Collection Highlight: Pat Usher, Mechanic & Teacher
Archive Volunteer: Glenn Wong
The body of the Pat Usher collection shows his relation to and love of auto racing. As a race car driver, speed shop owner and teacher Pat was fully committed to motorsports racing. From his auto shop in Beaverton, he worked on and built racing engines and chassis. Constantly reading and learning, he kept up on advancements in machines and technology in the field. His interests in engines extended into marine and airplane engines as well. Handwritten classroom instructional notes show his attention to detail and how organized his mind was. He had a deep interest in high performance engines, both in the theory and the practical applications. The proof of his knowledge and skill can be seen in his own success as a racer and builder.
High performance engine advancement, in many fields of racing, were of great interest to Pat. Articles like these filled his tall file cabinet of hundreds of articles that he kept over the years and now part of the collection. Articles on nitrous oxide, engine blue printing, computer software and electronic sensors fill his files.
His sense of history included many of the motorsports innovators who preceded him. Seen here is an article about Ed Iskendarian whose cams were the go-to cam for many years. Other biographies he has on file include Colin Chapman and George Hurst.
His knowledge came from various sources which he shared with others, including his many professional mechanic students over the years. Pat was prolific about collecting information where ever he found it. There are hundreds of magazine articles as well as industry publications.
This yellow notebook contains his detailed classroom notes. Pat’s nine-month long class for professional mechanics was the only one of its kind in the country. His electronics teaching background in the US Navy and years as an electrical technician at Techtronics made him idea as an instructor at this level.
Learning was very important to Pat, even from one’s mistakes and failures. The articles he collected and saved stretch back several decades going back to the 1960s and cover engine air flow, cooling systems, proper engine and valve spring inspection, amongst others.
Usher had an eye for finding articles that translated theory to practical application. Both particular to the time and timeless, his collection of articles can offer an eye-opening understanding even to readers decades later. He read articles on heat treating, material coatings and diagnostic on board computers.
Many of the magazine articles in Pat’s collection are for the “do it yourself”er. Besides the how-to’s of painting, other DIY articles include carburation, timing, cam selection, high performance building tips and building, and tuning Holley carburetors.
This publication is something that you expect to find among Pat’s reading material. His interests ran both wide and deep, judging from the articles he saved. There is a folder on almost every racecar-related subject in his collection. There are even several folders with articles that have yet to be sorted.
Here is one of the reference guides he had available. Pat also had guides on pressure/temperature conversion, atmospheric condition and carburetor jetting and engine weights and dimensions. These are all aids in pre-paring the racecar and final tuning for racetrack conditions.
Here are pictures of is custom engine work, taken in his shop. These photos were intended to document his completed engine work and possibly to show to prospective customers. Several customer files contain engines specifications, tolerances and performance data.
Pat took notice of historic events and took the time to save newspaper articles on those important days. Here, the front page of the Oregonian, from Tuesday June 10, 1986 with the devastating new of the Challenger tragedy. Other examples are the President Kennedy assignation, the attack at Pearl Harbor, and the Rajneeshees.
Magazine articles were a great source of technical information for Pat. His library of magazine articles, industry literature and product information filled an entire file cabinet. Information was separated into subjects and held in individual folders.
To dive into the complete Pat Usher Collection, check out the Usher Finding Aid that show the complete selection of articles and clippings from automotive magazines and newspapers that Usher collected, relating to his work as a mechanic and mechanical teacher covering racing, high performance cars and race car engines and chassis building. His personal papers include course materials from his unique nine-month professional mechanics class covering automotive subjects and records of engine performance. Usher’s original folder titles have been kept, along with housing personal notes connected to published items in titled folders, though broken down into three groups: Parts & Technology, Parts Operations & Systems, and Personal Papers.