Category Archives: Fairabend
Glenn Fairabend was racing with the Detroit boys and buying high mortality parts at retail from Joe’s Hobby Shop (Pop Dallaire and sons, Frank and Joe Jr.). These were for his own use, but eventually a lot of the other guys were buying his spares. After a while Fairabend began buying wholesale, and by 1946 it seemed like a good idea to expand the lines he was selling and obtain distributorships for other popular products that worked well.
[spoiler title=”Read More” open=”0″ style=”1″]
Demand for parts increased, and Fairabend soon enlisted the help of his most knowledgeable friends. This group would get together, brainstorm, and then build, test, and perfect. Whatever worked would be shared among the club members and would occasionally become a new product to market. The principals of Fairabend Engineering were Glenn Fairabend, his wife Martie, Joe Kantrow, Sr., Dale Martell, Jim Ogden, Andy Sutyak, and Elton Winchell. Each had a regular job and worked on the race car stuff after hours. In addition to making extra money and hanging out with friends, the guys could buy parts at Glenn’s cost plus ten percent, which kept racing expense a little lower.
Fairabend Engineering made streamlined stainless steel front axles, panhandles and mounts, tail skids, gear sets, wheels, various engine parts, and even fuel! Custom cars were modified and massaged into very accurate tolerances and alignments. Eventually they produced a complete car—the Fairabend Dooling Arrow. The cars were carefully assembled using a number of special parts, including cherry-picked Dooling pieces. The Dooling cars were of good quality to start with, and the engines were among the best. This Fairabend product was eventually referred to as the Fairling.
Glenn Fairabend perfected chromed cylinder liners—something that others had tried to do, but failed. Over one thousand were made and sold for $20-$25 with a piston and rings. A lot of engines were also rebuilt and modified. Usually, the component parts would be handpicked for quality and the lower ends rebuilt to tighter tolerances. The biggest problems were with connecting rods having misaligned holes. This was not surprising, considering that a rod cost only $2.50. Some billet rods were made, but they proved very expensive and not worth the effort.
Car modifications included a two-piece, dropped, airfoil section, 18-8 stainless steel front axle made from 28 inch long aircraft strut wire, which performed better than the stock Dooling part. About twelve hundred were sold for $3.50 each. The leftover strut wire stock was used for tailskids, another popular Fairabend accessory. Dale Martell and Andy Sutyak saw a “panhandle” cable attachment made by a Californian, and believed it was a performance improvement and safer than traditional bridle mounts. A bracket was cast for the Arrow and machined to take the 3/8-inch stainless steel rod rolled to an airfoil section very similar to that of the front axle’s. Gear sets were manufactured in two ratios—I/.87:1 and 1.75—the latter being the most popular. High-quality wheels were machined, using custom-made tools, and usually mounted C & R tires (a hard compound for fast, smooth tracks and medium or soft for bumpier tracks). The secret of going fast was correct drive train alignment, proper tolerances, and minimum friction. Great care was used in mounting the engine and assembling the driveline for smooth, bind-free operation. A complete car, assembled and tested, was guaranteed to run 120 MPH on “cold” fuel. About fifty cars were built and sold for $120 until business slowed in 1952. Almost all of the cars were Dooling Arrow based.
The Fairabend Modified Twelve Thirty Four (1234) car soon came along and became the front-runner, in part because it carried a magneto. This was thought to be good for another five to ten MPH. The 1234 was itself an improved version of the Fox car, developed by Cliff Fox of Oakland, California.
The 1234s were commissioned by Billy Bissman, an affluent retiree from Mansfield, Ohio. They were built by the McCormick brothers in Akron, Ohio. George McCormick was a corporate machine shop teacher, and his brother was a pattern maker. George would have his students rough finish parts as class assignments, and then he would take them home for finish work. There were three versions of the car, and the brothers built only about fifteen themselves. The V 2911 was the last model. As many as three hundred other cars were sold, but they usually lacked the quality of assembly and machining of the first few.
Glenn and Martie Fairabend were deeply involved in miniature race cars for over thirty years, and they broke many race records. For Glenn, the most enjoyable record was his wife’s 156 MPH run, breaking a record that had survived for eleven years. They both worked tirelessly to promote the sport, making many friends in the process. Martie was secretary-treasurer of the American Miniature Race Car Association for ten years, and Glenn also held numerous offices. The Detroit club dissolved in the mid-1970s after many members moved to the suburbs. Hobbyists came to Detroit less often to race, and the city, thinking nobody was using the twin tracks, bulldozed the site and built a water treatment plant. The club was dissolved and the remaining funds given to the Salvation Army.