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Working With Smokey Yunick

Some of the most visited pages on our site are those relating to Smokey Yunick. It seems everyone is interested in his Hot Vapor engine as well as the stories behind the man. He was a true inventor and built some controversial cars as well as some outstanding race cars. There are books and stories about Smokey but it is seldom that you get the opportunity to visit with someone who actually worked with Smokey. Today we start a short 3 part series from a guest Blogger.

Some time spent with Smokey

by: Andy Zabrodsky

Part 1

Smokey and his partner hired me around the same time they hired a fabricator, who was involved in Formula 3 cars, in the early 1980’s. I believe he was from Australia. This guy kept his Cessna Airplane in his garage. He would remove the wing assembly and back the fuselage and wings into his house garage.

Smokey’s partner was supposedly the inventor of the Holley 4-barrel Carburetor. I forgot his name but he was a tall soft spoken gent. What I liked about Smokey and his partner was they both looked poor and not bright. Well, after talking to them for a few minutes, they just flat out didn’t care about impressing anyone.  I guess he liked me, because I just acted as though we had friends in common.  See, I worked at the Crane Cams Corp Office, located on top of the Factory on Fentress Blvd. in Daytona.

I was the only one from that building that Smokey liked to talk to. He wasn’t rude with the engineers (suits), just short. He would pop up every 2 weeks to see my illustrations.  Every now and then my boss would send me down to Smokey’s shop to drop off a blueprint or something, just to get Smokey in a talking mood, just to find things out. The engine warehouse was all in the back of his commercial truck repair shop, where he had like 8 or 12 bays for tractor trailers. His business was very successful.

The Hot Vapor Cycle was just an idea that must have come into his mind out of boredom; he has done many unsung things for the auto business. He took it to the next step. Unfortunately, we live in a political BS society that sometimes, for greedy reasons, the best ideas don’t get put into the world because they might financially disturb larger entities interests.

To Be Continued

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I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at

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  1. Ralph Johnson was Smokey’s assistant for over 30 years. Ralph did most of the inventing in theearly days of the Holley Brothers. Ralph also developed a hot vapor type engine for GM in the early 1950’s. Ralph is still alive and well in Daytona Beach and a joy to visit with. The Hot Vapor Fiero is now on display at Don Garlitts museum in Ocala, Florida.

  2. Tony, good to hear from you. Saw your Fiero in the Garlits Museum just a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, they had no signs or info on the car. It was just sitting there in the museum. Hopefully they will correct this very soon. I will have some pictures up of the Garlits Museum in a week or two, look for it there.

  3. Ralph Johnson! Thank you so much, one heck of a nice gent, one gifted person in the automotive world. Ralph and Smokey treated me so good. To look at the things they did for the automotive business during it’s best years. I am a lucky person to have work with those two, good to hear Ralph is still around, I guess he is in the Daytona area? Thanks again.

  4. I was talking w/ RAY FOX -age 94,last week at his museum in Daytona Beach,and Ralph Johnson and his wife walked in to talk to Ray & company.All I could do was listen to these two talk about the good old days of racing. Ralph invited me to dinner the following Fri. ,and I learned more in two hrs ,than most people learn in a lifetime We are meeting again tomorrow.

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