William H. Hunt and his brother Clarence were machinists in National City, and following a visit from a representative of the Ford Motor Company in 1904, became the first automobile dealers in town. Over the next two years the brothers only sold one car, but they created a lively repair business among other ventures. They also hired themselves out as chauffeur/mechanics for special trips. it was for this service that Arnie Babcock, son of the man who had built the Hotel Del Coronado (who lived on a ranch 40 miles south of Ensenada, Mexico) contacted Clarence Hunt. Arnie's many meetings and doctor appointments in Sand Diego (he had contracted tuberculosis) were taking a toll on his autos, even wîth Clarence in the drivers seat. The roads between San Diego and Ensenada were very rough and kept Arnie's cars in the Hunt brothers' shop.
Arnie Babcock commissioned the building of a car that could perform over the tough stretches of road. It was called the Hunt Special and nicknamed 'Alkali Ike.' It has a powerful engine, a double chain drive, a 60 inch tread (the width of the ruts in the roads), and an 18 inch center clearance. Clarence Hunt was killed before it was finished and Babcock succumbed to TB before he ever rode in the car. William Hunt, who lived just three blocks from his business in National City, died in 1974 at the age of 97. Baja California is now considered one of the toughest off-road racing areas in the world. This car, designed for the toughest road conditions, survived them all.
Únusual on this car is its false hood. Since Emile Levassor of France had developed an auto wîth its engine placed vertically in front of the car driving the rear wheels by means of a shaft, European cars had engine compartments out in front of the passenger compartments. You will notice that the engine of this car is underneath the floorboards. Imitating the style of those European cars, the Hunt Special was designed wîth a hood although the space is virtually unused. The car was originally tested without a rear seat or top. It is unknown when these modifications were made.
Collection of Jim RenzulliSource - SDAM