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Art Sparks

ART SPARKS, with Paul Weirick as his partner, first attracted attention by building cars and engines that won consistently on Southern California tracks in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Sparks had performed movie stunts, which led him to auto racing, and he had taught machine shop at Glendale High School in California. He was a self-taught engineer who during the 1920s drove in many races in Southern California in a Model T-based racing special. After Rex Mays had qualified a Sparks-Weirick car on the pole at Indianapolis in 1935 and 1936, Sparks signed a “lifetime” contract as chief engineer of the Thorne Engineering Company. He designed six-cylinder engines that set qualifying records at Indianapolis for three straight years: Jimmy Snyder, 125.287 miles per hour in 1937; Ronney Householder, 125.769 miles per hour in 1938; and Snyder, 130.138 miles per hour in 1939. During those three years, Snyder led the field for a total of 181 laps. Financial difficulties ended the Sparks-Thorne association after George Robson drove their car to victory at Indianapolis in 1946. Sparks then developed Forged-True pistons, which were used in many Indianapolis-winning cars.