OK, this e-blast we're going to lead off with where-all I'm a-goin' instead a'where-all I been on account of I do tend to ramble on and some folks either doze off or lose interest. So, looking ahead, I'll be visiting the (hopefully) sunny state of Florida over the next couple weeks as follows:
MARCH 11-13: The Amelia Island
Look for me schmoozing potential book buyers and signing books for those who wilt and succumb to my usual con-job. You'll find me in the designated author areas (the Talbot pre-function hallway in the Ritz-Carlton daytime Fri-Sat and the authors' tent on the Show Field on Sunday). I'll have all the books there to sign plus a special, low low (so low we can't mention it on TeeVee!) price on the entire, 7-book set. And, as always, we can ship so you don't have to schlep!
We'll also be presenting our 10th annual BUDDY PALUMBO AWARD at the Amelia Island Concours, which is thoroughly unique in the Lawn Show world in that it recognizes an entrant who worked on the car with their own blessed hands and moreover drove it to the bloody event. "Glass-Case Jobs" and "Trailer Queens" need not apply.
The awards are done by a different talented artist each year. The image below is the very first Buddy Palumbo award (2007), sculpted by my great & gifted friend and racecar engine builder extraordinaire Ted Wenz of Savannah Race Engineering. As you can see, it's a perplexed mechanic looking down at a busted gear, and all of it made up of used-up race-engine parts (of which Ted seems to have a near-inexhaustible supply).
And here's a sample (from 2009, sculpted by McPherson College Auto Restoration Technology student Miles Birch) of the accompanying plaque that goes with each year's award:
This year's award is an original painting by my good friend, genius graphic artist, all-'round excellent companion and fellow diehard vintage racer Bob Colaizzi, who will be rendering up THE ACTUAL WINNING CAR in the position currently held by the Mercedes 230/250/280SL shown in the display mockup shown below:
As you can see, it will be parked smack-dab in front of the highly fictitious Finzio's Sinclair station in Passaic, NJ, where The Last Open Road series begins in the spring of 1952. Cool beans, eh?
I also have it on good authority that a complete set of our unique, leather-bound sponsor/advertiser Special Editions will be on offer in the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance charity auction the same weekend. A similar set went for a whopping $2000 (yeah, you read that right...two grand!) in the VSCDA charity auction at their Road America event last fall, and another set fetched $2400 at a charity auction near VIR a few years back.
Who'd a-thunk it?
MARCH 17-19: The 12 Hours of Sebring:
I'll be selling, signing and schmoozing my freaking lips off all weekend long in a very privileged spot inside the Sebring Hall of Fame Museum at the west end of the paddock behind Pit Lane and not too far from Sunset Bend. Look for me there Thursday afternoon and early evening (but NO WAY am I gonna miss Night Practice!), most of the day between race groups on Friday, Saturday morning until a half-hour before race time (scheduled for 10:40am it sez here) and then every half-hour on the half-hour (11:30am, 12noon, 12:30pm, etc.) until it gets dark. See you there?
Truth is, I just got myself BACK from sunny Florida. Really I did. Although, to be honest, this hasn't been a particularly fierce winter up here in the frozen wastes of Chicagostan. We've only had a couple heavy snowstorms and just a handful of days laced with bitter, brutal cold. In fact, it was 60+ degrees yesterday (and we're not even out of February yet!) and Carol and I took Buddy the Wonder Dog for a nice, long walk in the woods [see SHAMELESS JACKET PITCH below]. So, if this is Global Warming, I'll take all you've got. And so what if all the crops fail and New Jersey turns into a parched, barren desert (might be an improvement?) and the polar ice cap melts and we all drown...at least we'll drown in warm water!
In any case, last weekend found me playing ride-mooch-scribe/hanger-on again at Brian Redman's marvelous TARGA 66 track-day weekend at Palm Beach International Raceway. Full story upcoming in my next Vintage Motorsport column, but suffice to say there were some pretty interesting people wandering around the paddock. Like Brian himself (shown below with yrs. trly, guest speaker Dennis Gage from the My Classic Car TV show, Dennis's production guy--he's the tall dude with the non-gray/non-scruffy beard--and my great friend Greg Eliff (face hidden on right), who currently finds and race-restores old Indycars and such for a living, but used to be a damn good and accomplished crew chief for some top pro racing teams. He took care of several of the cars that Brian drove, as well as nurse-maiding the Paul Newman/D*** Barbour/Rolf Stommelen Porsche 935 that finished 1st in class and 2nd overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979. And has HE got some stories to tell...
Also wandering through the paddock were familiar racing faces like Bill Adam, Gunnar Jeanette, Gil deFerran and Helio Castroneves (he's gotta stop copying my dance moves) and there were an abundance of cool cars to drool over, too. Including an ultra-rare and jewel-like 1965 Ferrari 1512 Formula One car. Powered by a 1500cc (1489.6, actually) flat-12, it made a noise like a swarm of man-eating bumble bees backed up by an entire orchestral string section of angry sewing machines.
Wow! Say, wasn't the very first Ferrari a 1.5 liter 12 cylinder back in 1949?
Also on hand were the Revs Institute GT40 and Ford Mk. IIB I drove last time I was at Targa 66
a 908 Porsche, a couple late-issue Indycars, a Jagermeister Porsche 962 (now
there's a sponsor!) and a UOP Shadow Can-Am car of the type that won the very last unlimited Can-Am championship (and that I might actually get to drive later on this summer...whoo-eee!)
and here's Joe Nastasi's lovely, V8-powered Alfa Type 33 prototype. Take notes, there may be a quiz later on....
They were all part of a virtual cornucopia of cool stuff from priceless classics to track-day berserkers to the latest, bucks-up supercars from Ferrari, McLaren et al. Hell, it's worth dropping by just to purge the excess drool out of your system...
And, as if that wasn't enough, we got a Targa 66-style tour and pizza party at benevolent racer/collector Larry Wilson's ultra-incredible garage (see utterly gob-smacking pix below). His is among the most amazing Garage Mahal setups I've ever seen (yeah, Jay Leno's is bigger and has more stuff, but Larry's is packed tighter...plus it's also a race shop, and that's always good for a few brownie points):
What more could I possibly add?
On the ride-mooching front, the two early-issue Revs Institute Coopers I'd hoped to drive failed to make it to the track, but I did get some welcome laps in my friend Mitch Eitel's Elva Mk. 7S mit 2-liter BMW power. Always one of my very favorite racecars (and this one was restored and race-prepped by my friend Lee Chapman, so it was really "on the button") so it was huge fun to drive! Full story upcoming in the magazine, but believe this: if you could see my face inside the blessed helmet, I'd be smiling!
Action photos by ace lensman & longtime friend Chuck Andersen
(WARNING: KEEP COVERING YOUR WALLET & CHECKBOOK WITH BOTH HANDS....)
Well, see, the thing about writing books is that alls y'gotta worry about is one brain and one imagination and the inevitable one human body that comes along with it. So it's basically just you and the computer screen and the hoped-for vision and inspiration. Plus the sense of commitment, mission and discipline that keeps your eyes off the freakin' TV set and your nose out of the refrigerator (or a beer bottle) so's you can get the damn thing finished.
But get grandiose ideas like a radio-play audiobook version of said book and all of a sudden you find yourself working with other folks. Maybe (if you're lucky) talented, skillful and experienced other folks. But, see, if I wanted to work with other folks, I could'a gone in for TV writing or synchronized swimming or gotten myself a cushy corporate/government job where the best way to advance your way to a fatter paycheck and an office with a picture-window view of the city is to keep your effing mouth shut, avoid making waves and agree with everybody even slightly upstream of you on the old responsibility food chain.
The point is that there are two types of people in this world: those who divide everybody on God's earth into two types of people and...
That's not really my point, is it?
What I'm trying to say is that some people are Team Players and play well with others and some other folks (like me, for example) always feel that we see and know and understand everything better than anybody who ever lived and that it's almost always faster and better and easier to Do Everything Yourself. And that's because by the time you get something properly explained or demonstrated or [worst-case scenario] argued out, you coulda been done long ago and moved on to something else.
Mind you, no government or army or corporation or construction crew on earth could long exist based on the model described above. But I've found it works pretty much OK for writing.
So what I'm trying to say is that I have to work as part of a functioning team to get this audiobook project done, and it's making me more than a little impatient. And irascible. And unreasonable. So if you read about a mass murder or a random strangling or whatever and recognize my name as either the victim or the perpetrator, it's probably just a wee bump in the road we've encountered along the way...
That said, we ARE making headway (thanks in great part to Josh Richter, who started out as our sound-guy facilitator but has become a major gear in the whole machine). We've been seeking out and auditioning cast voices and hammering on the script and recording the basic narration and working on sound effects and picking music and generally moving ahead at a pace that is probably destined to drive me stark, raving mad. Aarrrggghh!
But, like I said, we are making headway. And methinks you'll enjoy the finished product when we finally get done with it. And I also believe it will take our gospel of grease according to narrator/hero Buddy Palumbo to a new and much larger collection of ears and brain pans. All over the world, I mean. And on and on and on into perpetuity...
Which is why you should consider insuring a wee, small slice of immortality for yourself (or for a friend, or for yourself and a friend, or maybe yourself and your spouse, or your business or your car club or maybe as a memorial to someone special or...hey, let's be honest here, I don't really care what the hell it's for) since you--yes, YOU!--can fork over a fistful of cash or credit ($500.oo to be exact) and SPONSOR A CHAPTER in the new THE LAST OPEN ROAD audiobook! Just five hunnert bucks! Such a deal! Act now! Limited number of chapters available! Blah-blah-blah-blah!
For More info or to ask dumb questions or complain, call the Think Fast Ink offices at (708) 383-7203 or e-mail email@example.com. Or, if you're an Action Right Now type of character who's eager to be a sponsor already, by all means move your cursor over and
MORE STUFF & NONSENSE
Went to the Chicago Auto Show press day two weeks ago on a bitterly cold Friday, and I think the three things that most jumped out at me were:
1) There are entirely too many really good cars from really good car companies competing for your consumer dollars. Market segments are overloaded with a profusion of fine product (most of which is pretty damn good...particularly as compared to the so-called "classics" we grew up with) and the result is that catchy catch-phrases, big-buck ad buys and all the accompanying advertising/marketing b******* & hoopla wind up accounting for an inordinate share of the damn window-sticker price.
And, no, I have no idea how to fix that.
2) For reasons that are likewise beyond me, a lot of this year's Hot S*** Cars (the new NSX, the Jaguar F-Type convertible, the new Ford GT, the new Corvette, the Porsche hybrid prototype that won Le Mans, etc.) appeared in stark refrigerator white on the show floor.
Which, IMHO, tends to dull and flatten the car's lines and "absorb" the sculpturing of the bodywork. Now there is an entire, highly expert and even more highly paid consulting business built up around this particular facet of product presentation, and it is considered vitally important in our ever-changing and trend-conscious consumer environment. But, personally, I simply don't get it. White is for nurse's uniforms or the tasseled leather loafers favored by old-line used-car salesmen who often wear belts to match. Along with some plaid or madras or checks or wide stripes or polka dots (or all of the above) to keep things lively.
Much cooler (again, IMHO) were some of the semi-matte "satin finishes" like the one shown on the aftermarket Lamborghini below.
Not really wild about the color (izzat lilac?), but do like the finish a lot.
On the other hand, if you're really rolling in dough, how about buying your favorite tootsie (and maybe even a second one for the wife while you're at it?) one of these baby-blue beauties:
Just the thing for a zip up Rodeo Drive to the hairdresser. Or downtown to see a favorite divorce lawyer....
3) Couldn't help gravitating towards the Alfa Romeo stand (if you have the Alfisti affliction, it's impossible to resist) and I have to admit that the neatest car on the entire freaking show floor was the 1968 Alfa Tipo 33 Stradale (see Type 33 racecar above) which amounts to a totally impractical but utterly beguiling combination of a 2-liter, mid-engined, all-out Alfa T-33 racing prototype clothed in unspeakably sexy, swoopy, quasi-roadworthy Italian GT bodywork:
(bonus question: who did the design work on this little beauty?).
Now Alfa never sold more than a handful of these things (most folks couldn't afford one and the rest were far too smart) and they were done by several different carrozzeria ("coachbuilders" en Englais) but they are extraordinarily gorgeous and exciting to behold and warm the cockles of your heart (assuming your heart is equipped with cockles) just looking at the damn things!
Somewhat less exciting is Alfa's new (and apparently headed for the good ol' US of A) Giulia sedan shown below:
Don't get me wrong: I adore Alfas and this is a really cool car. But it's entering into a crowded and competitive Upper-End Hot-S***-Sedan segment up against a lot of well-proven and much-admired products (see BMW) along with breathless newer contenders from the east. Plus Alfa's lingering corporate reputation in this country--rightly or wrongly--has a bit of the aroma of ripe cheese about it.
But the other side of the Serpent of Milano is that Alfa Romeos are genuinely beloved by many (including just about all of Italy and most of the rest of Europe) and their following in this country is die-hard and dedicated if not exactly great in number. And that's because the really big thing about Alfas (besides all the great history and emotional content and damn-near-racecar-issue engineering) is that they're quite obviously designed and marketed by people who genuinely love to drive. And FAST, too.
I wish them the very best and can't wait to drive one.
Also on hand was a show-car version of the the new Mazda racing prototype (now, finally, with a proper petrol racing engine!)
which ran at the sharp end of the field until teething problems intervened at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Which is great news for my dear and longtime friend John Doonan, who more-or-less heads up the Mazda Motorsports of North America racing program (I used to race against his daddy back when John was barely out of diapers). And now, finally, he has a car in the stable capable of running with the fastest cars out there. He was kind enough to affix one of our "The Last Open Road" decals to the team cars at Daytona (see below)
which showed great speed but suffered on luck and stamina. I hope it brings them better fortune and the best possible results at The 12 Hours of Sebring. For all they've given and committed to North American motorsports on every level from grassroots on up, John and his team deserve it!
YOU (yes, YOU!) CAN BE A TRACKSIDE/TRAILSIDE
Observe our curvaceous and captivating Victoria's Secret lingere model (above) in his exquisite FINZIO'S SINCLAIR embroidered track jacket. Truth is, I had it made on account of I left my beloved and long-serving Age & Treachery Racing jacket in a freaking restaurant near Roebling Road Raceway outside of Savannah. It was the perfect weight for all sorts of weather (warm enough for those borderline frosty nights at Sebring & Daytona and yet light enough for spring, fall and even summer evenings), was pretty much rain-proof, had cozy, cinch-up velcro wrist bands and zip-all-the-way-up collar to fight off wind and genuine zippered pockets (including one on the inside) and was damn near indestructible.
And this is almost the same exact jacket. Only with my Finzio's Sinclair logo writ large (well, make that embroidered large) across the back and our familiar The Last Open Road logo embroidered across my manly left pec. It's in there somewhere, I promise you.
The point is that it came out pretty nice, and so we're going to do a limited production run at $100 each. But only for folks who place their orders ahead of time, on account of I don't want to be sitting on an inventory of hunnert-buck jackets in all the wrong sizes. So, if you'd like one or (better yet) can't live without one, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Think Fast Ink office at (708) 383-7203 with your size and payment information and we'll put you down for one. The order will probably go in on April Fool's Day (that seems appropriate, n'est ce pas?) and you'll be s*** out of luck if you dawdle or procrastinate and want one after that.
Not that I'm threatening you or anything.
Our last trivia question concerned the shot below, which was taken at the Autobahn track in nearby Joliet, IL during the HSR Enduro there some years back.
The car I'm wheeling is my friend Mike Kaske's ultra-rare and beautiful Causey P6 Special powered by what he swore on a short stack of bibles (or maybe it was pancakes?) was just a 2.0-liter rendition of a Porsche 911 flat-6. Now this is a pretty damn unusual car. The Causey brothers out of Indianapolis were longtime amateur and professional racers (privateer Can-Am efforts, etc.) and they decided, in the wake of successful Under 2-Liter cars from England like the Lotus 23 and Elva Mk. 7, that they were going to build their own, made-right-here-in-the-good-ole-U.S. of A Under 2-Liter racecars and sell them. Ostensibly for a profit.
The chassis was conceived and crafted by renowned Chicago-area maestro Al Baurle (it's a good one!) and the bodywork was a blatant (but excellent) back-alley fiberglass ripoff of the fabulous 330P3/P4 Ferraris that ran at Le Mans. A lot of folks think they're the most beautiful damn racing cars ever built, and I'm not about to argue the point.
Not many Causeys were completed and they came with a variety of engines (one even ran in Midwestern Council racing with a Datsun 1200 pushrodder in back) but Mike's is surely the best (and best-developed) of the lot and we've shared some wonderful races in it. We took an overall win with it in the VSCDA Enduro at Grattan and were leading overall again at Gingerman before I broke the car in half. Really I did. And without actually hitting anything...
See, it was late in the race and we had a pretty substantial lead, and about then I noticed the car was starting to "porpoise" its way around the circuit. And of course you try to figure out what the hell is going on, since you're loathe to pull into the pits (particularly when you're effing leading!) so close to the checker. But it kept getting worse and worse until the car was handling more-or-less like a jet-propelled pogo stick! I'd figured by that point we maybe had a busted motor mount, which was allowing the engine to more-or-less shift on its moorings (TIGHTENING the throttle linkage and causing the car to lurch forward!) which in turn let the linkage go slack again and caused the car to sag backwards on closed throttle. At which point the linkage tightened again and, well, you get the idea. Now it was a fine piece of mechanical detective work as far as I could see, but by then the car was pretty much undriveable and my eyeballs were bouncing around like lottery balls on a Saturday night. So I pulled off and parked it.
The towtruck brought us in afterwards and the problem became terrifically obvious when crew-member/friend Tim Michnay tried to jack up one corner to take a looksee underneath. And that's all that came up off the ground. Just the one corner. Seems the big weld that kinda held the main frame tubes to the main structural bulkhead right behind the driver compartment had pretty much gone Tango Uniform (look it up) and the frame was effectively (if not totally) broken in half. Ooops.
But Mike's guys fixed it and we had some other memorable runs with the car after that. Such as the picture shot above from Autobahn. That was a goodie. Had one hell of a dice for the lead with Bob Lujkovic's Elva Mk. 7 (his car was lighter and poked a smaller h*** in the air, while we had more power...see pic below):
but I finally sneaked around and pulled out a little margin and it looked like we were set for another nice win. Until we ran out of fuel heading into the last corner on the last lap of the race, that is. And that's after I asked if we needed to add any on our pit stop and Mike told me he'd done all the calculations and we had plenty to spare.
As to the record I set with the Causey at Road America, seems I was out for morning practice with nobody around me when the oil plug worked loose on the bottom of the engine. I wasn't really looking in my mirrors since I knew there was no one behind me, and may I say that the Causey had a very sizable dry-sump tank feeding oil to the engine. When the gauge finally started to flutter and the oil-pressure light came on (fortunately at the entrance to pit lane, BTW), I duly switched off and coasted uphill to the pits. At which point I was met by a VERY upset chief steward. Seems I'd left a trail of oil almost three-quarters of the way around Road America's 4.0-mile circuit (and, might I add with pride, right on the effing proper racing line!) that took 45 minutes and a course-record FIFTY-SEVEN bags of Oil-Dri to clean up.
Needless to say, I was not a very popular guy at Road America that particular day...
BTW, although that record stood for many years, it has since been eclipsed. One assumes by a car with an EXTREMELY large dry-sump tank.!