Prowlers Car Club History

San Diego Prowlers making Hot Rod History – The 1950’s

During the 1950’s the Prowlers “ruled”.  Hot rodding became a major item in Southern California.  Our cars were legendary and appeared on the covers of most of the major hot rodding magazines of the day.  We would show up at all of the local and regional car shows.  


Submitted by Randy Chenowth, San Diego Racing Museum

See page 21 “A day with the Prowlers”.

The Nov. ’53 issue of Drag Magazine chronicles the Prowlers’ transition from racing at the dry lakes to drag racing. Face it! it was racing without the mandatory 150 mile drive each way.

 Carl Burnett’s 1927 “T” roadster being shown in 1957 at a San Diego High School car show. San Diego High School was and still is next to the Balboa Stadium and is the stadium where the San Diego Chargers football team first played pro ball in San Diego. Unfortunately, due to California earth quake standards enacted, most of the stadium has been dismantled today.

Ed Thompson’s blown hemi ’27 “T” roadster

Ed Thompson’s ’27 “T” with flathead at a car show at the Electric building  in Balboa Park.

Sadly, the historic Electric building along with others in Balboa Park were destroyed by an arson fire in 1977.

Glenn Tuttle’s ’32 Ford Hi-Boy roadster

Gordy Kolberg’s ’37 Ford coupe was purchased by his family new and was owned by Gordy up until 2014. He called to say it has been traded for another “hot rod”….a new Porsche. So sad as we are to see Gordy resign the Prowlers, owning the same car for 77 years has to be a record somewhere!  

 Car Craft magazine cover is Ed Thompson’s ’27 Ford roadster, member Rusty Case Lt. Dave Butlemer Rt. 

Rod & Custom magazine cover Bottom picture is Carl Burnett/Bob Smith’s roadster motor  

Hop Up Magazine 1952 pictured Ed Stewart lt. center with son Bob Stewart and his ’32 Victoria at the Dry Lakes. It ran 127 mph that day. Also was Ed’s belly tank with V8-60 for power. Victoria was owned by member Andy Bekech until recently.

The late Frank Marsh Jr. left (Deceased) #31


1953 at Paradise Mesa Drag Strip. Trophy displayed is for Class Eliminator that day.

Here are the same three 50 years later, Andy remains an active Prowler to this day and is our club historian. Carl is deceased and while Jim (center) isn’t active in the club he is seen all over SoCal at various hot rod meets.

Farris Kolbeck (not a member) and Marty Moore (member #1/2) with his 1939 Ford convertible with a Cadillac V-8.  (The club renumbered members in the early 1950’s so early members had two numbers (old number / new number).

Here we see Carl Burnett’s (member # 21) 1930 Ford Cabriolet sporting a flathead V-8 engine.  (1955)

Heres Frank Marsh Jr. Member #31.  Pictures were taken the El Mirage Dry Lakes.  The timing tag for that day was 109.75 mph.  These photos were donated by the Marsh family in memory of Frank.  Thanks everyone we really appreciate getting a hold of priceless photos like these.

Here is the flathead V-8 that powered the ’32 Ford Vicky.  This picture was taken during preparation to run the car at El Mirage Dry Lake in 1953 @ 109.75 mph.


Great shot of  Frank smile’n just wait’n for his turn to run again.

Frank on the right getting ready to make a run at the dry lakes.

This is an interesting shot of the back side of the Hot Rod Magazine photographer getting set up to take some shots of Franks ’32 Vicky while he was at the dry lakes. 

Roy Cariola (member # 2/2) had a very hot 1936 Ford  coupe.  He was well known for his very fast 3/8 x 3/8 Flat Head.  It was a real head turner.

Carl Burnett (member #21 / 2) with his 1927 Ford T-roadster.  This car was owned by no less than 4 Prowler members (Chuck ‘Hoot’ Gibson, Carl Burnett, Bob Smith).  It was the cover car of Hot Rod magazine in March 1958 and Rod & Custom magazine in June 1959. Currently, this hot rod is owned by  Prowler member, John LaBarre.

Andy Bekech’s (#32) picture taken in east San Diego in 1957.  The picture and article appeared in the Union-Tribune newspaper. Andy is the club historian and supplies the  web site with all these great flashes to the past. Keep’m come’n Andy – great job.  The other great thing about this car is Andy still has her and shes look’n unbelievable.  Check out our members listing to get the full story.

This is Dick Wilson, the number 1 Charter member with his 1940 Ford 2dr sedan. He stands proudly with his “High Points Club” trophies for dry lakes competition for the year 1948.

Marty Moore’s ’39 Ford convert. Sitting out in front of Ed and Bob Stewart’s Speed Shop.  Marty’s custom shop was located behind Stewart’s Speed Shop.  Marty still owns this ’39 along with 2 other great rods.

This article is out of the 1955 April issue of Hot Rod Magazine its for Marty’s ’39 above.  I made it large enough so hopefully you can read the it.  Its amazing what this ’39 Ford was put together with.


Another one of Marty’s rods is this ’40 Ford sedan delivery.

Last but not least Marty’s ’40 Ford pickup

Heres some more of Marty’s work.  This is Milt Mitsngas ’40 Ford Coupe right after Marty painted it in 1955.

John Ruiz with his “T” which he still owns today.

 Heres a great shot of the Prowlers in ’53 outside of Flo Millers Garage.  Members included, George Venice,  Jean Schffer,  Marty Moore,  Bud Fleetwood,  Bernie McNaulty,  Bud Henry,  George Sotier,  Flo Miller,  Carl Burnett,  Jim Bradberry,  Jim Smith,  Danny Mryrick,  Bob Stewart and Jack Sercranic.  The ’39 convertible to the right is the one that was sitting outside Ed and Bob Stewart’s Speed Shop above.

A Saturday afternoon at Flo Millers Sea Side Gas Station. This was Located at 8th and University in San Diego.  A total of 22 club cars some were project cars and some were drivers.  The ’32 Ford Victoria was built by Bob (Lil Axle) Stewart. Some great Saturdays get together. Circa early 1953. 

Norm sit’n in the driveway with everything ready for the Lakes.

Just love all those great rows of louvers.  Imagine what it took to do those back then!

Check’n out everything so that when he drops that flatty in nothin’s been forgotten. Kinda looks like a style builders are aiming for today.

Check out the rear tire…. notice the cross cut “Track Roadster” design?  Thats the same club plaque as donated to the club in the license frame.

Oboy! Oboy! Look out Lakes, here we come.  Great “Old” style Hi Boy roadster.  No wonder the style is still with us today !

Thanks Bill for sharing these great shots with us we really appreciate your help.

WOW!!! What a great tow car for the lakes!  WILD !!!

Above is an article out of the 1953 July issue of “Hop Up”  at the bottom middle  with club members Marty Moore (#1-2) and Burnie McNulty (#22-2) with their ’34 5 window coupe “M&M” Special at the El Mirage Dry Lakes.  This picture is before the car was chopped. Moore and McNulty won the high point for the Prowlers in Dec. 1953. This would have been the third time they had won the clubs perpetual trophy. Marty still has this trophy today.

Paradise Mesa Drag Strip looking North at the starting line. 

This drag strip was south of San Diego and east of National City.

Four of our members can be seen with the Bean Bandit’s dragster

The next five photos have just surfaced (Feb 2014) from the heydays of the Paradise Mesa dragstrip in the 1950s.

This pic is looking westward at the starting line. That’s a 56 Caddy ambulance in the right foreground.  

Notice the cars at the starting line are 4 abreast. They raced that way for a while but there were accidents. Sure could get a lot of passes in a day!

This is looking east at Paradise Mesa drag strip. The newest car in the lot is the 56 Chevy ragtop in the foreground. The young men belong to the “Jumpin Sticks” car club.

This shot is looking east. A beautiful composition actually of the entire venue: an open wheel belly tank racing (see blowup below), the line up waiting to race, spectators, spectator parking and beautiful San Diego weather.

This was an auxillary Navy airfield about a half mile in length. Drag racing displaced air traffic on the weekends and continued until 1959. The urban sprawl swallowed up this countryside and beyond in the early 60s.

Here’s a 55 T Bird on the scales with a beautiful young lady. Tha 4 men on the right are (L to R) Otto Crocker of timing light fame, “Red” Ligget, Don Manard, and “Bossy” Willis.

Another picture of “Red” Ligget performing in his role as starter.

Here’s a photo that was taken by Bob Hardee of Tommy Madruga, Louise Muller and Rusty Case taken in 1958 at the Paradise Mesa drag strip.  This is a photo that our historian Andy Bekech got a hold of from the Ron Muller collection.  Thanks a lot Ron for sharing this with us.

Here’s another photo taken by Bob Hardee and passed on to us from the Ron Muller collection of Rusty Case and Louise Muller in front of Rusty’s ’40 Ford taken at Paradise Mesa Drag Strip in 1958.  Once again, thanks goes out to Ron for passing these photos along to us.  Keep’m com’n guys! 

And speaking of Bob Hardee. Here is with with camera at Paradise Mesa. Bob was credited for pictures seen for years in auto magazines and the local newspapers for every motorsport event in So. Cal.

Bob is an Honorary Member of the San Diego Prowlers Car Club.

Taken in the early 50s, pictured here is Prowler Buddy Bundshuh (with the trophy!) and friend Jay Byers at Paradise Mesa.

This shot was taken in 1954 one afternoon after the drags were over at Paradise Mesa of all the Prowlers that ran their cars 

Here’s the same image but the owners posed with their cars and the names were penned in.

Chuck “Hoot” Gibson’s roadster at the dry lakes in 1951. There’s more information about this car above noted as owned by Carl Burnett displayed in “show attire” sans the box out back. It’s also in the 1940’s history section.

1953 annual “Trophy Dinner”.  Some of the faces at this dinner are still in the Prowlers Hot Rod Club today. I don’t know whether they’re still the classy dressers or not but at least their still with us.

These were the trophy winners for the year from the dinner above.  We still do this today recognizing some of our members.

Here’s a great shot of Dave Buttemer’s member #36/2 Desoto Hemi powered coupe.  Thanks for getting this shot to us Dave.

A San Diego magazine called Drag did an article on Jim Carltons “Little Red Jewel”.  Mae Entwisle is the model.  At the time Mae was Miss San Diego.

Great 3 page article on this beauty. And I’m speaking about the Coupe of course!!

Man!! Look at the flash off that chrome generator.

Jim estimated it cost $3500 and 2 years to build this beauty back then….. be nice if we could do it for that today !!

Front cover for the Southwest Regional Championships at Paridise Mesa Drag Strip. Picture is looking east.  This was an NHRA sanctioned event taking place in July of 1953. 

This picture of Ed “Axel ” Stewart was in the program above.  As you can read Ed was running his ’32 Ford Roadster with a Merc engine turning 93.07.

A letter from the National City Chief of Police (Paradise Mesa) thanking the San Diego Timing Assn and the SD Sports Car Assn for their contribution to safe motoring….from a simpler and non litigating era. 

Run to Green Valley Falls.  Lt – Rt  Marty Moore, Jim Bradbury, Carl Burnett and Tom Stammen 

This roadster was Roger Brousseu’s (member # 76). These photos were before it was owned by Edison Dye. t. It has been found and being restored back to the way it was originally built. It was in the movie “The Lively Set”, also with Joe Pirronello’s (member #68) roadster.



These are from when the car was in Hop Up Magazine in 1952 and owned by Edison Dye. Roger Brousseu of the Prowlers owned later it in the 60’s.  Some of the features are the filled doors, model A coach reveal on the cowl sides filled and the unique hairpins. 

The following are pictures we received in 2010. This iconic roadster has been purchased to be restored.

Here are a couple pics of how the roadster was in 2010.

Further down in the History column is a section solely dedicated to this roadster and it’s restored condition today.

The Dye/Brousseau car has since been restored and entered in the 2015 Grand National Roadster show.              

This is Willie Clarks 1927 T roadster at the Electric Building Car Show venue in Balboa Park in San Diego. The picture was taken 60 years ago. Check out a couple nice trophies on the running board.  The car was purchased from Willie by Oakley O’Strander who later sold it to his uncle. Prowler Mike Hemus bought it from Oakley’s uncle and owned it in the 70s and then Roger Honey in Santee, Ca. bought it from him.  As a kid walking the streets Roger saw this car a lot and remembers dropping in at least once a week at Red Watson’s Body Shop on 8th street in National City to watch employee Willie put the chromed Caddy engine together 

Here is Willie’s car at the old Balboa Stadium between Jalopy races advertising an upcoming Rod and Custom show at the Electric Building.  Oakley who owned it then is driving and Ron Muller’s sister Louise is the presiding beauty queen.  Louise was one of Bob Hardee’s favorite models. This is a Bob Hardee photograph.

Finding and providing this and the previous pictures for our website are credited to current owner Roger Honey and Greg Sharp (NHRA Museum).

Here are a couple drivers leaving the track momentarily in the Sportsman class racing at Balboa Stadium.

Notice that spectators are wisely not sitting near the track level seats.

According to historian Andy Bekech, “On the Paradise Mesa cars, that is Paul Schiefer’s roadster, but it was loaned to the Bean Bandits to put one of their engines in it to run. It did run a few times, but Joaquin  turned it into a rear engine car, without Paul knowing it! Oh shit, did Paul have a fit!! Could have killed him, That beautiful red roadster was gone. The story changed over time, to say that wasn’t the same car, that Schiefer owned. BUT IT WAS!!!!!”