100cc. The car ran good, besting 128 mph in the low 10 second range. 
He also helped Bill Hahn with Action Fours own twin 750 Honda engine drag bike by creating a system to support the two motors and transfer power to the rear without failures. He built a prototype chopper style bike with a Wankel engine for Ace Distributors of New York. Dave was having success, and sponsored a local major League Womans' Softball Team, and started building pitching machines as a side line. He successfully used the machines to help the team win a regional championship.
   With the help of his friend Dean Moon, who Dave had helped with several projects, he became a SEMA licensed chassis builder. The mini dragster called "It Had To Happen", was his first licensed chassis. He started building mini dune buggies with motorcycle engines. They were a little bigger than a go kart, with chain drive to a live axle, and small flotation tires. He made one with a 175 Honda, one with a 350 Honda and two with 450 Honda engines. Dave enjoyed going to the desert and racing on the dry lakes. He made a little Honda 50 mini-bike with a 12" wide flotation tire in the rear, to chug around on the desert ventures. He started making metal sculptures and doing ornamental iron work. It seemed Dave would never stop building new and unusual vehicles, but in 1975, He sold his business and retired to the Sierra Mountain foothills to build a dream home he designed with a curved roof.
 Dave spent five years in the Sierras, building four houses and enjoying the rural life. He still enjoyed building odd vehicles. He built a flatbed pickup from a 1966 VW squareback, that was his daily use vehicle. He had friends that enjoyed the local circle track and running modifieds, so he designed and built a new style chassis that located the motor, an aluminum V8 Buick, to the left of the driver. the car was light, with a low center of gravity, and was able to drive around the inside of the other cars. Due to the success of the car, it was banned the following year. Dave helped a friend Ray Valero build a 911 Porsche chassis and headers for an H gas drag car. It had a double tilt up body and quick removal engine. His last project in the Sierras was a 1928 Ford roadster pickup, building the frame, with Datsun running gear, Porsche torsion front suspension, quarter elliptic rear suspension and headers. Ready for another move and wanting to spend time with his aging parents, he moved to Washington State in 1980.
 Dave again built houses and subdivided property, creating 34 properties and building 26 houses, doing lots of ornamental iron work and other metal projects, but he only did two vehicles from 1980 to 2002. He restored a 1907 Armac motorcycle and restored a 1977 Toyota Celica, but he always thought about his days of wild wierd vehicles.
 In December of 2000, Dave found out an old racing friend Randy Bradford, had moved near him, Dave had done a front end clip on a 55 Chevy gasser for him in the 1960's, and Randy went on to Fuel Altered fame. Check out www.bradfordsfiat.com. Dave went to visit Randy who was just finishing a replica of his old fuel altered, and life would soon change. Dave started going racing with Randy and the gang, and is still a member of the pit crew for the fuel altered. On a trip to Boise, Id., Dave went on to the Bonneville salt flats, having worked on some cars for there, but never going. He started dreaming of the old days, and looking at how things had changed the last 20 years. He went to a nostalgia drag race in Woodburn, Or., and decided to start building cars again.
 In 2002,Dave had just bought a 1985 Toyota pickup to use for work, so he decided to change it. He wanted to alter the front end, make it look like a Deuce, with motorcycle fenders. He was talking with his old friend Bill Brundage, who he helped with a 1934 Ford years before, and Bill still had the 34, but had recently redone the car. The tube axle front end that Dave had built in 1964 was laying outside, so Bill sent it to Dave to start the project. The front of the body was removed, the tube front end mounted, a steel radiator shell and hood were fabricated, custom nerf bars, motorcycle fenders, paint and flames and "poof", Dave had a hot rod work truck. He had recently met Eiko, a well known fashion and floral designer from Okinawa, and they had been helping each other with designs, so it was only natural that a new line of cars be born, the "Daveiko" name began. Dave was back building the unusual, and Eiko was by his side.
  Wanting to build another 23 Ford "T", Dave decided to make it much different, very streetworthy and fuel efficient. He again got a fiberglass 23 T body, but started with a 1971 VW Wagon. He retained the rear section with motor, automatic trans and suspension, built a new frame, old style tube front end, added a fiberglass track "T" style nose and fabricated a steel pickup bed with tonneau cover to enclose the motor. He built custom headers that ran forward then out and back, giving the appearance of a front engine, made custom windshield frame and finished with a roll cage for safety. Custom nerf bars were powder coated, not much chrome on this car. Paint, stripped flames and old style pinstriping completed the second "Daveiko". A great cruiser, nice ride and comfort, easy to drive.
  In 2004, a 1953 Kaiser Henry J appeared. A nice complete original car. Restoration of the car started, but Dave has difficulty driving a stick due to leg problems, so he wanted to install an automatic. He had three choices, find a Willys automatic which will fit, adapt a Chevy 700R4 automatic, or put in a 4.3 Chevy with the 700R4. In any case, the car will remain original in all other aspects. Dave made his decision, removed the original motor and trans, and installed the 4.3 Chevy V6 with 700 R4 tranny. He had to move the motor about a inch to the passenger side to clear the steering box. A new drive shaft was installed, headers were built, the car was rewired, painted and upholstered. What a great cruiser, and better mileage than the original car.
  Later that year, a 1957 Ford two door Custom was acquired. A 1981 Camaro front clip was added, including 350 Chevy, with turbohydro. The front was lowered, new wheels and tires, custom headers, a Weiand 142 blower and new custom upholstery were added. The cherry original body has great paint, flames run from front to rear, and original Cragar wheels complete the nostalgia project. A great cruiser, with the clip, it steers, rides and stops nice.
    In 2005, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird joined the collection. Complete restoration is close. This is Eiko's favorite car, but she is uncomfortable using the classic collector car as a daily driver. Dave is collecting parts to build a replica 57 T Bird, so Eiko can paint it purple with flames, and have a modern drive train and brakes.
    2006 began, knowing a new 1/8 mile dragstrip was being prepared nearby. Dave wanted something to take and race, but not wanting to trailer a car around, decided on a drag bike, he could carry in his pickup. Wanting something different, he built the frame and installed a VW air cooled engine. The bike, called "VW Rod", had a problem. Transmitting power to the rear wheel was difficult. Clutch and shift controls would be cumbersome and not recommended on drag bikes. He took an IRS VW transaxle, flipped it over to change rotation, removed all the extra gears, locked it in high gear, welded up the spider gears and decided on a glide clutch to transmit power. He could find no one to build a clutch, so he built his own slipping clutch. It was centrifugal in design and can be adjusted at the races. The rider does nothing but steer. Legendary VW drag racer Bob Hoffeld built a motor, a small 1776 cc, Weber carbs, and Dave's own headers complete the package. It took about a year to dial in the clutch, but the bike now runs around 100 mph in under 8 seconds. It now needs a bigger motor.
 Dave needed a project for 2007. He wanted to build a funny car to drive on the street, but using a one piece tilt up body would be difficult for street use. He decided a stationary body with one piece tilt-up front end would work better. He wanted a small, lightweight vehicle, something unusual. Dave and a friend were at a car show, and he spotted the rear of a 60's Mustang down a row of cars. He told his buddy, who was on the other side of the row of cars, checkout the Mustang. The friend said there was no Mustang, but Dave said right here. The friend said it was a Toyota. Dave now had his new car idea. The car was a 1976 Toyota Celica Liftback, and the rear looked a lot like a Mustang. Knowing the unibody style Celica was light and small, he bought one, tore off the front and bought a complete 1967 Mustang front end. He got a 350 small block Chevy, with turbo 400 trans, added a 6.71 blower with dual four barrels, set the motor back 10 % of the wheelbase and built a tubular clip on the front of the Celica body.
The real Mustang front end had to be narrowed 8 inches to fit the Celica body. It was also shortened to accommodate the short 100 inch wheelbase of the new car. Dave removed all Toyota references and added scripts, trim and bumpers for Mustang, which were also narrowed. He built a strut style front suspension, added a 9 inch Ford rear end with disk brakes, ladder bars, wheelie bars, headers and much more. A roll cage was built, the seats were moved 18 inches back to fit the engine placement. The sixth "Daveiko" vehicle is now complete. It weighs about 2000 pounds, so it should be quick. With rack and pinion steering and front disk brakes, handling should be nice. The car is called "The Fony Pony".
  2010 started with wanting to restore a motorcycle I built in 1974. It was called "Amani #3". I had sold many of the parts, including motor, so the bike was a total refabrication.  The bike has no frame, the exhaust pipes are the frame. It Originally had a 750 Honda motor, but now has an 1100 cc Suzuki. I even painted this one myself, and added vinyl graphics.
2011 gave me an opportunity to redo another of my old bikes. "Amani #5" had a VW air cooled "Bug " motor. It was originally a chopper, then turned into a drag bike several years back, and now  rebuilt to a chopper. My left leg is not so great these days, so I added a side car, so I can't fall over so easily. The bike has an automatic glide clutch, so it works like an automatic tranny.
 2012 gave me time to redo another 1974 bike called "Amani #4".  It was a modest three wheeler with 750 Honda motor and  Model T pickup bed. Not much left of it, so I changed it up a lot. Put two Suzuki four cylinder motors side by side, and coupled them together through a C4 Ford automatic tranny, then back to a Harley Servicar rear end. All chain driven. Added two more seats, disk brakes and a trick formula car  style body. This is by far the best bike I ever built. 

  

Contact Dave at  brackett@olypen.com   

 

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