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Thread: Part 22 Walter Blankenstein January 1909 - 1977 (68)

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    Default Part 22 Walter Blankenstein January 1909 - 1977 (68)

    United States Navy - 4 years during late 20’s & early 30’s.

    Thanks to Ralph Donald, Bill Hosler, Melvin Cooper, R.C. Hawie and Fred Brinkman for contributing stories on Walt Blankenstein. Walt was mechanically brilliant, incredible fast machinists, called everyone “Buddy Boy and always had a toothpick in his mouth. His outward persona was that of gruff individual. Those that had the opportunity to work with him found he had a soft side. When he gave instruction on racing engines it was explained one time and one time only and he made this point upfront before instruction commenced.

    Three stories come to mind told to me in the early 70’s. One Walt had told me or he was telling someone I was with at the time. When Chevy came out with the Corvette Walt bought one. Soon after there was a problem with the transmission. Walt feeling the dealership really did not have anyone proficient in servicing the car due to it just coming on the market took it upon himself to remove the transmission, take it apart, locate the problem, repair the problem and reassemble the transmission. The transmission worked fine testifying to Walt’s mechanical brilliance.

    The second Walt story came to me from Bud Wiget. Bud had told me he and Walt owned Lakeland Marine Supply Company as partners. Walt had moved from Kansas to get away from cold winters and Bud was still in California. Bud received a call from Bud say he had better get out here to run the marina as he could not stand the customers. Bud came out and Walt bought the small building close to the marine store for racing work.
    (see R.C. Hawie's continuation of this story below)

    The third story also from Bud Wiget. Bud was ready to buy a new hydro. Marchetti’s were on their way to dominating the market when Walt convinced Bud to by a Sid-Craft. After the deed was done and Bud realized he had made the wrong choice he told Walt “next time mind your own business”.

    Fred Brinkman: Fred told me a Walt story in 1970. When Fred was running an SR the engine blew up big time. I don’t remember if the driver upset the boat or the SR fatigued. Fred made arrangements for his wife Martha to have the remains of the SR at Walt’s shop at a specific time early on the following Monday morning. Martha was on time and came home that evening with the SR completely rebuilt. Fred said the engine ran just as fast as it did before the mishap. Another testimonial to his speed as a machinist and his engine building ability. (Fred lived in Springfield, Illinois and Walt’s shop was in Kansas City)


    R.C. Hawie: What Bud told me: yes they were partners They bought Marshall Eldridge’s Johnson dealership in Lakeland.
    Bud & Mizzie like the area when they attended Lake Alfred Nationals 1949. Bud intended to retire from Shell and move. He didn’t tell me how they became partners with Walt. But on one of Bud’s visits, the show room was full of Bill Tenney’s Neal’s, upside down getting a varnish job. Johnson’s in their boxes and service work backing up. The conversation was something like “Walt, this isn’t going to work out.” Walt bought the building at the end of the block, did his thing and they remained friends. Walt even made the adaptor plate to put a sleeved Vacturi on Bud’s 2 cylinder C König. I have this motor and it like “Baby II”.
    Walt’s building is gone but Bud’s is still there. I don’t know if Frank, their service manager who inherited everything, still owns it or not. Last time by it was an auto repair shop. The OMC bankruptcy hurt a lot of little guys like Frank.

    Ralph Donald & Bill Hosler: Ralph’s first contact with Walt was in 1958 at McAlester, Oklahoma for the NOA World Championships. Ralph was introduced to Walt by U.S. Konig distributor Scott Smith.

    Bill and Fred Brinkman were taking Walt to Atlanta for his induction in the Honor Squadron. Along the way Walt realized he had forgot something and wanted to go back to the motel. Passenger protest did not prevail.

    Fred Brinkman installed all the new wiring in Walt’s Florida shop. Fred and Walt would meet every morning for coffee at the same restaurant in the same booth. When Walt passed away the waitresses setup a memorial at that same booth.

    On one of Ralph’s trips to Walt’s shop Bill was running a big lathe outside under a lean-to. He could not remember what he was turning in the lathe. He did remember Bill was completely covered in oil.

    Some drivers Walt had under a monthly retainer contract for engine work. This gave Walt a guaranteed monthly income and these customers engines a “ front burner” time slot.

    Both Ralph and Bill attended Walt’s funeral. Bill noticed he did not look natural without the toothpick. Bill located a toothpick and thereafter Walt looked natural.

    Steve Litzell was among several that had the opportunity to work with Walt. Early during this time Steve cleaned Walt’s shop. (metal cutting never bothered Walt) Walt did not speak to him for three days as he could not find anything.

    During the introduction of the 125cc class in APBA Walt built a 2 cylinder 125cc engine using Yamaha cylinders. Walt built his own crankcase assembly and before they got to test the engine the rules were changed where only one cylinder would be allowed on these engines.

    It was a rare occasion for anyone to be invited to Walt’s home. When the whisky glasses were due for refills Walt would leave the room and the guests would change the TV channel. (before remote TV controls) Walt would really get upset and told them he would build them a box with buttons and switches for them to play with so they would leave his TV alone.

    Traveling with Walt, in his car, proved to be an experience. His car had AC and if he wanted to travel with the AC off and the windows down that was the way it went regardless of passenger protest.

    Walt always had two silver dollars in his pocket. (same two) When he passed away there was nothing left on the coins in the way of markings. Bill made necklaces after cutting these coins in quarters.

    Melvin Cooper: Melvin also got to work with Walt in his shop on weekends on his own engines over a 20 year period. One day Walt was on his way to pick up some sheet metal and in a hurray. On the return trip he was stopped by a state trooper. The trooper knew Walt and said “what are you doing”? Walt said “ I don’t have time for this right now” and drove away.

    As mentioned above Walt would explain something only once. Anyone asking the question the second time and Walt had a wrench in his hand he would throw it at you.

    Walt not only worked on outboards he started building a V-8 Chevy hot rod.

    Walt had a CB radio at one time during their popularity. Tommy Hooten had a friend that repaired CB’s. After he worked on Walt’s it never worked right and Walt was upset about this for a long time.

    Walt’s oldest daughter dated a baseball player and Walt wanted a boat racer for a son-in-law. Anyone wanting to stir up Walt had to mention his daughter and the ball player.

    When Konig engines first appeared they had either a Bosch or SEM magneto. Walt would check the spark with his thumb. The mags were tested on a test stand and he would run them fast. If you were close by he would alway see to it you got a shock.

    George Taylor: During the summers I hung out in Walt's shop on a regular basis. Walt was a Machinist of the highest level. I learned a LOT because Walt was willing to "tutor" me. Over a period of around 3 summers I learned a LOT about working on two strokes. Even learning how to use a lathe and milling machine.

    Walt was a "trip" to be around. Most all the time he had a tooth pick in his mouth. He went to a lot of races over the years to keep his customers happy by taking care of last minute glitches that popped up.
    I remember that he bought a Volkswagen at one point. Myself and another racer, Wally Adams, decided to pull a trick on him. We wired up one of those boomers you could buy back in those days and installed it in the VW while he was not looking one day. When he came out and got in the the VW and started it, BOOM! and smoke came boiling out from under the car. He went ballistic! He didn't let us into the shop and threatened to "modify" our motors for the next race. But nothing came from it after he calmed down!

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Walt passed away from heart issues in 1977. I’m sure there were others that had the opportunity to work with Walt and they would have their Walt stories. From the information we have at this time consistently confirms his machinist abilities as being fast and accurate. His understanding of mechanics was beyond normal comprehension.

    Photo: Walt with glasses working on what looks to be a carburetor.

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    Team Member F-12's Avatar
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    Default "Uncle Walt"

    After college I had my turn in the barrel working for Walt. He was a great teacher and better at cracking the whip. If he didn't have anything going in the main shop, he would send me out to the turret lathe to make some type of electrical connectors (that was where the 'covered with oil' part came from. I visited him a few weeks before he passed and still to this day have his SCHLITZ crusher hat from this picture.
    Charley Bradley

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    During my first year of racing (1966) I first learned about the legendary Walt Blankenstein. Little did I realize then that my Dad and I would become friends with Walt. Even though we mostly raced in Texas my first year, his reputation traveled far and wide and everybody in Texas knew about his motor skills.

    We got some of the first C and D rotary valve Konigs in the U>S> in 1967. My Dad arranged with Scott Smith to become a Konig dealer and he bought a huge stock of parts and 7 Konigs. Among them were a C and D each for Clayton Elmer and myself. Jack Chance found some coils he liked better than the ones that came with the Konigs, but they would not fit where the Konig coils were mounted. They were much smaller so Jack fabricated some mounts and anchored them on the boss where the serial numbers were stamped. He was in a hurry to get all these motors for a late November race down here near Corpus Christi. He got my C and D mixed up when he restamped the class on the block. That first race, we ran everything out of the box. Jack would later make his own changes such as replacing the labyrinth rings with neoprene rubber seals etc. When the races were done Jack stated the he didn't need to do anything to our C right now, but that D was a real dog. When he took it apart to work on it he discovered the D was a C. So Jack went and got a quarter inch metal stamp and whacked the stamp very hard for a deep imprint. It was crooked when he hit it so he moved over and stamped another D right beside it. Now there was no mistaking the Class of engine.

    Fast forward to two years later. We had gotten another D and my Dad wanted an F. He was talking to Walt about it, and Walt said he could turn our D to an F. My Dad had Scott Smith ship four unfinished pistons to Walt and rings the size Walt wanted, and he made us an F. We got to the NOA World Championships at Alex and I finished high enough to go to inpection. Alan "Papa" Smith threw me out because I had a D motor. I insisted it was an F. Walt had restamped it F, but with a small F about the same size Dieter used on the Konigs. I think Papa measured the motor, but the issue was the stamp. The rule book stated it had to be the correct class for the motor. The F was also in a different place and the two D's were very prominent. I went and got Walt to come over and help me out. He and Papa got into a heated argument and I was standing around feeling both embarrassed and sad for having gotten these two legendary figures into a shouting match. After Walt had restamped the F somewhere else on the block, we had taken a file and filed an X across the two D's. They were stamped too deeply to file them off. We could have ground them out, but we never suspected this to be a problem. So the shouting continued and it didn't seem to be a solution. The motor was legal, but stamped wrong and Papa just kept saying "but it says D D right there". Exasperated, Walt just finally yelled out "That could stand for Donald Duck!" Then they both quieted down. Walt was fuming and Papa was worn down from arguing with him. Papa gave up, and didn't disqualify me. From then on that became our Donald Duck motor. And we got a good Walt Blankenstein story that we would tell from time to time.


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    These were taken at the 1974 APBA Nationals at DePue. Back then my Dad and Joe Hendricks were partners of Emmord's Marine. It was the premier Evinrude dealer in Corpus Christi, Texas. Emmord's was also the Honda motorcycle dealer in Corpus. Honda had created a new engine I believe called CZ. The 250cc motor was the hottest thing on the motorcross circuit. My Dad thought we should give it a try on a boat. He shipped this powerhead to Walt and had Walt adapt it to a lower unit but I can't remember if the pipes were Honda or Walt had them made. Nor the exhausts....just don't remember that part. Walt may have used a different carb too as he converted it to alchohol.

    It had never been tested. We met up with Walt at DePue where he brought the motor ready to be hooked up to our boat. He had the carbs and electrical ready to mate to our Konig system. Testing didn't turn out too good though. I could not get the boat to plane. It fired up easily but the engine would die when it broke over. I was pretty good at keeping the prop cavitating while getting the speed up enough to break over and get underway. I could not do it with this Honda though. We tried different props, but nothing worked. We finally decided to do one more thing, which we couldn't do during the race, but we just wanted to see if it had any high end potential to see if it was worth pursuing after we got home. We got one of the pickup boats to give us a tow to get the boat planning fast enough to get it going. My Dad fired off the engine and Joe and Jack shoved the boat into the water and the pickup boat took off. This part was a little tricky as the tow rope was looped through the bow handle on one of the forks. It jerked a bit when the boat took the load, but I was able to hold on to the rope. I can't remember if we had a slip knot on the bow handle for me to jerk loose or if it was a couple of wraps around the steering wheel. I kind of remember being concerned about the rope cutting through the top of the thin cowling. Anyway, nothing bad happened and I was able to clear the wake to get outside to clean water, then get loose from the rope. The Honda ran fine, but there was no way it could be improved enough to be competitive with any of the engines out there. That was the end of the project and I don't know what ever happened to the motor. I suppose Walt took it back home. My Dad would do stuff like that. He would pay somebody to build something to try, and if it didn't work, he would let them keep it. Check out the toothpick.

    ADD: Looking at the picture now, that carb would have been one Walt rigged up. It's too big and mounted in a way that would not have been Honda original equipment. I'm guessing the heads were also made by Walt.
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    Remember that Honda well........we spent a lot of time on it. If i remember correctly, the only thing original was the cylinders and pistons. We made pretty much everything else. When it showed up at the shop I had to look in the box..... and Walt yelled "Stop being so nosy!". Back to the turret lathe...................
    Charley Bradley

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    Other than when Walt got ticked off at Papa Smith, I was never around any other times he got ticked off. My Dad and I always got along great with Walt, and here is a picture I snapped after one of our greetings at a race.
    Attached Images Attached Images  


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    Quote Originally Posted by Master Oil Racing Team View Post
    Other than when Walt got ticked off at Papa Smith, I was never around any other times he got ticked off. My Dad and I always got along great with Walt, and here is a picture I snapped after one of our greetings at a race.
    Wayne, why did he get ticked off at Papa Smith... Papa Smith was the nicest man I ever met. Thanks, Dean.
    Dean Hobart

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    Quote Originally Posted by F-12 View Post
    After college I had my turn in the barrel working for Walt. He was a great teacher and better at cracking the whip. If he didn't have anything going in the main shop, he would send me out to the turret lathe to make some type of electrical connectors (that was where the 'covered with oil' part came from. I visited him a few weeks before he passed and still to this day have his SCHLITZ crusher hat from this picture.
    Charley, You inherited that hat when you bought some of my equipment. I remember when we were driving to Hot Springs, Ar. he forgot to bring a hat and when we stopped for gas, he bought it in the store. That hat remained in my trailer hanging on the wall until you got it. Glad you still have it.
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    Default Walt

    And, somewhere, I still have the picture you gave me of Walt asleep in a lawn chair next to your trailer, Ralph. Looking back, I don't think I would change a thing about my time with Walt. I think the most memorable thing that happened was when I got screwed by another racer buying a crap F Konig from him. Walt took one look at it and laughed so loud, Bud heard him from down the street. Tim was building my Aerowing, and I was a broke college student. To my surprise, the week before I was to pick up the new boat, Walt said a box came in for me. He gave me a brand new D Konig for my birthday which happened to be that day.
    Charley Bradley

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    BoatRacingFacts VIP John Schubert T*A*R*T's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Master Oil Racing Team View Post
    These were taken at the 1974 APBA Nationals at DePue. Back then my Dad and Joe Hendricks were partners of Emmord's Marine. It was the premier Evinrude dealer in Corpus Christi, Texas. Emmord's was also the Honda motorcycle dealer in Corpus. Honda had created a new engine I believe called CZ. The 250cc motor was the hottest thing on the motorcross circuit. My Dad thought we should give it a try on a boat. He shipped this powerhead to Walt and had Walt adapt it to a lower unit but I can't remember if the pipes were Honda or Walt had them made. Nor the exhausts....just don't remember that part. Walt may have used a different carb too as he converted it to alchohol.

    It had never been tested. We met up with Walt at DePue where he brought the motor ready to be hooked up to our boat. He had the carbs and electrical ready to mate to our Konig system. Testing didn't turn out too good though. I could not get the boat to plane. It fired up easily but the engine would die when it broke over. I was pretty good at keeping the prop cavitating while getting the speed up enough to break over and get underway. I could not do it with this Honda though. We tried different props, but nothing worked. We finally decided to do one more thing, which we couldn't do during the race, but we just wanted to see if it had any high end potential to see if it was worth pursuing after we got home. We got one of the pickup boats to give us a tow to get the boat planning fast enough to get it going. My Dad fired off the engine and Joe and Jack shoved the boat into the water and the pickup boat took off. This part was a little tricky as the tow rope was looped through the bow handle on one of the forks. It jerked a bit when the boat took the load, but I was able to hold on to the rope. I can't remember if we had a slip knot on the bow handle for me to jerk loose or if it was a couple of wraps around the steering wheel. I kind of remember being concerned about the rope cutting through the top of the thin cowling. Anyway, nothing bad happened and I was able to clear the wake to get outside to clean water, then get loose from the rope. The Honda ran fine, but there was no way it could be improved enough to be competitive with any of the engines out there. That was the end of the project and I don't know what ever happened to the motor. I suppose Walt took it back home. My Dad would do stuff like that. He would pay somebody to build something to try, and if it didn't work, he would let them keep it. Check out the toothpick.

    ADD: Looking at the picture now, that carb would have been one Walt rigged up. It's too big and mounted in a way that would not have been Honda original equipment. I'm guessing the heads were also made by Walt.
    I also see Dick O'Dea, Jerry Simison, Henry Wagner & Joe Rome in the bottom picture.
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