Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mark Dees, president of the 200mph Club, the Ferrari club, a land speed racer, and Pullman car restorer, author of the definitive book on the Miller race cars "The Miller Dynasty"

One problem, he did his research on the computers of the day, the early 90s. So, 5" floppies with a Tandy PC . And he died (Dec '96) with a password protection on his computer, and there you have it... all his work on what book he was working on at the time irretrievable


He was a grad of Stanford in '58, and then city attorney for Inglewood, and a member of the Super Fours Dry Lakes club, and wrote "The Miller dynasty: A Technical History of the Work of Harry A. Miller, his Associates, and his Successors" in 1981, the result of 20 years' research, and interviews (with Miller's surviving associates and his successors) and exclusive access to Miller's working drawings

A different breed altogether is the author who has achieved an enduring reputation by virtue of just one book.  In fact, a number of the best books ever fall into this category, notably the recently revised and reissued The Miller Dynasty, written by Mark L. Dees http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1994/79/starting-motor-racing-library

If you look at the HRM coverage of Bonneville in '69 you get the impression that the B/GR and B/FR battle between Mark Dees and Peek Brothers was one of the more note worthy things of the week.

In the mid 80s he set up a Vintage Oval Track class at Bonneville and needed additional participants. So he contacted Gordon White, racing historian and Smithsonian Institute auto racing advisor, and Gordon's Offy powered Kurtis midget had won the Antique Automobile Association's Grand National First Prize in 1986 and of course everyone asked, "How fast will it go?"  Gordon took the Kurtis to Bonneville in '87, '88, and '89. He then bought the 1928 Miller Packard Cable Spl. #18 and wrote 7 books on the history of auto racing in the U.S., including the story of the Offenhauser engine, a biography of Frank Kurtis, books on Harry Miller, Kurtis' Indianapolis cars, 'Lost Race Tracks' and a biography of Ab Jenkins.


Ken Gross when writing Hot Rod Milestones: America's Coolest Coupes, Roadsters, and Racers  had a thank you note, and included Mark among the most recognizeable names in hot rodding. He said: "I'd also like to thank six departed, very knowledgeable friends: the late Dean Batchelor, Mark Dees, Gray Baskerville, Ray Brock, Tony Nancy, and Tom McMullen, all of which encouraged my interest. I'll never forget them."

Having preserved the Miller record in considerable detail, Mark Dee’s family heirs passed his collection of Miller photos on to White and along with the late Bob Sutherland, they made him the archivist of the surviving Miller drawings, most of which were drawn by Miller’s long time engineering accomplice and draftsman Leo W. Goossen and then built by the third member of the team Fred Offenhauser. A veritable gold mine of prewar racing and engineering design genius, the archives represent a historical treasure of immeasurable value.


in the Hot Rod Reader, Mark wrote in chapter 8, What is Bonneville, How to go racing at Bonneville

He also wrote "A Technical History of the Racing Flathead,"

Among his parts collection were Halibrand rims from the Mickey Thompson/ Bill Burke Punmpkin Seed Bonneville car

New for Speedweek in 1962 was the Mark Dees and Mike Scott built Class D Streamliner entered under the name Mark Dees-Racer Brown. The slippery front wheel drive car was powered by a 180" Pontiac Tempest 4-banger and was built to take Bill Burke's Pumpkin Seed record of 205.949 mph set in 1960 with a Bill Stroppe prepped Falcon-6 for power.

The good news was the car made it to the salt just a little late and unpainted. The bad news is there were to many bugs to work out so no speeds were recorded. It's interesting to note that Scott built the body off a buck and then a chassis was constructed to fit within it.

Mark was back with the car in '63 and only managed to run a slow 134.12 mph against the now 222.791 mph record set by the Vesco boys the year before. A last ditch effort with the car in '64, now with a 470" Chrysler and running in Class B, resulted in a quick 237.78 mph run but was not quick enough to match the Hammon-McGrath-Whipp Redhead class record of 302.812 mph.

(1972 article in Car and Driver)
Many of the racers were convinced that all their honest effort had succeeded in preserving the Salt Flats. Jerry Jones is the President of the SCTA which sanctions Speed Week. He says, "We talked to Governor Rampton, we've seen the University studies, and you can go look at the steel poles that are sunk in the Salt out by the start. They measure the depth of the salt, and they haven’t changed in five years. It's still as deep as it ever was. It just migrates within the basin from area to area in different years."

Mark Dees, uses these two U.S. Geological Survey aerial photographs to state his case against Kaiser. The left photo was taken in 1953, the right in 1970. In both, the dotted line indicates the Twenty-Five Mile Trench of Kaiser, while the solid line indicates the outer edge of the shrinking Salt Flats. Jones’ complacent attitude is not shared by all the racers. Mark Dees is president of the prestigious 200 M.P.H. Club. He has become something of a monomaniac on the condition of the Salt, but he also has factual information to support his case.

 One of the most telling pieces of evidence is a pair of aerial photographs taken by the United States Geological Survey. One was taken in I953 as part of Project 121, and the other in 1970 as part of project GS-UCMV. As Dees says, “These photos clearly show that the incredible actinic whiteness of 1953 has given way in 1970 to a blotchy area of reduced size, indicating that the thickness of the salt has been materially reduced and the Flats themselves are being pulled in.‟ On-site observation makes this obvious to anyone who was there in the old days. How could it be otherwise, when Kaiser pumps away thousands of tons of salt solution every year."

THE BONNEVILLE OUTRAGE. Written by Rich Taylor, for Car and Driver magazine, 1972,

Mark owned a 1916 Pullman Heavyweight private car, ex-San Joaquin and Eastern RR business car "San Marino," ex- Southern Pacific "Del Monte" #107 (both Huntington roads) 1927-1978, sold to Mexico, returned and rebuilt in Texas, bought by Dees and renamed "San Marino" again. Still has original 1916 wood interior. He also owned ex-UP Lounge car "City of St Louis" #9011 (dome observation car), which became ex-Auto Train nightclub car that he renamed "Lionel," and ex-CP 4210 baggage car that could load automobiles through end doors, and had four built-in bunks for crew sleeping quarters, renamed "Pony Express."

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