You can view Soapy’s own page here.
We’ve owned Soapy for just over three years now, after purchasing him at the London Classic Car Show in 2017. Out of all of the cars this is one that is rarely seen on our social media channels, despite being the header image for the website. The reason for this is mostly to do with the ongoing engine issues that have meant the car wasn’t in a safe condition to drive, with fuel leaking from both carbs and then more serious issues that stopped the engine from running at all. Soapy was built and owned by the Rod Long NASCAR museum (now defunct, sadly) as a demonstration car for Neil ‘Soapy’ Castles, one of the legends of NASCAR. Though we have very little paperwork for Soapy, we know from the auction listing that the car was restored for a cost of around $30,000, and is supposedly a true survivor car, though we don’t have any paperwork to support that unfortunately. Soapy is a high specification ‘Sportsman’ class racer, with period Edelbrock aluminium race heads fitted to its flathead V8 (which I’ve been struggling to date over the past couple of days), and also features twin Stromberg 94 carbs which were a common upgrade to these cars, and also an original Fenton dual intake and straight through exhaust. There is also a large roll cage, safety hubs and wide dirt tyres which help to give the car a performance stance (and one I hope I won’t lose if I manage to find road tyres to fit it). Fortunately the builders saw fit to add ’40 hydraulic brakes to add some additional stopping power over the original rod type.
The car was brought to the UK over a decade ago and is reported to have been maintained to a high standard and was described as being ‘recently’ serviced ahead of an appearance at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed Press Day and subsequent track day at the Goodwood Motor Circuit (bearing in mind we bought it in 2017, and the listing I what described the car as being recently serviced). The car also made an appearance at Goodwood for the Festival of Speed in 2009, and performed demonstration laps across the whole weekend at the 2016 Revival – and I’d quite like to take it back there one day.
Shortly after Soapy arrived with us we took him to the Santa Pod Raceway, which was my first ever visit. I wasn’t driving, and sadly Soapy only managed one run at a maximum speed of just over 34mph, whilst leaking fuel from the carbs and seemingly down on power. It was a bit disappointing but it was still a good day out and the official track photographer did take some lovely photos of Soapy on the drag strip. If you watch the video below you can see how comically slowly Soapy was running.
A few months later, with the leaking carbs cured (temporarily, as it turned out), Soapy took part in a few demonstration laps at Brands Hatch for their American Speedfest event, and the car got plenty of attention but again we had some engine trouble which made the day slightly difficult. There were more excellent photos from the trackside photographers which always makes me happy. I didn’t drive the car at this point either, and I won’t really be able to until we change the steering wheel for one that is slightly smaller, as I can’t get my foot on the clutch at all. Below you can see a short video of Soapy setting off at Brands Hatch and you can see the smoke from the exhaust.
We returned to Brands Hatch once again in late 2017 for what would be Soapy’s last outing up until this point. The reason for the trip was a small photoshoot with our 1941 Ford Coupe, and although I would have loved to have had a much more skilled photographer than myself come along with us and produce some better photos, I’d like to thing that some of the ones I took are good. It was during this little photoshoot that Soapy’s engine well and truly gave up the ghost, and we were forced to push the car into position for the last few photos (and I can’t thank the Brands Hatch staff enough for helping with that).
Now that we’re all under lockdown and our work volumes have dropped somewhat, it seemed like the perfect time to complete a few of those jobs that we’ve been putting off for a while. Soapy’s engine rebuild is certainly on that list, and not the smallest of jobs either. This week we managed to get Soapy into a position where we could remove the engine and start stripping it down. Since the car doesn’t have much paperwork and isn’t original, its been a little bit difficult to tell exactly what has been done to the engine, even with the assistance of the auction listing. Since the engine would have been rebuild into the current spec, and the block most likely skimmed at that point, we’ve lost most of the engine number which could/should be stamped onto the rear right hand corner of the top of the block where the intake manifold is fitted. This would allow us to accurately date the engine, but since it isn’t very clear I’ve had to try to decipher a four digit number from the two-and-a-bit numbers I can see, and I believe this to be a 1950/1951 engine, which is obviously quite a bit later than the car itself. The engine is now mostly stripped down, with little left to do before the block can go and be rebored, and then we can start the process of checking the rest of the components and rebuild it. Hopefully I’ll be able to provide a video of the engine running within a few short weeks, though it will rely on us being able to secure a gasket set and any other parts we made need from the US.
At the point the car is running correctly and has been fully inspected we’ll decide what we’re going to do with it in the future. As I’ve mentioned on Twitter a few times there is a temptation to see if we can get Soapy old registered so that we can enjoy that glorious flathead V8 roar a lot more than we have previously. The paperwork side may prove difficult as we have no paperwork from the US or anything to show that the car was ever road registered over there, and nothing to show the DVLA which may mean that registration could be difficult. We’ll also need to consider the modifications we’ll need to make so that Soapy can become roadworthy and safe to use (things like brake lights, indicators and road tyres).