The story of the Mechanical Rabbit starts with Don Brown. Brown was already an established racer and fabricator of national prominence. In late 1965 he had the chance to drive an offset supermodified owned by “Speedy” Bill Smith of Speedway Motors. Brown came from deep in the field to finish 3rd and was quite impressed with the handling of the offset.
Greg Weld also had experience with offset supermodifieds, having built one in 1962 and won countless features over the next three years in it. During the winter of 1965-66 Brown and Weld began discussing the possibility of building an updated version of the offset for sprint car racing.
The third member to join the mix was Joe Saldana. Brown was a native of San Bernardino, CA but spent his summers living with Saldana’s parents in Lincoln while he was racing in the Midwest each summer.
When Joe heard of the car building plans that Weld and Brown were making, he quickly threw in with them. Weld, Brown and Saldana settled on a design of an offset roadster sprint car that would work on dirt. Three cars were built, one each for Weld, Brown and Saldana. Weld’s car was done first and it debuted in 1966, at Reading, PA in USAC sprint competition. The car was a rocket ship and hooked up very hard.Saldana’s roadster was finished in time for the 1967 season and he was completely dominant on the outlaw circuit.
He set and reset the track record at Knoxville, IA, and only a broken left rear wheel kept him from winning the Knoxville Nationals. Saldana would continue his winning ways in 1968 and 1969 with the car.
Brown brought his car out later in the 1967 season. Because of his propensity for fiddling with setups, Brown was not as successful as either Weld or Saldana, but still he ran very well in the car. It was Brown who came up with the unique designation as well.
Brown’s intention was to build a car that would stick to the track like the mechanical rabbit at the dog races. Although only Brown’s car was known officially as the “Mechanical Rabbit,” all three cars came to acquire the moniker.