03/22/12 04:50 PM


Pete Ogden 

     1936 – 2006

                                   Racer Driver Innovator Craftsman Friend


Pete Ogden was born in 1936 in Berkeley California.


Berkeley California was the place to be and the 1930s and 40s were the times to be there to capitalize on the mechanical industrial for intellectual based career. However if you were going to become pivotal in the California car culture. And specifically in the emerging Hot Rod/Drag Racing culture, San Francisco East Bay i.e. Berkeley, Oakland and Hayward in the 50s was the virtual “Hog-Heaven” for the automotive entrepreneurial mindset.

Berkeley was just miles away from Oakland, and the center for post-World War II industrial growth. Based on the rapid expansion of the military-industrial complex in its formative years, a myriad of small businesses and industries mechanical grew like the proverbial weeds. If it could be cast , machined, molded, welded brazed, fabricated or refined refigured or reengineered it could be found somewhere in the industries of the greater San Francisco East Bay. Including the growth of aftermarket manufactured speed equipment. As well as the and blatant modification of the Druids of Detroit.

Pete Ogden grew up in a town full of freshly bonafide hot rods and custom cars and what was to be the center of automotive growth including the soon to be imported sports car venue.

Pete grew up in drag racing during the years of its early transition from illegal Street racing to the organized sport that it is today. He was originally introduced to automotive compensation sports while working at Rhett While Ford in Walnut Creek. His brother, John, a mechanic there was involved with a group of employees racing a hardtop on dirt tracks (Pacheco Speedway) his father a Fuller Brush sales manager sponsored one of the cars.

With what would have to be called a family automotive addiction, he went to work at the local Ford agency doing what ever menial jobs were yet to be fulfilled. He went on to build his first hot Rod  and 23 T powered by 24 stud Flathead race motor garnered from his dirt track racing friends.

With this linkage he went to work for Jim’s Muffler Shop in nearby Pleasant Hill. Jim’s was the quasi meeting place for the Concord Accelerators a drag racing oriented club of relative renowned.

And the local affiliate of the Cal Neva Timing Association, an upcoming drag race/dry lakes racing Association.

Consequently, Pete was discovered by well-known drag racecar: Romeo Palamedes while he was building his 36 Ford fuel coupe at Jim’s Muffler Service.

Palmedes, a well-known racecar builder in Oakland, saw Pete’s fabrication talent, and hired him immediately. Working for “Dago” in his ship was like an Italian adolescent male being hired by Enzo Ferrari.

While working for Palamedes he got all the fabrication experience, and the race car knowledge that he could absorb. And became Palmedes driver du jour for his beautiful top fuel dragster “The Romeo”. Which led to his inclusion in the so-called Cam Grinders Shootout a Houston, Texas, when he was part of the California contingent to race the legendary Don Garlits.

(He was nosed out by Garlits in the final round at after having a valve cover gasket fail.)

while at Romeo’s shop in Oakland Pete worked on some of the got rods and drag race cars that would define the sport in the following decades. One of which was the personal 29 fuel roadster that was featured in the “Lodi Strop Star”. Forerunner to Tony Nancy’s “22 Junior”

After his mandatory two years in the service, he returned to the Concord area to start his own business building dragster chassis. For some of the front runners in the sport.

Denny Millani, and Cow Palace Shell, Rich Guasco’s Pure Hell, to name but a few.

Then in the mid 1960s he was asked to go to work for Woody Gilmore’s Racecar Engineering in Signal Hill with longtime friend and Muff Shop cohort, Paul Sutherland.

It seems that Southern California had the cutting edge of drag racing and racecar technology.

So Cal honestly gave Pete the better venue for not only his fabrication skills but  also his interest in driving. While in the Southern California drag racing scene he drove for Jim Ward, trouble shot for Ed ‘The Ace”  and was instrumental in the development of the ‘Flexi-Flier” that made Racecar Engineering into the icon that it is in drag racing history.

After having enough of the LA smog, he returned to his home ground of Contra Costa County and took on the running of his shop in Alamo. During this productive time he built numerous cars for some of the best known names in drag racing  a top fuel for Jerry “King of the North” Ruth including a “Giant Killer” for the Forsberg Brothers, and one of the ultra light weight gas dragster for Mike Fuller. He went on to build one of the first Funny Cars (a 64 Dodge for McCubbin & Guine a prototype model T Roadster that would become “Andy’s Instant T for Andy Brizio, and a host of other innovative projects, both automotive and architectural.

At this point Pete was contacted by Craig Breedlove to help build, in Torrance, what was to be a proper, legal LSR car for AMC/Breedlove. The car was to be push-stated by the present holder of the Jet LSR driven by Breedlove’s wife. When this didn’t quite pan out, Breedlove opted to use an additional rocket motor to accelerate to speed, start the supercharged 390 AMC engine, and wheel power the vehicle through the ‘flying mile” to set the legal “wheel driven” Land Speed Record.

When this too seemed to show less than appropriate potential, the car was turned into a exhibition rocket dragster under the names of ‘The Screaming Yellow Zonker” , and English Leather and was a successful exhibition tour piece for Breedlove. Never making an noteworthy LSR attempts.

In the meantime ”Brave SpeedLove” (as the in crowd would call him) when on to start designing his next “supersonic” LSR car.

And Pete returned to life in the smog-less environs of the Bay Area.

Reopening Pete Ogden Chassis at the top of the hill in Concord. And taking on a far greater breadth of projects. From building of dedicated drag race roadsters, suspensions both Street and Track and Sports car/road racing and all other things fast and furious. And the new “off-road” racing trend that had come the rage in Southern California, SCORE.

Pete Built a serous off-road racer for the Baja 1000 for a local race team “Green Gem” and then was asked to copilot the resulting vehicle in the desert road race through the wilds of the Mexican peninsula. This ultimately lead to an involvement with the Chevrolet truck division of General Motors. More accurately” The Northern California Chevrolet dealers.

But in the meantime there were plenty of projects automotive to be addressed. Street roadsters to be built for a growing number of people with an ever-growing amount of discretionary funds.

There was a influx of motorcycle work that began to appear. Local motorcycle minions such as Bob Dron Arlen Ness, etc. came up with ideas like “The Cyclotron” and a number of other show bikes that would put Pete’s expertise in front of a while new venue. This was to be highlighted by Don Ingles’ show stopping “ Inglecycle” the center-steering front hub motorcycle.

Along with developing new and exciting projects etc. Pete still entertained a “driving job” or two from such as Terrible Ted Gotelli and a test ride or two in a neophyte project or vehicle of personal interest to him.

However there is a time when the ever present question of whether to be a race car builder or a racecar driver raises its ugly but persistent head. Pete decided to sell his business, tooling and all to his more than able assistant” Chuck Delu.

Delu moved Pete Ogden’s Innovation Engineering to a more workable new building in Pleasant Hill.  And proceeded on with automotive projects. Among these are the Chevrolet S-10 off-road racer project, and a new excursion in interest to the field of serious dirt track sprint car racing.

Although Sprint cars became a shop specialty, hot rods, drag racers, sports cars, road racers, and all things of interest were still accomplished with the help of the now quasi-expatriate Pete.

Pete Ogden, his longtime coworker, Chuck Delu, and their mutual friend Dennis Craig set about developing a business whose clientele and expertise would reach into the far extents of the automotive field. And in doing so initiated techniques and designs that will provide another step.

Some of the projects included such things as a six wheeled Mazda powered Street Rod reminiscent of the Tyrell Formula One racer a number of sports car suspension innovations, and a veritable myriad of unique customers demands. While building and repairing Sprints cars by the dozen.

As if Pete did not have enough to do, the off-road racing for Chevrolet became a full-time on the road occupation for Ogden, DC (Dennis Craig) Chuck Delu, and it’s initiator and founding Father overseer, Dave Robb. And Pete was busy doing one of things that he does so well solving mechanical problems with well thought out solutions. Race teams are a constant source of logistic and mechanical challenges.


We re-enter Breedlove’s LSR obsession observation.

While Pete had been working, jerking, racing, and generally innovating. Brave Speed Love had been plotting his reinvention. Now in an ex-Ford dealership in nearby Rio Vista, Breedlove had designs on the LSR again.

Having had been happy satisfied and content with Pete and Dennis’s work on the AMC/Zonker project when working with Paul LeMar, their old friend Paul Sutherland and veritable host of engineers. And Pete managed not to murder any of the engineers, although out of character.

So being stalwarts of the Breedlove LSR contingent, Pete was asked to fabricate Breedlove’s new project.

The building of the about to be land speed record holder and it’s support equipment is a time-consuming job. So as Breedlove finished the massive lofting drawings Pete and Denny worked preparing a proper chassis jig for a 27 foot long supersonic missile to be built in a drafty 1930’s era Ford dealership garage.

This was to proceed throughout the design and development and running of the “Spirit of America” LSR speed attempts. With a slight change in venue from Rio Vista to Bonneville and finally to Black Rock Desert. The design and development and constant redevelopment of the prototype racecar is only limited by the amount of funds available.

After the original vehicle rolled over on its side a 700 plus miles per hour and an ongoing duel between Breedlove and Noble in the Thrust II there was little left to do but break the sound barrier. And preparations still proceed to that goal.

With breaking the sound barrier as the immediate goal. Breedlove went about modifying his racecar to a new goal of approximately 750 mph (1100 feet per second adjusted for the ambient temperature pressure and altitude equivalency of the speed of sound) as did Richard Noble.

As we previously stated the most critical dimension is the thickness of one’s checkbook. The reality is that the Queens checkbook is sizable. And what she wants is what she gets. Just how the money was delegated is not for us commoners to know, but is within the possibilities of the UK and it’s business structure.

While the reddish industry moguls wrote the underside of English speed the ongoing debate of who supports Amercans, the lingering question is who steps up to fund the Breedlove Endeavor? While maximum amount  of energy and interest going to the gathering of sponsorships funds.

Meanwhile the Spirit of Amerca team is temporarily out funds and out of work.

As a fill-in positioning Pete, our hero, returns to more mundane areas of auto sports/need fabrication and technology. Pete began working on such things as a 34 roadster for Chuck Salmann a long time fan of Pete’s work. Chuck’s plan was to have the world’s fastest roadster (altered, 25%) unsupercharged gas powered roadster. And then probably reset the fuel record, with a backup plan of an almost unassailable fuel roadster record to match.

To do so Pete built a car that so impressed the safety committee of SCTA and FICA as to reexamine some of their previous ruling. As well as with Chuck’s applied scientific running of the resulted roadster set enough records in so many different classes as to question the ultimate legality of the car itself. It was not only legal is was so legal as to have them rethink their lesson structure.

Previous to his working for Leonard Lopez’s Dominator Motorsports headdone a streamliner chassis for Rudy Perez. Here was another longtime fan of Pete’s renowned workmanship and had known Pete since his early days with Palamedes.

A longtime top fuel drag racing: Perez had grown up watching Pete driving Romeo’s early top fuel dragster effort, the Romeo.

Knowing that there was no one that had known better the construction of the now classic drag racing icon that its original fabricator and most noted driver. Rudy employed Pete and his interim employer, Dominator Motorsports to re-create the original Romeo.

Having the full-length aluminum body rebuild by the legendary Jack Hagemann in his Alamo ship. Down to the one-off unique Plexiglas cockpit cover. And the original Palamedes cast magnesium wheels, more carefully machined this time. The result was a show stopping success and a nostalgia memory stimulant of early 1950’s northern California drag racing at its best.

Now in place at the Museum of automotive industry in where?

Meanwhile while he was reproduction 1950’s drag racing. The world turns and Pete keeps right on building memorable pieces of rolling automotive artwork. At this point constant back-and-forth between Hot Rods, race cars, and the inevitable fall back: the ever present custom motorcycle.

At his “Pete Ogden’s Innovation Engineering” in Vallejo next to “Chopper Guys” he oversaw and educated a staff of production? Staff in the field of custom motorcycle chassis construction. Sidelining in reconstructing nostalgia race cars, any number of unique racing venues” Mud Truck, etc. etc. etc. and nausea. After all a fabrication-or?

In his Slavic quasi retirement on the venue of get cars, Ogden returned to his grassroots well wherewith drag racing in the form of resurrecting the “killer cars” of the front motor, rear-driver, 671 supercharged fuel-burning, tire-smoking 1960’s show stopping era of top fuel drag racing. For the top fuel reality show of Armageddon drag racing.

The presentation of Tim Condors, a well-known artist and painter. Soon to be seen at your local drag racing venue.

For those drag racing fans tired of four-second “over-before-they-start” drag races that are hardly observable to the overpaying race than spectator of today. A welcome veritable necessity in today’s “Wonderful World of rag Racing”  he for it loses what ever fan base it has left.

Meanwhile in the ongoing world of international ultimate speed competition” we have the Breedlove versus Noble round to or three or what ever? 

At the Desert, Black Rock: Te largest airplane in the world lands with 2 18-wheelers, a number of support vehicles and the redesigned re-advocated reinforced and multiplied (2) jet engined Noble super car with a new feature air Force test pilot in the form of Andy Greene. 

SO with the advisory assistance of Craig Breedlove, Pete, Dennis Craig, ant the full Spirit of America crew the ultimate speed record challenge we commences.

With an additional underpinning of literally multiple inch thick steel plate on its underside for uncompromisable supplemental anti-aerodynamic stabilization of massively overstated bull our new young hero: the international Andy Greene sits down between two screening turbojet (with full refire on!) And sets off across the 11 miles of alleged race track that sometimes is known as the great Black Rock Desert.

After doing it n one direction, the fearless Mr. Greene regierds his lines (or whatever) and sets off to break windows The Sound Barrier and the world record at the same time, as a throatily sonic bomb heard world round.

Not only had a new record been set, but also Breedlove’s “first person to break the speed of sound” title had been eclipsed by a limmie intruder. This was not in “Craig Breedloves Plan” it was time for a little rethinking.

Craig surmised” in that he had been the first man to set the record at over 400 miles per hour, the first person to set it at more than 500 miles per hour, the first to officially go more than 600 miles per hour, and the first crash at over 700 he concluded that it was only right that he be the first one to set the record at over 800 miles per hour. Ant that was that!

So 800 mph he was going to be! Adequate horsepower or no! No Problem!

800 or Bust!!!

As we speak: Time will tell!

And now, with Pete’s passing, it may well be that barrier became a lot more formidable. Perhaps impassable.

Of Pete’s legacy he writes himself, probably more highly on the people that he mentored than the hardware that he left behind as his legacy. And rightfully so! As Palamedes, and Hagemann: and Quin Epperly and others taught”

The new breed:

            Paul Sutherland” Sutherland Race Cars, Racecar Engineering.? Race cars, The   Muff,  too many to list.

            Chuck Delu: Chuck Delu Race Cars (mentor, friend collaborator and student?), replacement of state-of-the-art

            Dennis Craig, (deceased)

            Formally of: champion, Spirit of America, Proformance Associates, The Muff, a much to list

            Bob Munroe, Bob Munroe Bodies & Fabrication

            Bob Sbarbaro: Bob Sbarbaro Hot Rods

            Leonard Lopez: Dominator Motorsports

            Roy Brizio, Roy Brizio Street Rods

   Phlash Van Buren: Flashes

            Etc. etc.





This site was last updated 03/22/12 04:50 PM