If you’re a fan of Gasser, you’ve probably seen some of these incredible photographs by Wayne Arteaga before, but they have become separated and mislabeled over time.
Since John Hellmuth, Wayne’s racing companion and the final survivor of those who were there, is no longer living, we are lucky to have additional images and insightful commentary. You may say that we struck it rich.
Wayne Arteaga, who passed away in 2009, was a seasoned drag racer, a die-hard auto lover, and a genuine kind guy.
He and his partner John Hellmuth raced the Arteaga and Hellmuth supercharged Willys gasser in the 1960s, becoming friends with the unofficial national touring group of up-and-coming drag racers of the time. On the road, other gasser racers were known to stop by Wayne’s shop in St. Louis to catch up on maintenance.
Wayne, a member of a family of skilled photographers, captured many shots of the drag racing scene in the 1960s, including the collection of photos shown here. They show K.S. Pittman and Stone, Woods and Cook, and other top California teams repairing their Willys gassers at Wayne’s garage.
These incredible images, a true representation of American drag racing, have been circulating online for a while, but over time, they have split apart and the subjects have been misidentified. By assembling all the images and introducing each subject’s personality, we want to remedy that. Let’s spend the day at Wayne Arteaga’s gasser garage, ladies and gentlemen.
Famous supercharged gasser pilot K.S. Pittman, host Wayne Arteaga, and Pittman’s red, S&S-sponsored 1941 Willys gasser are seen from right to left. Doug “Cookie” Cook, the driver of the renowned Stone, Woods, and Cook Willys, can be seen sipping milk at far left.
In the SWC ’41 Willys, John Hellmuth and Doug Cook are shown here inspecting the Chrysler hemi that has been disassembled. According to John, the hemi originally had a cubic inch capacity of 392, but it was massively increased to 454 cubic inches. Keep an eye out for the team logo on the door, the aluminum fuel tank, and the magneto that is still in the block.
Even today, not many people are aware that Fred Stone, Leonard Woods, and Tim Woods were African-Americans who owned the SWC Willys. The hot rod magazines of the day didn’t seem all that eager to advertise that fact.
The SWC Swindler A Willys is seen on the trailer with the following items, from left to right, in the lead image at the top of this page. K.S. Pittman, Doug Cook, Richard “Tiny” Roberts, who worked as a technician on the SWC Willys and later gained notoriety on the Bonneville and dry lakes scene. John Hellmuth may have been holding the camera for this snap, but he is not visible in the photograph.
Doug Cook and John Hellmuth are still working on the SWC Willys. Actually, there were several SWC Willys racers; this particular vehicle is a Swindler A. Take note of the race parts scattered all over the floor, including a Hilborn fuel injector system and a GMC 6-71 blower.
“What Doug and I were doing was adding a cam gear drive system,” John says in this passage. I then used the new drive to degree his cam. We were repairing the rear suspension on K.S.’s automobile.
Although the SWC and K.S. Pittman teams were intense opponents on the racetrack, they were allies and friends while traveling between races, as this picture shows. Pittman’s Willys is parked in the alley on a trailer, and the SWC car can be seen inside the garage. We believe that the shadow of Wayne Arteaga holding the Rolleiflex in the front is the fiberglass nose of the SWC Willys laying on the driveway.
K.S. Pittman, Wayne Arteaga, Doug Cook, and Tiny Roberts, who is holding the speed handle, are gathered around the SWC Willys in the order listed from left to right. Although all of these racers have now died away, they have all made a mark on the sport. The hot rod scene in Arkansas still features John Hellmuth, who is shown in several of the photos above but is not visible in this photograph.
Here is another image from that unforgettable day in 1967, provided to us by John Hellmuth. Doug Cook, Tiny Roberts, K.S. Pittman, and Wayne Arteaga are pictured from right to left. A young local man, whose name John can’t recall, may be seen on the far left. We bet he was having the time of his life.
In terms of his racing career, Wayne began in the early 1950s and continued to turn a tire or two well into the 1990s. It includes a few well-known vehicles, such as his Henry J with a Potvin blower and, subsequently, the Arteaga & Hellmuth B/GS Willys.
In addition, his establishment served as something of a “Midwest Pit Stop” for many of the touring Gassers in the 1960s. When they were in the neighborhood, guys like KS Pittman, Stone, Woods & Cook, etc. used Wayne’s apartment as a sort of home away from home.
Many people will miss you a lot, Wayne.
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