Jet Propelled No. 79 Sam Arena

By Al Fergoda, Photography by Unknown

1939 found Sam at Daytona Beach for the 200-miler, and there he carried his San Jose colors to glory until a spill filled his carburetor with sand and he was forced to retire. Returning to San Jose, he continued with his racing in the night T.T. events at the San Francisco Motordrome and became top man on the then letter “B” courses at Neptune Beach. In the 50-miler at the Oakland Speedway, he took second place. During this period-from 1939 to 1941-Sammy became top man in professional class “B” hill-climbs, winning twenty-six events on his 45 and 74cu. in. side valve machines.

It was in 1940 that class “C” hill-climbs rose to popularity. In this class Sam also shone, taking top honors at Berkeley, Watsonville, Fresno, San Jose and Skyline, against extremely keen competition, as in those days class “C” climbs limited traction to standard rubber only.

Sammy swept the field in the quarter-mile class “C” meet at the Sacramento stadium, and went on to Riverside, where he led all classes in the half-miter until, in the final event, he fell while leading. The only injury of his career occurred at Lakeport, when, in practice, one of his keenest competitors spilled in front of him, and in his effort to miss the upset rider Sam took off through a rough field, to spill and break his arm.

A flat tire lost him the Oakland 1940 200-miler, and another flat tire the event at the Hollister Gypsy Tour and Rally which would have given him permanent possession of the trophy. At the half-miters at Galt, Dixon and again at Galt, Sammy won every start. In the tragic accident in the 1941 Oakland 200-mile, Arena laid his machine down to miss the fatal tangle of men and machines, and came in seventh on the re-start, after caving in his rear wheel. In the Stockton half-miler which followed, Sammy took all first places, and wound up the 1941 season as top man, after adding firsts in several class “B” and “C” hill-climbs to his record. The final event before the war was the annual T.T. race at Lodi, and here again Sam came through with a decisive win over keen competition.

Sam Arena, now at the peak of a distinguished career, thirty-three. He and his wife, the former Myrtle Scott, have two children, eight-year-old Sam Jr. and a daughter, aged five. Throughout the war, he managed Tom Sifton’s business, since Tom was drafted into essential war industry. Although others rode in unsanctioned meets during the war years, Sam dropped out of competition until events once more were sanctioned. During one meet-the recent event at Tulare-his remarkable performance and sustained horsepower aroused the suspicion of a small minority of riders, and the referee called for a measurement of his engine. To all who know him, it is characteristic of San Jose’s noted son that on this, as on all other occasions, his equipment was found true and honest in every particular.

By Al Fergoda
Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!

*Please enter your username

*Please enter your password

*Please enter your comments
Not Registered?Signup Here
(1024 character limit)
  • Motorcyclist Online