Friday, December 3, 2010

A brief history of the #312c roadster

Randy Cannarozzi built this 1932 Ford roadster ten years ago in his garage. Once completed, its first run was to Bonneville. Both Randy and his wife Chris drove the roadster for a few years, making runs from their hometown of Auburn, California south to Los Angeles and north to Canada, hitting all points in between.

In 2002 they were headed to Canada for Deuce Day. Due to a heat wave and temperatures soaring to 110 degrees in Northern California, they decided to trailer the roadster up to the more moderate climate of Oregon, then drive the remainder of the trip to Canada. This proved to be a fateful decision in the life of the roadster. Just outside Shasta Lake, on Interstate 5, they encountered road construction and an unfilled bridge transition. The rough, uneven terrain caused one or more of the straps to fail and the '32 roadster was thrown from the trailer. Landing on all fours, the roadster proceeded down the interstate, collided with a guard rail, crossed over both lanes and slammed into the concrete Jersey barrier resulting in massive damage. Thankfully no one was hurt.

It was decided that instead of rebuilding the car himself, Randy would take the car to Ford flathead guru Vern Tardel and his shop in Santa Rosa. Having met previously, Vern agreed to handle the job. After a year in Vern's shop, the resurrected roadster was back on the road.

Two years later, the roadster was wrangled to be used in background shots of the 2005 film "The World's Fastest Indian" starring Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro, a record setting New Zealander who raced his 1920 Indian at Speed Week in Bonneville. To that end, the roadster was given a wardrobe of its own, having vintage race numbers and decals applied to give it the correct aesthetic.

Randy and Chris liked the numbers, so the #310c markings were retained and the roadster continued to be driven everywhere.

It was during their 2007 road trip to Bonneville that Randy and Chris met with Vern and discussed the possibility of running the roadster on the salt. Vern and his son, Keith Tardel, have had years of experience racing at Bonneville including the record setting Tardel / McKenzie car. It was agreed that the 310c roadster would be a solid candidate to be a salt racer as it wouldn't need much to change it over from a street roadster to a salt roadster.

So, with the "you only live once" adage and some big balls, a very nice street roadster was totally torn apart to be transformed into a true racer.

Work started in February 2008. Randy tore the roadster apart and the body and frame were hauled down to Vern's to begin the transformation.  Then, for the next six months, Randy would make the drive every Thursday from Auburn to Santa Rosa to work with Vern and Keith to rebuild the roadster.

Early on in the build, it was decided that Chris would be driving, to that end, she made the trip on several occasions so that the cockpit could be properly fitted for her.  The project quickly snowballed and went from just installing the roll cage, fire suppression equipment and just "freshening" up the engine, to a total race build.

The roadster was finished the night before the trip to Bonneville.  The Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) advised that the #310 had been taken; however, the #312 was available.  So, pinstriper extraordinaire, T.J. Pagano of the Sacramento Poor Boys made the change and the #312c roadster was born.

Although Randy and Chris had been to Bonneville numerous times, it was the first time for their sons Nic and Pete. On the first day, the Cannarozzi / Tardel pit area was quickly put up and then it was off to help set up the Tardel / McKenzie pit, as the #517 car was running too.  After a run through tech inspection, the few minor issues were corrected and the car was cleared to run on the salt.

Nic Cannarozzi said, "We then headed out to the line for our very first run. I cannot begin to tell you the nerves I had as my brother and I strapped my mom into the roadster for that run. Watching her take off was an experience I cannot describe.  We didn't break any records on that first run. Hell, we didn't even break 100 m.p.h! But, for us though, it is, and will always be, our best run ever."

Over the course of the next few days, with Vern and Keith shadowing our first few runs, the roadster did break a 100 m.p.h., 126.2 m.p.h. to be exact.  The Tardels then left for home and with a "have fun" wave the Cannarozzis were on their own, racing with just their crew.  Taking the "vintage" racer to the next level, Randy used his 1934 Ford Coupe #415c as the tow vehicle out on the salt.

Although they didn't approach the Vintage Roadster class record of 153 m.p.h., Chris Cannarozzi did earn her S.C.T.A. license and the #312 roadster preformed well. All in all it was one of the best experiences our family has probably ever had.