Skeeters

By Ken Paulsen

 

The name sounds kind of funny. What was not funny is the way they flew around Georgia and South Carolina dirt tracks during 1961 1975 timeframe. 

So where did the name come from? Not too many people know. It sounds like a short form of "mosquito" and if we examine their definitions we find some similarities:

Mosquito-a pesky small insect with wings, bred in swamps and standing water, drinks blood for fuel.
Skeeter-a pesky small car with wings, bred in southern garages, drinks alcohol for fuel.

This beautiful #75 cut-down '32 Ford sedan was built by Laverne and Roger Watson of Danielsville, GA and was driven by Athens, GA native Charlie Burkhalter. 

 

The Skeeter car was a racing evolution. Skeeter cars got their start about 1961. Full-bodied 1932-1940 coupes were getting harder and harder to find but there were enough early 1930s     4-door sedans in the weeds to start a new class of racing machine. The idea was for the driver to sit as far back as possible for better weight distribution and keep the overall weight to a minimum. This is where the sedan body played a key role.

 

Car #47 represents the fine craftsmanship of Emery Shealy of rural Leesville, SC. A 1935 Chevrolet 4 door provided the starting point. The area behind the rear doors was sectioned off, then the front door area was sized to allow for the extra length of a 2-door model car. The entire body was narrowed, welded to fit over a highly modified frame and every consideration centered on keeping the car as light as possible. To that end, an in/out box replaced the transmission making the push start necessary. The front firewall was a thin sheet of aluminum. Many times there was nothing between the driver and the fuel tank. Magnesium wheels were another attempt to reduce the car's overall weight. Put a fuel injected Chevy in front of the driver and you have a heart-stopping, rocket of a car.

While sedans were the body style of choice, a few coupes also managed to sprout wings. The beautiful #6 five window coupe was campaigned by the late Tootle Estes. Picture taken April, 1966.

   

Not all cars received the torch treatment. Car #41 retains most of its original dimensions.

With the high cost and danger involved racing a skeeter, it had a short lifespan in Georgia. Many cars found new homes in South Carolina. To keep the cost down and for safety, the fuel injection was replaced with normal carburetion and the cars continued to run at South Carolina tracks in Laurens, Anderson and Batesville until 1975.

 

Helping keep the skeeter car memory alive is Joel Lindler out of Leesville. Joel has managed to salvage close to a dozen of these winged warriors. His yellow #7 ride above has an ultra short 88 inch wheelbase. 

Car 52 has a '34 Ford body and a Chevy grille. Most of Joel's cars are in excellent condition and require little more than a drive train to put them back on the track. The purple and rust Victoria will take a lot more time and sweat.



If Black and Gold is your idea of racing colors, these three cars should satisfy your needs. Jerry Vons completed the restoration of the #16 formerly driven by Charley Mincey (original car photo at top of article). You couldn't ask for a better-looking car.


These cars will inevitably change hands over time. Keith Creswell of Laurens, SC raced the #4 during the early 1990s at vintage events throughout the southeast. That same car is now the #75 car out of the Warner Robins, GA area. 

A few cars such as the #33 have found their way into Florida.


Regardless of what type of race vehicle brings back your fondest memories, they all had their time and place in grassroots racing history. We are fortunate to have people bitten by the "skeeter" bug to keep those memories alive.

The End . . . . or maybe a new beginning.