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The Winged Express


The Winged Express...where do you start? Willie Borsch was always the constant here.
Various partners came and went,
but Willie just kept droppin' the hammer and blazin' the slicks down the quarter-mile.

Doyle Hatfield Photo

Doyle Hatfield Photo

One of the earliest shots of the Harrell-Borsch-Muse A/HR, at least that I've found.
Although, it may be an A/FAR (fuel altered roadster).
The classifications varied here quite a bit.
Since these cars were more or less orphans, and had no official recognition until 1967.

The A/FAR designation was a Drag News Standard 1320 class.

early wing

Another early shot of the Harrell-Borsch -Muse roadster at Fontana Drag City.

Glenn Miller Photo


Tom West Photo

Here's Willie doing what we all remember so well, smokin' the hides,
and hangin' on, so he doesn't pitch around that roomy cockpit.

The combination of Willie, Nick and Jim Harrell, Phil Johnson and Don Reynolds put together this car on late
1960-early 1961 to debut at the 1961 Winternationals, running on gas, turning 150 MPH.
Soon, gas just wasn't enough for Willie, and he started tipping the can, putting some pop in the tank.

There were some lessons to be learned from the nitro.
First, the Ford quickchange wasn't up to the task, as they ground 'em up mercilessly.
Second, the weight distribution left something to be desired.
Moving the engine up as high as they did to encourage weight transfer worked too well,
and the frame was seriously bent from a giant wheelstand.
Third, the handling left things to be desired, as transferring too much weight
to the back wheels caused the car to smoke off the line,
and to start oscillating back and forth,
making the guardrails and track edge their enemies.

The solution was devised by Al Barnes of Howard Cams,
who suggested that they put a wing on the car.
After a trip to the local Library, and researching various airfoil configurations,
they picked one that they figured would work best at the speeds they were attaining.
One thing they did figure out was that the wing would slow them down
considerably on the top end, so they installed a spring loaded strut on the back edge of the wing
to allow it to push down at the speed increased.
Even then they noticed that their MPH was affected, but the car was much more stable,
and that seemed like an even tradeoff, since they could now get through the whole quarter-mile.

Willie's description of coping with all that power in a 95-inch wheelbase:

"Put it to the wood, count to three, let the clutch out! If you get too much bite,
she'll usually start to oscillate–same goes for hitting the tiniest patch of oil.
With the roadster, you just don't get sideways if you expect to complete the run under power."

 

Looks like Tom West and Ron Lahr were pretty much in the same frame of mind here...Ron's photo here was a National Dragster Picture of the week, and Tom West's photo won first place in the Leslie Lovett Photo Contest at the California Hot Rod Reunion.

Ron Lahr Photo

photographer unknown

A rare shot of the Winged Express not moving. Probably from late 1967, or early 1968.
Note the Roto-Faze intake manifold, with raised the blower up about 6 inches.
This didn't last too long, so it must not have worked that well.

- UPDATE -

April 7, 2006

So, I'm printing away on shirts, and the phone rings...It's Joe Panek, proprietor of RotoFaze, calling to straighten out the reason why this intake manifold didn't last very long with the Winged Express. Joe sez that they only ran this setup for for a couple of weeks, (Carlsbad and Orange County by his recollection), and due to the 8unique design of 6the RotoFaze manifold, the jetting requirements were quite different from the lowrise blower manifolds prevalent at the time. Joe said that Willie wanted to run the same jettting as always used, and not the recommended jets, and the performance fell off, and so the RotoFaze came off, and the old low-rise manifold went back on.

L & M Photo


Al "Mousie" Marcellus
Willie Borsch

The two principals behind the Winged Express, from the mid 60's on...

Smokin' the hides, AND pulling the front wheels...

L & M Photo

Bob Thompson photo

Here's the first Winged Express, in 1970, at Bakersfield I believe, with Willie just hanging out and tellin' stories with Frank Harris (driver-Bradford's Crank Fiat)...

OCIR

Willie smokin' the baloneys at OCIR

Winged Express Irwindale

A short series of shots from Irwindale Raceway...June 1969

Photos by David McFee

Wing At Iwindale

Pretty much the configuration of the reconstructed Winged Express now...
Hilborn 4 port with Enderle scoop, Dow 7 front Halibrand wheels,
neglected magnesium rear wheels
(those magnesium wheels are a life project to keep polished!)

Photo is dated June 1969

David McFee photo

1969 Winternationals

1969 Winternationals, under power and going straight!

Dave Dewars Photo

L & M Photo

Borsch Bleeker Indy

One wheel up, wanna gues how fast Willie's going right here?
His arch-nemesis of the Midwest, Gabby Bleeker, speeds away.

L & M Photo

The original "Winged Express" at Bakersfield.

Photo by Rod Hynes

busted blower

Even though the car was long-lived, the occasional breakage did happen.
That blower looks pretty trashed right about now.

Believe this is Bakersfield, 1968.

Winternationals, not sure what year, but Willie and unnamed crew guy entertain a pit monkey...

Photo © Vern Scholz

Again, the Winternationals, as you can tell by the tarp-draped E Street fence on the far side of the track, the Wing is at the top end waiting to push down and fire up.

Photo © Vern Scholz

A bit of clutch dust escapes the bellhousing here at Lions.

Photo © John Ewald/J&M Racing Photos

Hooked up and groovin'! Man, Willie sure looks tiny in there!

Photo © John Ewald/J&M Racing Photos

Willie sails into the traps at Bakersfield....

Willie resting

When you race as hard as these guys did, you gotta get your rest when you can.

Wing n pits

Willie is either expaining or complaining here...check out the creative use of ballast on the front axle.

David Ray Photo

Sideways...

Winternationals time, Camaros beware. Willie eats 'em for lunch!
Note that both hands are on the wheel on this run!

Wing-pits

Bert Toulotte photo

"This is the "real" car in that it is the "Original Recipe",
not the "late model", trick chromemoly piece that they ran at the end of Willie's AA/FA career,
pre-Funny Car. Just look at that roll cage! This is the genuine article.
Gobby beer-welds, old steel connecting rods used to mount the wing,
steering box out of a Model A Ford. What an icon of god-blessed, backyard,
low-buck engineering! And to think that this thing regularly went 200+ mph,
bounced off guardrails from LA to Bangor and crossed more centerlines than any
race car in history! First time I saw this car was at Indy, late 60's.
I walked away muttering that it looked more like something you'd see
in the back-half of a Super Modified consi race at Hialeah Speedway.
This is the same car that was featured in the classic California location,
B&W photo (I think it was Bob McClurg who shot it?).
The car completely crossed up, front-end turned all the way to lock,
low-aired tires still smoking and rolled w-a-y under the rims, Willie's left hand,
as always, on the roadster body. "They" can take every four-second, 300 mph,
computer-tuned run made in front of every corporate suite
and its no-nothing guests and shove it, 'cause this is still what it's all about!
Willie may be gone but he'll never be forgotten by anyone who caught his act." -Jim Hill

Wing 1968

Winged Express, 1968 at the Nationals, surrounded by admirers...

Ken Andrus photo

SS & DI May 1988

From Super Stock and Drag Illustrated May, 1988, from the Retrospect series done by
K. Scott Teeters, comes this Winged Express feature.

Illustrated and written by K. Scott Teeters © 1988


Click here to go to Page 2, Version 2 of the Winged Express!


Jim Sorenson


Awful Awful Fuel Altereds © 1999-2014 Jim Sorenson
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