Old Yeller II
1959 Balchowsky Buick Special


Welcome to the official old yeller ii website


Welcome to the official Old Yeller II website. This website brings you the fascinating story of Max and Ina Balchowsky's "Backyard Special" Old Yeller II, sometimes known affectionally as "The Junkyard Dog".

The Old Yeller II Buick Special Race Car was built in the fall of 1959 at the legendary Hollywood Motors which was a well known Hot Rod and motor "transplant" shop in Hollywood, California. Max and Ina Balchowsky had raced cars in Sports Car Races since the early 1950s with a highly modified 32' Ford Roadster with a potent Buick motor and with that great experience, they decided to build the Old Yeller II from "ground up."

Max and Ina worked side by side on race cars at Hollywood Motors and they were recognized as the premier Hot Rod engine transplant specialists of that time and building potent motors. They first started racing with a borrowed XK- 120 Jaguar at the 1951 Reno Road Races. Racing with their Hot Rod with a "hot" Buick motor in the early 1950s International Sports Cars Races,they just knew in their hearts that they had a much faster car in their highly modified, channeled 32 Ford Roadster, with a Buick motor, named the Bu-Ford Special. They were challenged by SCCA Tech Teams at the races and were almost banned, but they never gave up to secure a spot on the racing grid, as they continuously made modifications to improve their race car to be competitive. They had an incredible network of friends and shops that could fabricate or "machine" anything so they realize the incredible potential to integrate in parts that were the "best of the best" and it was a sum of the parts that was important regardless of sourcing the parts from a Junkyard at times.

The Bu-Ford Special raced at Pebble Beach and other major Sports Car Races in California and that was the start of an incredible rewarding journey for Max and Ina in International Road Racing and competing against the very best competition which included the most elite and best Factory Teams from Europe with their newest "state of the art" racing Sports Cars.

The next car was a highly modified Doretti Sports Car from England with a Balchowsky special built Buick. Max had the opportunity to "take over" the competitive Morgensen Special with a Plymouth Motor following a track accident and then they modified the Morgensen Special with a Buick motor as that car earned the name Old Yeller I. Max and Ina built the "ground up" new Old Yeller II in the Fall of 1959 and the newly designed Old Yeller II was extremely fast from the start, but had durability problems in the first five races. From that point in 1960, the Old Yeller II made racing history competing at all of the major "big purse" International Sports Car Races, as well as almost every other important California Sports Car Race in 1960 as they never missed any important races.

In 1960 Old Yeller II was driven by by many legendary drivers such as Carroll Shelby (Road America & Santa Barbara), Dan Gurney (Riverside International Raceway & Laguna Seca), Bob Bondurant, Billy Krause, Bobby Drake, Paul O'Shea, and Max Balchowsky.

Many track records were broken with the Old Yeller II and the "Home Built Backyard Special" competed against the very best and newest Maserati Birdcage, Testarossa Ferraris, D Jaguars, and Porsches along with the other road racing "Specials". The Old Yeller II continued racing from December 1959 until 1974 with the last SCCA race being a regional race in California. The Old Yeller II languished in a backyard in Fresno for several years where it was discovered by David Gibb in the mid 1970s. Mr. Gibb restored the Old Yeller II to a basic original configuration. The restoration work was completed in Santa Barbara, California.

 Ernie Nagamatsu bought the Old Yeller II from Dave Gibbs of Oklahoma and then proceeded to restore the iconic race-car to the most historic and period correct configuration of the 1959 build time period. The Old Yeller II Buick Special with driver Ernie Nagamatsu began Historic Racing from the early 1990s.

The Old Yeller II Buick Special is currently vintage/ historic raced globally by owner/ driver Ernie Nagamatsu and occasionally raced by featured guest (Scooter Patrick, Billy Krause) drivers. Old Yeller II has raced at events including: Elkhart Lake Road America, Lime Rock, Coronado Speed Week, Palm Springs Revival, Phoenix International Raceway, Willow Springs, Monterey Historic/ Reunion Races and the Old Yeller II has been featured at the most prestigious Goodwood Racing events (Festival of Speed and the Revival Meeting Races) in England and has participated in over 12 racing events at Goodwood. The Buick Special has raced in New Zealand (Pukekohe and Hampton Downs) and Australia (Phillip Island, Tasman Revival at Sydney, and Australia F1 Grand Prix Historic Races) at Road Racing events and also at International Hill Climbs (Chateau Impney Hill Climb and Leadfoot Festival Hill Climb). The Old Yeller II Buick Special has been a feature car at the globally prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance (Road Racing Hot Rods class) and at the world acclaimed Chateau Chantilly Concours d'Elegance in France.

We hope you enjoy the legacy and history of the Old Yeller II Buick Special.

Ernest Nagamatsu
Current owner and driver of the 1959 Old Yeller II Buick Special