By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archive
The next big fad is GMC superchargers,” wrote LeRoi “Tex” Smith in the June 1964 issue of Rod & Custom magazine. He was talking about how blowers were moving from pure racing applications to the street, and the opening pages of the story included this photo of Tom Beatty in his shop in Sun Valley, California. “Mr. Supercharger himself,” as Tex called him.
The title was well earned. Beatty was one of hot rodding’s pioneers—a longtime dry-lakes and Bonneville racer who “has been working hard with the GMC blower since 1947,” said Tex. His blown motors—first for flathead Fords and later for Oldsmobiles—were potent and led to opening his own business, Tom Beatty Automotive Engineering, which specialized in supercharger components.
Along with his forced-induction expertise, Beatty is also well remembered for his innovative belly tanker. Bill Burke is credited with pioneering the use of fighter-plane drop tanks as aerodynamic envelopes for land-speed racers, but Beatty built on Burke’s idea, creating a tank that set records at the lakes and on the salt for years. This photo of Beatty (below) was shot at Bonneville in 1955 by Petersen’s Bob D’Olivo, where Beatty set a C Lakester record of 211.267 mph. Later modifications to the tank, including a switch to a blown Oldsmobile engine, allowed it to reach speeds of more than 250 mph.
“Performance,” wrote Tex at the end of his Rod & Custom story, “is spelled with a capital Puffer.”