CLASSIC AMERICAN PEOPLE Bob and Curt Giovanine Like father, like son
Classic American|February 2021
What could be more of a winter warmer than spending some time in the desert of El Mirage? Come back in time with us to the heady days of dry lake bed racing with pioneering dad and son record-breaking racers, Bob and Curt Giovanine…
Steve Havelock

Back in the March 2010 issue, we told the fascinating story of the Spurgin-Giovanine‘dry lakes’ roadster that in 1948 won its class on each of the six times it raced that year at El Mirage and set a new Southern California Timing Association speed record on each occasion; a feat never before achieved. With a clean sweep, it scooped the SCTA Championship and at the season’s end set a new two-way record of 123.655mph. Its fastest single run was 127.65mph. It was displayed at the 2nd Annual Hot Rod Exposition in Los Angeles and was featured on the front cover of Hot Rod magazine, March 1949 edition.

This little black and polished aluminium 1925 Chevy 183cu in four-pot, sporting race number 15A, punched well above its weight and was built in a home garage and raced by Chuck Spurgin and Bob Giovanine with help from their good friend and 1940 SCTA Champion, Bob Rufi. Retired racers Ralph Schenck, who raced his Golden Submarine streamliner in the early Forties, and carburation expert Duke Hallock, who owned his own speed shop, also played a hand. All of these guys had been hot rodding and dry lakes racing before the war and would go on to be lifelong friends.

Spurgin was apparently urged by his wife to quit driving in ’48, so it was left to Bob Giovanine to pilot the roadster. Having won the championship, it was repainted a smart pale blue, and for ’49, number 1 was applied to its flanks. On its first outing that year, it hit speeds of more than 135mph, but then the engine broke and it was laid up in the garage. Bob, by then 30 with two young children, four-year-old Curt and his newborn sister Teri, thought it was an opportune time to hang up his crash hat. That was the end of Bob’s race career. Or was it? Bob’s son Curt, now 74, takes up the story: “In 1952, Dad traded the broken engine, which was his, to Duane Steele for a brand-new, top-of-theline, variable speed Craftsman drill press, which I still have. The rest of the car, which belonged to Chuck, was sold to Carl Borgh (who fitted a 292cu in motor and continued to race it).”

Curt continues: “My dad worked as a quality control inspector for North American Aviation, working on the Navajo, Apollo and Space Shuttle projects. He always brought cars home from the guys at work to do tune-ups, brake jobs and engine rebuilds. That’s how he made his walking-around money. I was always hanging over the fenders watching what he was doing and learning. In 1974 Dad, then 55, retired early to look after my mom who’d had a brain aneurysm three years earlier and needed a lot of care. He looked after her for more than 23 years.

“From home, Dad restored a couple of Corvettes for other people, then he bought and restored a ’65 Corvette for himself, which my sister now has, and a ’67 Corvette big block which was a basket case, that I now have. He finished that in the mid-Eighties. I asked what he intended to do next. He said he’d just relax and read magazines. I said: ‘No, let’s build a race car.’

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