Once upon a time drag racing
had an ample cast of "characters" - those who stood
out because of their outrageous antics or keen knack for showmanship.
One of the latter was George "The Stone Age Man" Hutcheson.
WDIFL is proud to present:
Coming of Age, The
Stone Age Man
A pick-up truck pulled along
outside a small store and stopped. It was towing a long open
trailer with a Top Fuel dragster strapped firmly on top. From
inside the little store the young clerk raised up on his toes
to see the strange machine. Two men got out and walked inside
for some snack food. The clerk at the register still mesmerized
by the long wheel base racer did not take notice of the two men
with arm loads of chips and sodas. As the men place the items
on the counter the young clerk finally spoke up.
"What's that?" he asked staring at the long racer with
big fat Goodyear's.
"Oh that, it's a Top Fuel Dragster. We're going racing."
He answered cheerfully.
"Is it fast?" the clerk asks as he rings up the items
and keeps an eye on the digger.
" Fast? That thing can go 190 miles an hour, from a dead
stop in a quarter mile. Yea it's fast." He answered in a
sly boastfully way.
no kidding." Clearly the young man had not
thought about that kind of speed.
As the two racers head to the door one looks back and announces,
"Why don't you come out to the track and watch us. We'll
show you around, get ya into the pit area. It's at Lions Drag
Strip, today. Just ask for Mike Tingly and me, I'm Bobby Hightower."
I think I'll do that" the clerk said staring
out at the dragster.
Just before the man exits the door he turns and asks, "Hey
man, what's your name?"
"George, George Hutcheson."
Encounters like this are common
place. What is uncommon is when history and lives are changed
by answering the 'knock of opportunity'. George did just that.
I am George's nephew Todd. And my life changed with my first
sniff of burned nitro and the roar of the top fuelers'. Nothing,
and I mean nothing stirred my young soul like the ground shaking
heart-pounding thrill of drag racing. Adding to that was watching
my Uncle George become the most loved and crowd pleasing showman,
The Stone Age Man.
George's early life was hard
forged and it shaped his personality to take on his per-ordained
skills to their full use. The only thing missing was the key.
Hightower and Tingly were that key to unlocking Georges treasure
chest of abilities. At first, all George wanted to do was to
get his Top Fuel Drivers License and hang it on his wall. But
after his first pass in Mike Tingly top fueler, George jumped
for joy and screamed, "I gota' get me one of those."
And so it started, and in the proper order steps to the highest
summit. George took those first steps and loved every stage of
the thrill of life at 250 mph.
Either you have 'It' or you don't.
George had 'It' and lots to spare. Lacking a big pro team, money
sponsors, a big name engine and know how, George did what he
did best, he taught himself the pulse of racing. At San Fernando
Raceway, when the track was closed, a friend at the track would
set the Christmas Tree lights. George would sit and time the
descending amber lights until green go. Over and over the lights
were set until George had set the perfect timing imprinted in
his mind. George had the reputation of being fastest off the
line. Only once did George red light.
George also had a reputation
of being 'heavy legged', meaning foot to the floor all the way.
This was why George could tame the wildly unpredictable AA/FA
Rat Trap and Fling Traylor's beautiful US Turbine 1. Even if
George was going sideways or on two wheels, he kept it on the
floor and through the lights. His run was the show. People from
all around and from far away would come to the Pond, (San Fernando
Raceway), or the Beach (Lions) or Irwindale, OCIR, Pamona, Bakersfield,
Santa Barbara raceway and even Las Vegas Raceway to see George
Hutcheson 'The Stone Age Man'. 20,000 fans came just to see George
race at one advertised meet. That was 'It', Star Power.
The Mistrial AA/FD, the Syndicate
AA/FD, the Viking AA/FD, the Stone Age Man AA/FD, Rat Trap AA/FA,
and the ultra sleek and beautifully patriotic US Turbine 1 turbine
dragster are just a few rides George would ply his skills to
tame the quarter mile. But there was always more than just going
faster and faster. George reached down into his bag of skills
and found his best tool.
Showman, promoter, motivational
speaker, sales man, self-help guru. There was no end to the promotional
opportunities' for George to share the thrill of drag racing
with any audience. George took his race cars to shows, openings,
high schools, car shows, juvenile jails, if they asked for George,
he was there. Time Magazine had the Stone Age Man on their cover;
Joey Bishop had George on his TV show; ads for Pepsi, Midget
car ads, Meguiar car wax ads, Boy Scout of America gatherings.
Even Big Willy, organizer of the LA Street Racers would throw
his big arms around George and say, "You da Man Hutch, my
main Man." All this to promote the sport he loved so much,
George's other mission was to
teach others that if he could do it, they too could do it. Not
just racing, but life, the good life. Young boys, in lock-up
would hear George speak at places like Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
His personal story illustrated if you apply your self, no matter
what your background, you too can succeed. At Dodger Stadium,
with the invite of the Sportscasters Luncheon, Mickey Thompson
(an American off-road racing legend), Graham Hill (the only driver
to win the Triple Crown of Motor sports), Stirling Moss (won
194 races he entered, including 16 Formula One Grand Prix), and
George Hutcheson The Stone Age Man spoke to 50,000 invited guests.
Not bad for a kid who stuttered so bad and taught himself to
As a young man living in Inglewood
California, George joined the Inglewood Police Reserves. There
he met his life long mentor, Police Officer Leo Repp. George
credits Leo with getting his life straightened out. Leo was a
powerful influence in his life even through his racing years.
George's brother, Jack (my Dad) finally came around to being
his counselor in most matters. When George and Jack arrived at
the track, people thought Jack was with the mob. My Dad always
dressed well, and he may have looked the part of a powerful connected
head of a 'Family'. But he was just my Dad. We all got a big
kick out of that.
At the tracks, it was advertised
that the Stone Age Man would give away to some lucky kid an official
"US Turbine 1" sport jacket. The crowds were huge on
race day. George would walk along the fence and point to the
kid who looked like he thought he would never get picked, and
that was the winning kid. George would invite the kid to join
him in the race pits for the day. George had a massive fan following,
During the races George would
thrill the fans with his on track side show. When George was
matched up with the Der Weinerschniztel AA/FD, he would march
out on the track with a huge fork looking for the big hot dog
Der Weinerschniztel. And with a match race with Doug Rose Green
Mamba Jet Car, George would put a trashcan in Doug's lane, then
paint an 'X' on the guardrail where the Green Mamba was to hit
the 'X'. The track announcer would play up the action and work
the crowd excitement up until the match started. That is what
it was all about, entertainment. And George excelled at it.
When matched up with the US Turbine
1 and an AA/FD, George would wander into the pits and casually
talk to the other driver. George would caution the other driver
not to get behind the US Turbine 1 because, "it shoots out
a 15 foot flame you don't want to be in". The other driver
was so rattled by this news they would sometimes 'Red Light'
off the starting line. Once the US Turbine 1 got its traction
and stayed straight in its lane the thrust was incredible fast.
Yes, you didn't want to be behind US Turbine 1. Each pass was
different and wilder then the last.
Eight professional drivers tried
but failed to tame the turbine car. The other drivers didn't
understand the US Turbine 1. Fling Traylor, owner of the US Turbine
1, finally gave up trying to get it to run and asked Frank Huszar
of RCS, Race Car Specialist, to crate it up and ship the US Turbine
1 to the Smithsonian to be on permanent display. George worked
for Frank and ran the machine shop. The next day, George saw
the stunning red, white and blue turbine dragster in the shop.
George begged Frank to call Fling and asked Fling to give George
just one try to make it go. Frank called Fling and said that
his shop foreman wanted to give it one more try. Fling asked
who that was. Frank said that he goes by the name of the Stone
Age Man. Fling said "the Stone Age Man! That guys got balls,
I've seen him race". Several days later Fling called George
and said "George, you got one try and that's it." Like
Fling, George believed it would run. The rest is, as they say,
To drive it required the driver
to lay flat on his back with only his head up to see. Don Garlits
asked George how he does it, and what's it like to drive laying
flat at 220 mph. It also required the driver to hit the accelerator
and not let up or the turbine would shut down and have to be
reset. This meant keeping your foot in it for the quarter mile,
flat on your back, sometimes sideways, sometimes straight, never
the same twice. Everyone said "George your nuts to drive
that thing," George would always say "Watch me!"
Once George's goggles flogged up and he drove 50 feet or so down
the track unable to see. Only George would be that heavy legged.
George mastered the turbine and made it sing his tune.
At the very center of George's
heart was his first love, The Stone Age Man AA/FD. And it remains
there even to this day. Its first life was as the Mistrial AA/FD,
built by Frank Huszar of RCS. It was named after the hot desert
winds blowing across the Savanna. George bought the race car
from Mike Tingly. Tom Hanna built the beautiful full body for
George's new race car (pre-Stone Age Man). George was having
an engine built but it was not ready for a race at Irwindale.
Frank Hedge of A&W Root Beer fame and long time friend, lent
George an old engine that he had. Frank called it his 'stone
age man engine' because it went for so long without a major over
hall, and that it must have been from the stone age. George put
the engine in his new unpainted dragster and went to Irwindale
and blew it up! Frank Hedge screamed, "You killed the Stone
Age Man!" George liked the name and said "Stone Age
Man, I like that. I'll paint it on the body just like that".
Click! That was it
all coming together. A young guy saw the new full body dragster
and offered to paint it. His name was Bill Carter. It was a first
class beauty. Red and blue roses trimmed in pearl white. It belonged
in an art gallery. People would stand up to see the work of art
as the Stone Age Man passed by to make a run. The crowds went
wild for the new full body dragster.
One night George had a dream.
He saw a helmet with an ancient Roman style crest on top. Red
plumes stood tall from the top. It was regal. Like the head dress
of a Commander. George woke up and made a sketch of the helmet.
In two weeks it was finished and ready to be painted by Wild
Bill Carter himself.
Now Carter's painted masterpiece
on the Stone Age Man stunned everyone, except Carter. Bill asked
George if he could repaint it again, said the color was wrong.
Masterpiece #2 was even more brilliant in its finish form. All
red roses, trimmed in a pearl white, gold metal flake letters
'The Stone Age Man'. Stop the show right there! Call The Louvre
Museum in Paris, France, we have another treasure.
George said to Bill, "Carter,
don't you even think about repainting it a third time. It's perfect
as it is". And so it was.
With so many years of racing
and driving all the different race cars, the time came and it
was all over. Like the Lone Ranger, George went on to other things.
The Stone Age Man race car sat on a trailer in my backyard for
months. Sometimes I would wander out back and sit with the great
champion and talk to it, just as George did for all those years.
Later the race car was donated to an interested party.
The US Turbine 1 crashed on the
salt flats doing speed runs, George was not there. At B&M
Racing, George was the Division Manager for 12 years for the
super charger division. Later he retired and moved to New Mexico.
George has a pilot's license for small aircraft and helicopters.
For about thirty years I lost contact with George. I was busy
working as a photojournalist for LIFE Magazine, United Press
International and with my own photography business. I traveled
to 26 different countries all over the world. I missed George
and didn't know where he was.
Finally I got word of George
living in New Mexico. I called and e-mailed him. Today he is
71 years old and lives with his dog Skippy and with his Brother
In-law & Sister. I talk with him almost daily, he still is
The Stone Age Man. He talks as if he were still standing in the
pit at San Fernando Raceway, back in his element. I'll bet if
given the chance, George 'Stone Age Man' Hutcheson would slip
into a fire suit, put on his famous plumed helmet, flash the
'V' for Victory sign, light 'm it up, smoke the tires and put
it through the lights one more time.
The time went fast, but my memories
will live for ever. I can still hear the rumble and thunder,
the ground shaking power of those AA/FD, as Jon Lundberg "The
voice of Drag Racing" proclaims, "Ladies and gentlemen,
from the green fields of Tarzana, comes the fire and thunder
of the unmistakable Stone Age Man!"
As I researched the history and background for this article,
it occurred to me that perhaps there are tens of thousands of
Stone Age Man fans of all ages all over the world who's life
you touched. Form all of your fans, from Rod Hynes who worked
the ticket gate at San Fernando Raceway, to John Vishon your
pit pal, to Billy Pink and his dad, Ed, and all the crowds who
rode with you on every pass, and up the blood line to me, thanks
George, and my God bless you.
"There he is, the Stone
Age Man!" the kids would scream to their dads sitting in
the stands. At San Fernando Raceway, as at all the tracks, George
was easy to spot.
The Mistrial AA/FD with George
at the helm, getting a push from Dick Haynes, "Haynes at
the Reins" film, TV and radio personality was recognized
for his radio work by his induction into the Country Music Hall
of Fame and with a star on Hollywood Boulevard.
The Mistrial AA/FD with George
smoking the tires off the line at Irwindale Raceway.
In 1968 the Mistrial became the
full bodied "Stone Age Man". This was taken at Orange
County International Raceway. George in the cockpit and his brother
Jack (his manager) with his foot on the tire. The camera mount
over the Hemi of the Stone Age Man was for filming a Pepsi commercial,
'The Pepsi Generation Ad'.
At any raceway there was never
any lack of help. The Stone Age Man welcomed all fans to help
out and ride in spirit with George down the track.
The Stone Age Man at the ready
for another round at San Fernando Raceway. This is the first
paint job by Bill Carter. Later he painted it to all red roses
and pearl white trim.
Loaded up on the long trailer,
another victory in the record books at San Fernando.
George let Bill Carter make a
couple of passes in the car at San Fernando. It's obvious the
Bill was a tad too big for the cockpit as his helmet is a good
8" above the roll bar.
Qualifying run at San
Qualifying run at Lions Raceway.
"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust
and a hearty Hi-yo Silver, away! The Lone Ranger rides again!"
Night eliminations run
Irwindale Raceway. George had
just left the line. Down the track we all could see that George
was in trouble. The valve covers had blown and George got a hot
oil bath and couldn't see. The Stone Age Man slid sideways off
the track into the dirt. George's exceptional driving skills
kept him from rolling his car. We all piled into the push vehicle
and raced to the crash site. I was terrified that George was
hurt. The rushing wind pushed my tears into my hair as I hung
on. At the other end George was walking around inspecting the
(On the far left is (the late)
Don Green, owner of the Rat Trap AA/FA, on the far right in white
T-shirt dark jeans is me, Todd Hutcheson.)
George was visibly upset, physically unhurt, he reached out and
put his hand on the engine injector of the Stone Age Man car.
"I'm sorry baby, I'm sorry
" he said softly.
Weeks later the Stone Age Man
AA/FD was cleaned up and repaired. George never crashed her again.
My friend, my hero, my uncle
The full beauty of the magnificent
Stone Age Man at Riverside Raceway. This is the final colors
and pattern applied by the one and only 'Wild Bill Carter'. George
has his usual hole shot on the competition. Fastest off the line,
foot to the floor, first to the light, George shows them how
Hutch is ready to suit up for
the next round. On the left behind the helmet is Mike Tingly,
long time friend of George. On the right is master car painter
Because the fans could help out
in the pit area with George, they formed a bond this George,
the Stone Age Man race car, and became a greater fan of drag
racing. Isn't that the whole point?
George always packed his own
parachute. If it didn't work, he was the only one to blame. It
never failed, however George did burn the chute off once with
the US Turbine 1.
Every 392 Hemi engine dreams
of being an Ed Pink Racing Engine. Every driver dreams of sitting
behind an Ed Pink Racing Engine at any PDA meet. Ed Pink let
George borrow one in a Las Vegas Invitational meet. No surprise,
George blew the competition away and won. Thanks Ed.
John Vishon, George's faithful
and loyal best crew mate helps get George to the line for another
run. John was there to always help George at the races. George
depended on John Vishon's quick thinking and staying ahead of
all the things that had to be done. George will always be eternally
grateful for his friendship and hard work.
Pushing life into the Stone Age
Man towards the starting line at San Fernando Raceway. With so
many helpful friend and fans in the push wagon it does its own
All eyes on the Stone Age Man's
180" wheel base and Carter's perfect final masterpiece artwork;
is it any wonder the other driver might be distracted by its
beauty and miss the green light to go.
The quintessential image of George
Hutcheson, the Stone Age Man was taken by an English photographer
for European publications. The Stone Age Man race car was taken
to Mulholland Drive near Los Angeles. The photographer asked
George to make the header flames taller to get a better picture.
George added more alcohol to the mix and cranked it up. The red
ostrich plumes on Hutch's helmet caught fire and photographic
history was made. Jean-Claude Killy, French alpine skier and
a triple Olympic champion, saw the photograph and flew from Switzerland
to Lions Drag Strip just to meet George Hutcheson the Stone Age
Man, and have his picture taken with him.
Isn't she a beauty, and
the girl is nice too!
MG Midget Car ad. This
was shot in a San Fernando Valley storm gully.
Life with the Syndicate. The
owner of the Syndicate AA/FD Dragster asked George to give it
a try, like a lot of other owners, naturally George said "love
Up on one wheel, it was a spectacular
show for the Lions Drag strip audience, but the clutch need an
adjustment to keep it all fours on the ground. The Syndicate
crew was a great team to work with. George test drove lots of
Another 'test drive' with the
boys from Viking AA/FD at San Fernando Raceway. Great team of
The late Don Green (on the left
in all black) said to George before he climbed in the Rat Trap
AA/FA for the first time, "Careful, it can get a little
squirrelly at first, think you can handle it?" George replied
"Watch me!" - AA/FA, all engine, barely controllable,
hell of a ride.
George in the 'Ed Pink Racing
Engine' T-shirt with the Don Green Rat Trap AA/FA family. "Great
friends and wonderful family, I loved driving the Rat Trap for
Don." George would say. The late Don Green helped George
with all his rides, Stone Age Man, Fling Traylor's US Turbine
George in the Rat Trap on the
left with another hole shot, first out of the gate at San Fernando
The Rat Trap at San Fernando
Raceway with George at the controls, racing a Top Fueler not
pictured on the left. It was a 'shoot out' match race.
Hutcheson through the eyes, chute
deployed, and the Top Fueler way back out of the picture. San
Fernando Raceway some hot summer day.
OCIR smoking it off the line,
the thundering ground shaking Rat Trap. Sometimes George would
drive both his Stone Age Man AA/FD and the Rat Trap at the same
race qualifying both.
OCIR and the Rat Trap AA/FA.
John Vishon in all white on the left was George's MVP 'Most Valuable
Player'. John was a great friend and never failed to help with
the chores in the pits.
Two sides of the same run. Behind
the Rat Trap a guy takes a photograph as the Rat Trap lights
'm up. Don Green (on the left in black) watches George take a
full throttle - foot to the floor pass at Irwindale Raceway.
Professional Drag Racing Association
(PDA) meet at Lions Drag Strap. The entire attending crowd (25,000)
at Lions stopped and crowed to the fence line to watch George
'Stone Age Man' Hutcheson take Fling Traylor's beautiful patriotic
red, white and blue US Turbine 1 for an explosive run with Time
Magazine's cameras on board. The crowd got more for their admission
price with that run.
The futuristic US Turbine 1 sat
quietly at the line, not a sound was made from the 25,000 fans
watching. You could hear the amber lights drop one by one until
George hit the switch, BOOM
fifteen feet of intensely hot
flame thrower shot out the back, full throttle to the fat Goodyear's.
White smoke trailed the Turbine until the tires griped the track.
George and the US Turbine 1 were gone and out of sight. The lights
at the end of the track recorded 250 mph! The entire crowd at
Lions let out a yell at the same time. I am sure the local police
were called as such a noise was never heard like that ever before.
US Turbine 1 at the 'Pond'. George
was the home town favorite at San Fernando Raceway.
For those of you who never went
to or raced at San Fernando, you are looking straight up the
push down road, so if the photographer turned around and took
another picture you would see that the push down road pointed
right at the middle of the main grandstand! Not to worry though,
everyone had it all under control and no one ever pushed down
into the stands.
On the left side of the drag
strip, just behind those trees is a huge
concrete storm drain (maybe 10 feet deep and 20 feet wide? with
vertical walls of concrete). In the shutoff area where there
are no trees, the storm drain is so close to the strip that there
was no room for trees. But once again, there was nothing to worry
about because the chain link fence "usually" kept the
cars out of the storm drain.
That concrete bridge you see
at the end was not really the end, because one of those arches
went over the end of the drag strip and into a beautiful rock
garden was just on the other side of the bridge. The problem
with the rock garden was the size of the rocks, which varied
from one to six feet (or more) in diameter. This was one drag
strip you didn't want your throttle to stick at.
The whole show for the unmuffled
cars had to be run off between 12 noon and 3 PM due to the local
blue laws. Harry Hibler kept the show going and it almost always
finished by 3 PM. If they did run out of time, the remaining
competitors would just split the money and go home. It was really
a fun place to race at.
US Turbine 1 at the 'Pond'. On
the right is George's trusted friend and crew mate John Vishon.
Meguiar Wax ad featuring
George and the US Turbine 1.
US Turbine 1 Videos
Ride at San Fernando
Pass at The Pond
Runs - One at Sunset
Video: A Day with the Stone Age Man
George brought the US Turbine
out to my school Cleveland High School. He always took all his
race cars anywhere, anytime for the fans. He did it for the love
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E-mail George: Stone
Coming of Age, The Stone Age Man
part of Todd Hutcheson's stories
in "The Time of My Life" 2008
More Todd Hutchenson "The
Time of My Life"
Taming the Rat Trap
Working for Pink
Big Daddy and I
A Gathering of Long Trailers
The Last Stand
- US Turbine 1