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The engine in Lee Beare's 1927 Ford roadster is a 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet, built from the ground up by Beare.
By Jeff Stearns | STAFF
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Racing heritage
Lee Beare’s roadster reminds him of his past
By Carol Sponagle

From 1947 to the late '80s, Shaheen's Speedway on Springfield's Dirksen Parkway was a hot-rod hot spot. The oval, quarter-mile dirt track known as "Shaheens," "Joe's," or "Little Springfield" became a Monday-night hotbed for midget car racing in the years following World War II.

Into the '50s, interest in coupe and stock car racing was high. A Sunday night lineup brought cars, drivers, crews and fans to an overflowing arena that blasted the sound of roaring engines across Springfield and beyond.  

Midget racing continued on Friday nights in the '60s, as coupes and stock cars gave way to modified and late model racers. 

"Shaheen (Joe Shaheen, owner and operator) had the fastest quarter-mile track in the state - probably the U.S.," recalls Lee Beare, a retired Central Illinois Public Service Co. fleet engineering supervisor and Springfield-area resident.

"All the big-shot racers would show up and race midgets there - even Indy racers raced out there."

Beare grew up at Shaheen's, hot rodding in what he calls an "American Graffiti" lifestyle. He has a 1927 Ford Track Roadster reproduction now, and it reminds him of the hot-rodding days of his youth. It also helped him work through treatment when he was diagnosed with lymphoma in the spring of 2003.

"I started building the car in late 2002. When I got my diagnosis, I hammered away on the car - through eight chemotherapy treatments and 20 radiation treatments. It helped me along. I've been in remission since that fall," Beare says.

Beare built the car and the motor in his garage, doing all the work except the paint. He acquired new, used and fabricated parts to create his working piece of memorabilia. 

By 2005, the roadster was street ready. The car is unique, he says, built to represent dirt-track racing. 

"The grille was made by a retired sprint car builder. It's built to fit the nose, and it's the only one like it in existence."

Beare adds: "You can't ride in it too long - 100 miles, tops. It's like riding a four-wheel motorcycle - it's noisy and fast and you're subject to the weather."

Though the roadster may not have the feel of a luxury sedan, Beare has logged 8,000 miles since 2005. He enjoys driving the car to Rock 'n Roll Hardee's Cruise-In events with his wife, Joyce. You'll also find the couple at local car shows throughout the season. 

"The car does well because it's unique," he says. "You don't see a lot of track roadsters."

In addition to the roadster, Beare has a 1932 Ford Victoria two-door sedan. 

When he's not tinkering with cars, Beare keeps busy with a part-time job at Arrow Trailer and Equipment Co., his wife, four children and four grandchildren.

 


 

Lee Beare's Roadster

 

  • Built to represent dirt-track racing heritage
  • 400 Horsepower small block 350 Chevy with aluminum heads and throttle body fuel injection
  • 350 turbo automatic transmission
  • Weight: 1,900 poundsu Bright yellow paint by Josh Lynn of Mason City
  • Custom-built grille by Jess Mabe of Colorado Springs, Colo.\
  • 1927 Ford body by Darrell Zip of Grand Junction, Colo.
  • Upholstery by Twin City Upholstery, Bloomington
  • Parts from Speedway Motors in Lincoln, Neb.
  • Repeat winner of Best in Class, Best of the Best and Best in Show awards

 

 

The roadster

 

  • The term "roadster" is reserved for a two-seat car with a front engine and rear wheel drive, with emphasis on handling versus horsepower. 
  • In 1927, Ford sold roadsters for $360. 
  • The original 1927 Model T Roadster had 20 horsepower and a 100-inch wheelbase.
  • The American hot rod is based on pre-World War II roadsters and coupes.
  • The term roadster also applies to front-engine AAA/USAC Championship Cars. 
  • An example of today's roadster is the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

 

 

Story published Friday, July 1, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 4 )

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