The center of the steering wheels is filled with a quarter from 1959. This is the original
It starts with a father. It’s passed to a son. Before long, handing dad wrenches turns into a full-blown passion for this thing we call racing. It’s infectious, and no matter what you do with it or where it may take you, nothing can ever replace the first car that got you hooked.
For Phil Pete of Brandon, Florida, it was the Midget you see here. His father Fred Pete originally built the car in 1959 when Phil was only 8 years old. But even at such a young age, it was a car that would have a huge effect on his life.
Fred Pete, a machinist and welder employed by Goodyear Aerospace, designed, engineered, and built the roadster Midget in his backyard garage in 1959. The inspiration for the Midget was Belond’s AP Special that won the Indianapolis 500 in 1957 and 1958. Buddy Martin, a six-time Tri-State Racing Association driving champion from Parma, Ohio, completed the bodywork by fabricating the roadster’s tail fin section out of aluminum.
The Midget was originally driven by Mike Nemer.
In the early ’60s, Mike Nemer was Fred Pete’s choice for driving duties. A top contender throughout the Midwest and Florida, Nemer was a Midget veteran and aircraft pilot from Clyde, Ohio. The Midget roadster nicknamed “The Flying Carpet” was a front-runner wherever they raced. Pete and Nemer campaigned the roadster with Tri-State, USAC, and CSRA associations.
After fielding the Midget for 10 years, Fred Pete sold the car to Carl Meier of Lodi, Ohio. Throughout the ’70s the car changes hands a few times. It was even wrecked then sold in 1973. In the late ’70s the car made it all the way to Long Island, New York where it was brought back to life from a few years of hard neglect. In its journey to bring things full circle, Carl Meier bought the Midget back in the late 1990s.
“The passion I had for this roadster as a child drove me to pursue the dream of some day owning and driving this Midget my father built,” explains Phil Pete. “The dream seemed unlikely after losing track of the roadster. Then, while visiting a DAARA event in 2007 at Zephyrhills, Florida, I was reacquainted with the owner Carl Meier from Lodi, Ohio. I took a few photos of the roadster and noticed it still had a lot of character for a 48-year-old home-built Midget. I left Carl with the thought that someday I would like a chance at owning and driving the roadster.”
When Phil Pete bought the car back in May 2012, this is how it looked. Since then it has g
Here is the car when it was built. Little has changed from then till now.
Phil worked hard to restore the Midget to its original condition.
In May 2012, Phil got his chance. He purchased the roadster from Carl Meier and started the restoration, rebuilding the car he remembered from his childhood.
Is started with a complete tear down to the frame, along with rebuilding the Halibrand rearend, dog clutch, driveline, and engine. Phil replaced the Carter side draft carbs with EVM fuel injection, which caused the need to redesign the foot pedals, linkage, firewall, exhaust manifold, and tail pipe. The change even required some frame rail work. A new fuel tank with Kinsler Dial-A-Jet was added for increased engine tuning ability.
The cockpit is all business. Current five-point harnesses have been added to keep Phil saf
Phil added all new brake lines, the front Halibrand brakes were replaced with Wilwoods, and rear Halibrand brakes were rebuilt.
New Carrera shocks in front and Pro Shocks in rear were added, along with new Weld Racing wheels and American Racer tires. To complete the build, the front grill was fabricated by Kevin Dittmar of Premier Autobody in Tampa, Florida.
The finished product is an accurate recreation of the Midget built by Fred Pete in 1959 with some modern touches. As much of the restoration is authentic or original as possible, and in case you were wondering, Phil races it!