Car Talk

My Favorite Car Guy

Kelly and Dad
Pictured above is my daughter Kelly and my favorite car guy, my best friend, my dad. I have so many storys about my father. He worked for Northrop in Hawthorne for 30 years until he retired in 1969. A Volunteer Fireman in Hawthorne in the mid to late 40's, he loved the outdoors.... fishing, hunting, and camping, but mainly he loved cars.

My dad came to Hawthorne, with his mother, father and older brother in 1926 from Texas. He went to Ballona Av School (Washington), Inglewood High and Leuzinger High. He graduated from Leuzinger in their first graduating class of 1932. He and a fellow named Sparky White had enough "Auto Shop" credits carried over from Inglewood High to graduate in February and seeing as his name was Baker and the other guys name was White, he said "B" came before "W" so he was the first graduate that Leuzinger ever had.

Dad was always a car guy. He had Fords in school. Model T's with Rajo and Frontenac heads, Buffalo wire wheels, turned flywheels, you name it. These cars were built to race and he said they'd do about 85mph. That's faster than I want to go in a Model "T".

In about 1940 he graduated to Hudsons. His first was a 41 convertible. He bought a new 48 Hudson Commodore. This was basically a family car. In 1951, he went to Storey-Ricketts Hudson in Long Beach and bought a new 51 Hudson Hornet with twin H Power and a Hydramatic. This car was fast and would beat most any of the Olds, Buicks, or Ford V8's of the early to mid 50's.

After buying a 56 Buick and not having any luck, he became a genuine "Chevy Guy". In 58 he went to Kenneth Chevrolet and bought a 58 Bel Air with the new 348 cubic inch 280hp V8. This car was also very fast for its time. This one had a 3 speed tranny and Positraction. This is the car my friends, mainly Bob Reagan (62) and I use to "steal" late on Friday or Saturday nights but that's another story.

My favorite story about my dad was when I had my 58 Chevy and had put a new short block in it. The short block was done by a local speed shop in Inglewood (Hydrohead). I had the motor clearanced and balanced and they also did the heads. Well I put about 700 miles on the motor and I wanted to try it out. My dad, at the time, had his 58 Chevy Bel Air and it was white just like mine. It had the same motor as mine and we were going to go down on 120th St by the Hawthorne Airport and race them. We were going to go down to the east end and come back, but we got a little excited and went from a roll going down. There was a cop parked at the curb and we went by him about 70mph and we were busted. He pulled us over and asked for our licenses and my dad, another John Baker, gave him his and he got the first ticket. Then he asked for mine and I gave him mine and the cop said there was some mistake because he had already written a ticket to John Baker. Well that's when I told him we were both John Bakers. He got a great kick out of that. He asked my Dad if he would buy a ticket to the annual policemans ball or something and my dad said "Hell No" in a kidding sort of way. He said, "You try to promote a little father and son activity in this town and all it gets you is two speeding tickets". Well the cop had another laugh and we paid the tickets. I still remember it cost us 57 dollars a piece.

The 409 He then purchased a 1962 409 Chevy Impala and I loved that car. He bought it off a guy that was going in the Navy. It had 2500 miles on it and he bought it for 2700 dollars. All my friends thought my dad was the greatest. We would go out and race someone and get beat. Then we'd head for my dads house and he might be in the middle of a TV show or anything. We would tell him the story about getting beat by some guy and he would get up and say I'll follow you guys. He'd go get the 409 out of the garage and warm it up and we'd go race the guy.

In 1970 he bought a new SS 454 Chevelle with a 4 speed tranny. This car was purchased mainly to tow his boat, but it was also a rapid street machine. I still have this car although it's been garaged and not driven since 1985.

That's the story of my father and his cars. He taught me a whole bunch about mechanics and machinery. My dad passed away in December of 1993. He was my favorite car guy, my best friend, and I miss more than I can say to this day.
I felt so lucky to have my father for a dad.

Previous Car Talk Page.

Home | 60's Slang | Alumni List | Car Talk | Cougar News | Feedback | Hangouts | Memories
Recollections | Reunions | Street Scene | Teachers | Tributes | Vietnam | What's New | Keyword Search