In a Tucson garage, Frank Townsend and friends built custom racecars to challenge the much more expensive European alternatives in SCCA racing. Townsend typically used a mosaic of American running gear and many featured distinct fiberglass bodies like our feature car.
Called the Purple People Eater or Mk2, this racer was one of the more dramatic Townsend specials. It originally used a Oldsmobile 371 supported in a space frame chassis with independent front suspension and Alfin drum brakes. The frame was actually made from from old aircraft scaffold tubing and was based roughly on a Kurtis Kraft 500 design. Other interior bits such as gauges, switches and seats were aircraft sourced.
The Mk. 2 was used for limited racing in the four years from 1957 to 1960 and was campaigned personally by Frank Townsend, his brother Jack and Pete Voedodsky. They were competitive in the B/Modified Class, winning the 1957 Marana Speed Trials and 1958 Bloody Basin Hill Climb. By 1959, a 389 Pontiac Nascar unit was installed and it raced competitively in nearby events.
Eventually the Mk2 lead the way to future cars that would give Frank and his drivers much success. The newer Mk3 debuted in 1962.
After its race career, the Townsend Mk2 took a 40 year hiatus before its current owner found and restored the car. He spent five years bringing the car back so driver Donald Hulette could race it at he 2006 Monterey Historic Races.