Work & Fun Get Muddled
It's been a couple weeks so I thought I'd send out another one of these mental enemas (there, didn't that feel good?) and let you know what I've been up to. Besides working on the new book, of course, which is coming (albeit slowly, because I seem to have an awful lot of balls in the air right now). Or maybe I'm just getting confused and befuddled with age? After all, unwanted doctor visits, drool bibs and Depends are out there in the shadows for all of us if we manage to live long enough.
Ugly thought, that.
In any case, it seems the older I get, the longer it takes to finish ANYTHING (except for one thing, that is, which we really don't need to go into here). But rest assured I am indeed soldiering on with the new book (just finished the section on Le Mans '62 last week) and the current fantasy is back-to-back-to-back launch weekends at Lime Rock, Watkins Glen and Road America in September. Watch this space....
In the meantime, I've finally crept out of my frost-encrusted hidey h*** to do a few motoring events as the weather has turned from blustery, snowbound winter straight to hot, sweaty summer here in the Midwest. Remind me again...why do I live here?
Started off the season with a little book signing and ride mooching at the 37th annual running of the HSR's marvelous & fun Walter Mitty Challenge at Road Atlanta. As many of you know, I wrote the first-ever national story about this event for AutoWeek back in 1984 or so (when we seemed so much younger than the cars and the whole vintage racing movement was in its infancy) and I recall being thrilled by cars and the whole "gathering of the gearhead tribes" aspect of the weekend. Good stuff, and I was happy to see much of that same spirit rekindled again at Road Atlanta. Of course all the ripping-silk Ferrari V12s, buzzing Porsche RSKs and blaring, suit-of-armor Aston Martins are hidden away in "investment garages" or tucked behind velvet ropes in some museum these days (see what money does?) but the HSR folks--led by my longtime friend and ace racer/master car preparer David Hinton--are committed to embracing "newer old cars" as a way of bringing the more recent past into the present. My new column in the upcoming issue of Vintage Motorsport magazine (click here for more info) is all about that (it frightened me to realize that Mazda's wonderful Miata is a quarter century old this year!) and of course there was a ride-mooch involved...
Seems there's something of an oversupply of Porsches (Cayman and GT3 Cup cars) in the HSR's new Group 10, and it likewise seems that my used car-dealer friend Hayes Harris of Wire Wheel sports cars of Vero Beach, FL,(www.wirewheel.com) was a bit long in assorted track prepared Lotus Elises, Exiges and Evoras. Now Wire Wheel has been specializing in oddball British sports cars for 23 years, and it seemed to him that an Elise/Exige Lotus Challenge within Group 10 might make for a wonderful sporting and commercial opportunity. And the HSR was all for it. So here's the car I drove (again, full story in the magazine) and, except for the seasick green color, it was a hell of a great ride!
Speaking of my friends from the HSR, they've garnered a bit of a wild-n'-wooly reputation in the past for occasionally rude, ill-considered or red mist-influenced track behavior. And they're absolutely committed to putting that right. Installing experienced, respected and well-liked pro racing champion, network TV commentator and all around nice guy Dorsey Schroeder as Competition Director was a brilliant move, and everybody soon got the message that there was a new sheriff in town. Now Dorsey's a genial, easygoing kind of guy, but he's been there and done that (or had it done to him) in damn near every pro-level series you can think of. I happened to be a fly on the wall when Dorsey was discussing an ill-advised "low-percentage overtaking opportunity" (as the Skip Barber guys call it) with the driver of the errant car. He was a Porsche guy, of course (not that I'm trying to make any nasty general references about Porsche drivers or imply that they pull wings of flies or eat their own young) and this was the gist of the conversation:
Driver: "But it was my only way to get by. He had more power on the straightaways than I did. What would YOU have done?"
Dorsey: "In a pro race, I probably would have done same thing [long pause] and I would have crashed, too...."
You've got to love that kind of honesty. And also the hefty distinction it makes between for-blood pro racing and the fun type of racing we both want and expect on the vintage circuit.
Suffice to say the probations, license suspensions and appropriate disciplinary action are now much more in evidence with the HSR, and I think the racing and the enjoyment will be the better for it.
You can take my soapbox now....
Besides the on-track stuff, I hawked a bunch of books at Road Atlanta with my friends Frank and Amy from People Kars, and Grand Marshal and longtime friend Brian Redman took the time to stop by for a chat
as did the amazing, now-bionic and apparently unstoppable (especially when he gets his mind tendrils wrapped around a meaty conversational topic) Toly Arutunoff. Always great to talk to him.
Or listen, as the case may be....
Also had sore feets all weekend thanks to no regular exercise, aging circulation and too damn much walking (up the hill, down the hill, over the bridge to the PA booth, back over the bridge to the pro paddock, back up the hill to the book booth) and I was thrilled to have a surprise visit from techno-whizbang pain-management-gizmo guy Les Horn of Z Technologies (www.ztekstim.com), who put my two feets in a couple inches of water and proceeded to electrocute them just a little.
I'm not saying that this thing works, but for sure you can feel the buzz (and the jolt when he switches on the Full Butch setting) and my feet and legs sure seemed better later on that afternoon.
I'm already thinking about buying one....
There were also swell parties featuring good food and drink plus 70s-ish rock music from a band called "The Steppin' Stones" (three kids who all looked to be about 12 years old) and lots of good weather and good racing. Sold a lot of books, too.
A weekend later I was on my way to Michigan to do a little speechifying at the Gilmore Auto Museum in Hickory Corners, MI (in the bucolic farm country NE of Kalamazoo) and this is a must-stop place if you're in the area. Dropped in on the VSCDA races at Gingerman on the way up, and I really felt at home with all the prole-level, old-crock Sprites and Elvas and MGBs and Volvo P1800s and such. Reminded me of my old days in Midwestern Council Racing back when I first started this nonsense some 40 years ago.
The cars on hand looked just like they did back then. Sorry I can't say the same about the drivers. But they still act the same, which is nice (if a bit retrograde). Tempus Fugits, don't you know? Wanted very much to stay longer, but had to move on.
Sunday morning I got up slightly early to take a little 12-mile bike ride (I found a pretty decent trail not too far away) and then it was off to the museum for my presentation. Had time to view some of the collection (everything from a Hudson Hornet racecar to Ford Model As and Bs to magnificent Franklins and Packards and Duesenburgs and Pierce-Arrows to Cobras and Corvettes and flame-job hot rods and damn near anything else you could think of), and I recommend it highly.
The speech seemed to go pretty well (I got some good laughs and nobody threw anything or walked out in disgust) and we sold a bunch of books afterwards, which was nice. Thanks so much to John and Frank and Ellen from food service who fed me a nice tuna salad sandwich in the legit, fifties-era diner on the museum campus. Great fun. And then I made truly incredible time coming home, as there was no typical Sunday Evening Backup heading into Chicago and everybody--even the old ladies and foreign students!--was blasting along at 80mph+! There is strength in numbers (hey, the cops can't arrest everybody!) and so I'm pretty sure I set some sort of record (minivan class) from mid-Michigan to home sweet home.
Last Saturday Carol and I went walking at Grau Mill (see last e-blast) and then came my great friends Lou and Abby Natenshon's annual car-freak open-house party up north. Rather than going on and on about all the good food and drink, fascinating lies and conversations and strange, interesting car people and their even stranger, even more-interesting cars (Hooper-bodied Bentley, Alfa 2000 Spyder, enormous Hudson sedan, T-series MGs, an Armstrong-Siddley drophead--no, really, there is such a thing--short-chassis Invicta, BMW CSL, etc. etc. let me just show you some pictures:
note engine in Pantera below!
Below is the aforementioned Armstrong-Siddley drophead. I actually put a larger-diameter Girling master cylinder from an Armstrong-Siddley on my first TR3 racecar. I thought it would make it stop better, but I had one hell of a time trying to slow the damn thing down. At least it built my right leg muscles up to roughly twice the size of the left.
But that's another story for another day....
Come Sunday (Mothers' Day) I took Carol shopping for flowers to plant in our yard and window boxes (why she considers that "fun" is beyond me) while I wrote for a few hours and then went on a long bike ride to get out of her hair. I believe that must be one of the real keys to a long and successful marriage. Then I made her and best-friend Carolyn (she's the one who hand-paints our wonderful racing- and restoration-budget piggy banks) a nice dinner featuring my famous twice-cooked chicken and mixed root vegetables. And with a vase of fresh-bought tulips on the table, no less. I even cleaned up afterwards while they chatted on about, well, whatever the heck non-car people chat about.
So I figure I'm about square for the rest of the year, you know?
This weekend is SVRA Road America, which will also include & encompass the annual SAAC (Shelby American Automobile Club) national convention. So Elkhart will be rumbleguts central all weekend for the Ford and Shelby faithful. I'll be on hand covering it for the magazine and praying for good weather (we've been getting a lot of heat & humidity lately, separated by sudden cold fronts, heavy winds and genuine End of the World thunderstorms) while hopefully signing a lot of books and selling a lot of merchandise at the Colin's Classic Auto bivouac in the central paddock (on the paved area behind the St. John the Baptist concession stand...look for a bunch of Cobras and GT-350 Shelby Mustangs and Colin's very quick Mountain Dew Trans-Am Mustang). Colin will also be signing his own books there during lunchtime all three days as well. They're actually pretty damn good if you're a Shelby nutcase (and what red-blooded American enthusiast isn't?) and especially if you're the type who prefers facts, history and great photography over endless sentences & rambling b*******:
If not, buy my books:
And my friend John Morton has kindly forwarded me a few signed copies of his book for the Shelby crowd. It's really good, too.
So stop by and say "HI" if you're in the neighborhood.
Bye for now...more soon