Clyde McKaba is an innovator, tuner, driver, and car owner.
Bob Schneider, himself a New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame inductee, referred to Clyde as a god when it came to tuning a fuel car in the 1960s and early 70s because Clyde had started using a device called an air density gauge to help tune the engines. While they are commonplace today, back in the 1960s Clyde was the only one to think of tuning a nitro engine using an air density gauge. It ultimately gave Clyde and his racing partners the ability to earn several national records.
In the winter of 1964-65 Clyde convinced his friend, Maurice Bresnahan of Haulin’ Chassis, to build a chassis in which the tubes forward of the firewall were slip fitted inside the bottom rail tubes, but were not welded in place. This allowed the frame to transfer weight to the rear tires more easily. As a side note, Clyde and Maurice did not inform the NHRA of the design change and the car passed technical inspection. Evidence suggests that this was the first slip joint chassis built, and it is now a common design.
In the summer of 1965 Clyde developed a slider clutch so that he could better manage getting the horsepower to the ground. Clyde says this is the main reason he started driving his own car in 1966.
Clyde partnered with Myron Pickard in 1972 and they campaigned a top fuel car, racing at National Events at Sanair, Englishtown, Indianapolis, and ultimately winning the Top Fuel National Open at New England Dragway, qualifying number one with a 6.88 at 216 mph in the process.
The following is a letter from Dick Roberts, Clyde’s former driver:
“Congratulations on your induction into the Orientals New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame. Today is something that you will cherish forever.
Back in late ’63, when you and Maurice got together to build your idea of a “slip tube chassis,” ( it was many years before this design was used), Maurice said it would never pass inspection, as the techs wouldn’t understand the principle of this design. So, you guys built what would be named the “Straight Arrow”, with the motor part of the top rail and a very flexible brazed chassis. You were the first to run nitro under the blower and use a density meter to better tune the small block Hemi, which produced many track records and wins across the Northeast.
I remember you in your Fred Cain white dress shirt servicing the Straight Arrow, answering questions from our fans and the look on their faces when you would show them how flexible the chassis was.
I feel your forward-thinking and professional image greatly helped propel drag racing into what it is today. You truly deserve this award.
We had some great times back then, racing all over the East Coast, as far as Ohio, winning some, setting track records with a great race car. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to drive it.
Your Old shoe,
The Orientals Hot Rod Club is very pleased to recognize Clyde McKaba as a 2020 New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame Inductee.