Randy Simmons casually flicks the dust from the fender of his 1947 Hudson and shades his eyes from the midday sunshine. "You know," he says, "I got tired of building cars that only did one thing." Now that is quite a statement when the vehicle in question is a leviathan-like Hudson Super 6. But, having just witnessed Simmons hustle the 18-foot-long beast along a system of Southern California's most precarious mountain roads there is no doubting the intent and the execution behind Simmons' thinking...
Randy started building cars side-by-side with his family some twenty years ago, the teenage Simmons standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his grandfather, father and older brother as they each worked their wrenches restoring Mustangs and '50s Chevys. For the young Simmons it was great learning and while the projects were mostly restorations, there was a little custom work too. But even then, it seemed too limiting to Randy.
Roughly two years ago, Randy found himself helping out a friend with his ranch when he became reacquainted with a sorry-looking Hudson truck he'd seen languishing on a hillside during a previous visit. "It had been there for quite some time," confirms Randy. "I asked my friend what he was planning to do with it and he said: 'Oh I don't know, if you turn it into a racecar I will just give it you.'"
Randy didn't ask twice and returned the following week with a tow truck to haul the horrible Hudson off the hill and back to his workshop. And not a moment too soon-a few days after the rescue, a storm hit the ranch and the Hudson's former hillside slid and it would have destroyed had the Super 6 not found a benefactor.
As you would expect from a truck that sat abandoned for many decades, there was much work to be done, but there was good news too, most of the stainless trim was in place and in salvageable condition, but there was no interior, no engine and no transmission-the perfect start for a racecar.
Considering its size and layout, the most obvious route for the Hudson would have been drag racing, but Randy isn't into the obvious or easy. His decision was to build a multipurpose race car he could use for land speed record racing out at El Mirage and Bonneville, road racing on events such as the Wendover 100 Open Road Race and hill climbing at Pikes Peak.
Having decided the purpose of his Hudson, Randy set about assembling the parts to make it happen. Key to the whole setup is a 7.3L Powerstroke turbo diesel engine. Pulled from a wrecked '01 Ford F-250, Simmons stripped and rebuilt it with all the hot ticket parts. The transmission was assembled by ATS Diesel Performance, which is guaranteed to 1,000 bhp and so far, Randy has had no problems. The power is fed back to a Ford 9-inch NASCAR floater rearend and the suspension is all custom-made by Randy and comprises of a triangulated four-link in the rear and one-off tubular upper and lower control arms with big six-piston caliper brakes at the front. The truck weighs in at 5,500 pounds, so big sway bars in the front and rear cope with the turns. Despite all these efforts, the old Hudson proved to be uncontrollable during early test runs and so Randy turned down the wick to 800 bhp.
"According to the SCTA rules for a pre-1949 truck, I could work in a maximum three-inch chop to cut the airflow and make it look cool. Other than that the outside is pretty much stock... apart from the paint of course and the custom wheels," explains Simmons.
Naturally, when you are running a big diesel and a big turbo, cooling is fundamental. The Ford Powerstroke left not an inch to spare, so Randy mounted the intercooler in the bed, along with all the necessary tubing and big five-inch exhaust stack. And when the going gets really hot, there is a DEI CO2 system, which sprays liquid carbon dioxide all over the intercooler, chilling the hot compressed air to 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, before it goes into the engine.
As well as building cars for himself and his many satisfied customers as part of the Xtreme Motorsports Inc. shop, located in Azuza, California, Randy also has an off-shoot business he calls Robotic Integrated Technology (RIT). With his RIT hat on, Randy designs and builds therapy equipment for people suffering paralysis such as stroke victims and those with spinal cord injuries. Randy's groundbreaking equipment employs a combination of passive movement and electro stimulation to rehabilitate muscles and encourage new movement where previously there had been little or none.
Michael-Ryan Pattison was a star quarterback through high school and had dreams of going to college and of following his football dream. Having finished his sophomore year at Washington State University, Michael-Ryan and his friends set out for a weekend of celebrating at a nearby lake. Unfortunately, as Michael dove head first into the water, he struck a boulder and broke his neck leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Under the Hudson's bonnet, a heavily modified 7.3L Powerstroke turbo-diesel puts out 1,000
Ride Tech air suspension helps fine tune the ride height.
"Michael lives in the Seattle area," explains Randy, "and travelled to California for surgery on his neck. A mutual friend who knew I was looking for a quadriplegic to help me test a new design, introduced me to Michael-Ryan (M-R). I got M-R set up with my new therapy gloves and, at the same time, realized we have a lot in common." (Pattison heads a foundation that helps fellow spinal cord injury sufferers and he loves cars and racing.)
Unfortunately, following his accident, M-R believed he would never drive a car again, let alone race one. "I told him that wasn't true," smiles Randy, and so it turned out.
When Simmons began to build his Hudson, he designed the passenger-side rollcage so that it would allow the seat to swivel and power out, a custom lift ensuring the navigator gets safely on board. Pattison will be Randy's co-pilot at Pikes Peak and other road races. But the ambition does not end there. Randy has also designed a mouth-piece controller that operates the steering and the throttle. What this means is that M-R and Randy will head to Bonneville with the Super 6, where Pattison will become the first-ever quadriplegic to drive in competition and/or set a record.
"I've seen a lot of people crash and a lot of people get hurt," confirms Randy in a moment of reflection. "It's all about safety when I race." Which isn't to say M-R will be taking it easy when he hits the salt with Simmons. Truth to tell, if Michael-Ryan runs just 50 mph he will get the record, but being the sportsman that he is, Pattison will have something much bigger in mind when he gets on the start line. "M-R's a young guy and he has an ego," laughs Randy, "He wants to go the maximum speed this truck is geared for and that is 230 mph."
Yet there is still some fine tuning to be done, out at El Mirage the tires are limiting Randy's runs to 140 mph, despite the tires spinning at something around 180 mph. Better rubber makes this an easy fix and it will be in place by the time he and Michael roll into Bonneville.
On face value, Randy Simmons is an engaging, friendly, and very skilled automotive engineer. Dig a little deeper and he is an inspiration and his exploits with Michael-Ryan and this sensational Hudson Super 6 will no doubt be well worth following over the months and years to come.
For more information on the work of Simmons and Pattison, along with updates on their adventures, log on to www.acureiscoming.com or call (206) 799-9646.
Inside it's all business with race-proven components providing instant performance data fo
...and a GPS system for the co-pilot.