HMOD Diaries: What Happened to the Little Digger?

Thank you to the H-Modified Racing Club for sharing this with us.

Over the course of three years, 1957-1959, the Little Digger was unbeaten in the HM class on the West Coast. Built by Chalmers Hall of Phoenix, Arizona, the little Crosley-powered Special took first-in-class honors in 10 of its 12 races (failing to finish in the other two events).

Hall told Sportscar Graphic that his intent in building the car was simply “to beat all the other Class H Specials.” His winning record earned Hall and the Little Digger the SCCA 1958 Pacific Coast Championship in Class H modified. In addition to Hall, driving responsibilities were shared by Bill Beck, Boyd Hough, Bob Baker, and Don Scott.

But after the 1959 season, the car disappeared from the record books. What happened to, and where the Little Digger is today, is a mystery.

The HM frontrunner was built from a combination of custom and off-the-shelf components, its ladder-type chassis constructed from 1-¼-inch 4130 chrome-moly tubing with seven main cross members. Both front and rear suspensions used semi-elliptic springs with Columbus shocks. The rear end was from a Crosley Hotshot, with a torque tube and a 5.17:1 final drive ratio. The racer had disc brakes all around, with 12-inch wheels in the front and 13-inch wheels in the rear.

Power came from a modified Aerojet-Crosley with a “special one-of-a-kind Clay Smith camshaft,” steel crank, lightweight tappets and modified ports, with a Braje valve cover. It had a 39DC03 side-draft dual-throat Weber carburetor, an intake manifold custom made from tapered tubes, Scintilla Vertex mag, an exhaust patterned after the one on Ken Miles’ “Flying Shingle,” and it delivered 55 bhp at 8500 rpm.

Transmission was a modified MG TC unit with a Morris pressure plate.

The body was a handmade aluminum shell, formed using a minimal amount of surface changes and a very small frontal section in order to improve aerodynamics. Weighing a mere 760 pounds (wet), the Little Digger’s weight was evenly distributed, with 48% front and 52% rear with driver. Wheelbase 84-inches, overall length 121-inches, width 50-inches, track 44-inches, and height 33-inches. Speed at the quarter mile was clocked at 84.6 mph, and top speed was 114 mph.

Racing Sports Cars has as its last listing a November 1959 outing in El Paso, with Don Scott driving. Hall and Scott went on to design and build the Hall-Scott Special – a small, low-slung racer with a rear-mounted 635cc Lloyd engine and Del Orto carburetion. Asked about the car, Hall said, “All I can say about the thing at this time is that it will either be the fastest H modified around, or else it will be a beautifully-built, complete flop.”

Although Joe Puckett includes the Hall-Scott Special in his list of “Miscellaneous H Mod Specials of the USA,” no additional information can be found on the car.

A 1960 Sportscar Specials Trend Book suggested, “The Digger will probably be campaigned by Norman Scott, while Chal Hall unloads his new charger.”

So, with Hall’s interests shifting to his new project, the Little Digger was passed on to Norman Scott – but no record exists on Racing Sports Cars of Norman Scott piloting the Little Digger. Instead, it appears that he continued to campaign his Porsche 550 RS through 1960.

What may have happened was listed in the description of a Giaur sold by Fantasy Junction in 2009. The description states:

Hall took possession of BT-030 in Los Angeles and drove with the trailered Giaur to Mexico where he competed in a road race. This race would prove fateful as Hall subsequently ended up blowing the Giannini engine, throwing a rod after only a short period of time in the race (owner interview with Hall, 2002). Hall discarded the engine and transplanted the specially built 750cc Aerojet engine (a highly modified DOHC Crosley 4 cylinder engine) that had formerly been in the HM class winner, Little Digger…

Hall competed in a series of races throughout the west coast including the Tucson-Pacific with #13 and is featured with a 2nd place on pg. 35 of the December 1959 SCCA issue racing against Little Digger. Hall owned the Giaur until the early 1960’s when he sold it to Walter Walton of Pleasanton, Calif. Walton sold the car to Raffi Minasian in 1973. In 2009 it was sold to a collector in Greece.

The HMRC welcomes any information – stories, photos, or recollections – about the Little Digger. And if you know where it is today…they’d love to know that as well! The HMRC blog is HERE.