BS Levy - Author of The Last Open Road and many other fine automotive stories!
And now...NEW TRIVIA! And, once again, there's a direct text connection to one of my books. In fact, you can find the entire answer in a single scene in one of them.
Only I ain't sayin' which one, see...
OK, so here's the picture (thanks to my pal Bill Warner):
And here's what I want to know:
1) What the hell is it?
2) Who designed it?
3) Who built it?
6) Who bought it?
9 and last): For how much?
I await your answers...
Recent Musings - A LOTTA WATAH UNNER DA BRIDG...
Well, it's been a long time since I sat down to do a "regular" e-blast--seems like eons--and here I am up in the middle of the effing night again working on it on account of my inner clock is still in "GET THE FREAKING BOOK DONE!" mode. Which means I wake up at effing 2 or 2:30 in the morning with eyes vibrating, wide and fearful and my fingers already curled into hair-trigger, carpal tunnel syndrome claws...
You think it's easy being a damn writer?
But the upside is there in spades if people want to read your stuff (and so much the better if they're willing to pay for the privilege!) and the weekend Carol and I just endured and enjoyed at Road America had "GEEZ, THIS MAKES IT ALL WORTHWHILE" written all over it. In capital letters, no less.
But it was a lot of work, too. I had to run (pedal, actually) back-and-forth to Turn 5, all around the paddock and up to Race Control to keep abreast of what was going on race-wise so I can write the effing report for the magazine, and in between signed scads of shameless-scam "Preview Edition" copies of the new book for three solid days from the VINTAGE MOTORSPORT magazine (you should really have a subscription!) booth in the paddock. Also did a little judging in the Friday Night racecar concours in town (much fun!), set up our book pushcart on my friend Bill Hall's front lawn just a few doors up from Siebkens' infamous bar during the "street" car concours on Saturday night (see pic below...I don't judge in that one anymore on account of one year they gave me Porsches, and I discovered I'm nowhere near anal enough for that sort of duty...)
(cue breathless teenage girl's voice):
OK, so, y'know, like, a lot of stuff has happened, okaaaay? Like I taught at the Alfa Club/Austin Healey Club track day at Blackhawk Farms back on July 2nd and had some willing & wonderful students with some even more willing & wonderful cars. Cars that I got to drive myself--at considerable speed, I might add--whilst, umm, err, "showing them the proper line around Blackhawk Farms Raceway" (which is my old home track and where I took my own first race-driving school back when tubeless tires were the hot new thing).
OK, it was 1970...
See pix below of old friend and serial book sponsor/sucker Tod Willson's supremely pristine and elegant BRG (natch!) Jaguar XK120 and also of new friend (and potential future sponsor and sucker?) John LoGiudice's highly impressive & immaculate Kirkham Cobra 289 replica (which is now wearing one of our LAST OPEN ROAD decals over its scrumptiously shapely rump).
Quite a contrast between the two cars but both were truly lovely to drive. Although John did have us off in the grass ass-backwards once thanks to getting a bit too greedy with the speed and having a little too much fun. But no harm was done and we really had a good time together. Now I'm not real big on replicars in general, but the Kirkham is a pretty nifty piece of kit. It's VERY true to the original Shelby Cobra design (transverse-leaf-spring suspension, etc., although quite a bit more powerful than "back in the day") and the quality of materials and assembly are truly stunning. Then again, they're built by real aeronautical technicians in a semi-defunct MiG fighter plant in Poland that kind of ran out of jet fighters to build when the Cold War ebbed and needed some new projects to stay busy. A couple guys from Utah supplied exactly that, and the Kirkham Cobras are the result. And it's stunning, It's also FAST! And fun! And captures the look, feel, character and ambiance of the "real thing," too...
Sadly had to miss one of my very favorite events (Millers at Milwaukee) July 10-11 as I was thrashing away like mad and burning the old midnight oil by the 55-gallon drum as I hustled, clawed, scraped, hammered, wrestled & gnashed the new book together and off to the "Preview Edition" printer. Who were good as their word (48-Hour Printers out of Ohio...you can find them on the web) and had it back to me--finished!--in just a few days time.
And what a thrill to finally hold an actual copy in my hand for the very first time in the UPS barn at Road America.
And then we proceeded to sell the living snot out of them! With most folks kindly opting for the fifty-buck "take the soft-cover Preview Edition with you now and we'll ship you the hardback first edition with the full-color ad & novelty section inside when we have them in early September."
I ask you: how many writers have figured out how to sell the same book twice????
Well, the web 50-buck deal orders and the first-edition pre-orders for the new book are still coming in at a gratifying pace (thanks to all!) and our upcoming book-signing schedule looks something like this:
Saturday, August 8th, 10am-2pm: We (hopefully!) launch the "real" hardback first edition with a celebratory book signing at the oh-so-excellent AUTOBOOKS/AERBOOKS enthusiast bookstore at 2900 W. Magnolia Ave. in beautiful not-so-downtown Burbank, CA. We'll have copies of all the other books on hand as well.
Wednesday, August 12th, 10am-4pm: More of the same with PEOPLE KARS at the AUTOMOBILIA MONTEREY art, book and memorabilia show in the Embassy Suites Monterey Bay Hotel at 1441 Canyon Del Ray Blvd, Seaside, CA. This pretty much kicks off the race weekend in Monterey.
Friday, August 14-Sunday August 16: Hawking books and accosting hapless passers-by during lunchtime and between on-track race groups at the VINTAGE MOTORSPORT MAGAZINE booth on the vendor island at the fabled & fabulous ROLEX MONTEREY MOTORSPORTS REUNION at MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA on Hwy 68 between Monterey and Salinas. Do stop by and say "Hi!"
Labor Day Weekend Sept. 4-7: Hawking books in my usual, highly privileged spot on the deck just up the stairs from the main paddock at Murray Smith's always lovely LIME ROCK HISTORIC FESTIVAL at buried-in-the-Berkshires Lime Rock Park in the NW corner of Connecticut. It's a green, woodsy, beautiful place and surely worth the trip up from New York City (if only to getaway from New York City...).
September 18-20: Back to ROAD AMERICA for my home club's VSCDA FALL FESTIVAL. I'm told Jaguars will be featured and many will be in attendance (I understand the track is laying in an especially large order of Oil-Dri for the occasion). I'll be hawking books at the 4-Mile Merchant permanent track store in the main paddock and also at the concours in town. May get to do a little driving, too.
MORE TO COME!!!!!
THE PERILS OF MOTORSPORTS JOURNALISM
OR: YOU CAN'T PLEASE EVERYBODY ALL THE TIME
OK, so everybody knows I've been working on this Cheetah story for the magazine for what seems like forever and a day, but it finally came out in the new issue (see below) and mostly the response has been encouraging, congratulatory and enthusiastic. Mostly...
But it wouldn't be real life if we didn't have an unhappy camper or two, and the fellow at the very front of that particular line is Bob Auxier, who built quite accurate, Bill Thomas-blessed "continuation" Cheetahs for many years and actually engaged me as his "factory team" driver for one VERY hot but also very memorable July weekend at Road America. We had some issues with the brakes at first (the rears locked up solid the first time I got on them hard and more-or-less spit me and Bob's Cheetah into the Turn 5 concrete wall) but the damage wasn't bad and we were out running again in the very next session. Motor problems prevented us from being any kind of threat in the actual races (it sounded great, but that Chevy didn't have enough real power to peel the skin off a pudding). But we did get the chassis dialed in a little and the car felt more-or-less decent (in spite of the lack of grunt) by the end of the weekend.
We parted on friendly terms.
Anyhow, it took me a loooong time to get that story finished (a full litany of excuses is available on CD, cassette tape or 8-track for $9.99 at Finzio's Store) but I did do a lot of research, read every damn magazine story and race report ever printed on the subject, talked to owners, the original designer and period drivers, etc. and drove no less than four of the monsters as, err, "research..."
And while all of that was going on, things were getting dicey indeed in the world of Continuation Cheetahs. I won't bore you with the details (some of it is below and is self-explanatory) but suffice to say that a shitstorm was brewing and I was somewhat unknowingly and unwillingly in the midst of it.
And it all came to something of a head--like a festering pimple just waiting to be
popped--shortly after the July/August issue of VINTAGE MOTORSPORT magazine hit the streets. For your entertainment, enjoyment and elucidation, may I present, without comment, changes, corrections or further ado, the exchange of e-mails that followed between Bob Auxier and myself (BTW and FYI, D. Randy Riggs is my esteemed editor at VINTAGE MOTORSPORT):
E-mail from Burt to Robert Auxier
Sent: Thu, Aug 21, 2014 at 10:01 AM.:
Well, it's been a long time for both of us (including a change of magazines for me) but I'm finally finishing up the Cheetah story as a feature for Vintage Motorsport (recently drove Ron Keck's very fast & well-developed #61 Cro-Sal clone...WOW!) and of course the story wouldn't be complete without re-connecting with you.
Reply from Robert Auxier
Sent: Aug 21, 2014 2:49 PM
Subject: Re: long-dormant Cheetah story
What Story about Cheetah's?
You can call me after 5PM Phoenix Time.
Mr Cheetah !!!
A relatively cordial phone conversation duly followed, during which Bob said he was still building cars, taking a few folks to court and working hard on his resurrection of Bill Thomas' never-finished, big-block Super Cheetah project.
Several months thereafter I finally finished the story, approved the proofs supplied by my editor and the magazine hit the streets.
The s*** hit the fan, too...
From: Robert Auxier
Sent: Thurs, Jul 16, 2015 9:45 AM
Hey you jack ass, Where is my $17,000 for wrecking and destroying my BTM Cheetah, You gave your word after you wrecked in turn 5 it was your fault we have it on video.
That Unconscionable Garbage you wrote about the Cheetah is the worst Bull S*** I ever heard.
That Ron Keck Cheater Motor Cheetah has been cheating for years it has an aluminum 406 Sprint car engine, (Illegal)
Your are a Disgrace, I hope we can find you this weekend.
On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 6:28 AM, I replied:
First off, I'm sorry that you're upset.
I wrote the Cheetah story as honestly and factually as I could. I drove 4 Cheetahs (including yours, and I thank you very much again for the opportunity), interviewed original Cheetah designer Don Edmunds, Bill Thomas III, yourself, Fred Yeakel, Ralph Salyer, Bob Bondurant, Dan Gurney, Jerry Grant and others, read EVERY in-period Cheetah story I could find, talked to many of the Cheetah owners at the reunion last year at RA, researched the history as extensively as possible and then wrote the story. It took several years because I had book projects and short-term writing assignments, and I wanted to meet and talk to the California people (in particular Fred Yeakel and Bill Thomas III) before completing it, and that didn't happen until I had dinner with both of them last summer following a wonderful visit to Fred's shop.
As to your differences of opinion and/or position with Ron Keck and any other "Cheetah continuation" purveyors, I'm sorry it's going on and I purposely stayed away from the topic in my story. It's just not my job or place to make judgments or pick sides.
As to Ron's car, all I can say is that it's the best damn Cheetah racecar I've ever driven and kudos to Ron and Brian Garcia and their crew for preparing and developing it so well. As to the motor's legality, that's for the stewards and/or the other people in the class to take issue with, not me. All I know is that it's well-sorted, well turned out and goes like stink.
As to "wrecking" your car, let me remind you that YOU invited ME to drive it, and that it happened the first time I put the brakes on really hard heading down into Road America's Turn 5 and the rear brakes locked up because the brake balance was adjusted way too much to the rear. Let me further remind you that I am FAR from the first "invited" driver to spin or crash a Cheetah. As it says in my story, Jerry Grant broke the first Alan Green Chevrolet car in two the first time he tried driving it hard during practice for Daytona. And let me further remind you that the "$17,000" damage you claim basically amounted to a broken taillight lens, a busted plexiglass rear window and some easily-refinished scuffs on the rear fiberglass. And let me even further remind you that we had the car running for the very next track session (with the brakes adjusted, although minus the back window) and let me finally remind you that you told me at the time it was "no problem" and even signed the remaining window fragment for me, which still hangs in my den trophy room.
You also might want to know that the magazine has received a huge response to my Cheetah story and, excepting for your one e-mail, it has all been positive, congratulatory and enthusiastic.
As to finding me this weekend, I will be at the Vintage Motorsport Magazine tent on the main drag in the Road America paddock during lunchtime and between afternoon race groups all three days. But I hope to be busy with the new book, so if you would prefer to talk on the phone or meet somewhere else, I will be happy to accommodate you.
Wishing you all the best,
Bob Auxier's reply:
From: Robert Auxier [mailto:[email protected]]
Nothing but PURE (BS) and Vintage Motorsport bought this garbage., Everyone is calling me asking WTF did this Idiot do to the Bill Thomas Cheetah History?? You, Bill III, Yeakel Keck Don't have a clue.
Your view of the Cheetah history is Unconscionable, The worst damage in the history of the Cheetah. You are a Disgrace.
If you talked to Bill III, You understood from Randy Rigs, He is being sued in Federal Court For He has tried to destroy his fathers Legacy in conjunction with Ron Keck & Ruth Engineering ! If his mouth is moving it is a lie. Obama will hire him to work in his cabinet. He is perfect. He Stole 108 Signed by Bill Thomas BTM Letters of Authenticity from his own Family. Value $524,000 Missing from the family. His hands are Unclean. Our Trial date is Aug 18th.
Fred Yeakel has a Fraudulent incorrect Vin Number on his BS Yeakel Cheetah. He has No Genuine FIA Paper work approved by FIA. Fred has False Ownership history tied to his Yeakel thing.
So you meet with the 2 worst corrupt sources on the Planet and you think you know everything, Your an Idiot, Or in Bills words your a Dam Dummy.
There is one thing for sure history will show you have done the worst injustice to the Bill Thomas Name I have ever seen. I will write a Colum of fact finding reviewing your words of BS on a Cheetah Blog. Randy Rigs gave me his word he would let me view it before it went to the printer. WOW, I see why he could not let me see it.
BS everything will come full circle for all your wrong doing.
Robert Auxier !!
Just for the record, Editor Randy has no recollection of promising Bob or anyone else a look at the story before it went to press, and it's not the sort of thing Randy would be likely to do in any case.
Are more pithy, vitriolic e-mails in the offing (including some from unexpected sources?)
Been a while. ain't it? Well, we had a precious few correct answers to the last one (pic below) and, as you might expect, they almost all came from Canada.
The track is of course Mosport, the year is 1962, and we're watching the opening lap (on a decidedly damp but drying track) of the Sept. 22nd so-called "Grand Prix of Canada for the Pepsi-Cola Trophy" (even though, as any fool can plainly see, it's not a true formula-one "Grand Prix" but a high-end sports car race). Now this particular race is featured a bit in the new book, and the utterly amazing thing here is that up-and-coming ex-pat Brit Canadian driver John Cannon is actually leading--ON A WET TRACK!--in the decidedly brutal, Chevy-powered, front-engined and home-built Canadian Dailu Special! And he's ahead of (ahem): Roger Penske in his 2.7-liter "Telar Special" Cooper Monaco, Dan Gurney in the Arciero Brothers Lotus 19 that led damn near every race it was ever in but failed to finish most of them, eventual winner Masten Gregory in the seasick green UDT-Laystall Lotus 19, maybe Bonnier (???) in the rare, 8-cylinder factory Porsche Type 718, Jack Brabham in his own Lotus 23 and Jim Hall in the original Troutman-Barnes Chaparral. But the striking thing is John Cannon leading on merit in the Dailu (admittedly on his home track) and how he mixed it up with the very best of them until mechanical problems dropped him back to 15th place come the checker. Wow.
You can reach BS at: [email protected]