CSRHoF

2014 Induction - Jack Greenhalgh

I first heard of Jack Greenhalgh wile in Medina, Ohio in 1990 at the Good Guys Great Lakes Nationals. We were driving our '36 Ford Cabriolet and travelling with a group of friends from the Waterloo County Street Rods.

One morning there was a lot of excitement around the hotel as word had spread that a number of street rods had been stolen the previous night right out of the hotel parking lot. And, one of the cars was owned by a Jack Greenhalgh of Hamilton.

At the time, the name didn’t mean a lot to me but I remember feeling sorry for the guy and hoping that he was fully insured. I never forgot that incident as it shattered some basic beliefs that I had thinking that people respected street rods and that somehow we were insulated from things like theft and malicious damage.

Fast forward and years go by.  I finally meet Jack Greenhalgh and the tale of that stolen '34 Ford Roadster comes up and then you hear the rest of the story.

Having your car stolen can be devastating, especially when it’s a beautiful street rod that you have personally built.  Jack took the payout from the insurance company and carried on. But, over a year later the car, or at least parts of it, were recovered. Jack made arrangements with his insurance company and bought it back and brought it home. He then took those remains and re built the little car into a Bonneville inspired hot rod.

That story epitomizes Jack Greenhalgh. He doesn’t dwell on the negative. He puts his head down and with a smile on his face he moves forward and gets on with life.

Jack doesn’t see the glass as half full or half empty. He simply sees it as the wrong size and then he goes out to his shop and turns a new aluminum one out on his lathe that is the perfect size and perfectly made.

That’s Jack!

Jack was born in 1929 in Hamilton, Ontario and grew up on the mountain. 

These were difficult times.

Things were hard, money was scarce.

He remembers the great depression.

He remembers the day Canada declared war on Germany and the start of World War II.

He remembers gasoline and tire rationing.

He remembers working hard at a very early age delivering newspapers and working in stores to help the family survive.

Yes indeed, these were hard times, tough times to grow up in.

In those days people fixed things, they made do.  

Jack learned to fix things and to make parts so he could fix those things and to improve them through an understanding of how they worked.  And, there was no better way to understand how things worked than to take them apart and figure it out.

Jack had the ability to do this and the inclination and the drive to make things better. These, combined with some smarts and a competitive nature, helped define the person that Jack became.

He started working at Hamilton Auto Parts in1946 at the age of 16.

Back then most auto parts stores did full automotive repairs complete with machine shop services. Jack’s natural skills and abilities came to the surface in that environment. He wanted to get a professional license as a machinist but none of the men working in the machine shop there were journeymen so there were no apprenticeship opportunities. He then asked his boss if he could move over to the mechanics side and get an apprenticeship started there. 

Well, same story, it seemed that no one there was licensed either.

This was fairly normal at that point in time as there was less emphasis on licensing most trades.

But, Jack wanted the credentials, so he left and went to work in a smaller shop, Cains Garage, where he had the opportunity to apprentice and in 1950 he earned his mechanics license.

He was constantly building cars for himself and began building engines for the rapidly growing stock car racing crowd. Back then there was less distinction between stock car racing and hot rods. There was no drag racing, no shows and very little motorsport.  Stock car racing was just evolving into what it is today. And Jack loved it.

He quickly gained a reputation for building strong powerful engines…….winners on the track, and he was having fun doing it and the extra money really helped as he was already playing with cars of his own.

In 1953 Jack built his first real hot rod, a 1932 Ford fenderless, flathead powered roadster just like those cars in those little California magazines.

 In 1947 Jack's life changed.

 

He was at a dance in Dundas. He watched this pretty young lady vaulting over rows of seats in a rush to ask him to dance. Her name was Betty and they really hit it off.  Things got serious pretty quickly and soon it was time for this young lady to meet Jack’s parents. He clearly remembers picking her up in Hamilton.  He was driving a 1934 Dodge and, no surprise, he was working on it.  That evening when he picked her up, the car was not totally back together.

It was missing its right front fender and the passenger’s side window didn’t go up.  On top of that, the road was freshly coated in tar and gravel and very wet.  So the oily spray off the front tires splattered all over Betty’s new white blouse.  Three years and numerous car adventures later they married. But Betty would often remind him of that evening and the embarrassment and the ruined blouse.

Like Jack’s cars the marriage was built to last. For 61 and 1/2 years they were together. Sadly, Betty passed away in 2012 and certainly it has been difficult for Jack. But tonight isn’t about those sad times it’s about celebrating accomplishments and achievements and there is no denying that Betty was a huge part of Jacks successes.

Jack built and drove a number of stock cars and over the years and built over 250 racing engines under his Red Ball Engines and Black Jack banners or simply as Smokey Greenhalgh.

His cars have raced at most venues in Ontario and New York and up and down the east coast for various names including the likes of Amanda Stoner, Bruce Heckendorn, Ross May even Darrell Waltrip, Neil Fair and one of Jacks sons Bruce Greenhalgh. 

Quite an evolution from the 5X5 1938 Studebaker,  the Smokey Greenhalgh Special which he campaigned driven by Eric Bradt.  

While working with Canadian racing icon, Moe Carter, Jack got involved with Paxton products. Their superchargers were used by Studebaker and Jack just happened to race a Studebaker.  This led him getting to know the legendary Andy Granatelli, who was the President of both Studebaker and STP.

Jack bought a Studebaker Avanti engine from Granatelli. They became friends and talked back and forth. Jack raced that engine for two years and had some minor problems, nothing he couldn’t fix and he did. But when Granatelli called to see how things were going Jack told him of the problem and how he had dealt with, to Jack it was just conversation.

Well, a couple of weeks later Granitelli called him and told him to go to Toronto as there was something waiting for him. Jack went and was shocked to find that Granatelli had shipped him a new Avanti R4 engine.  He also sent an invitation to Jack and his team to join him at that year’s Indy 500 race.  

They eagerly went to Indy for the big race  but it was not a good year for Granatelli as a member of his pit crew was killed in a track accident. As a result Jack did not get to spent a lot of time with him but Granatelli did present jack and his team with official STP coveralls.

Jack cuts quite a striking picture what with the cowboy hat and all!

In the mid 60’s Jack and 3 partners, all with roots in the racing community, decided Canada needed a good 5/8th mile facility. They bought an old farm down near Cayuga and started the process to turn it into a race track. To facilitate the construction Jack moved his family, wife Betty, sons Bruce and Larry and daughters Penny and Valerie into the old farm house that was there so that he could directly supervise the building of the track. Jack worked long hard hours building the infrastructures and even did all the welding on the huge grandstands himself.

The concept for the track was sound. However it takes money to convert your dreams into reality. Eventually Jack and his partners ran out of money and had to walk away from the project with little more than a lot of debt.

The new owners finished the track and built Cayuga into one of the premier racing venues in the country eventually attracting the biggest names in NASCAR and helping to make track announcer and fellow Canadian Street Rodding Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean Murray a celebrity. Although Jack and his friends weren’t there to enjoy the good times and prosperity  of the track, there is no denying that it was their concept, their determination and their hard work that  paved the way for the success that followed.

Jacks racing career was not limited to circle tracks.

He also built engines for road racers most notably Canadian F-1 driver Eppie Wietzes who won the North American Trans Am championship on two separate occasions. Jack crewed for Wietzes for 2 years building engines, doing trackside repairs and keeping the cars competitive.

It was just a weekend job for Jack but one that took him to most of the major racing venues in North America.

During the week he worked for Dupont Canada.  After working at a number of garages and shops fixing everything from cars to trucks to farm and industrial machinery and after a stint in his own service station Jack hooked up with Dupont.  He spent 22 years travelling extensively installing  environmentally friendly water pipe systems. He even went to Finland and worked with the engineers to design and develop the only 63” diameter pipe fusion system in the world and he personally installed theses in counties literally around the globe.

This was an exciting time with a lot of international travel and creative problem solving but it was also a very physical demanding job as much was done by hand.

When Dupont sold the division, Jack made the decision to go out on his own and expand his engine building business which had never stopped and go back to his first love..........building chassis and designing and building parts and components.

Since then, he has built chassis, engines and complete cars for a host of people and several for Betty and the family.

Two of his best known personal rides are his 1931 Ford Coach a classic resto - rod and his 1937 Ford 454 powered coupe.

These rides hauled the family many miles to events around the country and the USA. The model A made its maiden voyage to the CSRA Canats in Etobicoke in 1982.

The coupe is seen here on the track at the Good Guys Charlotte event.

At that show, you can do laps on the track and what with his background in oval racing and piloting a powerful well built, great handling street rod, Jack admits to maybe getting a little carried away.

Ultimately he was black flagged off the track by none other than the King of NASCAR, Richard Petty himself.

His current ride is this super straight 1939 Ford Standard Coupe, a beautiful little car that will hopefully become his grandson Sean’s one day.

In 1989 Jack had just completed a month long project for Dupont in Oman in the Middle East. It was a long, tough job in an extremely hot climate.

He thought he’d take a vacation and he had always wanted to go to Bonneville. So he came home, picked up Betty and they made their way to the Salt Flats.

Jack thought the 100 degrees heat was quite comfortable after his time in Oman.

While waiting in line to buy lunch one day, Jack heard a couple of guys talking and from all the “eh’s” being tossed around in the conversation it was evident to him that they must be Canadian.

Jack spoke up and introduced himself to brothers Gerry and Brian Davis of St Catharine’s who were there to race their Buick Regal for the first time. 

They were having some troubles with the car so Jack ----being Jack----- jumped right in and helped sort things out. This led to a friendship that exists today.

Over the years Jack gave of his expertise and annually refreshed the engine, updating and making modifications. He also built rear ends and numerous other things for the race car all simply for the fun of it. 

Unfortunately, a high speed spin out damaged the car and ended the Davis Brothers racing career but the friendship with Jack endures and they still travel to Street Rod events together.

Jack's incredible handiwork has been featured in a number of magazines and articles over the years.

But the one he is most proud of is the May 2007 issue of Street Scene.

His hand made pulley system on Larry Lethby’s flat motor powered ’40 Ford Coupe in full color adorns the cover.

Jack built the chassis and the complete engine on this beauty but it’s the unique pulley system that gets him excited.

Jack Greenhalgh is more than an engine builder or chassis builder or fabricator or racer or street rod builder. He is all of those things but he is much more. He is an innovator and a creator.  A down to earth guy who is happiest working in his shop (where you’ll still find him for a few hours most days) making things with his hands that he creates in his mind.

Race cars and hot rods are not just an interest for Jack ….. They are a passion and a way of life.

He is respected for his talents, his generosity and his unselfish approach to life.

I am proud and honoured to welcome Mr. Jack Greenhalgh into the Canadian Street Rodding Hall of Fame.