The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

George Ronald "Ron" Guttu

Added to museum: 2/17/09

Building a quarter scale IMCA dirt track car with a family history

Ron Guttu (Click on photo to view a larger image.)


Ron Guttuís father, George owned a battery shop and also did general automotive mechanical work, so Ron was raised around metalworking tools. In his younger days Ronís dad was a racer too, building and racing his own dirt track car in the 1930ís. After Ron was born the word probably came down from Ronís mother that Georgeís responsibilities as a young father precluded his role as race car driver, and he eventually had someone else drive the race car, selling it altogether about 1935-37. Ron, who was born in 1932, says his only memory of the car is the bloody nose he got once as a youngster from bumping into one of the knobby tires, but he still has an old black and white photo of the car. He did develop a love of engines at an early age and they eventually became his livelihood.

Putting his talent to work

As a kid he had an old 6" lathe that he paid $35 for and used to make parts for the model airplanes he liked to build. After high school he followed his dadís love of racing hotrods and built and raced his own car on ľ mile dirt tracks in the late 1950ís. His first real job was at an auto parts store that had a machine shop for grinding cranks, surfacing blocks and heads and other automotive jobs. He went to work in the shop as a helper, and his aptitude must have been readily apparent, because after working there only two weeks, the owner ended up putting him in charge of the shop when the old-time machinist who had that job for many years suddenly quit. Perhaps he could see the handwriting on the wall once this talented kid came to work there. Ron regrets that he didnít have time to learn more about machining from old Joe, but he was a fast learner and managed to pick up the knowledge on the job anyway.

After four years of running the parts storeís machine shop, he went into business for himself in 1964, opening his own auto repair shop. He ran that business with just one helper for the next 35 years until he retired in 1998. He says when he first started there was plenty of business because the older cars needed a lot more engine work than cars do today. As cars got better and more reliable less machining work was needed, and the job of an auto mechanic became less challenging to him. He finally sold the shop and retired to pursue his hobbies.

Building engines in retirement

In about 1998 or 1999 he got another 6" lathe and dug out an old Titan .60 model airplane engine casting kit he had been thinking about building for years. While staying in Mission, TX over one winter he made his own overhead valve head for it, finishing it as a 2-stroke rather than a 4-stroke. After much effort he was finally able to get to run. In fact, it turned 7800 RPM driving a 12 x 7 prop. After that, he made two more airplane engines from scratch. When he came across Ron Colonnaís 270 Offenhauser engine plans he thought that was an engine heíd really like to have.

Ron's first engine sits in front of his latest project, the Offenhauser powered dirt car. (Click on photo to view larger image.)

Anyone who has tried to build this engine will know it takes a lot of experience to make an engine this complicated. Ron not only accomplished it and got it to run, he also made a few modifications to make it the way he wanted it with older style carburetors, a slightly larger bore and the head and block in one piece like the original. The carburetors started out as model airplane carbs, but he modified them to look like the original Winfield updraft carbs used in racing in the 1930ís. It was no easy task for a first major engine project. In fact, Ron says after the engine was done he had to have his two front teeth capped. They had become worn down from gritting his teeth, which he attributes primarily to the difficulty of building this engine.

Once the engine was done he decided to make a race car frame to display it on. He found an old black and white photo of his dadís 1930ís dirt track car and a book of plans on how cars of that era were built and started to work on the frame. One thing led to another and eventually he ended up building the entire car. He blew up the scale drawings in the book and did some sketches of his own to incorporate whatever details he could see of his dadís car in the one old photo he had of it.

Ron's finished car with the original scooter tires before he custom molded his own. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

The car as an on-going project

The car is complete but not completed. Ron still has plans to rebuild the carburetors, making the bodies himself this time instead of using parts from model airplane carbs. He is also learning the task of molding and vulcanizing rubber tires so he can mold the knobby tires that were more prototypical of those cars. The scooter tires he is using now were a lucky find because they exactly fit the scale wire wheels he had made, but to him they are temporary until he can do better himself. In this respect, the car remains an on-going project as he continues to improve various parts.

The wire wheels took a month to construct, and he learned along the way that there are some places you just canít take shortcuts. The components on the real car were made a particular way that involved techniques that had been worked out over many years, and sometimes it is best to just duplicate those methods in miniature than to try to come up with an ďeasierĒ way. Often the ďeasyĒ way took longer and didnít yield satisfactory results. One example is an attempt to weld the wire wheel spokes to the rim. He ended up threading each one and attaching it inside the rim like the real wheel.

Ron and his wife in his old garage shop. Ron shows off the race car with the body removed. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Ron's new, air-conditioned shop is now a much more inviting place to work . (Click on any photo to view a larger image.)

An indoor shop extends the building season to all year long

Ron has recently upgraded his shop, moving from one stall of is 2-car garage to a special hobby room he built inside his house. Not only is it a more controlled climate (days can get pretty hot in the garage in Sun City West, AZ), but it also means that after 10 years he finally got the other garage stall back for use as it was intendedófor a car.

His shop tools include inexpensive Harbor Freight lathe and mill, but in his expert hands they are able to turn out quality work. He also says his shop used to be very ďsloppyĒ and disorganized, but building a new shop gave him the opportunity to get things organized the way he wants them, and he is making an extra effort to keep them that way.

The following article from Model Engine Builder magazine is reprinted with permission of author and magazine editor Mike Rehmus. It goes into more detail about the building of the engine and race car. In case you want to get the centerfold shot of Ronís car for your own shop wall, contact the magazine for a copy of issue #16. See


Background PictureóFull-sized race car at Grand Forks, ND about 1930. Driver Don Camoram in car, Owner, George Guttu (Sr.) in hat behind car. (Click on photo to view larger image.) Mike Rehmus photos. Old background photo, photographer unknown.

Ron Guttuís Quarter-Scaler IMCA Dirt Track Race Car

By Mike Rehmus

Reprinted from Model Engine Builder magazine (Issue 16) with permission from the Author.

When Ron Guttu set out to create a quarter-scale IMCA dirt track race car similar to those his father built and raced in the 1930ís, Ron probably didnít expect the model would turn out this polished. In only his second attempt to build a multi-cylinder engine, he built a Ron Colonna-designed Offenhauser 270 engine and created this scale race car around it. The scale race car is nicely sized and very good looking up close as you will see in the series of pictures in this article.

Ronís father is wearing the hat in the photograph (above) with driver Don Camoram in the car. This must have been the period when Ronís mother put her foot down against dad driving. He owned a battery shop in North Dakota and mainly raced when the race series ran at tracks in the vicinity.

What is amazing to me is Ron built this in a non-air conditioned garage shop where the summer temperatures reach 120į F (ask me how I know) so his available building periods were somewhat restricted. Heís now building a new shop with AC and all the amenities. He is also fortunate to live in one of the few cities in the U.S. that has a metalworking club in a large and enviously well-equipped facility. Iíve visited that club and am quite jealous. One can start off by casting parts in the foundry and finishing them up on the CNC equipment without walking more than 100 feet. The even have a paint booth!

This 25 lb (11.4 kg) quarter-scale model has a scale 22-3/4" (56.8 cm) wheelbase. His model is based on a chapter in the book, Automobile Racing, in which is found a detailed description of how to build a full-size dirt track race car. The prototype described in the book was a Bowles Oil Seal Special for those of you with knowledge of the early days of U.S. automobile racing. The book was published by Popular Mechanics Press in 1947. The car also conforms to what Ron remembers from his own racing days.

The Model

The frame and most parts are polished stainless steel to avoid having to chrome the parts like the full-sized cars. The frame is stainless steel sheet bent around a jig that helped him form it into the C-cross-section, and the entire frame is silver soldered together where necessary. The fuel tank, though hidden, is accurately scaled and does supply the engine. The suspension is pure scale Model A Ford just like the race cars and uses hardened stainless steel springs. Radius rods fasten to the chassis as the originals did with screw-in end caps that captured the ball joint. The steering sector is from his old electric angle grinder.

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

The drive train is pure Model A Ford, and although the drive line is splined so it could take a scale multi-plate clutch, Ron has installed a centrifugal clutch with a 2-speed gearbox behind it (model A again). The rear end housing is aluminum and the drive gears are from Savage ľ-scale RC race car parts found in a local hobby shop. If you havenít visited a hobby store lately, you will be amazed at the inexpensive and high-quality gears and other mechanical parts that are available for RC cars.

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Wire wheels were built by Ron with each containing 48 spokes made from 1/16" stainless welding rod, swedged on one end and threaded on the other 0-80. The spoke nipples screw onto the spokes from the inside of the rim just like the full-sized wheels. Ron used a fixture to align rim and hub, then inserted the spokes and uniformly tightened each nipple until the wheels ran true. The knock-off hubs are splined just like the full-sized car.

Full-size bodies are metal, but after his experiment with a formed aluminum body, Ron chose fiberglass, but unless you look closely it is not noticeable and the finish is superb.

The radiator top section is a corner of a serving dish that just happened to be of the proper radius. The sides of the radiator shell are stainless sheet and the stainless steel grill was found in the stores of the metalworking club. The thermometer in the radiator cap works and the capís flip lock works as it should to gain access to the radiator.

The steering wheel is cut from sheet stainless steel, the rim is laminated with walnut wood and looks similar to the riveted wheels that can still be purchased from automobile specialty stores.

Engine and frame components. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Tires are from a Razor scooter and are close enough until Ron makes molds for scale tires.

Upholstery is leather taken from a ladies purse purchased in a yard (jumble) sale and sewn by the local ladies sewing club.

The model windshield is made from Plexiglas purchased in a hobby shop.

The dashboard and steering wheel. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

The two ľ" gages were purchased and then modified to appear scale sized on the driverís side of the dashboard. The bezels were machined by Ron to appear in scale. The ignition switch is the smallest he could find at Radio Shack.

The engine is a 16-valve double overhead cam with pressure oil feeds and dry sump lubrication. Displacement is 60 cc (4.22 cubic in.) with 1.078" bore x 1.156" stroke. Compression ratio is 9.5:1. It uses solid state spark ignition (Hall Effect with dual magnets). The CD ignition module is mounted in the radiator shell under the radiator.

For a book on building this engine, go to or contact Ron Colonna, 107 Lexington Road, McKeesport, PA 15135, e-mail

The reason for the centrifugal clutch is that Ron intends to add radio control so he can drive the car. Importantly, that control will be through a scale model race car driver who is radio controlled and whose hand and feet operate the carís controls. There will be no radio control equipment installed in the car proper. (Ron already knows we want a build article on that radio-controlled car driver.)

Ron would like to than Paul Knapp for bringing the car to the 2007 WEME show where we saw and photographed it and Ron Colonna for the engine design.

Ron retired after owning a 2-man automobile rebuilding shop for 35 years. He has built three single-cylinder model aircraft engines of about 75 cc displacement. He then purchased the Colonna workshop manual on the Offenhauser engine and took (his words) a big chance on machining the cylinder block and head in one piece as in the original engines. He also changed the bore and stroke to give a slightly large displacement than Ron Colonnaís plans. It does run well.

The engine compartment. The magazine article also includes a full two-page spread centerfold photo of Ron's complete car. To get that you will have to buy a back issue of Model Engine Builder, Issue #16. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)


The latest photo (after the article was printed) now shows the car with its new scale knobby tires. (Click on photo to view a larger image.) Mike Stewart Photo

Additional photos of Ron Guttu's work:

(Click photos for larger images.)

Ron's first engine project was a Titan .60 built from a casting kit. Ron, however, built it as a 2-stroke rather than a 4-stroke and designed his own overhead valve head for it. It spins a 12 x 7 prop at 7800 RPM. From here Ron went straight to building the Offy.
The laced wire wheel sports a rubber tire borrowed from a Razor scooter. This is temporary, as Ron is working on a mold to make his own knobby dirt track tires in authentic pattern, which will be the next addition to the car. Note the racing "knock-off" type center hub. (See photos at the bottom of this section for Ron's new, custom molded tires.)
The top of the stainless steel radiator came from a serving bowl of the proper diameter, eliminating the need to form that part of the shape. It is beautifully integrated into the radiator as if it were made for the location. The cap also contains a lot of nice detail.
The fuel tank behind the rear axel is shown in a couple of different views. Finishes on all parts are nicely done, and there is an interesting combination of metals and surface finishes.
Seen from the bottom, the engine shows the pan as well as some of the frame detail.
A left and right side view of the car. One was taken indoors and the other outdoors making the yellow paint look a different color in each photo.
Engine turning on the dash was a popular form of decorating panels in the 1930's.
The car with the fiberglass bodywork removed. The 1/4 scale helmet represents the type used in the 1930's--if the driver wore a helmet at all. It offered only token protection at best in a car with no seatbelts or roll bar. Early racing helmets were similar to those worn by polo players.

The driver's compartment is seen with the bodywork removed.

The front suspension was a typical Model A Ford design.

The engine compartment on the right-hand side of the car showing the exhaust.

A detail of the two carburetors and "log" type intake manifold on the left side of the car. These carburetors started out as model airplane carbs but were modified by Ron to better resemble the original Winfield carburetors used back then.

A low angle rear view shows the differential and rear axel.

Not satisfied with the look of the off-the-shelf scooter tires, Ron made his own tire molds and molded these rubber knobby tires that are proper for the car. The molds are shown in front of the finished tires. Mike Stewart Photos (Mike was the photographer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for years.)
The assembled mold halves are shown in this photo. The molds have an inner core so the tires are hollow to accept an inflated inner tube. The valve stem on the inner tube was far too large, so Ron machined it off and constructed his own scale valve stems with a pin for a core.

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