Biography

bio

John was born May 18, 1926 in East Los Angeles. In Junior High School he bought a 1930 Model A coupe for $25.00 and built his first car. He went completely through this car with the school auto shop teacher and turned it into a cool car.

In high school he had a 1939 Mercury with a chopped Carson top, Desoto bumpers, painted black with a red interior. John said if you put the Mercury in overdrive it would go up to 100 MPH easy.

After graduation, John attended college to get a mechanical engineering degree. At that time he had a 1932 highboy roadster which he raced on the streets; there weren’t legal drag strips anywhere yet. He also took the car to El Mirage dry lake after the police put a stop to the street racing. The roadster went 118 mph in early 1942.

After serving in World War II, John returned home and married his wife, Alice. He started running the family business and this took up most of his time, along with raising his family. Around 1957 John bought a 1957 Ford Fairlane “off the lot”, which came with a supercharged 312. After using it as the family car on the weekdays, John would doctor it up and bit and race it weekends.

John then stepped up to a 1961 Corvette. It was red with fuel injection, 283 horsepower, 4-speed, and Positraction. He ran it in C/Stock and then asked his nephew, Rich Siroonian to drive it. They won the class honors at the Winter Nationals that year. John souped up the ‘vette even more and had Bones Balough drive the candy red car. By 1964 John had sold the ‘vette and bought a 1941 Willys coupe. He ended up putting a 392 Chrysler Hemi in it and entered into the A/Gas class. In 1964 it ran 149 mph with a 9.77 e.t.

In the late ’60s the Willys was sold and John got a hold of an Austin and painted it with his trademark candy red paint. It had a chopped top and was called “The Football.” During his ownership of this car he teamed up with Jr. Thompson who put John’s name on his own Austin and the cars traveled throughout the mid-west and eastern parts of the U.S. They were on a race circuit putting on great gasser shows at drag strips across the U.S. and Canada.

The Austin was sold and John briefly entered the Funny Car field. He had a Barracuda with a Chrysler Hemi built but finally decided to retire in 1972. Big John still attended many major events and was inducted into the NHRA Hall of Fame in 1998. He was one of the honored Gasser Legends attending the Gateway Gasser Gathering in St. Louis, MO. in 1999. He, like Jr. Thompson, said that the event was one of the best ever and he was glad to have been honored there.

Big John attended the Willys Reunion held at Thompson Raceway in Thompson, Ohio the weekend of June 1 & 2, 2002. He was one of the honored Gasser Legends attending along with Jr. Thompson, Ohio George, Bones Balogh and others.

He died July 21, 2006 surrounded by friends and family.