South Sound Speedway is a tidy little 3/8ths mile paved oval, just south of Tacoma. I had been there twenty years ago to spectate. Around the same time, a Street Stock racer named Tom Curvat had given me the opportunity to try out his Olds on the now defunct Portland Speedway. That was the last time I had tested a car on an asphalt track anywhere.
Enter West Coast Vintage Racer Dick Nelson. Nelson purchased my Maxim Midget about four years ago. When he called with an offer to let me drive the car at South Sound, I jumped at the chance.
What an eclectic group of race cars! Six Midgets were on hand, three Volkswagens, my old Pontiac, a Chevy II and a Flathead. The big bore class was equally diverse; Sprint Cars and Super Modifieds from different eras, a dozen in all. Most were powered by small block Chevys but there was an inline six (GMC), at least one big block and the fabulous Ranger.
WCVR don’t race for a purse. They provide a show in exchange for track time. The club will generally arrive a day in advance to test and tune at leisure. Then on race night they join the regular program as an added attraction.
Nelson practiced in his powder blue ’72 Trostle Sprint Car on Friday, warmed up the Midget and even gave teenage Trista Churchill a try out. On Saturday unfortunately, the Pontiac fell ill. Nelson suspected it had dropped a cylinder and eventually it lost oil pressure all together. Apparently my disappointment was evident and that prompted Nelson to offer up his Sprint Car for one of the hot lap sessions.
Now this was a whole different deal. Nelson’s car is his baby and one of the most competitive in the club. I was thrilled to try it out but didn’t want to take a chance of hurting it. Even spinning it out might lead to disaster. I pushed off and was immediately impressed by how easily it steered. I was a bit tentative at first and left the bottom groove open for the faster drivers to pass. I tried to run a consistent line and not make any sudden moves. When no one dove in underneath me, I would edge to the inside and accelerate hard coming out of the turn. The car neither pushed toward the wall nor felt like it wanted to swap ends. The steering responded to the slightest movement. There was no wandering even under braking. On the straightaways, the car was an absolute rocket and kept pulling as long as I kept my foot in it. Too soon, the checkered flag appeared and I returned to Nelson’s pit. “Wow,” I told him, “what a sweetheart of a car!” Nelson smiled like a proud Papa. My face was etched in a smile as well; the adrenalin rush lasted into the night.
The club got to qualify individually and Nelson was fifth fast. In the heat race I was startled by how hard everyone drove. There were no strokers, these guys really race! Veteran Pat Bliss snatched the lead in Del McClure’s GMC. Behind him there was much brake smoke (even a little nudging) and jockeying for position. Fast Timer Glenn Walker in Marv Price’s “Eight ball” sliced through the pack like a hot knife through butter. Others like Kirt Rompain in Bart Smith’s beautifully restored Tipke offset roadster advanced his position as well but Bliss hung on for the win. Nelson held his own, crossing the line in the third position.
Bliss claimed the Trophy Dash also but scratched from Feature due to a leaky head gasket. On the initial start, Nelson charged past Jeff Kennedy to lead but Dave Craver spun the Ranger forcing a yellow. The restart was a carbon copy up front. Nelson took the Trostle high and wide, leading down the back straightaway. Rompain, who had worked on his mount right up until final call, would not be denied in this event however. Taking full advantage of his inside weight, stormed past Nelson and won the Feature going away. Nelson placed second and a relative newcomer named Milt Foster finished a position or two further back.
Foster is a typical WCVR participant. The son of a short track racer, Foster always had an interest but didn’t climb behind the wheel until age fifty five. “I married young,” he says, “and put two kids through college.” He found an old Super Modified that reminded him of the racing he observed as a kid and decided to restore it. Glenn Walker strolled up at his first race and offered to put a set up on the car. “So I wouldn’t kill myself,” Foster laughs. “That’s the best thing about the club, (the veteran’s) willingness to help out,” he says. That and the pre-race track time which afforded him the opportunity time to learn how to race.
After the Feature I was waiting in Nelson’s pit to congratulate him. “Man, you drove that thing harder than I would have,” I exclaimed. “I always drive like that!” Nelson grinned. Later this month he will celebrate his eightieth birthday. Spirited exhibition indeed.
Some of you know we have been talking a lot about EVs and AVs in this column as of late. That is because there is plenty of news to be had concerning these vehicles. And we have more news for you this month.
First I would like to say that the RPM Act is moving right along with more than 180 members of Congress endorsing it so far. And I hope you enjoyed Collector Car Appreciation Day last month. This is another example of congress steppeing up and recognizing us GearHeads for the contributions we have made to America with our cars, down through the years. They recognize that we have made contributions in a number of ways. One of which is the advancement of Americana. This uniquely American, hot rodding phenomenon did indeed manage to spread around the world through the years.
Now this leads into another subject that I would like to address. Cruising these hotrods was also a unique part of Americana that served as a rite of passage for many young hot-rodders in cities and towns throughout this country. Unfortunately, those who hold positions in leadership came to feel that this kind of pastime was unwholesome and not worthy of the good people in this country.
So, town by town and City by City the pastime of cruising was gradually stamped out from one Coast to the other. Now many years have gone by. And guess what? It seems that many of those cities and towns now miss us.
As a result, there has been a resurgence of organized cruising activities in cities and towns all across the country. In particular, the current powers-that-be have recognized the benefits to local merchants and economies that come hand in hand.
In recent years we have seen cruising events spring up in the Vancouver and Battle Ground areas. The biggest one around has been the Vancouver Cruisin’ the Gut which was growing from year to year and contributing to a number of charitable causes along with many local Merchants along Main Street.
This annual, Summer Event had been started by a local Gearhead, Phil Medina. The event continued to grow, drawing in tens of thousands, despite the promoter being saddled down with increasing bills for insurance and police. All of a sudden, this year the name gets changed to Cruisin’ The Couve. That is because the original OG was no longer in charge. City Hall and the merchants stepped right up and took it all over.
I am not going to go into the nitty-gritty of all of the details but the information is out there in social media. I will just say that no GearHead would just simply give up his event because he couldn’t handle it anymore. Some out there would say that he could not afford to keep going.
I for one fail to see the necessity for having an army of police out there working overtime in cars, motorcycles, bicycles and walking around along with a big headquarters trailer parked there. What I found particularly offensive was when they moved in at 10 PM sharp with their lights and barricades and shut down the entire street to close down the event.
What are they afraid of? A riot might break out? Did anybody get a load of most of the Cruisers that were out there? They were old dudes. OGs from a past era, cruising along and behaving themselves just fine. I mean give me a break!
Well that was then and this is now. And now is the future. And the future is autonomous vehicles. So these AVs are electric cars that drive themselves. I don’t expect that there will be much cruising being done in those things. So here is a little news coming out of Portland. The new Transportation bill is going to allow a $2,500 rebate towards the purchase of some EVs. In addition a $2,500 rebate will be made available if you scrap your car that is 20 years old or older. And this is in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit you will receive.
This should be a great savings for many. But let’s not forget where much of that money comes from. You know how it is, it’s always the people who eventually end up footing the bill. Let us not forget that.
Next, on a bit of a sad note the Dodge Viper which has been in production since 1995 is coming to an end and the plant will be shuttered. Also AM General has sold their Hummer plant to an outfit called SF Motors who will be a manufacturing EV’s. Oh and the CEO of shell has announced that he will be buying a plug-in.
Intel has been doing their research and has recently released numbers. Essentially they are saying that the autonomous ride-hailing industry which is mainly Uber and Lyft will generate trillions for the economy. Maybe we are all going to get rich? And then we have news from the UK and France. It is looking like internal combustion vehicles will be gone by 2040.
So there you have it GearHeads. Let’s end this month’s column on a fast note. A company called Lucid Motors has an EV that has hit 235 miles per hour and they are making it faster.
‘Nuff said, Chuck Fasst
“How do we describe Global Rally at it’s simplest form? Crazy cars that drive over jumps, handle gravel, dirt and pavement sections. A lot of action.”
— Oliver Eriksson driving the RedBull sponsored Honda Civic.
Those words rang in my ears as I looked around the Lucas Oil Speedway- Red Bull Global Rally cross hybrid track. What exactly was I looking at? The guest sanctioning body took the basic .686 mile pavement oval and made some additions. Instead of turn two, the Rally cars would cut through a dirt chicane out in the infield and over a large gravel jump laid adjacent to start/finish, and loop around in a mud puddle before rejoining the pavement course between turns three and four. Sitting on a grassy knoll, surveying the scene in front of me I realized that this adaptation of auto racing was both vaguely similar and completely different.
In this version of racing, a fast start is key. Each race lasts roughly 10 minutes depending on the course. The race weekend schedule is littered with a bunch of these short sprints, each finish designating points to set up the main event. That being said, the race weekend is extremely laid back. Two days of racing equates to maybe six or eight shorts bursts of competition by the title series, called ‘Super Cars’ followed by a development group referred to as the ‘Lights.’ In all, there is a lot of flexibility in the schedules, fostering a laid back and casual atmosphere around the track.
The only the pit crews seem to be flung into a frenzy. This style of racing is so rough on the cars that a lot needs to be cleaned, replaced and monitored between each bout. Once the car comes zipping in off of the track, it is immediately propped up on jacks, the hood is flown open, and a little army of technicians descend on the race-fresh vehicle. Quick engine changes are common and each crewman has to have hustle in their job description.
The Red Bull Global Rallycross series has twelve races, most of them in the United States. Each course is made- to order for race weekend, each having a completely different layout and challenges. A few elements are consistent. The track must have pavement and dirt, all must have a jump of some kind and all must involve what the series refers to as a ‘Joker.’
A Joker is an addition on the racecourse that every driver must take once in each race. They are not allowed to take this route on the first lap, but they can take it only once per round. Sometimes the course is designed so that the Joker is a short cut, and sometimes the Joker is the long way around. The key is taking the Joker lap to strategy.
In the main event that I attended, the Supercar winner, Scott Speed driving the Olberto sponsored Volkswagen Bug for Andretti Autosport took the Joker when he was comfortably out front so that the long lag time did not affect his position. His teammate, Tanner Foust in the Rockstar Energy Drink Volkswagen Bug finished second and Steve Arpin in the Lorenbro motorsports Derive Efficiency Ford Fiesta rounded out the podium.
Upon celebrating in Winner’s Circle, it was clear that the series focused on the younger fans. After the traditional podium pictures and champagne fight, the drivers invited all of the kids to come up on stage and have their photo taken. Shortly thereafter, each of the podium winners spent as long as needed in order to sign every autograph and take every picture requested. This time is not a luxury in other styles of racing and I personally think that this attention to the younger demographic is what is fueling the sport’s popularity. Admission cheap, the racing is fast and the pits are open to anyone that bought a ticket to the show. The drivers are diverse, young and often very accessible.
“Global Rallycross is so different to what usually comes around here.” Commented Sebastian Eriksson (no relation to Oliver Eriksson) driving the other Team Red Bull sponsored Honda Civic. “I think it is fun for the fans to see something different. They seem to enjoy it very much.”
“The salt flats are hallowed ground for hot rodders” is a statement I’ve heard many times, so I figured I’d better make the journey and find out for myself. I was lucky to have been invited to attend Speed Week at Bonneville with the Hot Iron Car Club out of Salt Lake City, so they snagged me at the airport in their hot rods and we made the two hour journey to the sacred salt. ”
Experiencing the salt flats for the first time is amazing, and a real visual overload. I have attended many styles of racing events, and seeing these vehicles built specifically for top end speed was really eye opening. A group of hot rodders from our local area was there to race their model A roadster for the first time. We were able to share the experience with them of prepping the race car, then, make their very first pass on the rookie course which earned them their racing license on the longer courses. You couldn’t help but get drown into the excitement, and the “need for speed.”
It is also said that once the salt gets into your skin, you’ll be hooked for life… I know I’ll be back. I hope you enjoy checking out some of the images we captured over the weekend.
NASCAR and Indycar are two very different worlds. The fans, the cars and the whole spectacle of it all is like comparing apples and oranges. Working around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that difference is striking when comparing the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400.
Trying to integrate a younger crowd into the race weekend, there was a large two day concert festival called ‘400 Fest’. Main attractions included Major Lazer, the Chainsmokers and other electronic ‘dance’ type music.
The race itself was a feat of endurance. Withstanding a rain delay and 14 yellows, Kasey Kahne prevailed as the winner in the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet.
Walking through the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there was something interesting to capture around every corner. This is: The Brickyard 400 in pictures.
This ’32 Ford 3 window coupe from Ravon Glass Fabrication is what you get when you custom design and build, from the ground up, a ’32 Deuce. She sports a Ford 351 Cleveland producing about 375 HP w/Australian ported Cleveland heads and an Elgin hydraulic cam. She runs a 750 Holley carb atop an Edelbrock intake. Add a C-6 Hughes 2000 Tranny w/Shift Kit and a Ford 9” beefed up rear-end w/355 gears and this baby is almost ready for the road. The total exhaust system, from headers back, are Sanderson ceramic coated and she sounds like a ’32 Deuce street rod as you can hear her coming from a thousand feet out. The PPG Hot Red finish on this 3 window coupe that features a 2” chopped top, baby chrome headlights, tear drop taillights and a fenderless body is a classic winner from every angle. To enhance the stance she sports 195/60 15”s upfront and 285/70 15”s out back over Center-Line polished aluminum. Add on a delicious black leather and fabric interior, air conditioning, power windows and power door locks and this ’32 Ford Deuce is ready to rumble. The lucky owner of this red beauty is Mr. Richard Barnhill from Vancouver, Washington and he has been picking up award trophies for over 15 years with our R&R NW Featured ride of the Month for September 2017.
I’ve been to a number of Goodguys events over the years but it’s hard to believe that this year’s event in Puyallup was the 30th Annual such event, WOW! And what an event it was. Wall to wall cars, more than I ever remember seeing at any of the previous events I been to. Now, I must say that I have never been lucky enough to attend any of their event outside of the Northwest but “our” event is no slouch, ever!
I heard several total participant numbers, one above 3000 and just below 3000, registrants and I don’t know the actual number but, the Fairgrounds were packed. There were cars in every corner on Saturday. And vendors galore. There was a little swap meet and quite a number of cars for sale, on the grounds and in the parking lot, some of them, very good deals in my estimation.
There were two that I thought were worth noting, a 56 Ford Victoria, older restoration that I though was in great shape for only $13,500 asking, a heck of a nice car for the money and this one was in the parking lot across the street from the “Blue Gate.” The other one I wish I could afford to buy was a 1933 Ford 2dr Sedan, older hot rod, showing some wear and use but a very decent looking car. It was in the swap meet area with an asking price of $21,500, I think. I asked everyone I knew there to loan me the money so I could buy that car! No takers unfortunately, I’m surprised, aren’t you?
The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association awarded 78 total winners in the same number of varying classes. Unfortunately, that’s too many to try and list here but suffice to say there were a ton of spectacular cars at this year’s Goodguys Rod & Custom show. If you’ve never been, put next years on your calendar for the end of July. The date hasn’t been announced yet but keep checking the Coming Events section of the paper for all the events down the road.
I didn’t make it to this year’s 4th Annual American Legion, Carl Douglas Post 74 Cruise-In. Jim Beltramo, Post 74’s Historian, sent me a bunch of pictures and info so I could put this little story together to tell you about this great cruise.
The cruise was held at the Viewpoint Restaurant on Springwater Road out toward Estacada Oregon, on July 8th. “We had a great turnout this year.” With 138 Hot Rods, Street Rods, Antiques, trucks and Motorcycles, I say it was indeed a good turnout. The weather was terrific and they offered 23 different classes, plus Best of Show and Participants Choice. Barney and Terri Hobbs took home Best of Show honors with their 1937 Chevy 1-ton Truck (transport) with the 1937 Chevy Business coupe displayed on the bed of the truck. Participants Choice went to Stan Pongratz and his 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner.
If you live in or near the Portland, Oregon area and want a great cruise to participate in or to just attend as a spectator look for this one coming back for its 5th Annual next July 2018.
1950 Mercury Coupe has been in Brian Christopher’s fancy show garage going on eight years. She is one fine example of a dream machine that most of us wanted back in the fifties, but could only dream about ever owning. Dale Mathews down at Memory Lanes Motors got this delicious ’50 Merc in trade and she had just gone through a total body off restoration, recreating a total stock-as-she-could-be ’50 Merc. When Brian first laid eyes on this beauty he knew this was the one he had been looking for. She sports a 239 cu in Flathead V-8 for power with three on the tree w/electric OD tranny. The rear-end is stock Ford and a 4 barrel Holley feeds the juice to this gorgeous classic maroon beauty. The interior is all rolled and pleated in matching white and maroon complimenting the exterior finish. She sports w/whites and ’53 Merc. Hub-Caps on all four corners. The 24” super sounding glass packs finish this ride off in style and she has won her share of trophies all over the west coast.
1949 Ford ½ ton PU showing a mostly stock super cherry body. For power she’s running a 239 ci stock Ford Flathead that has been fitted with a 700 R automatic tranny adapted by Portland Transmission. The performance level has been greatly improved. She sports disc brakes up front and has been fitted with 1 and 1/25th inch billet spacers behind the stock wheels on all four corners to enhance the wheelwell placement. The interior on this ’49 has been re-outfitted in a waterfall roll and pleat in rich black leather with red stitching. The exterior cherry red finish on this little Ford PU took several hundred hours of dedicated hand finishing all completed by the proud owner Brian Christopher. She just recently won another trophy out in Gresham at the Endless Summer Cruz-In, hosted by the Pharaohs Street Rodders.
1963 Nova Convertible. Brian is just the caretaker to this gorgeous cherry little white convertible. A special point of interest—this car has been in a very special ladies possession since it was one month old. The owner’s name is Christie and she makes her home here in the Portland area. In those 54 years of ownership, she and her two wonderful children all learned to drive in this delicious little Nova Convertible. Brian helped retrieve the car from a garage down in southern Oregon where Christie’s son had used it in his college days. The car needed a little tlc, but not to worry—Mr. Christopher took charge and got this ’63 Chevy back in show room condition. For power she now sports a ’78 250 ci Chevy in line 6 with an intake to handle a four barrel carb and a set of glass pack mufflers that make it sound like a million dollar ride. She is one fine super cherry little 1963 Chevy Nova, sporting a set of reversed chrome wheels and baby white walls on all four corners. The all new oem turquoise interior really finished this dream show car off in style. Christie is now riding around in a brand new ’63 Chevrolet White Nova Convertible with her friend Brian at her side on special occasions.
Thank you Brian and Christie for sharing your fantastic cars and trucks with our R&R NW readers all over the Pacific NW and beyond.” All for the Love of Fancy Custom Cars and Classic Trucks” for September 2017.
When the first yellow flag of the race unfurled, team owner Michael Andretti had to have been feeling good. It was on lap 53, just beyond quarter distance in this year’s Indianapolis 500. Andretti had a record six entries in the contest and five of them were running in the top ten.
It had been a pretty decent month. Their cars hadn’t been the outright fastest but they had been very competitive. It seemed the Honda teams were enjoying a slight horsepower advantage so they had that going for them. The big question was reliability- Would they go the distance? Many Honda power plants had already failed during practice.
Defending 500 Champion Alexander Rossi led the team in qualifying, placing his NAPA Auto Parts sponsored mount on the outside of row one. In row two were veteran Takuma Sato (traded this season for Carlos Munoz from A.J. Foyt Ent.) and rookie Fernando Alonso. Alonso had stolen all the press this month. He was a two time Formula One Champion who had skipped Monte Carlo to participate in this year’s 500. Sitting smack dab in the middle of row three was Michael’s son, Marco. Not a winner but always a contender at the Brickyard. Behind him in the tenth slot was 2014 winner and unofficial team leader Ryan Hunter-Reay. And finally back in the twenty seventh starting spot, another rookie Jack Harvey.
At the drop of the green flag Chip Ganassi’s drivers took the point. Pole sitter Scott Dixon led the first five laps before turning it over to crowd favorite Tony Kanaan. Rossi and Sato held their own while Alonso took a step back to find his rhythm and Marco advanced. Kanaan led for twenty two circuits then passed the baton to hometown hero Ed Carpenter. Carpenter and teammate J.R. Hildebrand led through lap thirty four when Rossi decided to make his move. Alonso (having found his mojo) followed Rossi to the point and the duo proceeded to swap positions until the aforementioned first yellow flag occurred. This yellow was for a n incident involving sophomore driver Jay Howard and Dixon. It was switched to a red flag when the seriousness of this accident was realized though both drivers walked away. When the race was stopped Alonso was the leader, Rossi was second, Sato was now third, Carpenter was fourth in his Chevrolet and Hunter-Reay had advanced to fifth. Marco Andretti was still in the top ten and Harvey was nowhere on the horizon.
When racing resumed the Andretti boys continued their fun and games up front. Sato had just taken the lead for the first time when Foyt driver Conor Daly hit the wall and Harvey ran over the debris. Both cars were eliminated.
Sato led the restart but succumbed to Rossi on lap seventy six. Hunter-Reay forged into the lead for the first time three laps later. Andretti Autosports dominated the middle portion of the race. The lead was traded back and forth between Rossi, Alonso and Hunter-Reay. At one point (with Sato) the team occupied positions one through four!
Then as it has happened so many times in past, the entire complexion of the race began to change. After leading on seven separate occasions for a total of twenty eight laps, Hunter-Reay blew his engine. Thirty laps later another front runner Charlie Kimball popped the motor in his Ganassi Honda. Was it a trend?
And then here came Alonso, smoke pouring from the back of his papaya colored Honda. He ground to a halt on the front straightaway just past the pit lane and climbed from his car to a tremendous ovation. Meanwhile an underrated second year driver named Max Chilton had taken over the race. Chilton piloting yet another Ganassi Honda would lead the most laps of the day. But clawing his way to the front was three time winner Helio Castroneves. Carrying the banner for Roger Penske and Chevrolet, Castroneves was on mission- to join Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only four time Indy winners.
In the closing laps things had gone to hell for Andretti. Hunter-Reay and Alonso were sidelined. A refueling issue had negated Rossi’s earlier efforts and a lost winglet had ruined Marco’s chance of a high finish. Only Sato remained within striking distance—it was all on him.
Sato you may remember had been in this position before. In 2012 he attempted a last lap pass on Dario Franchitti and spun into the wall. If he regretted it, he never said so nor did he apologize. “No Attack—No Chance” is his motto (and it likely helped him secure a three year stint with A. J. Foyt).
With seven laps remaining Chilton was doing a yeoman’s job but Castroneves wanted it more. He battled past the remarkable rookie Ed Jones and seized the lead from Chilton.
Now it was Sato’s time. Would his Honda hold together? There was no way to know. He pointed his Dallara toward the outside groove and kept his foot buried in it. Around Castroneves he went and he kept on going, actually opening a gap at the finish.
Andretti Autosports won their third Indy 500 in the last four years. Takuma Sato earned immortality in his native Japan. In the USA you might say: “He went for it!”