Jado Special

Back in 1955, Hot Rod Magazine ran a four-page feature by Gene Alfred on a then-new salt shaker — the Jado Special. The car, a hammered ’34 three-window, went on to have a storied life before becoming a part of the permanent collection of World of Speed in Wilsonville, Oregon.

Back in the early '50s, Jim Kamboor, who worked at Harvey Aluminum in Torrance, California, decided to build a Class D Competition Coupe for Bonneville. He picked up a ’34 coupe for just $200 (it was 1954, after all), and, with the help of friend Don Alpensfel, who operated Don’s Speed Shop in Gardena, California, embarked upon his project. The name Jado, incidentally, came from theirs, a combination of "JA"mes and "DO"n. 

The first thing to go was the frame, replaced with a lightweight, 112-inch wheelbase Shelby tube assembly that mounted the engine amidships behind the driver, who was pushed perilously close to the windshield. The Halibrand quick-change was mounted solidly to the frame in the rear, while a ’32 Ford buggy sprung axle was mounted up front. One shackle was welded solid, track style, as an anti-sway device, and the steering box was an 8-to-1 Franklin. By the time they got to Bonneville, the wheels were no-hole Halibrands fitted with Firestone Speedway tires. Hand-operated brakes were on the rear only.

Powering the Aztec Red beast was a 286 CI Merc fitted with Offenhauser heads, and a big S.Co.T. blower fitted with four angled Norden carburetors feeding the methanol mixture from an aircraft fuel tank. The engine, backed up by a ’40 Ford box, also had a Norden cam and crank fitted with Marryman racing pistons with a compression ratio of 8.4:1. Cooling water was contained in two Army surplus cans atop each frame rail.

Photo courtesy of Don Palmer

Photo courtesy of Don Palmer


The body likewise came in for a lot of attention. The top was chopped five inches for an overall height of just 54 inches. Meanwhile, the passenger door was welded shut, and the rear fender wells were hammered out for a smooth contour. Most importantly, because Jim worked at Harvey Aluminum, he was able to fabricate the peaked nose, hood, belly pan, and the roof insert, complete with air scoop, from aluminum — keeping the overall weight at 1,850 pounds.

Unfortunately, the contemporary magazines do not list a speed for the Jado Special. One caption mentions a 164 MPH run, but another, in the November 1954 Hot Rod coverage of Bonneville, says, “Jack Ewell, of the ‘Jado’ crew, performs a quick gear change on the quick-change after completing one leg of a record try.” Another caption in that same issue says the engine compartment was “immaculate.” Sadly, however, the team did not get a record. Instead, the Class D Competition Coupe record went to Don Bishop with a speed of 171.57 MPH.

The following year, when Don Palmer took a great color shot of the car being pushed off, some changes had taken place: Gone was the peaked nose, replaced with a more bulbous, but perhaps more effective, hand-formed aluminum track-style nose. The roof vent had also been enlarged. Unfortunately, the car doesn’t feature in any of the contemporary Bonneville reports, but Don Palmer did take a shot of the “Fastest Times” board on September 2, 1955. It shows that car number 180 went 175.01 MPH. Unfortunately, the record, also shown on the board, was 187.259 MPH, set by John Moxley’s “Miss 400” (actually the old SO-CAL Coupe), just beating Art Chrisman’s effort. However, after Art was lent some much-needed parts, he turned around and broke Moxley’s record — that was how it went at Bonneville.



Further Reading:

Alfred, Gene. "Aluminum All-Star." Hot Rod Magazine, April 1955, 34–35, 37. 
"Jado Special." Rod & Custom, February 1955, 36–39. 
"Quick Coupe." Hot Rod Magazine, June 1960, 74–75.