A Quick Look: The Edelbrock equipped Bachelor-Xydias So-Cal Special

The So-Cal Special now resides in Bruce Meyer’s collection. Meyer is the epitome of hot rodding at its highest level and his emphasis is placing respect on the crews and cars built in the golden era of hot rods.

The only racecars worth anything at all have “Special” in their name, like the Hollywood Spring Special, the Stutz Jones Special, or the most famous belly tanker of them all: The Edelbrock equipped Bachelor-Xydias So-Cal Special. We recently got a peek at world class car collector and Hot Rod enthusiast Bruce Meyer’s man cave, where the So-Cal Special now resides.

Built by Alex Xydias’ So-Cal Speed Shop team which included Bill Burke, Dick Flint, Richart French and Keith Baldwin, along with help from Vic Edelbrock Sr., the Lockheed P38 Lightning belly-mounted drop tank was a culmination of ideas from many self-taught hot rod engineers.

World War II had ended and the surplus of drop tanks was sold to anyone wanting to pick up these wartime souvenirs. Because they were inexpensive and designed to cut through the air without creating lift in any direction, custom car builders began making vehicles to run on the dry lakes for speed records that they dubbed “Lakesters.”

As with most cars in his collection, Meyer has a miniature version in exact detail on display.

So-Cal Speed Shop’s Bill Burke is credited as the first to attempt to build a belly tank lakester in 1946, using a 168-gallon center drop tank off of a P-51 Mustang. The 10-foot long tank was equipped with a full-sized flathead Ford, 239 ci engine.

Realizing the size was going to be an issue, Burke switched to a larger 305-gallon P-38 Lightning center drop tank. Xydias and Burke began to build the new streamliner in February of 1948, using the larger teardrop-shaped tanks that were 13 feet long and 3 feet wide at its widest point.

Just imagine going 195mph in an aerodynamic gas tank. What could go wrong?

Despite the larger tank, a smaller V8-60 flathead Ford (that was popular in midget car racing) was used in the new design. The build was finished in time for the April SCTA meet sporting blue and gold colors.

The summer of 1951 saw the So-Cal belly tanker reach 195mph, making Alex Xydias and his So-Cal speed shop the builders of the fastest unblown flathead-powered car in the history of Bonneville. The So-Cal crew was voted the number one racing team by Mechanix Illustrated magazine in 1952. This, along with numerous other records set by cars flying the So-Cal banner made the shop synonymous with winners and speed.

The Edelbrock equipped Bachelor-Xydias So-Cal Special

  • Builders/Designers/Crew: Bill Burke, Vic Edelbrock, Dick Flint, Richard French, Keith Baldwin
  • Engine: 1939 Ford V8-60
  • Speed Parts: Edelbrock dual intake manifold, Edelbrock 9.5:1 cylinder heads, Winfield super cam, Spalding Zephyr ignition, two Stromberg 81 carburetors.
  • Displacement: 156 cubic inches
  • Body: 305 gallon P-38 drop tank with three compartments (the driver compartment, the engine compartment, and the fuel tank). Steel firewalls separate each of the three compartments.
  • Suspension: Rigid, with no springs in the rear and a short transverse leaf spring in the front.
  • Front Axle: Stock
  • Rear Axle: 1932 Ford ballbearing rear end with a 4.11:1 ratio
  • Steering: 1932 V-8 steering column rotated 90 degrees for more ground clearance
  • Shocks: None
  • Wheels: Stock Ford wheels
  • Driveshaft: Ten-inch driveshaft with no u-joints
  • Brakes: Rear brakes only
  • Dashboard / Gauges: Stewart Warner tachometer, oil temperature gauge, and water temperature gauge
  • Tire Size: Front: 500×16, Firestone, ribbed tires. Rear: 600×18, Firestone Indianapolis type tires
  • Special Parts: Hand fuel press pump, Airplane alcohol anti-icing 3.7-gallon fuel tank

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
Read My Articles

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