Lots of car buffs have fantasized about designing and/or building their own four-wheeler at one time or another. Fewer have had the courage and stamina to actually follow their dream and construct one. Time and money were always the main obstacles. Building a sports racer that could compete with the best that Italy and England offered in the 1950s was an even harder proposition. Yet, one Texas college student, with little money and almost no help, succeeded very well in accomplishing this feat.
In 1952, Bill Janowski of Dallas was a 19-year-old engineering freshman at Southern Methodist University. He was eager to join the emerging sports car racing scene, but with little spare time or funding, racing seemed out of reach. In addition, small production car competition did not appeal to him. Bill wanted to be involved in “big iron” racing against the Ferraris, Maseratis and Jaguars of the day. His inspiration came from the Manning Special, a home-built car raced by Chuck Manning in California with some success. It used a Mercury flathead engine and Ford running gear. In December 1953, after reading an article on the car in Road & Track, Bill decided to follow a similar path. He bought a 1939 Ford chassis without body and whenever time permitted, began a project that would take several years. A close friend, Bob Gast of Texas Instruments, helped him with the construction of what would become as the Janowski Special.
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