Fast times and a fat cigar

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#1
Posted with permission from the Hamilton Spectator
________________________________________________
June 05, 2010
Jon Wells
The Hamilton Spectator
Slideshow: Hamilton's stock-car king

There is a typical variety store in a typical strip mall on a nondescript patch of urbania in the east end. And on occasion a man who works the counter watches a bland minivan pull up, sees a little old guy get out and dart into the store to buy cigars.

The little guy doesn't hear so well, is bent over a bit when he walks; it's the arthritis, but he's also strong, agile. And his face, remarkably, has barely a wrinkle. How old is he? Maybe, what, in his 70s?

He is not in his 70s. In fact, he is living in his 92nd spring. And so the smooth face and nimble movements, together with a devotion to daily cigars and a dash of whiskey, do not merely wink at Mother Nature, they are more like a kick in the groin of Father Time.

The man behind the counter has no idea the little guy exiting with a box of cigars under his arm is a true original, and an endangered species. Or, that perhaps the guy doesn't hear too well because his ears ring with the distant roar of 354-inch V8 Hemi Chryslers he built with his bare hands long ago.

The little guy's name? Back in the day there were many: Gentleman Jim. The Professor. Sonny Plym (as in Plymouth). The People's Choice. Jesse James.

Jesse James? "I don't even remember that one," the legend says, chuckling deeply, his teeth clamped on a stogie.

Years ago, the name that most people called him was just Jimmy. But you see, some guys don't play by the same rules as others, never drop the "y" in their lives, ever.

And so today, even to his family, at 91 years old, he's still just Jimmy: Jimmy Howard, number 38.

It is cavelike inside the garage, dark, the air cool, smelling like damp concrete. It feels like your granddad's garage, except it is unlike any garage you've ever been in.

Jimmy Howard's old house is on the lake side of Beach Boulevard. His little unfenced back yard is just a few steps from the beachfront trail. Cyclists and walkers pass daily but Jimmy rarely pauses to watch. The garage -- Jimmy calls it his shop -- sits in the front yard, appropriately enough, because this is where he has spent most of his time over the years. His father, Roy James Howard, a bricklayer, built the garage with Jimmy 50 years ago, laying the concrete block by block.

It is packed with tools and machines and homemade gadgets, like an automatic window blind and a double-barrel wood-fired heating contraption, what Jimmy calls a Winnipeg barn warmer.

"It works, too, when I get wood for it. But I think the son of a gun next door has been taking some of my wood."

He knows people think it all just looks like junk. But it is orderly chaos, and everything works, even the cobwebbed ceiling fan.

"Everything here has a purpose. It's organized to me."

There is little evidence of his racing exploits; one trophy, a dusty sign that says Flamboro Speedway Stock Car Racing Every Saturday night 8 p.m. One wall shelf is neatly packed with old cigar boxes, labelled and filled with springs, nozzle filters, o-rings, spark plugs. The shelf is a monument to both Jimmy's meticulousness and his near lifetime devotion to stogies.

In the shop Jimmy lingers, fixes, fiddles, invents. His eyes aren't quite what they once were, he has a hard time reading some of his instruments, such as tiny markings on a small metal tool that even healthy eyes strain to see.

"I can't remember what you call this damn thing," he growls.

"A micrometer?" offers his son-in-law, Ron.

"Same as a micrometer," Jimmy says, reaching for the right term, flustered. "But that's not the name."

Jimmy broods a bit on the question then sits on a chair padded with a pillow on top of a torn foam cushion, and fires up a cigar that keeps burning out on him. He's wearing navy work pants and workshirt, a ball cap.

"So what's new up in the city today?" Jimmy asks.

He is from an era when the beach strip was not part of Hamilton but something of an outback, far removed from the big city. And it was on the beach where Jimmy built his legend, literally.

Take your pick of historical milestones, but Jimmy Howard took his first peek at the world a long, long time ago; the same year that women were granted the vote in the U.S., a few years before the television was invented. He was born Dec. 15, 1920, in his parents' house on the beach strip. Back then, like many babies on the beach, he was delivered at home -- on the kitchen table, his mother used to say.

That true, Jimmy?

He often delays when asked a question, as though he hasn't heard, before replying with a dry zinger. "Probably," he says. Long pause. "But I don't remember much about it."

He attended Beach Bungalow School on the lake, the building that six decades down the road would be the home to Baranga's restaurant. He and his friends made soapbox-type racers, basically roller skates strapped on two-by-fours, and rode on the boulevard. There was little car racing to speak of in Canada back then, but Jimmy read magazine articles about a racing pioneer who had been popular in the U.S. named Barney Oldfield, and dreamt of one day getting behind the wheel and going fast himself.

When he was about 12 or 13, Jimmy's dad had a beat-down Model-T. It was not too long after Ford had ceased production of the iconic car. His dad's was dead, gathering dust in the yard, so young Jimmy took a crack at it on his own, tinkering, learning. Eventually the boy got it running again, before he could even drive it. He had discovered his love, and his future.

"When I was 16, I went up to get a driver's licence and the guy doing the testing said, 'I'm not going anyplace in that!'"

Jimmy's mechanical skills were entirely self taught. He read car magazines and manuals but that was about it. Back in the day mechanics wouldn't reveal their secrets to you. He kept right on tooling away on cars and as a young man found work at garages among other odd jobs -- construction, ditch digging, welding. Got paid about 10 cents an hour, if that. Used to walk two hours to work from the beach up to Nixon's repair shop on John Street.

In 1941, at 21, he married Annette, a woman he met at the Blue Haven dance hall in Stoney Creek. They would have three kids: Sue, Bobby (Butch) and Gary. Jimmy got a job working on cars at McLeod Motors, and cast an eye toward getting behind the wheel himself in the area's very young racing scene. He also started smoking cigars.

The family had a house in Stoney Creek for a time, moved around a bit, but when Jimmy decided to get into racing with both feet in the late 40s, he sold his house so he could buy a car, a '36 Plymouth Coupe, and moved the family into his parents' place on the beach.

He transformed the coupe into a race car in the back yard, working on it at night under a light hanging from a clothesline.

By 1950 Jimmy had souped up his car, painted number 38 on the side, his colour scheme Ticat black and yellow, the same colours Jimmy would drive for the rest of his career. He made his debut that year on the dirt track at Ancaster Fair Grounds, racing 20 laps on the quarter-mile oval before about 5,000 fans on a decent night.

This is where Jimmy Howard's legend grew. He won lots of races, but did it in style, the lasting image fans had was of Jimmy chomping on his cigar as he drove through dust storms en route to the finish line. In dirt track racing dust swirled, rocks flew, sometimes it got so hard to see he stuck his head out the window to navigate.

"An American driver once told me that if you can't see, don't look forward, just look up in the air and follow the lights around the track."

He raced every night all summer, bouncing from Ancaster to tracks in Brantford (Mohawk Speedway), Flamboro, Nilestown and Delaware. On a good track, he could push the car up around 100 miles an hour (160 km/h). He made between $30-$60 a race in the early days, depending on the number of tickets sold that night; there was no guaranteed purse.

By 1955, thanks to his winnings, Jimmy had moved his family into their own house on the beach, but not before he built another race car in the basement of his parents' place. He had to remove the staircase to get the finished model outside.

(Con't)

 

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#2
The garage he and his dad built became his racing shop. Modified cars did not last, got beat up fast, so he built new ones from scratch, from the chassis up. He bargained with scrap dealers to buy parts and wasn't above swiping a piece or two from the junkyard to keep his cars running.

Jimmy won so often that promoters started insisting he modify his cars to slow him down.

"I'd say, 'now wait a minute fellas ...' They were just making it tough for me. They even took my crash guard off. They gave me a hard time."

But he also knew how to push the envelope in his shop, invent novel ways to find an edge on the track. The roots of stock car racing lay in the Southern U.S., where outlaw drivers ran moonshine whiskey from police during prohibition. Jimmy Howard, a man from the beach strip frontier, had some of that maverick blood in him, too.

One night, at a race in Nilestown, Jimmy blew a tire and spun out, and his car dropped a pool of liquid on the track. He had secretly pumped water into his front tires, giving them better balance around corners.

"The other racers thought I busted my radiator, but it was the tires!"

The blowout was the end of his tweaking of the rule book. And how did he get water into a tire anyway?

"If anybody can get water in the tire, I can."

In 1952, Jimmy's star got even brighter racing at the CNE in Toronto, and his winnings increased with purses in the $500-$1,000 range. He battled Toronto racing stars of the day like Ted Hogan and Wallie Branston.

"Jimmy got along with everybody," says Branston, who is now 87 years old. "He was always in the fast car heat with me, and we always raced close, down to the wire."

Fans loved him. Jimmy was 5-foot-4 tall, and racing reporters referred to him as the "pint sized Hamilton ace" and "the stogie puffing stock car pilot ... a 135-pound speed demon." He won the most popular CNE driver award three years in a row, inspiring one reporter to christen Jimmy "The People's Choice."

Jimmy's wife, Annette, worried about him. Racing was dangerous, in an era long before safety measures would make stock cars nearly bulletproof. Drivers were badly injured and died in crashes. One of the paved tracks, down in Oshwego, N.Y., was especially perilous, because it was a fast track that featured concrete-enforced steel-rimmed walls.

Jimmy ended up in hospital once from a crash, got knocked out another time, rolled a Plymouth in Toronto. Despite her fears, Annette still attended every race.

Jimmy, while fearless, was known for his cool-headed racing style ("Gentleman Jim" read one headline). He lingered in the back of the pack of a race, wait for the right moment and make his move. In this sense, says race historian Nate Salter, author of The Golden Years Of Stock Car Racing, his style was similar to a modern-day Jimmy -- current NASCAR king Jimmie Johnson.

When Nate Salter was a kid he idolized Jimmy Howard. One summer day, Nate tried hitching a ride on the QEW to the CNE. A car pulling a trailer stopped. It was Jimmy, towing his Dodge to the races. He gave young Nate a ride, smuggling him through the CNE gate in the trunk, and let him hang at his pit trackside.

"He was my hero," says Salter. "If you didn't know any better he might come off at times as gruff, and on the track he was tough as nails. But he always had time for me."

By the late 1960s, however, with Jimmy in his 40s, it got harder and harder for him to make decent money in the business.

"They didn't want me winning races anymore," he says.

Promoters tried to make races more exciting by starting the fastest cars at the back of the pack (reverse starts), and it hurt Jimmy's winnings. Some guys raced part-time, but Jimmy raced for his livelihood. After one last race at the CNE where they started him way at the back, he knew it was time to leave.

In 1969, he returned to the beach and ultimately ran his own machine shop out of the garage, a business he called Howard Engineering. He was in the garage day and night, installed a fire alarm bell on the wall so Annette could ring him over the sound of his machines to signal dinnertime.

On occasion race car drivers would drop-in at his shop to break bread on their way past Hamilton from the CNE, among them Mario Andretti Sr. and Jim Hurtubise. They all loved Jimmy.

"Some of those guys came by and drank all my beer."

In 1994, Jimmy was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. This time, his old fan Nate Salter drove him on the QEW to Toronto for the ceremony. Salter says that if Jimmy had been born down south, he would have become one of the most famous names in all of NASCAR, a Jack Roush-type-figure, and no doubt quite rich.

"Jimmy Howard was as smart or smarter than any of those guys in the U.S. He ran six-cylinder Dodges that beat flathead Fords ... His mechanical know-how was on par with anyone down there."

Those who know their racing history revere Jimmy Howard, and some folks on the beach strip know of his story. But he was never nearly as famous in Hamilton as he should have been.

Last year his daughter Sue put his name forward for consideration for induction into the new Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame. He didn't get in. It was a big oversight, but Jimmy does not lament it, nor dwell on the past. At 91, he just keeps working on his projects -- including his boat, which he got in the harbour again this spring, although he's finally looking to sell it.

He always keeps the TV on in the garage, but mostly for background noise as he works. Might catch a bit of a race; doesn't need too many channels, which is just as well, he's having a bit of a spat with the cable company. He has never watched movies or read books much, apart from instruction manuals.

Annette died a few years ago. Jimmy's older sister, Margaret, is in a retirement home in her 90s but also in fine health. It's something in the Howard genes. Their father passed gently one day in his late 90s.

"The doctors are mystified," says Sue. "He does everything wrong, the cigars, whiskey."

Sue worries about her dad, he's still climbing ladders, driving, doing his thing. She spends time with him every day and has given no thought to life without him, can't even imagine it, although Jimmy often jokes about mortality.

"How long do you think you can keep me alive?"

Jimmy would never think of it this way, but when he does make his final trip from the beach, it will signify another step toward the end of an era.

In a Look At Me, self-congratulatory age, Jimmy is one of those left who never twittered or posted; he is among those self-made men who saw what they saw, and did what they did, and asked for nothing but enough dollars to keep it going.

His epitaph? How about: They don't make them like they used to.

We're getting ahead of ourselves, though. Don't bet on the pint-sized speed demon hitting the finish line anytime soon.

In the garage, the proper name of the tool that had vexed Jimmy suddenly comes to him.

"It's a Bernier caliper. That's it."

How do you spell that?

"I don't know. But I can say it."

What's your secret to long life, Jimmy?

"I eat good food, lots of vegetables. Not much salt." Pause. "And good whiskey at happy hour."

The People's Choice reignites his Century Sam cigar, the tip flaring orange, wisps of smoke rising in front of his smiling eyes.

That's what's so good about cigars, Jimmy offers.

They last.

jwells@thespec.com

905-526-3515
A great video on Jimmy from the Spec;
http://www.thespec.com/video/2497992



 

Donka

Registered User
Jun 5, 2006
24
0
0
#7
That's a great story! Weren't they looking for a name for a new park? How about the Jimmy Howard park ;) I can't find my beach banner anymore to find details.
 

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#10
RIP Jimmy Howard

James "Jimmy" Roy HOWARD

HOWARD, James "Jimmy" Roy Jimmy passed away peacefully on July 20, 2015, at Cama Woodlands Nursing Home, Burlington, in his 94th year. Predeceased by his wife Annette, parents Tony and Kathleen and sister Margaret Lacey. Beloved father of Susan Scobie (Ron Morelli), Butch and Gary. Jimmy spent more than 20 years as a race car builder and popular driver in Canada and the United States. He spent his remaining years as a custom machinist and welder in his beloved "shop" on the beach strip. Inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Flamboro Hall of Fame in 2012. Member of the Macassa Bay Yacht Club. Jimmy was truly one of a kind and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him. A heartfelt thanks to the wonderful staff and residents at Cama Woodlands. The family would also like to thank Dr. Grzeslo for the care he provided to Jimmy. Cremation has taken place. As an expression of sympathy, donations may be made to the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA, the MFPA of Canada, or a charity of your choice. Condolences may be made to Jimmy's family using the website listed below. (Arrangements entrusted to SMITH'S FUNERAL HOME, BURLINGTON 905-632-3333). www.smithsfh.com

http://www.smithsfh.com/book-of-memories/2198116/Howard-James/view-condolences.php

_______________________________________________________________________

Many thanks to Jimmy's daughter for allowing me access to Jimmy's fantastic photo collection.

Jimmy family had a house on the at 204 Beach Blvd., the property backed onto the harbour which back in the 20's and 30's was wide open as the Skyway wasn't even a in the planning stages.
So Jimmy started on the water and finished on the water with many years of car racing in between.
The early years;
Jimmy near the inlet in 1925;

Jimmy and his sister on a ice sailboat;


Jimmy after retiring, this photo shows him on his boat in 1985 enjoying himself near Carroll's Point in the harbour.

_______________________________________________________________________________


Last one, Jimmy showing his future mechanical career working on a wagon;

 
Last edited:

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#11
Voted 'Most Popular' Stock Car Driver

I believe this article is from a Firestone magazine
_________________________________________

One of Canada's Top Stock Car Drivers, Jimmy Howard Surveys Trophies with "Mom"

On Firestone Tires, Naturally

If Kay Howard, Tube Room, looks happy it's probably because she knows her son, Jimmy, is the best stock car racing driver in Canada!
Jimmy has been racing for seven years now, and fills the kitchen table with his trophies. At a banquet on November 23rd he was awarded, for the fourth consecutive year, the Bell Ambulance Popularity trophy, chosen by ballot of the spectators. He also received the Reliance trophy for the most reliable driver.
Racing at the Canadian National Exhibition races in Toronto, Jimmy drives a souped-up, stripped-down '38 Dodge coupe, sometimes known as an "orphan" in the racing world, because of its six-cylinder engine (many drivers prefer the eight-cylinder). "It's an expensive hobby," says Jimmy, who is planning to buy a new car next season, "but the rewards are many, and it's a lot of fun."
The well-laden kitchen table clearly shows the number of rewards. For all his prizes to be shownon one table created a real transportation problem —it took three of his friends to carry them in from his garage, where he normally keeps them. His largest prize has been his most useful --a four and one-half-foot mirror valued at $150. Jimmy won it at Pinecrest racetrack in an international race. The giant mirror now hangs in the Howards' living room, over the mantle, and is the favourite of his wife, Annette.
Thirty-five year-old Jimmy began his racing career with a '36 Dodge coupe and racing number "136" seven years ago. A little later he acquired his present car, and his racing number "38".
He has won championship races at Orangeville, Orillia, Bridgeport, and Toronto, as well as the Exhibition races. He is keen on his Firestone tires, knowing they will stand up under the strain of the rough, tough racing conditions — high speed, high temperature, and skidding turns.
 

Attachments

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#12
Gentleman" jimmy howard and the howard engineering #38 dodges

This is another well written piece about Jimmy and his racing years, it was done by "Honest" Nate Salter and the book is titled "The Golden Years of Stock Car Racing in Toronto 1951-1966.
______________________________________________________
Chapter Three - "The Early Days

GENTLEMAN" JIMMY HOWARD AND THE HOWARD ENGINEERING #38 DODGES


Back in the fifties, if you were a Chrysler stock car fan in the States, the cars to follow were from Petty Engineering. Here in southern Ontario, the only name to get our attention was the newly elected member of the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame, "Gentleman" Jimmy Howard, and the cars built at 147 Beach Boulevard, the home of Howard Engineering to this very day.
Yes, as you may have guessed, being a Mopar nut all these years, my hero back in the early days at the CNE was the man in the #38 Dodge, Jimmy Howard.
At the tender age of 73, Jimmy Howard still lives at 147 Beach Boulevard in Hamilton, is fast approaching his 52nd anniversary with his wife Annette and still smokes cheap evil-smelling cigars. He most likely has forgotten more about getting power out of Chrysler motors than this rotund reporter will ever fathom.
The rotund one has kept in touch with Jimmy over these years, and in late October, finally cornered him at the Macassa Bay Yacht club in Hamilton Harbour where he had just finished pulling his Mopar powered cabin cruiser out of the water for the winter.
Dizzy Dean Murray and your writer interrupted his work, dragged him out to a local eatery and advised him of his nomination to the Hall of Fame. He complained that he had lots of work to do on the boat before winter, but reluctantly agreed to "come out of retirement" for the event.
The biggest thrill I got was seeing both Jimmy and Dizzy Dean Murray dressed up in full bib and tucker, for the black tie event. We are pleased to confirm that Jimmy was indeed the first stock car driver to be elected to the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, and in our opinion, this award was befitting a man who was the essence of what stock car racing and winning was all about during the fifties and sixties.
I can recall bank in the fifties, visiting Jimmy in his shop. I was one of very few fortunate enough to enter the hallowed halls and observe the master Chryco genius as he created, modified and repaired the cars that dominated the CNE, Bridgeport, Flamborough, Nilestown, and Delaware during that era in the hands of Jimmy and his protege Gary Witter.
Unlike many of the teams that ran the circuit, Howard Engineering was a truly low buck operation. There was seldom, if ever, a sponsor's name on the side of the cars and what Jimmy lacked in dollars he made up with ingenuity.
He was able to take used parts, modify, machine and recondition them to produce 6 cylinder and V8 Dodge motors that could outperform the professionally built power plants in the other cars.
The racing career of Jimmy Howard started in 1950 at the long forgotten Ancaster Speedway in Hamilton.
Bitten by the racing bug, Jimmy, working in the shops of Quigley Construction, prepared a '36 Dodge coupe, with a flathead six Dodge motor in it.
In asking Jimmy how he came to run Chryslers, he explained that back in the late forties, he made his living turning wrenches at a local Chrysler dealership.
Continued-
____________________________________

A full bodied stock coupe CNE 1953


Jimmy and Annette 1954, Bridgeport Seasons end Champion.
 

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#13
With a little fancy footwork, he was able to get his hands on the warranty motors that would, under other circumstances, go to scrap.
Being a good businessman, he realized that it did not make sense to go out and buy Ford or GM motors, when the Dodges were free. You also have to remember that this was the era when Johnny Mantz had just won the 1950 Southern 500 in a six cylinder Plymouth, albeit with "export" engine parts.
More important, to Jimmy's way of thinking, the Dodges had a four spring setup for suspension, compared to the Ford buggy springs, and he was certain that he could make a better handling car out of the Dodge.
When it came to the colour scheme, since the owner of Quigley Construction was paying for the paint and since he was an avid fan of the Hamilton Tiger Cats, when the paint arrived at the shop, it was the familiar black and yellow of the Gridiron Tabbies. Hence from then on the Howard Racing colours would remain black and yellow throughout his career.
When he arrived at Ancaster he was assigned the number 130, which he promptly painted on the car.
With helmet firmly strapped on and with cigar clenched firmly in the right side of his mouth, Jimmy Howard became a race car driver.
To say that stock cars and Jimmy Howard were made for each other would be an under-statement. Over the 1950 and 1951 season he dominated the Ancaster, Brantford, Paris and Bridgeport tracks, and at the end of the
1951 season he was crowned track champion at Bridgeport, the first of his many championships.
It was at this point that he made a momentous decision. He was tired of turning wrenches for other people at the Chrysler dealership.
He was picking up some decent dollars at the Speedways, running 3 and 4 times a week, and having set up shop in his new garage on Beach Boulevard, the former mechanic opened Howard Engineering and became a full time racer.
Over the winter he built car #2, an all new '38 Plymouth coupe.
When the CNE opened on Good Friday in 1952, he made the long trek to Toronto. Over the lift bridge in Burlington and along the QEW. An hour and a half later he flat towed the new #130 race car into the pit gate.
Upon Jimmy's arrival, at the gate, former Brioux mechanic and now track steward, Arthur Higgins informed him that he could run that opening Good Friday, but if he planned on coming back, he had better have the assigned two digit number 38 on the car.
All through the 1952 season he was a constant threat, and when the flag fell, it was often Jimmy Howard on the receiving end, running ahead of the Ford powered cars.
That year he also teamed with Wally Branston in his Chevy six, and they soundly defeated the Ford team in the special match races. He also continued to run at Bridgeport, Paris and the other Hamilton area tracks, honing his skills as a driver and race car builder.
The battles on the track between Howard and Hogan were legendary as they both fought for supremacy, with Jimmy being cool and collected and Ted charging to the front.
While not as spectacular as Hogan, his repair bills were usually lower and he finished more of the races that he started. When you race for a living, it sure teaches you respect for walls and other racers.
As an aside, when Jimmy was interviewed by the Toronto Star at the Motorsport Hall of Fame banquet, he recounted how "I banged up the car pretty good. I went searching the local wrecking yards and scrounged up the pieces to put a new front suspension under the car, I think it cost me about $8.00."
While we may look askance at the number of dollars, you have to remember that the average industrial wage in Ontario at that time was about $12.00 per week. Then again it paid $250.00 to win the main event at the CNE in those times.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, so let us go back to the CNE in 1953. Seeing that the six was at a slight disadvantage, Jimmy got his hands on one of the first Dodge red Ram 241 c.i. hemi engines. Installed in anew lighter short wheelbase '34 Dodge coupe, with the engine set back behind the front axle, once again the competition had their hands full with the 38 car. To avoid the problem of the stock Dodge wheels ripping out their centres, he devised a set of steel face plates that distributed the load over the larger area of the centre, without the need for using a double centre. Always thinking he was.
Jimmy was a constant innovator. Remember that in those days you did not go to a Jr. Hanley for an upgrade on your race car. In the course of the season, the 38 car constantly shed weight and size. By the end of the season the body was about 2 feet lower than stock and the engine was set back to where Jimmy normally sat.
This along with the Red Ram hemi put Jimmy in the winner's circle a great number of times that season at the Ex and he finished fifth in the points at the end of the season.
Continued-
 

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#14
The following year Jimmy developed a levelling plate in the far bay of the shop, and while the rules still demanded a stock appearing frame, when the put down shortened #38 emerged the engine was even further back.
To the amazement of the regulars the first 1955 season feature was won by the flying yellow and black #38 to the delight of the 13,000 spectators that jammed into the CNE on Good Friday.
Earlier in the evening Jimmy Howard had outrun the pack in the fast car heat in a time of 3 minutes and 59 seconds, and then ran away and hid in the feature with a record shattering time of 7 minutes and 39.2 seconds, beating the records established by Ted Hogan at the end of the previous season.
This was a situation that was repeated on a regular basis throughout the year, not only at the CNE but at Nilestown, Delaware and Bridgeport.
As memory serves me the car had a floor at the lower level of the frame rails, with the suspended pedals in pockets in the floor. In addition, the driver's seat was now in the centre of the car. With the weight distribution accounted for, the Howard Engineering car was in the forefront of race technology.
The other new and astounding competitive edge, was the all new 3 piece magnesium wheels that Jimmy developed. Early to real¬ize that unsprung weight was a problem, and since he was unable to buy what he wanted, Jimmy contacted numerous local Hamilton area casting shops.
He made his own moulds and had the smelters cast the magnesium centres and four different rim halves. Taking them home to the Beach Blvd. shops, he put them on his lathe and machined them and drilled them to fit the 4 1/2 x 5 Dodge bolt pattern. Using grade 8 bolts to hold the pieces together, the resulting wheels were less than half the weight of the conventional steel wheels that the others were using, and about a third of the price of the fancy Halibrand wheels that appeared on high dollar cars like the Harvey Lennox/Kernorhan Lumber Tammy 10.
I remember buying them one piece at a time, because that is all our race team could afford in the early sixties, and bolting them on the #23 John Nawrocki, six cylinder Dodge powered, super modified at Pinecrest.
Unfortunately while the Howard Engineering wheels were light and strong, my long time associate and driver George D'Antimo entered into a brief and rather in¬timate encounter with Hazen McIntosh in the #9 on the one two corner during the main. Magnesium and Pinecrest's concrete wall were definitely not a marriage made in heaven. Our three piece wheels became about 20 piece wheels, and our first racemaster 8.20 x 15 died a horrible and premature death. As a matter of interest, when the late models came to the CNE, both the Norm Lelliott #47 Pontiac and the Rick Spence #60 Dodge were equipped with Howard Engineering wheels and, in fact, when we made the sojurn to Ford Wayne Indiana in the summer of '66 the Pontiac ran them in the race at Baer Field Raceway.
The following year saw another big change. Where Jimmy had been running the little Red Ram hemi, a mighty 354 Chrysler hemi sat between the frame rails for the competition to ponder. And ponder they did, since the only regular view of the 38 car was a rear view.
It was also at that time that Jimmy was impressed by a youngster who was driving Bridgeport in a terrible "B" modified built by his father Bob Witter. In young Gary Witter, Jimmy saw the same cool calculating driving style that he possessed.
In 1957 the Howard Engineering team featured not only the mighty #38 car but the bright metallic blue #19 driven by the talented and determined Gary Witter.
Those of you who remember, there were some "professional shoes" in those days, but in all cases with few exceptions, they were a one car team. This was a major step for Howard Engineering, since the entire Howard family was supported by the race car winnings and as Jimmy tells, it they never went hungry or cold.
Continued-
___________________________________________________
Jimmy Howard and his protege Gary Witter, the Dynamic Duo captured the CNE Points Championship 3 years running, 1957, 1958 and 1959.


 

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#15

At Pinecrest in 1959, Howard and Hogan discussing a slight miscalculation on 2-3 corner.
___________________________________________________

With the emergence of Gary Witter in #19 (the number is half of 38), Jimmy not only had two chances to win the main, but was able to develop and improve the cars trying one combination and set up on one car and a separate one on the other.
Some of the experiments involved inline 3x2 barrels on one car, with cross ram 4x2 barrels on the others. Jimmy, of course, built the cross ram intake himself out of plate.
It was also at that time that he built the first all-tube chassis cars initially for him, and later for Gary. The big feature of these cars was, of course, the famed cross torsion bar suspension. By eliminating the unsprung weight using the mag wheels and with the light weight torsion bars strategically located low on the frame, the power and the handling of the cars became legendary.
Jimmy was the 1957 and 1958 CNE champion, while Gary was the 1959 winner and Jimmy was just barely beat out by Ted Hogan for the sixty title.
The 1960 season end International was a high dollar and high profile event. It took Jimmy 112 laps to run the supposed 100 lapper. Out of 23 cars starting the race, only 11 finished with 9 caution flags, numerous spins and engine failures, the scorers lost count. Jimmy defeated Michigan driver Jack Connolly, who finished ahead of Jimmy Wilson in the #576 Dodge powered machine and Harvey Lennox in the Tammy 10. For this effort Jimmy was paid the magnificent sum of $1,100.
For 1961 Jimmy was on the move again. The 354 hemi Chrysler was not a bad motor but costly to keep together. Also the dead weight of the power plant was over 750 Ibs. While he started at the Ex with the hemi in his car by mid season the first of the mighty Howard Engineering "B" engines was placed in the rails. With a saving of about 200 Ibs. in motor weight once again the #38 car was a real problem to catch across Ontario.
As we know the CNE Speedway surface had been shrunken to accommodate the football and baseball teams in 1959. The net result was that the incidence of scrambled race cars was more often the rule rather than the exception. After running the 60 and 61 season and still holding his own, Jimmy had serious doubts about continuing to run there, given the cost of repairing the constant damages.
At the start of the 62 season the newspapers explained the absence of the Howard Engineering cars on Opening Day as a lack of parts for both Jimmy and Gary's cars. Considering that just about all of the components were built right in the shops of Howard Engineering, those of us following his career knew that there was something seriously amiss.
Part of the reason for the absence of the Howard Engineering cars was the opening of Flamborough Speedway. The track was a project put together by top driver Glen Schurr, Leno Didero, Ross Cockwell and Herb Sage. Built about 5 miles from Highway #6 in Flamborough Township the high bank track was made for the supermodifieds and the cars just literally flew around the oval.
Jimmy had prepared two new cars in anticipation of the new track. With the engines now offset to the left, he finally made an appearance at the CNE to shake the cars down and then started to build his Saga at the new Hamilton area track.
Between Flamborough, Nilestown and Delaware the Howard Engineering cars once again were the class of the field. As a matter of fact, in 1965 Jimmy won most popular driver of the year, Flamborough point cham¬pion, mid season champion, Delaware points championship and at the awards banquet anything Howard didn't get Witter picked up.
By 1967 Jimmy had a new idea. While he had built an even lower and greater offset car for Gary to run at tracks such as Trenton and Oswego, he saw the writing on the wall and set about to build the first rear engined supermodified to run at Oswego.
Continued-
 

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,999
218
63
The Beach Strip
#16
I can remember visiting his shop, and being allowed not only to see the car under construction, but being allowed to take a Polaroid shot of the semi finished speedster.
What a machine it was. The rear uprights that acted as spindles and carriers for the axle bearing and brakes were a Howard Engineering aluminum casting machined and fitted by Jimmy himself. The mighty 413 Chrysler engine pushed its power out of the crank into an in/out box linked directly to the quick change which was now fixed in the chassis. The half shafts using Chrysler components carried power to the independent rear wheels.
The front end featured custom built uprights as well with unequal length long tubular control arms. The headers themselves were a work of art sweeping back to the rear of the car, and the driver's compartment was well protected by a strong but well laid out cage.
Painted the familiar Howard Engineering yellow, with the black trim and numbers, the car appeared at the track in early 1968. With Jimmy behind the wheel, trademark cigar firmly clenched in his teeth, he set out to prove his design theories.
While the car was quick in the corners, it had a bad habit of getting snakey down the chutes, which was not a comfortable situation at over 130 mph. The biggest problem Jimmy tells me was the fact that try as they may to stop or correct the problem his glasses would bounce around his face and one second he was looking at the bifocal portion and the next out of the long vision area. Scary to say the least.
The car still managed to win and at the tender age of 45 Jimmy Howard became the rookie of the year at Oswego.
He now decided enough was enough in the driving department. The rear engine car was sold to Andy Brown who was another Beach Boulevard racer, and Jimmy concentrated on the car of Gary Witter, who was then making quite a name for himself at Oswego.
It took another year or so, but the trek to Oswego each weekend became a real chore. When the offer of a serious dollar contract to develop some specialized automotive manufacturing machinery came up, Howard Engineering stopped being a race car shop, and started working on money making projects.
Jimmy was involved in designing, manufacturing and machining parts for local hobby and TQ Midget racers, plus any number of commercial jobs over the succeeding years.
His new passion became his boat. Starting off with an all steel hull, he spent more and more of his leisure hours at the McCassa Bay Yacht Club each summer, and before long acquired his current fibreglass cruiser. Typical of his approach, Jimmy is never content with the status quo; the boat now is running twin Dodge 318's with one of them running reverse.
In 1990 when George D'Antimo and I went back to the CNE Speedway, I stopped into Beach Boulevard and dropped off a Munck race team jacket and hat. While Jimmy never had the opportunity of visiting the last incarnation of the famed oval, when he popped into the Munck Cranes offices about a year ago with Don, his long time friend and mechanic in tow, I was thrilled to see him wearing the hat and jacket.
Jimmy Howard is a living legend in our sport, and indeed it is only fitting that he be the first one of our group to be inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame.
He has been an inspiration to countless up and coming drivers and mechanics over the years and has proven time and again that ingenuity and perseverance, plus a lot of thinking and hard work can overcome cubic money.
His cars have beaten the cream of the crop, time and again, and indeed some of his workmanship and machine work is keeping numerous TQ and hobby cars on the track to this day.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Jimmy and following his racing career for over forty years. While he was at the top of his game, he always had time for the kid from Toronto with advise or a kind word or a part.
So heres to you Jimmy: May your waters always be smooth, and may the Dodge 318's outrun the Chev powered boats for many years to come.
___________________________________________________________

1961 at Pinecrest Tuesday night and once again the "B" engine does the job.
 

rodders

Registered User
Aug 6, 2015
3
1
0
#20
Howard did win a preliminary race at Oswego in 68 and rookie of the year honors but finished tied for 37th in points so I doubt he made many races . He was the first driver of a rear engine car to win an event at that track . Overall , I believe the various rear engine , mid engine , and 4 wheel drive creations just weren't consistent at that time . Meanwhile Gary Witter in the 19 was having a lot of success in the more traditional style roadster , finishing 5th in points for 1967 and 3rd in 1968 .

Terry Jolliffe
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom