Sadly, no news about who may have made the reel. Unfortunately, all the folks with firsthand knowledge of The Record Breaker are now dead. So now the goddam reel just sits here on my desk, taunting me.
Don Champion in North Carolina has fabricated replacement springs for the reel which should be winging their way to me by early next week. With them in hand, I can then reassemble it and when I pick it up to think about things and idly turn the handle, at least then it'll click.
I've connected with Doc's youngest daughter Liz who is graciously helping me reconstruct a timeline of where he was at various points in his life. With that as a baseline, I can then start to piece together when he may have started making his own reels. The real guts of the story though are gonna have to wait until I'm in Boise next and can actually visit Liz and examine Doc's own reels in person. I plan to take plenty of pics and then that will become the basis for the story, instead of The Record Breaker. The only firm date I have for our next visit is at Christmas.
It's not uncommon for competition engine builders from that generation to save pistons as trophies. I've seen a lot stranger things made out of old pistons and engraved. I had an neighbor who had 8 beer mugs with custom blown glass made out of his dragster's pistons that broke a couple track records. His favorite passtime was drinking beer. Maybe "Doc Jones" did the same? That ledge and the odd circle pattern make me think of a groove for rings and an attempt to increase surface area. Solid aluminum blocks aren't cheap.