Mike Siakooles Californian 500 was built in the late 1950s. It featured a neat space frame chassis, modified Fiat suspension and swing axles suspended by coil springs at the rear. Power was by a Norton engine driving through a Burman gearbox. Originally entered as the Siakooles Special, the car took its name from Mike's wife. At least four chassis were built. One owned by Alden "Red" LeGrand was fitted with a sleeved-down Renault engine and achieved reasonable success against the Coopers in the latter part of the 1950s. With help from Stuart Dane, LeGrand would produce the highly successful Cheetah/LeGrand Mk 1 Formula 4 car (as 500cc Formula III was re-branded in the USA) that frequently embarrassed Formula Junior cars, and a string of successful sports prototypes through to the 1970s. Mike was also involved in the embryonic kart movement.
500cc Racers by Mike Siakooles
I am building a 500cc car. It should be easy to build. I have built a roadster and raced it. I should be able to build a 500cc as they are a lot smaller. As I start with a 500cc car, I decided it was too expensive, so I built an Indian 750cc. I got a full race cam for this Indian, and it should go a lot faster but to my chagrin, it was not as fast as I thought it would be. I raced the 750 and I found out how slow it was. After some racing in a few races, I wrecked the car. It cost too much to rebuild it so I decided to build a new car with a JAP engine in it. As I’m using the JAP engine I found a mechanic who can work on it and knows some of the quirks of it. So, after I got the engine reworked all I had to do was put it back in the car. Every time it fired it fired in good shape. It would go from zero to 100 quickly and that was pretty good speed. As I liked aircraft I went to an auto book store that was owned by Harry Morrow. One day I got him talking about the Cooper 500cc car. Harry explained everything about the front end which is a copy of a Fiat. It sticks to the track real good.
I went to a junkyard and got a Fiat which has a front end which is a copy of the Cooper. I took it apart and did some modification of the Fiat and I fit 4 tubes whose size is 1 ½ inches by .063 thousands. I took out two of the Fiat springs and that would hold up real good. Going back 40 inches on the frame at that dimension I put a seat with a roll bar behind it. That was on the front end of the car. Then I started building the back end of the car. I found a junkyard rear axle which took some modification to make it much lighter and to fit it to this car. I used a compressed air tube as a suspension for the rear axle. I had a close friend helping me with the body work. The car was made out of an aircraft belly tank. When it was fully assembled it looked like the cooper racer. We tried the brakes and they did not work too good. The original Fiat brakes did not work well. In my hunting around in the junk yards I found disk brakes that I reworked to a larger diameter and added two spots per wheel and that really worked. They would slow the car down from 100 mph to 20 mph very quickly. The kid I had driving for me would go into the corners very far and it got him good points. I sold the car after about 6 races. My next car had basically the same frame but I wanted to make a more streamlined body. The easy way to do that is with aluminium. I had a friend who helped me design a nice body but I didn’t know how to weld aluminium and I had to learn that. I worked at Pacific Airmotive Corp. I got the head welder show me how to finally weld aluminium. I put a Norton engine in this car. I had another kid race it and I was very happy with it.
Stolen from the 500cc Club of America, our thanks to Tom Cecil and Doug Stokes.