Art Imitates Life: The Tale of Two Sprint Cars

Open Wheel, Racing History, What’s Happening

By: Tim Sickle

This article will be rather unique. As the title states, it is the story of two sprint cars, one full-size, while the other is a scaled-down version, hence, the reference to art (1/12th scale) sprint car imitating life (full-size) sprint car.

‘Life’ (a.k.a. Real) World

The sprint car in question is the H & H Machine Tool Special, out of the Dayton/Kettering, Ohio area, and its owner/crew chief is Clarence E. ‘Mutt’ Anderson.

Mutt started out racing motorcycles, but moved to automobiles when someone suggested he get into something safer (?!). So, he decided to try his hand at sprint cars. He was a crew chief for years until taking on the ownership of a car. He is the third owner (1965-1968, a period of four years) of the restored sprint car you see here.

The car was built in California in 1961 by Jud Phillips. It rode on an 85 1/2″ wheelbase, weighed 1,600 pounds, and was ‘motorvated’ by a 301 cubic inch Chevy V-8. Bruce Homeier was the car’s first owner. He sold it to Mickey Rupp, the go-cart king from Mansfield, Ohio, which is where Mutt acquired it. It was eventually owned by a total of 10 different people, many of whom had no idea of the car’s history.

The car raced at such well-known venues as Eldora, Terre Haute, Salem, Winchester, Kansas City, Tulsa, Muskogee, Cumberland, Allentown, Oswego, Gardena, Altamont, to name just a few.

In its heyday, it included a “Who’s Who” of drivers, such as Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Carl Williams, A. J. Foyt, Bruce Walkup, Billy Vukovich, Jr., and Roger McCluskey. It was McCluskey who gave Mutt a championship season for 1966 – in somewhat dominating fashion, I might add.

The team finished in the top four in 22 out of 24 races: first (9 times), second (6 times), third (4 times), and fourth (3 times). Finishes of sixth and tenth place rounded out this incredible season.

The final points standings for the year were as follows:
1. Roger McCluskey  770.5
2. Mario Andretti  576.5
3. Bobby Unser  524
4. Don Branson  489.5
5. Larry Dickson  314.5
6. Al Smith  278.5
7. Arnie Knepper  208
8. Greg Weld 207
9. Norm Brown  150
10. Dick Atkins  138
Eventually, the car was sold, and Mutt moved on. Upon his retirement from crew chief/owner duties, he became a USAC official in the 1971-1978 timeframe, responsible for checking engine legality. He was also enshrined in the national sprint car hall of fame.
A restoration of the car was undertaken by Mutt and his and his two sons, Phil & Mike in 2001. It took approximately 2 1/2 years to locate 75% of the car prior to its restoration. In the mid 70s, the car was also owned and raced by Gary Griffiths, who was instrumental in not only motivating Mutt to restore the car, but also helping him get some major parts in pursuit of that goal.
‘Art’ (a.k.a. Scale) World
Enter modeler Randy Derr. Randy is a Dayton, Ohio area modeler who has been building since 1964. His specialty is race car replicas, and his 34-year career as a chassis engineer gives him a unique insight in this area.
In the Summer of 2005, Randy and a few of his Ohio model car club members hosted their club meeting in the race shop of sprint car racing legend Clarence E. ‘Mutt’ Anderson. Unbeknownst to Randy, his next project would present itself that day. Upon arrival, Randy and crew were confronted with one of Mutt’s most successful cars – wait for it – the H & H Machine Tool Special.
From what I heard, they were almost too preoccupied with the cars to conduct the meeting! Randy took a few pictures before he left, and vowed to return for more. After speaking with the Andersons, he returned and took more pictures, measurements, and made sketches. I’ve always said that you can never have too much reference for a project such as this. Randy proves my point – his compiled reference source eventually included over 400 photos, and dozens of drawings, with the book measuring four inches thick!
The drivetrain consisted of modified resin castings of a small block Chevy, while the in-and-out gearbox and Halibrand quick change rear end were scratchbuilt using Plexiglas and styrene shapes, and resin-cast in three-piece RTV molds.
A few engine details include but are not limited to:
  • An intake manifold resin-cast from a scratchbuilt master
  • Functional throttle linkage, including hand-wound throttle springs, using 0.006″ music wire
  • 0.125″ solid wire solder headers, with photoetched flanges and brass tubing collectors
  • Brass tubing exhaust pipes with modified megaphone ends and perforated header guards, using 0.010″ brass sheet, drilled with vent holes, then plated


This was where construction actually began – with a scratchbuilt brass rod frame. Randy created artwork for many brackets and plates and had these etched out of .010″ brass.


The tires are a story unto themselves. The front tires were machined from Plexiglas, with the diamond side wall details heat-staked into the plastic, mastered in halves, cast with the cast halves joined together using CA (cyanoacrylate) glue. Finally, treads were then machined into the tread surface. After the tire molds were made using RTV silicone rubber, they were laser engraved to include the sidewall lettering and details.

Meanwhile, the rear tires’ center tread section alone consists of SIX separate rings, with the tread pattern cut into them. These were joined by sidewall masters, meaning each rear tire is eight pieces. Once assembled with CA glue, more tread detail was added.


Sheet plastic and basswood were used to create the nose and tail forms, which were then used to create vacuformed panels from .060″ plastic sheet.
A majority of the body was formed from .010″ brass. Here’s where things get a little crazy. Attaching the body panels to the frame required a means of replicating the quarter-turn Dzus fasteners (?!). Modifications to 000-120 stainless steel panhead screws and brass nuts did the trick. And then there’s the hood. Functional, spring-loaded hood latches were created using photoetched plates and parts from wristwatch band pins.
In the ‘office,’ the seat upholstery was heat-formed over the brass seat out of .010″ styrene, with small diameter piping, colored with red shoe dye to give it the desired leather color and tone. It is topped off with craft store self-adhesive nylon belts and photo-etched harness hardware, with photo-reduced manufacturer’s labels.
Randy Derr started the model #51 in May of 2006, and finished it in March of 2011, almost 5 full years later. Mutt was able to offer comments, critiques, and assistance during Randy’s construction of the replica. Mutt passed away on June 3rd, 2010, only days short of age 95. Sadly, he passed away prior to the model’s completion. I’m quite sure he would have approved of the final product.
It is nearly impossible to summarize the amount of work and dedication expended in the creation of this incredible replica in a few paragraphs – a book would be much more appropriate! It encompassed nearly five-years of effort, and allowed Randy to ‘push the envelope,’ as he is known to do by fellow hobbyists.
Then again, Randy has a reputation for doing just that – pushing the envelope. This is not his first large-scale project. Randy has built at least three notable race car replicas since 1992 – the 1969 ‘Sunoco’ Camaro Trans Am car of Mark Donahue in 1992, the A.J. Foyt USAC Camaro in 2006 (an exception, in a smaller – 1/24th – scale), and finally, the sprint car described above in 2011. What do these replicas all have in common? They have all been recognized with Best of Show awards at the Greater Salt Lake International Vehicle Championship and Convention, a recurring gathering of sophisticated scale vehicle modelers, which recognizes and rewards craftsmanship and technical innovation.
To say that Randy succeeded is a vast understatement of the results of his hard work and dedication in seeing this project through to completion. I guess what they say is true – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

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