Big Al's Featured Car's
#52 1938 Sprint Car "The Illini Special"
Owned by Ron Heitman
Pictures by Past Owners, The News, Ron & Big Al
See the "Illini Special at the Cleveland Federated AutoRama in March!

The Illini Special was built in 1938 and had a Dual Overhead Cam Hal engine. It was originally driven by Tony Bettenhansen Sr. When World War II came about, auto racing took a back seat and the car was put aside. In the late 40’s after the war, racing was started again. Jerry Blundy was the driver in the early 50’s and won the Mississippi Valley Sprint Championship in 1951. Another famous driver in the car was Dick Padden, who drove with only one leg. The car was bought by A. W. Dobson in the late 50’s and he installed a Chevrolet V-8 engine in the car. Then it was driven by Hank Streube throughout the Mississippi Valley and Florida racing circuits. The car finally ended up behind Dobson’s Service Garage, exposed to the elements and with the drive-train removed.

1951 Jerry Blundy in Princeton ILL
1952 Dick Padden
1952 Marge Viera "Miss Outdoor Girl" in Peoria ILL
1953 Dick Padden
1956 Hank Streuble
The Corvette Engine
My Engine

I acquired the car in 1983 and began a full restoration. Some unique features of this car are the Dolphin style aluminum nose and body. Inside the frame rails are oak beams to add strength to the aluminum channels. The rear suspension was way ahead of it’s time, utilizing a leaf spring bar as a torsion bar that was easily adjusted on the side of the car. Another innovation was the Ski under the right side of the front axle. During a race there would be a lot of force on the right front spindle and they were known to break off. The car would drop down and the end of the axel would drop down and the end of the axel would dig into the track and cause the car to flip. The Ski would allow the driver a chance to bring the car to a safe stop.

When I acquired the car, I started looking for original period correct parts. The car now has a Halibrand quick change rear-end, the engine is a 1932 Model “B” four cylinder, bored with oversize pistons, a Thomas aluminum head, a V-8 water pump and dual carburetors. The car has been run at many Vintage car races throughout Ohio, Indiana and Iowa.