This engine was designed by Dick Simonek and built at Jiggs Peters Machine Shop in Paterson, New Jersey. It was a partnership between Simonek and Fred “Jiggs” Peters. Simonek started building this engine in the spring of 1938, and it was completed in the summer of 1939. The engine made its debut at Yellow Jacket Speedway in Philadelphia, with Frank Bailey driving. There were some teething problems with the engine, but it showed a great deal of promise in its first few races.
Other tracks where it competed included: Nutley, Castle Hill, Cedarhurst, Coney Island, Union, Trenton, Hershey and Roosevelt. Joe Garson won a 100-mile midget race at Langhorne with the Peters-Simonek on October 6, 1940.
The bore and stroke are 3.028” x 3.715”. Cams, pistons, rods and crank were made special for this engine. Aluminum head, Ford valves and Winfield carbs completes the build.
In 1941 the engine was replaced by an Offy because Simonek was not able to keep up building special parts. Despite this, the car always made enough money to pay expenses.
A veteran open-wheel racer who showed his considerable talents in Midgets, Sprint Cars and Championship machines, Jiggs Peters was the best known of four racing brothers – Al, Walt and John were Stock Car drivers – and one of his Metuchen, New Jersey, family’s 13 children.
Jiggs got involved in racing in the late 1930s when he and Dick Simonek fielded a Big Car (Sprint Car) out of a machine shop in Paterson, New Jersey’s “Gasoline Alley,” that was driven by Joie Chitwood and Granville “Buster” Warke. Jiggs didn’t start driving until 1948.
The 1951 American Racing Driver’s Club Champion, Jiggs won 19 career ARDC Midget races and was quite good in the longer races that were held at the old one-mile asphalt Trenton (N.J.) Speedway and at the treacherous old one-mile dirt Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway.
Jiggs – whose hometown was listed as Bound Brook, New Jersey – had one of his biggest wins on August 30, 1959, when he won a 250-miler at Trenton where the lineup included 30 Offenhauser-powered cars, eight Ford V-8s and one Triumph-engined Midget.
On May 3, 1961, Jiggs – who was now living in Neshanic Station, New Jersey – won a non-stop ARDC/United States Auto Club 100-miler at Langhorne in Brenn’s Offy and set a new track record of 1 hour 1 minute and 11.92 seconds at an average speed of 98.041 mph.
A 100-lapper around the 2.3-mile road course, Jiggs finished sixth, 11 laps behind winner Sterling Moss and his Cooper T51 Climax. There were six Offy Midgets in the race and Jiggs came in “second in his class” behind Eddie Johnson who finished second overall and nine laps behind Moss in Jerry Zello’s No. 21 Offy Midget.
Jiggs raced in NASCAR’s old Speedway Division in 1952 in Ed Darnell’s No. 52 Ford-powered car and he ran in 19 American Automobile Association/USAC Championship events (1954-1963). And on August 21, 1954, he won the pole for his very first AAA race – the Springfield 100 at the Illinois State Fair – in Lee Glessner’s lightly-regarded No. 92 and then finished fifth behind winner Jimmie Davies.
By this time Jiggs was also a regular in mid-1950s AAA Sprint Car action and the Plainfield, New Jersey, resident drove the Frank Curtis No. 8 Offy and the Leitenberger Brothers Offy. Then on April 20, 1958, he won the USAC Sprint Car Eastern race at the old half-mile dirt Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds in John Fray’s No. 78 Offy.
In 1959, Jiggs drove Walter Beletsky’s No. 22 Offy to third place behind fellow EMPA Hall of Famer members Tommy Hinnershitz and Eddie Sachs in 1959 USAC Eastern Sprint Car points, and he was fourth in 1960, behind A.J. Foyt, Don Branson and Jim Hurtubise. Then, after USAC combined its Midwest and Eastern Sprint Car divisions into one series, he was 13th in USAC Sprint Car points in 1961 and sixth in 1962.
On September 29, 1968, Jiggs Peters won his last major race when he triumphed in a United Racing Club main event at the old 1-1/8-mile dirt Nazareth (Pa.) National Speedway.
Jiggs Peters passed away on December 25, 1993, in Pittstown, New Jersey.
In 1969, however, he was injured in a URC accident at the half-mile dirt Bedford (Pa.) Speedway and retired from the cockpit.
During World War II Dick Simonek would partner with Ted Horn to run a machine shop in the Gasoline Alley area of Paterson, New Jersey. With the return to racing after the war, Horn and Simonek would make history. In 1946, they would field three cars with Horn, Tommy Hinnershitz and Walt Ader as drivers. Ted would win the AAA National title three years running, 1946-’47-’48.
Dick was an exceptional machinist and would build all of the steering and gearboxes for the race team. In addition, before the advent of fuel injection, Simonek built all his own carburetors. Apparently, he was not satisfied with the performance of Rileys and considered Winfields obsolete.
In 1947, Dick had become concerned with the weight of the pistons, so he came up with a plan for putting them on a diet. He contacted a local foundry about casting new pistons in magnesium. When they arrived, the weight of each piston had been cut in half. It also became possible, because of the lighter weight of the pistons, that higher engine revolutions could be obtained. Dick built a special split exhaust so that the completion would have a harder time discerning the high revs.
Not having a 270ci Offy like most of the competition, Simonek built a special crankshaft for Horn’s 220, turning it into a 233. It was estimated that Dick had more than 200-man hours in each crankshaft, but in concert with the lighter pistons, his engine could turn much higher RPMs.
After Horn’s death in 1948, Simonek continued to campaign car on the AAA circuit with such drivers as Hinnershitz and Bill Schindler. Eventually he gave up the roll of car owner, as engine business took more and more of his time. Hinnershitz was a regular customer as was NASCAR legend Lee Petty, who would bring as many as ten engines to Simonek each spring to balance. An amazing fact about Simonek was even though he built thousands of engines in his career, he never used a torque wrench, he never even owned one!
Dick eventually became an inspector for NASCAR in the late-1950s, retiring following the 1967 race season. Dick Simonek passed away on November 13, 1997 in Ormond Beach, Florida.