Berardini Brothers roadster

TS3X65MPH

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Berardini Brothers roadster
« on: June 21, 2016, 05:34:54 PM »
BERARDINI BROS. ROADSTER
 Story by Richard Parks,
 Pat and Tony Berardini raced in the early days of drag racing in the early 1950’s, establishing a reputation for skill, speed and consistency. Their parents, Carlo and Philomena Berardini, emigrated from Italy before WWI and settled in Southwest Los Angeles near 80th Street and Avalon Boulevard where their children attended elementary school and then on to Fremont High School. Tony was born in 1915, Pat in 1927, followed by two more brothers and a sister. Carlo encouraged his sons to work hard and Pat began working for Pontrelli’s Automotive at the age of 10, sweeping up floors and learning the trade. This was during the height of the Great Depression and any job was highly sought after. The neighborhood teens met over at the Clock Drive-In, in Huntington Park, where they swapped tales of fast hot rods and what was going on at the dry lakes and on the streets. Pat was already skilled at custom car work and auto painting when WWII broke out and was anxious to do his part. He joined the Merchant Marines in 1945, when he turned 17. A young George Barris took the job he left behind at Jones’ Body, Fender and Custom Shop. Pat recalls the trip to the Philippines, "we were anchored offshore at Leyte Gulf, unloading war cargo, when news of the Japanese surrender came, after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. Everybody was so happy that night. All the ships anchored in the Leyte Gulf turned on their largest searchlights and some were also blinking in Morse code 'V' for victory with their lights. It was a sight to see. There were a lot of happy tears." He would never forget that night. Pat returned home and joined the Navy for two more years with a couple of his buddies. He went to San Diego for his training, and was then transferred to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, one of the roughest duties in the Navy. The weather was always bad and the seas were rough. He served aboard the USS SARSI ATF 111, a 205-foot fleet tug, and one of his favorite duties was steering the ship in and out of port. The USS SARSI towed ships, and did repair work on all types of Navy and cargo vessels. He was honorably discharged in December of 1947.

Pat dreamed about opening his own custom body and paint shop and drew a picture of that shop while he was in the Navy, which he still has hanging in his home. He opened his auto sales business in 1949 with his brother Tony in southwest Los Angeles, at 84th and Figueroa Streets. They specialized in early model Fords from 1932 through 1940. Pat did the repairing and painting and the business was a success from the start. When he was ten years old, his brother Tony had bought a ’29 Ford Roadster, and painted flames in black and white, and the #3 on the doors. Remembering that car, Pat purchased a ’32 Ford roadster and painted his ‘32 racecar to match Tony’s earlier roadster. It had a 270 C.I. engine with two carburetors and turned times in the middle to high 90’s. Howard Johansen, of Howard Cams, built his next engine in 1952. Johansen increased the engine to 296 C.I. with 3 carburetors, and the speeds increased to 105 mph. In the latter part of 1953, Iskenderian came out with a new cam named the 404. He renamed his car the 404jr in honor of Isky's new cam and for his son Pat Jr.  Pat got Nick Harrell of Harrell Speed Shop to build the engine for the 404jr. It had a 3/8 bore, 5/8 stroke billet crank, Harrell racing heads, Edelbrock 4 carburetor intake manifold, Harman/Collins magneto and a 314 cubic inch engine. They turned speeds in the 107 to 114 mph range, but the car was super quick and the set-up gave them a quicker ET (elapsed time). The 404jr raced very successfully in the street roadster gas class. Pat entered a big meet in 1954 at the Bakersfield Open Gas Roadster Meet, in the gas open-altered class. It was one of the biggest races ever up to that time in the gas class, and to be competitive, they stripped the fenders off to make it lighter and to improve wind resistance. Tony was the over-all winner against cars that were much lighter. Tony wanted his own racecar so he bought a ’29 Ford roadster to race in the open altered gas class. He used the same size engine as Pat used for the 404jr and painted #7 on the doors, and the Berardini brothers now had two very fast drag roadsters. Dick Lenarz, Russ Lenarz, Vic Pollaccia and Al Pollaccia were their pit crew and close friends.

  The Berardini Brothers raced for the thrill of racing. Almost every Sunday they raced at Santa Ana, Saugus or other drag strips, winning about 80 percent of their races. One competitor told them, "the only time we beat you was when you didn’t show up." The Berardini brothers show up in the race results of the early 1950’s, dominating their classes. They raced against Creighton Hunter, who had a very hot roadster and was always first off the line. In the hot fuel classes there were such names as Ollie Morris, the Bean Bandits, Chrisman Brothers, Dick Kraft, Otto Ryssman and Doug Hartelt. By the mid-1950’s change was on the horizon. Don Bell, a good friend of the brothers, was fatally injured at El Mirage dry lake, using their 404jr engine. With their business booming and their families growing they sold their racecars and moved out of the Los Angeles area to Garden Grove, California. After 40 years in the business, Pat finally closed down Berardini Brothers Auto Sales in 1990. They were honored at the 12th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion in October of 2003, with the very first NHRA Golden Age Award in recognition of their "dedication, innovation and achievement during the infancy of organized drag racing." Roger and Sissy Morrison, who restored and unveiled this famous car at the NHRA museum, in January 2005, now own Pat’s beloved 404jr. The 404jr was awarded the prestigious Bruce Meyer Award at the Grand National Roadster Show. The 404jr was also picked to be one of Ford Motor Company’s 75 Most Influential ’32 Ford Hot Rods. “I was lucky I didn’t get killed,” said Pat. “Someone said I wasn’t going fast enough, so I shoved my foot all the way into the plywood floorboard and it got stuck, and I was way past the finish line before I hit the kill switch.” Tony has since passed away, but Pat is still active in the hot rodding community.
What was once fun, Now feels like just another job.

TS3X65MPH

  • Hero Member
  • THANKS TO MY DAD & MOM,WIFE GLYNIS & SON STEVEN
Re: Berardini Brothers roadster
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2016, 06:10:51 PM »
A few early pic's.
What was once fun, Now feels like just another job.

TS3X65MPH

  • Hero Member
  • THANKS TO MY DAD & MOM,WIFE GLYNIS & SON STEVEN
Re: Berardini Brothers roadster
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2016, 06:12:11 PM »
When Rudy Perez owned it.
What was once fun, Now feels like just another job.

TS3X65MPH

  • Hero Member
  • THANKS TO MY DAD & MOM,WIFE GLYNIS & SON STEVEN
Re: Berardini Brothers roadster
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2016, 06:14:13 PM »
Restored.
What was once fun, Now feels like just another job.