Thursday, July 30, 2009

Perfect timing... the photographer had perfect timing to catch the driver looking down at the damage, and throwing his hands up in disgust

The original car had a fiberglassed 1948 Fiat Topolino body with a bored and stroked 331 Chrysler Hemi.

Jim Miles built the car and acquired sponsorship from the Magic Muffler Shops in Southern California.

In August 1965 at the Lions Drag Strip, as driver Gary Essman hit the throttle, the bottom end of the engine exploded all over the track.

And it happened in less than one second. The photographer clicked the shutter. The driver stomped on the throttle. And KA-BLOOEY. The entire bottom of the engine exited the Fiat’s frame rails. The crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods and oil pan all say sayonara through a cloud of fire.

At that moment of obliteration, the driver raised his right hand like he is letting go of a radioactive burrito. Through the carnage, the Genie beamed beatific, never breaking character.

Contrary to myth, a Genie doesn’t always do one’s bidding. He can be good, evil or indifferent.

In this case, the Genie was a vicious, smiling sadist.

So how, exactly, did the bottom come out?

“It was because (Gary) Essman didn’t torque the bottom end,” said AA/FA scenester, racer and authority Rod Hynes. “Brain fade had set in after putting in so many hours to get it together.”

About that infamous night in August of 1965, Miles said: “The driver was a fellow named Gary Essman. He helped me on the car quite a bit.”

Until the deconstruction… which was not as catastrophic as it appeared in the pictures.

“It spit the entire assembly out which was not hurt,” Hynes said.


  1. Is that the clutch and transmission being dropped onto the ground?

    1. Not sure, But I know that this famous photo "Magic Carpet" Fiat of C&T Strokers is talked about a lot. Lemme see what turns up

    2. the crank shaft, and several piston/rod assemblies

    3. Whoops! My mistake, its the Magic Muffler Fiat Blown Fuel Altered

    4. wow, the post is so much better now! I went through 4 more photos, as I found better versions, and the facts to go with it!

    5. NOW it's a proper and well done post!

      I just found interviews, story, magazine cover, etc

  2. Whatever is being dropped onto the strip, it looks pretty expensive to repair!

  3. Jesse,
    Thank you for all of the extra information - a one in a million photo!

    1. Oh you're welcome! This is what I do for fun!