Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
“Joe!” Frank Hardy shouted to his brother from the front stoop of the Hardys' house. “Look out for that jeep!”
Blond-haired Joe Hardy's head snapped back quickly from under the open hood of the brothers' blue van. As he jumped to safety on the curb, he caught sight of the driver of the jeep that was barreling his way. It was the Hardys' friend Chet Morton.
“I can't stop in time!” Chet cried out from behind the wheel of the beat-up old jeep. The younger Hardy saw that the jeep was green and rusty, with more rust on it than paint. Joe also knew that if Chet didn't swerve out of the way within the
next few seconds, his jeep was going to plow into the front of the van.
“It's the brakes!” Chet called out frantically. “They need adjusting!”
“Downshift, then kill the engine!” Joe shouted.
He and Frank watched as Chet turned the wheel to avoid hitting the van. He fumbled with the stick shift, and the jeep lurched and slowed down. Chet switched off the engine and swung the jeep into the Hardys' driveway, where it rocked and jolted to a stop inches from the garage door.
“This is the new car you were raving about?” Frank asked, stepping across the lawn to the driveway.
“Okay, so it needs a little work,” Chet said with a shrug as he climbed out of the frayed driver's seat. Chet was large-boned and had curly brown hair.
“I'd say this thing needed a little work ten years ago,” Joe said.
“It's a collector's item,” Chet insisted. “The guy at Major Motors told me this was one of the first civilian jeeps made. He said when the company started up the assembly line, they built a few prototypes to see if everything was working right. This was a test car. It wasn't even for sale.”
“If it wasn't for sale,” Joe asked his friend, “how did you buy it?”
“Through some pretty shrewd dealing,” Chet said with a proud smile.
“Well, it makes sense to drive one prototype over to the speedway to see another prototype,” Frank said. “But,” he added, running his fingers through his dark brown hair, “when you insisted on driving us there, we assumed your car had brakes.”
“The linkage just needs a little oil, that's all,” Chet said defensively.
“And maybe a couple of brake drums,” Joe added.
Chet ignored Joe's remark. “So tell me about this new sports car we're going to see,” he said.
“Dad set it up for us,” Frank told Chet. “He got a call this morning from Felix Stock out at Bayport Motor Speedway.”
“Stock's that hotshot engineer who thinks he can take on the big automakers,” Joe added. “He was written up in the
“I read that article,” Chet said. “It said Stock's put every dime he has into developing a high-performance sports car he's named the Orion or something.”
“It's called the Saurion,” Frank said. “It's a two-seater designed to compete with sports cars like the Corvette and Lotus.”
“Stock thought Frank and I would like to take it for a spin,” Joe added, grinning.
“Actually, Stock wants us to check on a couple of strange incidents that have taken place out at the speedway,” Frank said. “Stock thinks someone
might be trying to sabotage the development of his new car. And since Dad's busy working on a case for the U.S. Treasury Department,” Frank continued, “he asked us to handle this investigation.”
Frank and Joe's father, Fenton Hardy, a former New York City police officer, had become a well-known private detective who worked on federal as well as individual and police cases.
The Hardy brothers had used what their father had taught them about detective work to crack their own cases. Although Frank was only eighteen and his brother was a year younger, they had investigated countless crimes in Bayport and all over the world.
“We'd better get out to the track,” Joe urged them. He jogged over to the van and slammed the hood shut. Joe had been trying to diagnose the cause of a troubling clicking noise coming from under the hood. He removed a small plastic tube of silicone from the van's tool chest, then locked the doors. “Feed that heap of yours some of this,” he told Chet.
“Why is Stock building his car out at the speedway?” Chet asked, taking the tube of silicone from Joe. “Doesn't he have his own garage?”
“Stock made some kind of a deal with Curt Kiser,” Frank explained while Chet applied the silicone to the jeep's brake cable. “Kiser owns the speedway.”
“Stock's only got a couple of days left to make sure the Saurion's ready,” Joe added. “It's scheduled to race that new Japanese company's sports car Saturday night.”
“The Sata Speedster,” Chet said. “I read about that car, too. It's supposed to be incredibly fast.”
“Dad said Felix Stock claims it won't even be a contest,” Joe said.
going to let you drive the Saurion?” Chet asked.
Frank nodded. “We had to promise Aunt Gertrude we'd be sure to follow the speed limit,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“There isn't any speed limit on a racetrack,” Chet reminded Frank.
know that,” Joe said. “But we didn't want Aunt Gert to worry about us any more than she already does.”
Just then a middle-aged woman appeared on the front porch of the Hardys' house. “You boys be careful, now,” Aunt Gertrude called. “Make sure you wear helmets and safety belts andâ”
“We will, Aunt Gertrude, don't worry,” Frank said, pulling Joe and Chet over toward the jeep. The three friends piled into the jeep and waved at Aunt Gertrude. Then Chet backed the car down the driveway and headed toward Shore Road.
Twenty minutes later Joe glanced at his watch. “If we'd driven our van, we would have reached the
speedway by now,” he said. Chet's jeep had stalled twice, and from the way the old car occasionally vibrated, Joe concluded it had a loose tie-rod, broken engine mount, or maybe both. “Take a left at the next road,” Joe told Chet, “if you can.”
“Give me a break, will you?” Chet pleaded.
“Yeah, Joe,” Frank said. “I can see the speedway gate right at the end of this road. It shouldn't take us more than a couple of hours to reach it.”
As they pulled up to the speedway entrance, a uniformed guard in the booth stepped outside. “You here for the demolition derby?” he asked, staring at Chet's jeep.
“Very funny,” Chet muttered. Joe chuckled.
Frank gave the guard their names. “We're here to see Mr. Stock,” he said. “He's expecting us.”
“You'll need grounds passes,” the security guard told them. “They're issued from the speedway office. Just follow this road around to the left.”
As they drove through the gate, Frank studied the sprawling speedway. The main gate was opposite the center of the huge, two-mile oval. Beyond the spectators' parking lot and the aluminum spectator stands to the right, Frank spotted several low garages in the infield. These housed the demolition derby operations. Stretching around the oval was Gasoline Alley, a group of garages for the race cars. Two of the buildings that stood behind and to the left of the viewing stand and starting line were
modern corrugated metal structures that gleamed in the midmorning sun. But Frank noticed that most of the garages around the oval were old and ramshackle. In fact, he thought the speedway generally looked run-down.
“There are the offices.” Joe pointed at a one-story cement-block building. As they approached it, he could see that paint was peeling from the steel-frame windows. Chet parked in the small lot beside the office.
A tall, muscular man with mirrored sunglasses and black hair and mustache stepped out the front door and came up to the jeep. “You must be the Hardys,” the man said, folding his arms at chest height. “I'm Curt Kiser, owner of the speedway.”
Frank introduced Chet, then Joe and himself.
“I have your grounds passes right here.” He handed out the tags. “Felix Stock told me to expect you,” Kiser added. “I'll take you over to meet him. He's in Gasoline Alley.”
Frank got the impression that Kiser was a man of no nonsense. Looking to his right, Frank saw a golf cart with the Bayport Motor Speedway logo painted on it zip up to the parking area.
“This is Jason Dain, my assistant,” Kiser announced, pointing to the smiling cart driver. He introduced the Hardys and Chet to his assistant, who had long reddish blond hair.
If Kiser's greeting was abrupt, Joe thought that
Jason Dain treated them like old friends. “Hey, good to see you!” he said enthusiastically. “I'll meet you guys over there.” Then he turned the cart and headed off in the direction of Gasoline Alley.
Curt Kiser signaled Chet and the others to follow him.
“I've been to this track before,” Frank said as they walked past Kiser's office, “but this is my first visit to Gasoline Alley.” When they reached the alley, Frank looked into the garages where the racing cars were prepared. In the newer garages mechanics were bending over brightly painted race cars, making the adjustments aimed at squeezing that last millisecond of speed out of the racers.
“There's the Saurion!” Joe said suddenly, pointing toward a sleek, deep red metallic automobile inside a garage. The sign above the overhead door read Stock Motor Car Company, and under that, Building A.
“Hey, Felix!” Curt Kiser called into the garage. “The Hardys are here.”
A man hurried over to them from the shadowy interior of the building. Frank noticed that Felix Stock, who was in his thirties, was tanned and trim, with short brown hair. The press said Felix Stock was worth a lot of money, and he looked the part. But behind a pair of wire-framed glasses, his green eyes were those of a very worried man.
Stock smiled at the Hardys and Chet. “I'm really
glad you could come out here,” he said, shaking hands with the three teens.
Joe smiled back at the engineer, but he was having a hard time keeping his eyes off Stock's sports car.
Unlike most auto paint jobs, the Saurion's did not have a mirror finish. It appeared to have been burnished to a dull sheen. The hood was long, and the back end of the car short. There was a small winged dragon in a circle logo on the hood, and the windshield and windows were black, making it impossible to see into the Saurion's interior.
“It's amazing,” Joe said.
“It's not a jeep,” Chet said, grinning, “but it's not bad.”
“Thanks, guys,” Felix Stock said. “You're among the very few who have had a chance to see the Saurion. Just this morning I had to call security about a photographer who was trying to climb the fence at the back of the speedway.” He took a small device that resembled a TV remote control from his pocket, pushed a button, and the driver's door clicked open.
Chet's eyebrows shot up. “No door handles.”
“Door handles break the smooth flow of the design,” Felix Stock explained. He pushed another button, and the opaque windshield and windows gradually lightened to clear glass.
“I've never seen Curt when he wasn't wearing
sunglasses,” Felix Stock said, “but he won't need them in a Saurion. The entire top, including the windshield area and the roof, is made of light-sensitive material.”
“You mean like those glasses that turn dark when you go out into the sunlight?” Joe asked.
“It's similar,” Stock replied with a nod, “except that my new PEST systemâthat stands for Photoelectric Sensitive Topâis controllable from this remote or with several switches on the instrument panel. Or, if the driver prefers, he can set the system on automatic, and it will adjust the outside light. There is nothing like it anywhere.”
“Pretty high-tech,” Frank said.
“And potentially worth a fortune,” Curt Kiser pointed out.
“That's why it's been kept super-secret,” Stock said. “We don't want any competitors or industrial spies to get hold of the technology.”
“Listen, since Curt and I have already seen this mechanical marvel,” Jason Dain said, “we'd better excuse ourselves and get back to work. Saturday night's race is only two days off.”