Louie Unser engines

Quailhunter

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I remember back in the day (late 70s) a lot of off-road cars had Louie Unser built engines. What is the history here? Was his shop in New Mexico? Did Walker use his engines?
 

Class3Fan

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I can help ... Louis J. Unser, an older brother of Bobby and Al, was a hell of a driver as a young man (he won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb's stock car class twice, 1960 and '61). He drove and wrenched on a lot of cars, including his twin brother Jerry's at Indianapolis (Jerry Unser died after a practice crash there in 1959). In 1964, Louie was diagnosed with MS and retired from driving after Pikes Peak that year (the accompanying photo by Jim Vaughan was from that race). He turned his attention to engine building and put together numerous power plants for various forms of racing for decades. He built everything, but in the late '70s and early '80s he put together quite a few AMC 401s for off-road racers, including the ones used in Paul Price's Water Boy truck. Louie's shop was based in Southern California. There is often confusion about him because his uncle, also named Louis, was a nine-time winner at Pikes Peak. There's more info about him and all the Unsers here: Unser Racing Museum - Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico
 

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Class3Fan

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I can help ... Louis J. Unser, an older brother of Bobby and Al, was a hell of a driver as a young man (he won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb's stock car class twice, 1960 and '61). He drove and wrenched on a lot of cars, including his twin brother Jerry's at Indianapolis (Jerry Unser died after a practice crash there in 1959). In 1964, Louie was diagnosed with MS and retired from driving after Pikes Peak that year (the accompanying photo by Jim Vaughan was from that race). He turned his attention to engine building and put together numerous power plants for various forms of racing for decades. He built everything, but in the late '70s and early '80s he put together quite a few AMC 401s for off-road racers, including the ones used in Paul Price's Water Boy truck. Louie's shop was based in Southern California. There is often confusion about him because his uncle, also named Louis, was a nine-time winner at Pikes Peak. There's more info about him and all the Unsers here: Unser Racing Museum - Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico
By the way ... that's a Bill Stroppe prepared Mercury that Louie Unser is driving at Pikes Peak.
 
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After winning the Gold Coast 300 in 1993, I had the pleasure of sitting with Louie and his wife at the awards breakfast at the Gold Coast Casino. We talked for several hours as they recounted so many stories of their interesting life. Louie's MS was pretty bad and his wife, Laverne, was very attentive to him. I could see how proud she was of him and she too was full of stories.

I was smart enough then, to know I was listening to a legend from a legendary family, and I think of that conversation often. I am often reminded of the several great men that I have been blessed to "touch shoulders" with over the years - their character adding to mine. For this I am grateful.
 

Gadzooks2

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Louis built a 401 for our Scrambler back in the 80's. Huge power and reliability. Felt like the gas pedal never stopped, the more you pushed the more there was!
 

Clive Skilton

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When I ran my Top Fuel Dragster 1973 to 1977 out of Mike Kuhl's shop at 2222 W. 2nd St. Santa Ana, Louis was right next door. I did not realize he was a "great" till later.Who new I would go desert racing in my 3rd life?
 

conejoracer

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He built the 401 engines that powered the Conejo Off Road class 3 Jeep. Lots of power, I don't think we ever had a engine failure either.
 

TROPHYSEDAN

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image.jpg image.jpg Paul with a Louie Unser motor.
I have a Louie motor in my truck.
 

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Rodbuilder

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I remember back in the day (late 70s) a lot of off-road cars had Louie Unser built engines. What is the history here? Was his shop in New Mexico? Did Walker use his engines?


His shop was on Raymond st. in Fullerton, ca, right down the street from Larry's Mustangs and the Fender guitar factory.

I was Unser'engine builder in the early part of 1985 and can unequivocally tell you that the guy was a total friend to work for. Everytime he fell off his Hovercart he mf'd me in front of customers and talked to me like a dog.

Louie was the black sheep of the under family because of his MS any they had nothing to do with him.

WhileI was there I built Michael Nesmith's (the Monkeys!!) Class 8 Chevy 30 and he won the 85 Baja 500 race with it. I also built the prototype twin turbo setup for the 84 and up Corvette.

But let it be known that louie Unser didn't "bUIld" diddly squat. It was guys like me who did all of his work, because he couldn't even turn a wrench with his terminal MS.
 

TROPHYSEDAN

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Rodbuilder
Then I still have one of your Louis Unser motors.
From the Rodney Inch j10.
 

Rodbuilder

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I could but I live in illinois.

Look for a friend of mine in Long Beach.

His name Is Ron Macrae. I haven't heard from him in years so i dont know where he's azad t or if he's alive but he is DA MAN feed when it comes to high performance
 

TROPHYSEDAN

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I could but I live in illinois.

Look for a friend of mine in Long Beach.

His name Is Ron Macrae. I haven't heard from him in years so i dont know where he's azad t or if he's alive but he is DA MAN feed when it comes to high performance
Cool thank you.
Would love to run it in Norra. Be able to take it out and drive it. 3 miles to the gallon.
 

Max german

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Hey there. My name is max. I’m from Germany. I have a 67 with a louise unser engine inside. Can anyone tell me something about it ? Greats max
 

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retroblazer

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My engine builder and twenty year partner in my Blazer, Dennis Chencharick at D&L Automotive in State College, PA. He has been racing Jeeps for decades, and is quite knowledgeable about AMC engines.
 

Tsmith1962

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Hi there, I used to work for Louis unser. I was a teenager. His shop was in Santa Ana Californa, my home town. He also had other shops later in the Orange County area. I worked there 1979-81. The guy who did all the work was Greg Peterson (Spell check). I miss him.

During these times the main focus was sprint cars and boats, but also had a lot of off road, stock car etc.

I used to drive his 1978 El Camino around to pick up parts, places like Moon Racing before famous. He had only a couple employees and I was the bottom grunt. I cleaned parts and stuff :)

I would not trade these memories for $1 million dollars. He used to sit behind an engine, like a piano tuning and freakishly dial in a tune an extract every ounce of gold.

Genius doesn't really cover it. He destroyed his body over the years from "race track life" and making his brothers famous.

Of course Pike Peak, AKA Unser's Mountain ...... Louis was the King of them all here.

He was a good and kind person down deep. Outside not as much sometimes. If you got on his bad side it was not pleasant.

He was in a wheel chair because he had a degenerative nerve disease. Out of respect I hope I recall correctly but I think it was Muscular Dystrophy, or ALS. Either way he would often get very frustrated because he just wanted to jump out of his wheelchair and fix the problem. Instead he had to explain things to people less intelligent (which was everyone) how to do it . For these reasons he was often in a bad mood or unapproachable. I can understand as I get older how hard that must have been. But everyone loved him. He could also be the most charming person you ever met and knew EVERYONE.

THe main thing I will say to anyone lucky enough to have an Engine By Unser, it would not leave the shop until Louis was happy and he had the highest standards. It was the gold standard. It is awesome to see the least known Unser getting love and memory here. Nice!
 
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