Just who is
I'm not sure myself, but he IS one of the most interesting characters I've ever
met. Like most geniuses, he walks the line between being insane and highly
creative. His mind never stops and he can keep you up all night talking about
ingenious ideas, stupid ideas, drag racing history and horrible puns. When I
first met him, he was just this crazy nobody who built custom homes and helped
us with the race car. I soon realized that this man should have his story
told and I decided to surprise him with this website.
Marc Buehler ,
Bradford's AA/Fuel Altered
Dave Brackett grew up in the Pacific
Northwest, and like most kids in school in a water sports area, he drew
racing boats and hydroplanes during classes.
That all changed when he moved to Southern
California in 1958 as a high school freshman. His interests changed to race
cars and hot rods. He took welding, machine shop, and drafting in high
school, then got a four year degree in Industrial Technology, from Fullerton
College, majoring in auto shop, welding, machine shop and engineering.
Getting his drivers license in 1959, his first vehicle was a 1949 Cushman
motorscooter. He had to be different, so he painted in light blue, with pink
and yellow flames, and did some modest customizing.
In 1960, Dave bought a 1930 Ford Model A, and
started fixing it up. He put in a Ford flat head V8, built a ram log intake
manifold for six Stromberg 97 carbs, built a straight tube front axle setup,
did his own paint and body work, did the tuck and roll upholstery, custom
nerf bars, headers with 8 drag pipes and later built a 324 cu. in. flathead
It was around this time, that Dave met Leon
Fitzgerald, who had just opened Fitzgerald Racing Equipment in Fullerton, Ca.
Dave started a relationship that lasts till today. He worked for Leon, running
the counter, and reversing and welding wheels. Later he was building headers
and altering chassis for Leon and friends. Dave's skills improved as he
learned more about hot rods. In 1962, Jess Tyree hired Dave to build headers
for Tyree Header Company of Fullerton, Ca. Again, Dave was learning more
In mid 1962, Dave went to work for Mickey
Thompson, in the Racing Division. He built headers, chassis, custom pans,
worked on the Indy cars, dragsters, and the first Ford Thunderbolt. Dave's
abilities had now reached the point he wanted to build a complete custom car.
In 1963 he bought a 1923 Model T fiberglass body. He wanted to build a street
roadster, but something different. He decided to build a C Modified roadster
to drive on the street. He built a tube chassis, the motor, a 283 small block
Chevy, with 6.71 Blower and 2 four barrel carbs, was set back 50% of the
wheelbase. He lengthened the body 8" and molded in a custom dash and
roll pan. A custom drive and rear suspension had to be fabricated to
accommodate the short distance to the rear end. Sitting behind the rear end,
gave the car a neat look and made it easy to wheel stand, which Dave did
often, when he was cruising. For a street legal car, it ran well at the
drags, besting 140 mph in 10.08. In late 1963, Dave left Mickey
Thompson to go back to college.
Dave was drag racing his 23 Model T, C modified
roadster quite often. He was usually the only car in his class, so he won a
trophy and went home. This became boring, and he would talk with his friends
and racing buddies about creating some way for different classes to race each
other under some system of rules, or time handicap. He even spoke with
C.J.Hart at Long Beach drags about this issue. It was some time later, that
NHRA started bracket racing, perhaps named for Dave Brackett and his earlier
Over the next several years, Dave built many cars
for friends and many sets of headers. He worked for Muller Muffler Company of
Anaheim, Ca., building custom headers. It was during this time that Dave met
Tom McMullen (later owned McMullen Publishing Co.) they cruised together and
helped each other with their cars, and in 1965, Dave and Tom lived together
in a home in Buena Park, Ca. and enjoyed lots of cruising and working on
cars. Dave helped Tom rebuild an Austin taxi cab with two small block Chevy
engines called "Chevy Two" by mounting the motors and doing other
welding and machining work. During this time, Dave worked for Hooker Headers
in Ontario, Ca. It was during this tenure that he got to build the headers
for the Summers Brothers "Goldenrod" land speed record holder.
Some of the notable cars he built during this time were,
putting a 292 Ford V8 in an Austin Healy Sprite, keeping everything under the
hood, and building the front end and headers for the McCulloch and Brown AA
Gas Dragster. In mid 1965, Dave moved his operation to Anaheim Speed
Engineers in Anaheim, Ca., back again with Leon Fitzgerald and his partner
Glenn McCulloch, Dave's racing skills started to flourish. He built many lift
chassis, headers, frames and was racing his street roadster. He helped Leon
with his altered drag racers, "The Flintstone Flyer" and "Pure
Heaven 1". He used his blown Street Roadster as a push car for the
injected fuel altered.
In late 1965, Dave decided to start his first
business, having acquired the skills from all the previous ventures. He
opened Brackett Speed Products in Anaheim, Ca. He built many headers, built
numerous hot rods and race cars, a few notables being; a small block Chevy
dragster for the Skinner Brothers of Brea, Ca.; three 55 Chevys with tube
frontends and custom clips, one for Bradford's Crankshaft Service and one for
Walt Buie; a 1934 Ford with early 60's Dodge engine, headers, lift chassis,
tube axle, etc.; put a small block Chevy in a 1950's Volvo, with headers and
put a Chrysler hemi in an Austin with chassis and headers. He also enjoyed
building and racing go-karts with his friends.
The business was now successful, so Dave decided to
build his own Fuel Altered. He built a chassis and front end, and wanted to
put a Messerschmitt body on the car, but NHRA said no. It was around this
time in late 1966, that Dave was drafted into the Army, so he gave the fuel
altered chassis to R.T. Reed, who got together with Leon Fitzgerald and
finished the car. It was called "Pure Heaven II" and was one of the
most successful Fuel Altereds ever. The car has been restored and is now in
the NHRA Museum in Pomona, Ca., and Leon Fitzgerald has been inducted into
the NHRA Hall of Fame.
Dave spent two years in the Army as a missile
repairman, and supply inspector. He helped a friend build a Willys pickup,
and as always trying something different, making a complete wood bed with
carvings. He also helped out with "Pure Heaven II", when they were
on tour in his area. Dave did art work and leather work to keep busy, which
brought him many awards in art and craft shows, but he was longing for his return
to hot rods. In January of 1969, he returned to Southern California to resume
his normal life.
When looking up old friends, he chased down Tom McMullen,
who was now building chopper motorcycle parts in Buena Park, Ca. Tom
immediately hired Dave and they started building one of the leading chopper
parts manufacturers in the industry, "AEE Choppers". Dave started
by improving jigs and fixtures to increase production, and hiring more people
to build all the new parts Tom, Dave and the gang were creating. Tired of the
chopper trend toward mostly Harley motorcycles, Dave started to build parts
for Japanese bikes. The first complete chopper he built to help promote those
parts, was a bike called "Really", a 350 Honda, a complete custom,
rigid frame, raked and sporting a "Molly" paint job. This started a
trend toward using more makes of bikes for choppers. Tom wanted Dave to make
different accessories that were not available yet. Dave designed bolt-on and
weld-on hard tails, side car kits, three wheeler kits, and complete rigid
frames for many makes of bikes. He followed with new style exhaust systems,
front ends, sissy bars, and helped with designing complete kits to build a
chopper, called "Kit Bikes". He also did destructive testing to
insure AEE products were safe, helped the government with safety studies, and
wrote magazine articles about the "Chopper" industry.
Dave mostly enjoyed creating new choppers. He had
worked on "The Mindbender" "Woman's Pride" and other
existing bikes, but Tom wanted to take something new and different to the
1971 Oakland Roadster Show. Dave drew up a radical three wheeler, that was
really a five wheeler, with four tires across the back. Tom said
"go", so with only 32 days till the show, Dave started. He built a
frame and body all in one, put in two Sportster motors, a Ford automatic,
modified a Harley rear end, with torsion rear suspension, and finished with
upholstery by Whitey Morgan, and paint my "Molly". With paint still
wet, Dave loaded the bike in the trailer and went to the show with Jim Clark.
The bike, called "Big Twin", was a sensation and won the grand
More new bikes followed. The "Supersport", the
"Shovelhead", the "Big Four" and the "Trick
Trike". All were designed and built by Dave and the support gang at AEE
While at AEE Choppers, Dave wanted to make more
varieties of rigid frames for other brands, but Tom said no, so Dave started
a company of his own making rigid frames for Hondas, Sportster and other
foreign bikes. Working two jobs was hard, but he enjoyed the freedom of doing
extra things and unusual bikes.
He made a Honda 750 three wheeler from square tubing
with a Model T looking pick-up bed on the back. He built his own tubing
bender to form the frame rails, and a hydro press to punch and form parts. He
then decided the market was ready for a complete newly manufactured chopper
style motorcycle. Dave's side business, "Brackett Chassis Company",
secured a license from the State of California, to manufacture new chopper
bikes. The brand name was "Amani", the Swahili word for Peace.
There were 5 bikes built, 4 two wheelers and one three wheeler. Production
was stopped due to insurance problems. Around this time, a series of bubble
gum cards was released with 66 cards featuring motorcycles. There were 9
cards of bikes Dave built or helped build. The work load from AEE and his own
company was to great, so Dave left AEE Choppers to concentrate on his own
business. He still had a good relationship with Tom McMullen, and sold frames
to AEE Choppers.
The extra time was a blessing, Dave started building
more frames, designed and built a line of dragbike frames, and started an
association with Action Fours, a local company specializing in Honda
performance motors and bikes. He built a miniature version of a rear engined
dragster with a 750 Honda engine from Action Fours, which was about 1100cc.
The car ran good, besting 128 mph in the low 10 second range.
He also helped Bill Hahn with Action Fours own twin 750
Honda engine drag bike by creating a system to support the two motors and
transfer power to the rear without failures. He built a prototype chopper
style bike with a Wankel engine for Ace Distributors of New York. Dave was having
success, and sponsored a local major League Womans' Softball Team, and
started building pitching machines as a side line. He successfully used the
machines to help the team win a regional championship.
With the help of his friend Dean Moon, who
Dave had helped with several projects, he became a SEMA licensed chassis
builder. The mini dragster called "It Had To Happen", was his first
licensed chassis. He started building mini dune buggies with motorcycle
engines. They were a little bigger than a go kart, with chain drive to a live
axle, and small flotation tires. He made one with a 175 Honda, one with a 350
Honda and two with 450 Honda engines. Dave enjoyed going to the desert and
racing on the dry lakes. He made a little Honda 50 mini-bike with a 12"
wide flotation tire in the rear, to chug around on the desert ventures. He
started making metal sculptures and doing ornamental iron work. It seemed
Dave would never stop building new and unusual vehicles, but in 1975, He sold
his business and retired to the Sierra Mountain foothills to build a dream
home he designed with a curved roof.
Dave spent five years in the Sierras, building four
houses and enjoying the rural life. He still enjoyed building odd vehicles.
He built a flatbed pickup from a 1966 VW squareback, that was his daily use
vehicle. He had friends that enjoyed the local circle track and running
modifieds, so he designed and built a new style chassis that located the
motor, an aluminum V8 Buick, to the left of the driver. the car was light,
with a low center of gravity, and was able to drive around the inside of the
other cars. Due to the success of the car, it was banned the following year.
Dave helped a friend Ray Valero build a 911 Porsche chassis and headers for
an H gas drag car. It had a double tilt up body and quick removal engine. His
last project in the Sierras was a 1928 Ford roadster pickup, building the
frame, with Datsun running gear, Porsche torsion front suspension, quarter
elliptic rear suspension and headers. Ready for another move and wanting to
spend time with his aging parents, he moved to Washington State in 1980.
Dave again built houses and subdivided property,
creating 34 properties and building 26 houses, doing lots of ornamental iron
work and other metal projects, but he only did two vehicles from 1980 to
2002. He restored a 1907 Armac motorcycle and restored a 1977 Toyota Celica,
but he always thought about his days of wild wierd vehicles.
In December of 2000, Dave found out an old racing
friend Randy Bradford, had moved near him, Dave had done a front end clip on
a 55 Chevy gasser for him in the 1960's, and Randy went on to Fuel Altered
fame. Check out www.bradfordsfiat.com. Dave went to visit Randy who was just
finishing a replica of his old fuel altered, and life would soon change. Dave
started going racing with Randy and the gang, and is still a member of the
pit crew for the fuel altered. On a trip to Boise, Id., Dave went on to the
Bonneville salt flats, having worked on some cars for there, but never going.
He started dreaming of the old days, and looking at how things had changed
the last 20 years. He went to a nostalgia drag race in Woodburn, Or., and
decided to start building cars again.
In 2002,Dave had just bought a 1985 Toyota pickup to
use for work, so he decided to change it. He wanted to alter the front end,
make it look like a Deuce, with motorcycle fenders. He was talking with his
old friend Bill Brundage, who he helped with a 1934 Ford years before, and
Bill still had the 34, but had recently redone the car. The tube axle front
end that Dave had built in 1964 was laying outside, so Bill sent it to Dave
to start the project. The front of the body was removed, the tube front end
mounted, a steel radiator shell and hood were fabricated, custom nerf bars,
motorcycle fenders, paint and flames and "poof", Dave had a hot rod
work truck. He had recently met Eiko, a well known fashion and floral
designer from Okinawa, and they had been helping each other with designs, so
it was only natural that a new line of cars be born, the "Daveiko"
name began. Dave was back building the unusual, and Eiko was by his side.
Wanting to build another 23 Ford "T",
Dave decided to make it much different, very streetworthy and fuel efficient.
He again got a fiberglass 23 T body, but started with a 1971 VW Wagon. He
retained the rear section with motor, automatic trans and suspension, built a
new frame, old style tube front end, added a fiberglass track "T"
style nose and fabricated a steel pickup bed with tonneau cover to enclose
the motor. He built custom headers that ran forward then out and back, giving
the appearance of a front engine, made custom windshield frame and finished
with a roll cage for safety. Custom nerf bars were powder coated, not much
chrome on this car. Paint, stripped flames and old style pinstriping
completed the second "Daveiko". A great cruiser, nice ride and
comfort, easy to drive.
In 2004, a
1953 Kaiser Henry J appeared. A nice complete original car. Restoration of
the car started, but Dave has difficulty driving a stick due to leg problems,
so he wanted to install an automatic. He had three choices, find a Willys
automatic which will fit, adapt a Chevy 700R4 automatic, or put in a 4.3
Chevy with the 700R4. In any case, the car will remain original in all other
aspects. Dave made his decision, removed the original motor and trans, and
installed the 4.3 Chevy V6 with 700 R4 tranny. He had to move the motor about
a inch to the passenger side to clear the steering box. A new drive shaft was
installed, headers were built, the car was rewired, painted and upholstered.
What a great cruiser, and better mileage than the original car.
Later that year, a 1957 Ford two door Custom was
acquired. A 1981 Camaro front clip was added, including 350 Chevy, with
turbohydro. The front was lowered, new wheels and tires, custom headers, a
Weiand 142 blower and new custom upholstery were added. The cherry original
body has great paint, flames run from front to rear, and original Cragar
wheels complete the nostalgia project. A great cruiser, with the clip, it
steers, rides and stops nice.
In 2005, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird joined
the collection. Complete restoration is close. This is Eiko's favorite car,
but she is uncomfortable using the classic collector car as a daily driver.
Dave is collecting parts to build a replica 57 T Bird, so Eiko can paint it
purple with flames, and have a modern drive train and brakes.
2006 began, knowing a new 1/8 mile
dragstrip was being prepared nearby. Dave wanted something to take and race,
but not wanting to trailer a car around, decided on a drag bike, he could
carry in his pickup. Wanting something different, he built the frame and
installed a VW air cooled engine. The bike, called "VW Rod", had a
problem. Transmitting power to the rear wheel was difficult. Clutch and shift
controls would be cumbersome and not recommended on drag bikes. He took an
IRS VW transaxle, flipped it over to change rotation, removed all the extra
gears, locked it in high gear, welded up the spider gears and decided on a
glide clutch to transmit power. He could find no one to build a clutch, so he
built his own slipping clutch. It was centrifugal in design and can be
adjusted at the races. The rider does nothing but steer. Legendary VW drag
racer Bob Hoffeld built a motor, a small 1776 cc, Weber carbs, and Dave's own
headers complete the package. It took about a year to dial in the clutch, but
the bike now runs around 100 mph in under 8 seconds. It now needs a bigger
Dave needed a project for 2007. He wanted to build
a funny car to drive on the street, but using a one piece tilt up body would
be difficult for street use. He decided a stationary body with one piece
tilt-up front end would work better. He wanted a small, lightweight vehicle,
something unusual. Dave and a friend were at a car show, and he spotted the
rear of a 60's Mustang down a row of cars. He told his buddy, who was on the
other side of the row of cars, checkout the Mustang. The friend said there
was no Mustang, but Dave said right here. The friend said it was a Toyota.
Dave now had his new car idea. The car was a 1976 Toyota Celica Liftback, and
the rear looked a lot like a Mustang. Knowing the unibody style Celica was
light and small, he bought one, tore off the front and bought a complete 1967
Mustang front end. He got a 350 small block Chevy, with turbo 400 trans,
added a 6.71 blower with dual four barrels, set the motor back 10 % of the
wheelbase and built a tubular clip on the front of the Celica body.
Mustang front end had to be narrowed 8 inches to fit the Celica body. It was
also shortened to accommodate the short 100 inch wheelbase of the new car.
Dave removed all Toyota references and added scripts, trim and bumpers for
Mustang, which were also narrowed. He built a strut style front suspension,
added a 9 inch Ford rear end with disk brakes, ladder bars, wheelie bars,
headers and much more. A roll cage was built, the seats were moved 18 inches
back to fit the engine placement. The sixth "Daveiko" vehicle is
now complete. It weighs about 2000 pounds, so it should be quick. With rack
and pinion steering and front disk brakes, handling should be nice. The car
is called "The Fony Pony".
2010 started with wanting to restore a motorcycle I built in 1974. It
was called "Amani #3". I had sold many of the parts, including
motor, so the bike was a total refabrication.
The bike has no frame, the exhaust pipes are the frame. It Originally
had a 750 Honda motor, but now has an 1100 cc Suzuki. I even painted this
one myself, and added vinyl graphics.
gave me an opportunity to redo another of my old bikes. "Amani #5"
had a VW air cooled "Bug " motor. It was originally a chopper,
then turned into a drag bike several years back, and now
rebuilt to a chopper. My left leg is not so great these days, so I
added a side car, so I can't fall over so easily. The bike has an automatic
glide clutch, so it works like an automatic tranny.
gave me time to redo another 1974 bike called "Amani #4".
It was a modest three wheeler with 750 Honda motor and
Model T pickup bed. Not much left of it, so I changed it up a lot.
Put two Suzuki four cylinder motors side by side, and coupled them together
through a C4 Ford automatic tranny, then back to a Harley Servicar rear end.
All chain driven. Added two more seats, disk brakes and a trick formula car
style body. This is by far the best bike I ever built.