The latest musings from Bert Levy - author of the very best Last Open Road book and STEAMROLLER III

Hey, it's hard to go wrong with old Chuck Dickens. That man could write! But the thing I'm trying to convey is that I'm just kinda sitting here these days (and none too comfortably, either, what with my right leg in a strap-on brace from hip to ankle) and wondering just what the heck to do with myself. I'm in the fading, limbo-esque slipstream of the monster audio book project and the right-on-its-heels (and likewise monstrous) "Steamroller III" book project just sent off to the printer a week-and-a-half ago--have you ordered YOUR copy yet?--and, as of two days ago, I'm all caught up with the magazine, too. Do you have YOUR dual subscriptions to VINTAGE MOTORSPORT and RACER to keep you properly up-to-date on everything that's important, compelling, interesting and/or entertaining in the entire realm, spectrum and universe of the motorsport world?
If not, please CLICK HERE for one hell of a great two-fer deal.
But the point is that I'm suddenly (albeit temporarily) becalmed. Adrift. Hammock-bound. No flailing, last-gasp emergencies to attend to or deadlines to meet or van to pack or road trip to embark on or...
To be perfectly honest, it's not the sort of thing I'm used to. Or happy about, either. Like a shark, I seem to need to keep moving all the time or else...well, we don't even need to go into the "or else" part, do we? Like my daddy always used to tell me:
Paternal Sage Comment #1: "There's plenty of time to rest after you're dead."
Paternal Sage Comment #2: "You stay still for too long and they start throwing dirt on top of you..."
Hell, I even organized all of our The Last Open Road/clever track sayings shirt inventory yesterday and started to clean up the garage (pardon me, I mean "the shipping department") which isn't all that easy with this medieval freaking torture device strapped around my leg.
Good news is that the leg, knee and associated connective tissue seem to be improving greatly, and we'll be seeing the Orthopedic Squad tomorrow to see if the brace can come off (at least some of the time) so's I can drive up to our book-signing extravaganza (once again alongside my hero/friend/fellow author David Hobbs) in The Paddock Shop at the big IMSA race at Road America next weekend. Sure hope I get the All Clear. And if I don't, there's always the Ignoring The Effing Doctor's Advice option to fall back on.
Possibly literally...
More good news. We will surely be sold out of the softback PREVIEW EDITIONS of the new book (see pic below) a week or more before the hardback first editions arrive towards the end of the month. AND the pre-orders for those pre-release First Editions have been pouring in at an amazing rate. Thanks to all of you who've ordered them. And especially those among you who opted for the Shameless Scam/Nothing-Up-My-Sleeve "Two-Fer" Deal (CLICK HERE FOR BEFUDDLING DETAILS) that includes a signed/personalized First Edition once we have them in hand PLUS a softback Preview Edition right-freaking-NOW so's you can start reading immediately. Such a deal.
STEAMROLLER III Revised Roll-Out Schedule/Details:
July 15-18: Preview Edition Debut at the W.I.C. at Road America. This has already happened. So if you're still waiting for it to happen, you're probably addled and confused enough to go for the Big Plunger Two-Fer Deal mentioned above. So just scroll up to those big, bold blue letters directly above and click on them. You won't feel a thing. I promise...
July 23-25: The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. This event sadly went on without me thanks to the leg thing. Dammit. But there's always next year, right?
July 31/August 1st: Watched an awful lot of Olympics coverage on TV plus a thoroughly entertaining (albeit strange and discombobulated) Hungarian GP. The battle of wills, skills and track position between Fernando Alonso's obviously not-quite-as-good Alpine (nee Renault) and my hero Lewis Hamilton's usually dominant Mercedes was the stuff of legends. Wow. On the oither hand, this not being able to go on a blessed bike ride in spite of some truly FABULOUS weekend weather and my very favorite bike path just one mile away is making me grouchy and taciturn in the extreme. Just ask Carol.
August 5th-8th: Signing & Schmoozing (hopefully) in The Paddock Shop at Road America during the big IMSA pro-racing weekend. Hobbs is scheduled to be there, too.
August 13th-15th: Monterey/Pebble Beach go on without me. Sniff. Might possibly head up to Grattan for the VSCDA race there, but will probably pass on that, too, and concentrate on finishing up "straightening up the garage" (AAARRRGGGHHHH!) & getting ready for our big "Operation Barbarossa" push on the Eastern Front coming up at the end of the month.
August 22: (Save the date if you live in the greater Chicagoland area!): Book signing & schmoozing amongst a bunch of really neat cars in the SCCA display area at THE GENEVA CONCOURS in Geneva, IL. from 10am-3pm. Click for details.
August 27-29: Paddock Shop at Road America again for the World Challenge pro weekend. We MAY have the hardback first editions by then. Then again, we may not...
Sept. 3-6 (Labor Day Weekend): Signing and Schmoozing (hopefully in our usual, highly privileged spot on the deck by the track store and Drivers' Lounge) at the always-fabulous-with-great-racing-plus-lots-of-cars-you-don't-see-anywhere-else Historic Festival/Concours in the Park at Lime Rock Park, CT. If all the pieces fall properly into place, we will be launching our Pre-Release First Edition Book Tour there. Woo-Hoo! Come enjoy a really great time among the Berkshire greenery and rusty swap meet/autojumble junk at Lime Rock. And buy some stuff, too...
Sept. 9-12: Signing books on the Vendor Row at the SVRA "Speed Tour" event (nee "Vintage Grand Prix") at Watkins Glen, and also downtown on the courthouse lawn on Franklin Street during the fabulous & regularly fantastic Watkins Glen Street Festival on Friday afternoon/evening. Not to be missed.
Sept. 17-19: Paddock Shop book signing during the VSCDA/HSR Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival at Road America. If you've never been, either as a spectator or a participant, this is the one you want to put on your bucket list. Not nearly as crowded or frantic as the W.I.C. in July, lots of track time for the racers and, if you get lucky on the weather & the natural colorization cycle of the leaves, absolutely freaking beautiful.
Sept. 30-October 3rd: Signing/schmoozing on the vendor row at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at the hallowed and historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road course). You want to see a LOT of fraught, well-fought, nose-to-tail and doorhandle-to-doorhande racing action packed into three short days, this is the place. If you've never been to an SCCA Runoffs, put it on your bucket list as well. It's SPECIAL!
October 15-17: Chattanooga Car Festival. Details to follow.
October 31 (Halloween!): General Release of the new book through bookstores, mass merchandisers and internet purveyors (read: "amazon"). Please note that this makes perfect, elliptical sense since the first book (The Last Open Road) actually ends at a racers' Halloween costume party at the Flegley Family's Funeral Home in East Orange, NJ.
Okay, so let's say you're going on a long road trip this summer or fall. Maybe to a racetrack or car show. And let's furthermore postulate that you'll be crossing some incomprehensibly dull and/or boring portion of these United States like Kansas, Nebraska or Southern Illinois (or roughly two-thirds of Canada) and you'd like a little something to help melt those miles into smiles. May I humbly suggest the unusual, entertaining, ground-breaking & genre-bending audiobook version of The Last Open Road. It's 20 hours of racing, wrenching, romance (hey, it can't all be loud motors and the smell of burning castor-bean oil) and road-trip FUN! People love this thing. You will, too. Honest.
Here's a shot that brings back fond memories. "Hurley" bio/new, 3-volume "Brumos Racing" author Sean Cridland found it and passed it along. It was taken in victory lane at the ad-hoc "street" racing circuit running through Tamiami Park in Miami in 1987. Tamiami was the closing event of that year's Indycar series (that was back when Beatrice c.e.o. Jim Dutt was doing his best to make a diverse--dare I say "discombobulated?"--array of random, household-name brands like Martha White Cake Mix, Samsonite luggage, Culligan Water, Wesson Oil and Stiffel Lamps into one great, instantly recognized marketing/branding colossus. He was likewise spending a HUGE amount of money on motor racing--Indycar and F1 alike--because...well, because he could, I guess.
One of his key friends/advisers at the time was Chicago-area restaurateur, promoter, used-Ferrari salesman, entrepreneur, extraordinaire, hustler, visionary, friend and for several years my racing sponsor/car-owner, Joe Marchetti. Joe was a kingpin in the emerging vintage racing world, and that's how a vintage race came to be one of the curtain-raiser sideshows at that Tamiami Park season finale. I was driving the not quite original, 2.0-liter (hey, it was never a secret) AUSCA Alfa Duetto I'd barn-found, Joe financed and I built and raced the living crap out of for something like two-and-a-half years. That was in the early days of vintage racing, when most of the drivers were more-or-less collectors just putting their collective toes in the competitive water (translation: if you had any experience at all, you looked like Mario Freaking Andretti) and we racked up something like 13 wins in 15 races with that car. And just a single DNF thanks to a Facet fuel pump that went Tango Uniform and resisted all attempts to revive it.
But the moist memorable one of all was at Tamiami Park. First of all, there was a BIG crowd filling the grandstands (they were actually there to see the Indycars, of course, but there's something about having all those eyeballs on you) and, second, the track was just PERFECT for my Alfa, what with a lot of hard braking into perfect, third-gear corners that the Alfa could really sing through and no long straightaways where the "big iron" types could show off their horsepower. I'd qualified on the second row, with all but one of the Corvettes, Mustangs etc (and my soon-to-be-friend Monte Shalett, who'd just bought a very nice, used, alloy-bodied 250 Short Wheelbase Berlinetta from Joe) behind me. Monte bulled his Ferrari past on the green-drop run to Turn One, and I decided to hang back a bit as Monty was all arms and elbows (he was new to racing then) and looked to be somewhere on the far side of "determined." But that didn't last very long, as later that same lap he tried the impossible (i.e.: taking it without lifting) into the fast, sweeping final corner. I can still see that lovely Ferrari ricocheting off the concrete Jersey barrier on the left and shooting across my bows--banks-shot style--to do the same thing off the barriers on the right. Monty was fine, thank goodness (and went on, with a little seasoning, to become a fast and more-than-competent racing driver) but in the meantime he'd managed to turn his new-to-him Ferrari into an an even shorter-wheelbase Short-Wheelbase Berlinetta than it had ever been before...
In the end the Duetto and I finished third overall (not to mention first in the U-2.0-liter class), and, as you can imagine, I was really chuffed to be on the victory podium with overall winner/Brumos Porsche kingpin Bob Snodgrass (Mazda-powered Chevron B16) and 2nd-place finisher Bob Bondurant (yes, that one!) in somebody-or-other's full race-spec 289 Cobra.
I remember Bondurant looking down on my bellissimo, bright-red Duetto--heat waves still rising off the brakes and from under the hood--and asking, rather incredulously: "You finished third in THAT thing???"
Boy, did that ever make my head swell!
Don't think it's gone down all the way even today...
Believe my friend/serial-offender book sponsor/all-'round great guy John Dohmen got the answer in first (in a near photo finish, BTW) and the car above is the ill-conceived and patently terrifying Excalibur Mk. VI, seen in a toe-in-the-water practice run at Road America in (according to John) September of 1964. I've seen this car in the flesh (metal and fiberglass, actually) and it is the stuff of fast-twitch driver nightmares.
Think of a go kart. And, like a go-kart, it's short as a New York minute and the only suspension comes from the flex and give of the tire sidewalls! And just look at that wheelbase! You'd have to imagine that when the rear end steps out, it's like the SNAP! of a rat-trap. And now, just to make things interesting, stick a really B-I-G, hot-rodded Lincoln V8 in back (John seems to remember 487 cubic inches). And now find somebody brave and/or stupid enough to drive the damn thing.
Believe the designer of record (Brooks Stevens' son Dave?) took a couple laps in it and came away thinking he should maybe take up another line of work. And that's after several other drivers--the seasoned and excellent Jim Jeffords among them--took a good, long look at the thing and said "thanks, but no thanks."
OK, lads & ladies: What's going on here? You can make this an essay answer if you like (as I know you will, Bob Allen!), but keep it down to just one blue book, OK?
Think Fast Ink | PO Box 7488, Westchester, IL 60154 7083837203

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