The first Monsterati was constructed from a very tight budget by Bill Janowski who was attending SMU at the time, pursuing a degree in engineering. Being just a freshman in college, he lacked the means to construct a serious racing machine; instead he focused on building a 'special'. Near the close of 1953, he purchased a 1939 Ford chassis and began work on the project which would take several years to complete. work was done during his spare time and he was given assistance by Bob Gast. Once completed, the car was clothed in an fiberglass and aluminum body shell that was attractive, but not very aerodynamic. The car was completed mid-1956 and brought to its first race the following. Power came from a Mercury flathead engine, which would later be switched in favor of a Chevrolet V8 unit. Drum brakes were placed on all four corners, the chassis had a wheelbase of 100-inches and a length of 132-inches, and the gearbox was a Ford three-speed unit. Many of the other mechanical components were courtesy of Ford, mostly from the 1939 donor car.
The car was used as a road car and as a racing machine. It was used in SCCA competition, which, after one race, he had qualified for a national SCCA license. The rules were more relaxed for SCCA competition in the 1950's. During the national competition, challenging such marque's as Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes, and Shelby, and battling for position against more experienced and polished drivers, proved to be a challenge. The car was raced in hillclimbs, but it continued to find itself chasing the competition. More power was needed. The popular choice at the time was the small-block Chevrolet unit. With the assistance of three two-barrel carburetors and a four-speed Chevrolet transmission transplanted from a Corvette, the Monsterati was again ready to race.
The new engine and other mechanical changes proved to be the solution needed to run at the front of the pack. It began setting the fastest times at hillclimbs, such as at the Louisiana Hilltop Raceway, where it ran the course three times, each time besting its previous lap record.
The car was sold in the early 1960s, and its resume in racing was continued by the subsequent owners. As the years progressed, engines and mechanical components were constantly changed on the vehicle. Improvements, which were sometimes very detrimental, were made to the car. One such change was to the aluminum, where one of its owners had used a cutting torch on the delicate metal.
During the 1980s, Janowski began searching for his car. It took a few years, but it was located in Texas. Janowski was able to purchase the car and began a frame-up restoration. When completed, the car was entered in historic competition. The car is currently in the care of Bill Janowski and is a frequent competitor in historic competition events.Also photographed at :
The Monsterati was designed and built by Bill Janowski while he was in engineering school at SMU. The car is based on a modified 1939 Ford chassis, has solid axles, drum brakes and the aerodynamics of a brick. It originally had a flathead Mercury engine with a 3-speed transmission, and was street legal. Bill drove the car round-trip from Dallas to Nebraska in 1957.
When Bill got the urge to race the car, it was converted with a small block Chevrolet and 4-speed transmission. The Monsterati first raced in June 1957 at Eagle Mountain, Texas, and then throughout Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. The car was very fast but unreliable and was sold in 1962.
In 1984, Bill located the 'monster' in Balch Springs, Texas, and he restored it in 1986-1987. The Monterey Historic Race in Monterey, California, was the Monsterati's first race after restoration. It has since been raced at over 75 vintage events. The complete history of the Monsterati has been included in two recent books: Road Racing Specials and Vintage American Road Racing Cars, 1950-1970.