Joe Gertler 1937-1990 - Joe Gertler Sr. & Joe (Jody) Gertler Jr. - Long Island, New York

    Among other things Jody Gertler somehow cornered the entire archive of the Wright brothers, including most of their personal papers. He also has the Curtiss and Martin Archives.

Joe Sr. enjoyed rescuing and rebuilding vintage aircraft (and parts) for restorations and museums, so as his business evolved into a full-time operation, taking in everything from an original 1911 Bleriot to Lear Jet, the focus gradually changed to classic and rare vintage aircraft, engines and parts. Joe Gertler Jr, joined him in 1969 whereupon they expanded to a larger site, becoming one of the oldest and largest aero salvage operations in the U.S.

Purely out of love, the few vintage aero engines remaining from the days of racing experimentation expanded into a large collection - eventually growing to more than 175 different pre-WWII engines. Many such rare items were not for sale, and could be only be obtained through trades, so the collection began to include vast stocks of rare instruments and parts. Father and son continued to restore prize winning vintage race cars and to supply aircraft engines and parts to collectors, restorers and museums until 1990 when Joe Sr. passed on. Since then Joe Jr. has added collections of memorabilia, historic documents and an art collection worthy of any major museum.

Along the way, three stunning discoveries and acquisitions drew world-wide publicity and attention. The first was some 395,000 pieces of original WWI German aircraft parts in a European barn. That acquisition, and its subsequent re-distribution to the world’s museums and collectors, led to the discovery of a collection of more than 125 original paintings created by the most popular aviation artist in history, Charles Hubbell. This inspired the addition of other interesting aero paintings. While it was thought that two such major finds could never be equaled, Gertler Jr. acquired some ten crates of the original company archives of The Wright Company, the Early Curtiss Company, and the first Glenn Martin Co. and expanded his collection of Wright artifacts to go along with it.

The Raceway Collection was started in 1939 by Joe Gertler Sr., a master craftsman who established himself as an innovative perfectionist in custom building well-known racing craft, from airplanes and exotic sports cars, to the many racing cars and boats that came from his shop.

All the images are original black and white photos from my father, Joe Gertler Sr. who took most of these photos in the 1940’s through the late 1950s. There is a sample of color photos of many of the 38 cars that my Dad & I built or restored in the mid 1970’s until he passed away in 1990.

There are many never before seen photos of Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird, various world record setting cars and race boats, 50 and 60 year old custom cars and boats that look like outer-space vehicles, (Dad’s titanium hulled hydroplane was frequently believed to be some type of “flying saucer”) as was the Hudson based car for the Arab sheik.

Some very bizarre customs, though they might be considered horrendous today, won trophies at The World’s Motor Sports Shows in Washington D.C., such as the almost unrecognizable brand new, just off the docks, Jaguar XK 120 that Dad did for beer baron, Lewis Ebling. A body of work that covered everything from dozens of competitive midgets and sprint cars to Jowet Jupiters, Le Mans winning pre-WWII Grand Prix Adler, to stretched Auburn Speedsters and Model B Ford full custom sports cars that had flowing lines and lots of louvers and race car noses. It was the day to day routine to scratch build, beautifully bodied custom sports cars, building his own frames, bodies, radiators, wheels and even his own transmissions when the job called for it.

He made dreams come true, right there, to roar out of the Raceway Garage with some happy sportsman or race driver behind the wheel of something unique. There are many popular European sports cars here that were extensively modified. Dad was one of the early guys stuffing “hopped up” Cadillac engines into Allards and full-race V-8 Fords into AC Bristols. He could form any SMOOTH shape out of steel or aluminum and was a “Whiz” at building the fastest most powerful engines of the day.

By his own estimate, Joe Gertler Sr. estimates that he built approx 200 complete cars from 1937-1990.

© 2004 Joe Gertler Jr. -

This is a rare Ferrari 375 that ran the Carrera Panamericana IV. Dad repaired all the damage from hitting the birds and rabbits on the road during the race, for Luigi Chinetti.

This is the 1939 Adler 105hp, 1500lb racer, ran 24 hrs of Le Mans. Won first and second in class. Designed by Dr. Porsche with wind tunnel body designed by Messerschmitt. Only 47” high. Averaged 108mph for 24 hrs and 122mph for one hour and is a FULL four passenger coupe. When Dad restored this after WWII. It was in all the auto mags. Recent photos of it show a completely different nose.

Dad cut this Auburn Speedster in half, yanked the giant straight 8 out of a Duesenberg touring car, added a foot to the frame in engine section & installed the Deusie,and had a car that REALLY needed power steering. He left the Duesie touring car outside the shop for months and the neighborhood kids wore it down to nothing. Dad said he sold the car to a very short man who could barely see over the steering wheel. He sold the remaining Duesie touring car, less engine for $300. Next to it is (I believe he told me) a Model B Ford in the center and then a sportscar built around it! More in later photos.

Malcolm Campbell’s famous (first car to go 300 mph) BLUEBIRD. Car had just failed to set a NEW record. (You had to go at least 3 mph faster than old record and it only went ONE mph faster) so they brought it to Dad to fair in the big open wheels. Dad did and it set the next record.

One of those ground up, start from scratch custom sports cars with beautiful flowing body. Dad said it was a Chrysler. Dad had some Italian guys that were pretty good body men too. But every time he taught one the fine art, they left and opened their own shop . Dad had been taught by the old timers. Lessons took place from around 8 PM to 4 in the morning. The fee for these lessons was usually a case of beer and a salami.

This was a custom front end for a Model B Ford. I was still working with these same hand-cut, louver dies in 1990. He made them in 1937.

A really wild Model B Ford with new front and rear end. The exhaust pipes come out through openings in the rear body. Nice race car nose. I think this might have been for radio celebrity, Herb Schreiner who was a well known car buff at the time, too. Dad did some exotic stuff for Tommy Manville too. Manville was quite a character and Dad tells the tale of the time Manville stuck a gun in his nose "in front of two of his bimbos, " to show off. But Dad always won the arguments.

When Kurtis Krafts started winning just about everything at the race track, that is all anybody wanted to buy. So Dad built bodies, frames, axles, etc, KK style and no one could tell the difference.

Some of these stories are so odd, even I wonder sometimes. Dad made this car about 50 years ago. (That's ME, standing there in the bottom shot) He always said he made this on a Hudson frame for an Arab Sheik and the most unique feature was a periscope!

Dad became good friends with Dr. Ceracoli and even built some of the Dr's Successful medical inventions like the hydraulicly operated examination table that tilted vertical, and then hydraulically went vertical and horizontal, once the patient with back trouble was strapped on. Dad tried the first version in the shop with "screw-up" Lenny. The table shot up too fast - shot Lenny against the concrete block wall and Dad was sure glad to see him "come to" a few minutes later. The Doc had Dad modify another Lancia, a roadster, for him too. I can't find any photos, and it is the car I'll always remember as being the most beautiful race car/sports car, I've EVER seen.

A really nice thing to make out of a Lea Francis. A nice custom sports racer for a Dr. Ryan.

Color photos of our modern era. Some examples of the cars Dad and I built together and restored together from 1973-1990. We built frames, bodies, wheels, steering wheels , OUR OWN right angle drive transmissions for the outboards, radiators, shells. Gas tanks, cut down/narrowed Model T rear ends and front ends, made our own tubular axles, seats cowl frames, hand-filed every weld, riveted the bodies to our own compound curved mounting rails. bent the rear "kick-ups" by hand and made the frames from 12 separate pieces of steel all gas-welded and hand-filed good enough to chrome. Tapped every mounting stud hole, made detachable grilles & grille frames, ONLY using hardware from the period. Used mostly tools and machines in the shop that had belonged to my GRANDFATHER! Most cars here do not have an ounce of bondo or filler: TOTAL CAR. All aluminum and steel, no fiberglass.

Dad had to go into production to supply Hoffman Motors with these bumper guards that all the Porsche customers wanted.

Two race boats that Dad put the engines in for Guy Lombardo. His famous "ALJOs".

A big success. Dad did the engines for this boat. It held the world's record in Class A and took first place in five regattas and second place in 3 others. Was National High point winner for 1948. Owned by J.Paul Lilly.

This was a beautiful hydroplane owned by candy magnate George Schraft. This curved hull hydroplane was made entirely from half-inch strips of mahogany.

This wild looking hydroplane set the world's speed record in the 266 inch class. Dad made the hydroplane hull from titanium and the sponson holes were there to fill it with rubber air bladders. The driver had to lay prone with his chin on a chin rest. The first hull Dad made had to be thrown away when it buckled while heat treating in Grumman Aircraft's heat treating ovens. This second one came out okay. On the first record attempt, the boat started to porpoise and suddenly cut into the water and stuck in the bottom of Lake Okeechobee FL But FORTUNATELY the rubber air bladders contributed to it coming free again. On the next attempt, it set the world's speed record. Most places Dad towed it, he would tell curious onlookers it was a 'Flying saucer" and a lot of people BELIEVED him.

How far can you modify a Jaguar XK 120? Dad took this 0-miles, (picked it up at the docks,) XK 120 and did a full custom for NY Beer baron, Lewis Ebling for entry in Wahington D.C.s prestigious World Motor Sports Shows in early fifties.

He was a little embarrassed by the excess in later years, but still, not many others could have done that much with (TO!) a NEW Jag, It WON a trophy at the World Motor Sports show. This one was shipped down to D. C. and Dad tended to it at the show, after driving down in a Mercedes Gullwing, with a LOT of frustrated Highway Patrolmen fading in the rear view mirror!.

Photos of our pre-war 1936 British Skirrow open-wheel, four-wheel-drive. ALL chain-drive to front AND rear with special 1000cc JAP race engine with two carbs and two magnetos in 100% original condition.

It would be quite a spectacle at Goodwoood! Probably the only one left. Always draws a huge crowd away from the Duesenbergs and Indy cars, when I show it, here.

© 2004 Joe Gertler Jr. -



For more information please read:

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Raymond A. Katzell - The Splendid Stutz

Marc Ralston - Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - There Is No Mistaking a Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Thomas E. Bonsall - The Lincoln Motorcar: Sixty Years of Excellence

Fred Roe - Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection

Arthur W. Soutter - The American Rolls-Royce

John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Hugo Pfau - The Coachbult Packard

Griffith Borgeson - Cord: His Empire His Motor Cars

Don Butler - Auburn Cord Duesenberg

George H. Dammann - 90 Years of Ford

George H. Dammann & James K. Wagner - The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury

Thomas A. MacPherson - The Dodge Story

F. Donald Butler - Plymouth-Desoto Story

Fred Crismon - International Trucks

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Chrysler

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

Maurice D. Hendry - Cadillac, Standard of the World: The complete seventy-year history

George H. Dammann & James A. Wren - Packard

Dennis Casteele - The Cars of Oldsmobile

Terry B. Dunham & Lawrence R. Gustin - Buick: A Complete History

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Buick

George H. Dammann - 75 Years of Chevrolet

John Gunnell - Seventy-Five Years of Pontiac-Oakland


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