According to dry lakes veterans who would know, Paul Beck's recreation of Veda Orr's roads
Hot rodding has had its fair share of heroes, pioneers, and groundbreakers, many of whom became extremely well known, wealthy, or both. But the one person who was arguably most responsible for the initial perpetuation of the hobby was none of the above; her name was Veda Orr.
Veda got involved with hot rodding when she began dating and then married a young man by the name of Karl Orr in 1936. He was a Midwest transplant whose racing and hot rod building career began in 1921 with his first "speed shop" in Missouri. By 1929, Karl was running a Model A at Muroc and among his many claims to fame was being the first to go more than 125 mph with a four-cylinder modified and 120 mph in a Deuce. Veda began driving with the Russetta Timing Association, although her first pass was somewhat clandestine. As Al Drake reported in his book, "Hot Rodder! From Lakes To Street," Veda had been telling her husband and all the other racers that she was perfectly capable of driving a race car. So, when Karl asked her to put their roadster in line to race at one meet, Veda evidently assumed Karl would get behind the wheel as usual. As they moved up and got closer to the starting line, Karl told her to stay put and warm up the engine-then he began snapping down the tarp. He told her to take off when their car number was announced, and the rest is history. All the club members voted and it was agreed to let her drive from then on with their blessing.
The reproduction dash plaque is dated "5-26-47" and shows a speed of 121.62 for Veda Orr i
It wasn't long before Veda's name appeared in the record books; she set the Full Fendered Roadster record at 104.40 mph and later upped that to 114.24 in 1937. She ran 131-plus mph at the wheel of the Taylor-Blair modified and became the first woman to race in the SCTA. Competing against roughly 400 competitors-all of whom were men-she finished as high as 17th in points. But, while Veda did indeed have an enviable individual race record, it's what she did for her fellow hot rodders that made her so special.
Veda published the SCTA News, and later started her own newsletter as a means of communicating with other racers; however, it wasn't long after its inception that WWII began and many of the racers found themselves in the military and on their way overseas. To keep spirits up, Veda distributed her publication to more than 750 service men all around the world for free and personally corresponded with hundreds as well.
While Veda's actions were generous and well intended, it's unlikely that even she realized the true impact of her efforts. Anyone who has served in the military knows that mail call is the best part of any day, and most everything a G.I. has to read is shared with a buddy at one time or another-and so it was with Veda's newsletter. Former racers not only showed pictures of their cars and told tales of their exploits, they also passed around Veda's newsletter. As a result, while overseas, kids from all over the country learned about hot rodding, and many couldn't wait to build their own once they got home, wherever that may have been. The net effect was Veda gave hot rodding national exposure when there was no other means to do it.
Paul used his incredible stash of genuine '32 Ford parts to build this car-even the floorb
Veda and Karl certainly supported each other in everything they did, and they did a lot. After the war, Karl and Veda ran the lakes, campaigned a midget, Sprint Car, and a track roadster, as well as ran a business. Teammates until the end, Karl passed away in 1988, Veda in 1989.
As a veteran of a much later conflict, Paul Beck of St. Johns, Michigan, admired the efforts Veda had put forth for those serving their country, and the thought of recreating her roadster as a tribute was in the back of his mind for some time-something on the order of 20 years. But by the time he did get around to it, and after building a number of other cars, he had collected an amazing array of original '32 parts. Then Paul decided the time was right to recreate the Veda Orr '32 roadster a mere four months before the 75th anniversary of the Deuce display at the Grand National Roadster Show in 2007.
It's not entirely clear what kind of seat the original car was equipped with, but this '30
Starting with an original frame, the front framehorns were eliminated to accommodate the signature nerf bar Veda's roadster wore. The front suspension consists of a Mor-Drop axle, with a stock spring, shocks, spindles, and hubs running sans brakes. Thanks to Roger Meiner, who searched for pictures and information about Veda and her roadster, lots of the little details on the car are correct, like the battleship-gray front hubs.
Under an original 20-louver hood is a Merc Flathead, the internal details of which are a little sketchy. Paul bought the built mill 35 years ago, so most details about what's inside have been forgotten. Backing up the mystery motor is a '34 trans, and behind that is a '32 reared with 4.11 gears and Lincoln self-energizing juice brakes; the master cylinder is from a '40 Ford.
Ironically, the original roadster body Paul found had to undergo some tweaking to rough it up a little to be a dead-on replica. He slotted the hinges on the driver's door so it would fit just as poorly as Veda's roadster and hang out at the bottom. The stock cowl vent was also filled, and then he shot the paint. The frame was done in black Imron, while the body was covered in black acrylic enamel with a touch of flattening agent. The paint was color-sanded with 2,000-grit paper, and then hand-rubbed all in an effort to make it look like a vintage paint job. The remainder of the body was done in Corvette ermine white acrylic enamel.
There are surprisingly few photos of Veda's roadster, so there were some details, such as
One of the most difficult areas of Veda's car to duplicate was the interior; the problem was a lack of photos showing what the original looked like. As a result, Paul used his best judgment, and some pretty cool stuff, to come up with his best guess as to what the cockpit held. The stock dash has working throttle and choke controls; along with the water temperature and oil pressure gauges there is a mechanical tach in an original insert. A stock '32 spoon pedal hooks to the Strombergs, and there are even original door panels with pockets.
To build such a car in a ridiculously short period of time took dedication on Paul's part and some pretty good friends, including Russ Pine, Roger Meiner, Robert and Matthew Beck, and Steve Braithwaite. Steve Fisher was responsible for the lettering and Gary Price ran the cloth-covered wires.
When Veda's replica roadster made its first appearance at the 2007 GNRS, more than one veteran rodder was convinced it was the original. Sadly, Veda's roadster was junked after being battered on circle tracks. And while Paul never tried to fool anyone, the fact remains that his efforts have resulted in a virtually perfect copy we think would have the Orrs' approval. But while there may be more than one roadster, there was only one Veda.
The late Wally Parks stopped by to check out Paul Beck's recreation of Veda Orr's roadster at the 2007 Grand National Roadster Show.