Old Yeller II
1959 Balchowsky Buick Special

ACHIEVEMENTS

Achievements

 

The Old Yeller II Buick Special Race-Car was built by Max and Ina Balchowsky and designed at their legendary "Hollywood Motors" in the fall of 1959. The Hollywood Motors Shop was the “Epicenter” for some of the most potent Hot Rods and was well known for creative motor conversions/”engine transplants” of the day. Max and Ina started International Sports Car racing against the major “European Factory Teams” starting in 1953 racing their black 1932 Ford Roadster (Bu-Ford Special) powered with a ‘tire shredding’ Hot Rod Buick motor.

The Old Yeller II has been racing almost continuously since it was built in 1959 with only a short break of four years when it was stored in a backyard in Fresno, California. The "Home Built Special" was driven by some of the most important race -car drivers of the day and it has won major Sports Car races, as well as breaking track records along the way. The legendary drivers of the Old Yeller II in 1960 were Dan Gurney (Formula 1 race driver) two times at Riverside International Raceway and Laguna Seca Raceway), Carroll Shelby (Le Mans Winner) two times at Road America and Santa Barbara, Bob Bondurant (Corvette Champion) Vaca Valley Raceway, Bobby Drake (first Birdcage Maserati driver in USA) Santa Maria Raceway, Billy Krause (first Cobra driver for Carroll Shelby and driver of D Jaguar Special) Pomona International Raceway, Paul O Shea (National Champion SCCA -Mercedes 300 SL)- Las Vegas International Raceway, and Max Balchowsky (track records and wins with the Old Yeller I, which was originally the Morgensen Special) Santa Maria and Pomona. Bill Krause who was the first Cobra Driver for Carroll Shelby said…“the Old Yeller II was the best race-car I have raced.“ Dan Gurney stated that… “Driving the Old Yeller II was like driving a “baby buggy!” The exciting and true American built “Underdog” race car made it's mark in International Sports Car Racing and was the  “Americana” story of Ina and Max Balchowsky building a home built “Backyard” Special. Undaunted, it was known fondly as the “Junkyard Dog” that challenged all of the very best Factory Teams from Europe at all of the major International Sports Car Grand Prix Races with the biggest purses attracting all of the greatest international drivers… beating them at their game at times. Max and Ina never owned a trailer and drove the Old Yeller II to the International Sports Car races that attracted over 120,00 fans and much to the chagrin of the elite exotic foreign Factory Teams and internationally important car drivers. Max and Ina would arrive and put numbers on the side of the car using electrical tape, tape the headlights, and they removed the muffler to race. After the major races, Old Yeller II Buick Special was driven back home to Hollywood Motors along the Freeways of Southern California in the setting sun… and having its many fans "honk" along the way. The Old Yeller II had so many race fans everywhere, as it was truly “American Built” with the “Rosie Riviter- Can Do” attitude and the race car represented the “sum total” of the best of auto parts regardless of what Junkyard it came from. The Buick Special reflected the American “blue collar” working class of the day. Max would take the car to the Drag Races to test torque of the Buick motor and at one event at the San Fernando Drags, he won all of the trophies in four categories including top “ET.” One fan stated that while watching the Old Yeller II race against all of the best exotic foreign Factory Team cars from Europe… “We would all just stand in the spectator stands at Turn 6 at Riverside International Raceway and when the yellow Old Yeller II would pass by regardless of what place the car was racing in, we would cheer loudly."

The Old Yeller II has been racing at International Historic Racing events including the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Goodwood Revival Meeting races over 12 times. The legendary race-car has won the Rolex Phil Hill Montereey Cup, the first Bruce McLaren Perpetual Trophy at New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing, and the Rolex Australia F1 Grand Prix Historic Race “Winner” Trophy. In America the Old Yeller II has raced at Road America, Lime Rock, Coronado Speed Festival, and at the Monterey Reunion Races at Laguna Seca Raceway.

After Max Balchowsky raced a 32’ channeled Ford Hot Rod with a potent Buick Motor from 1953 in International Sports Cars Races, Max gathered that solid experience racing against the best Factory Team cars from Europe. Max and Ina Balchowsky then hand built the Old Yeller II ‘ground up’ from “chalk lines” drawn on the garage floor at Hollywood Motors. It was built in late 1959 and Ina could weld and she welded the chassis with others and she was the few women allowed in the Pits at races due to the SCCA regulations that banned women in the pit area. Ina set the suspension (there was a special stacked "washer" system that could adjust the suspension) and she tuned the motors. After a slow start during 1960 racing season, the Old Yeller II Buick Special picked up the momentum and had an incredible year, as so many young great International Race Drivers of the day wanted a go in racing the now famous “Junkyard Dog” of a race-car and a line waiting was long. From 1959 to 1974 the Old Yeller II raced in tough SCCA racing, as the chassis was race proven and only slightly modified to be competitive. The OYII was involved in a minor post SCCA race accident in the pits and it sat for 4 years in a backyard in Fresno California. Dave Gibbs discovered the legendary race car and changed back the minor body changes and the Junkyard dog arose again and now to challenge race cars in Historic Racing globally. Ernie Nagamatsu who was a long time friend of Max Balchowsky, bought the famous car and continued with a non stop racing busy international racing schedule and many times racing in New Zealand, Australia New Zealand, and England. There has been a one hour Documentary film done on the history of the OYII and the film features Carroll Shelby. Dan Gurney and Bill Krause. One of the many highlights for the Old Yeller II Buick Special was to be a featured race-car at the Goodwood Revival Meeting Races – Tribute to Dan Gurney and it was the second car in the Parade of Race Cars raced by Dan Gurney. The OYII was a feature car at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and won the “People’s Choice Trophy,” The Old Yeller II was selected to be presented at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the “Road Racing Hot Rods” category. At the 100th Anniversary for Buick the race-car was featured at GM event. The OYII was a special featured invited guest for the very first Chantilly Arts and Elegance Concours in France. The notable historic race-car was in two Hill Climbs at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England and in 2016 it was a feature car at the U.K. Chateau Impney Hill Climb and the Leadfoot Festival Hill Climb in New Zealand.

There is always interest in the car due to the 401 Nailhead Buick Motor, totally unrestored “Backyard Special,” a legendary race-car that has almost continuously raced since 1959, and has the interesting fact that the OYII can be seen in the film “Viva Las Vegas” starring Elvis Presley.

The “Junkyard Dog” race-car raced at the the 2017 Leadfoot Festival in New Zealand and the race-car will race in England in 2017. Ernie was a long time friend of Max Balchowsky and he was given the archives for the Old Yeller II prior to his buying the OYII and Ernie and Elaine are on the mission to race and present the historic car at the many International Racing Events with the telling the story of Max and Ina Balchowsky. Max and Ina as a “team” made such an impact on Motorsports History with an American home built “Underdog”and iconic Race Car with a potent Buick 401 “Nailhead” motor. A favorite quote by Max was…” There is no substitute for horsepower.”

Ernie Nagamatsu