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by Jay Traugott
It may look like a human death trap, but this fully restored vintage 1939 racer is a blast to drive.
While vintage race cars aren't too difficult to find, properly restored ones in show condition are a slightly different story. Whether a famous name was once behind the wheel or not will certainly affect the final price, but the condition and history of the car will also come into play.
Back in the day, as the sport of car racing was still taking shape, a number of regional and local venues sprouted up throughout the US, sometimes almost by accident.
For example, NASCAR came into being simply due to necessity: bootleggers greatly improved the power and speed of their road cars in order to outrun the authorities while smuggling booze from down South to the North. When prohibition ended, those bootleggers needed something to do with their modified cars (and their spare time) and NASCAR was born. Other racing cars of the era included vehicles such as this 1939 Joe Shaheen Midget Racer. Before you start asking yourself who's Joe Shaheen, here's your answer: Shaheen was a successful businessman from Springfield, Illinois who also owned several Midget race cars.
One of his ventures was the construction of a quarter-mile dirt oval track on the site of an old dairy farm. The "Springfield Speedway" opened sometime in the late 1940s and Shaheen took on promotional responsibilities as well. This restored vintage racer was built in 1939 as one of two cars made specifically for Shaheen. Illinois at the time was an extremely popular place for motorsports and Shaheen wanted to take advantage of the publicity. His two Midget racers were given numbers 29 and 39 in order to promote the 2939 phone number for his Midget supply and tire business.
Number 39, which is featured here today, was originally powered by a stock 60 horsepower flathead V8, but the car was put into storage until after World War II. In 1946, Shaheen hired the same two men who originally built the car to refurbish it to the tune of more than 200hp thanks to a new 136 cu in Ford 60 flathead V8. With his Springfield Speedway now up and running, Shaheen offered #39 to any driver who wanted to race. Some of the local familiar names who drove it included Chuck Weyant and Rex Easton. Shaheen ended up selling #39 in 1951 to someone who planned on restoring it but never got around to it.
The car ended up sitting in a basement for nearly 50 years before it was found. The restoration process soon began and it wasn't completed until 2006 with no expenses spared. By using mostly rebuilt original parts, it has since become once again 100 percent ready for the race track. It's also AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) certified and has won five AACA awards. Power comes from the rebuilt flathead V8 that produces more than 200hp. A few beautiful touches on the car include the chrome V-shaped grille guard in front of a semi-gloss cast blast aluminum grille.
Behind this lies custom fabricated three-piece aluminum hood hangs above bespoke leather latches. There are many, many other wonderful pieces of craftsmanship throughout and we recommend for you to check out the RK Motors Charlotte website for complete details. With only 501 miles on the clock, the 1939 Joe Shaheen Midget Racer is currently up for sale on eBay with a "Buy it Now" price of $62,900.