West Coast Wheelman

He and his brother Richard began racing at San Jose Speedway in 1956- the same year I was born. The Hardtops were before my time. The guys were racing Super Modifieds when I first visited the Speedway in 1968.

Yarimie was driving the “Triple Deuce”, a car that had local history and had been raced competitively by Al Toland, Ken Shirley and Kenny Van Blargen. It was the first race car I’d ever seen with a three digit number and had playing cards painted on the airfoil. I thought that was cool and he became a favorite right away. He was a good guy to root for because he typically qualified well and rarely crashed. He would win a heat race from time to time and usually made the Feature.

1970 found Yarimie piloting #56 (the ex-Steve Chambers #8). This was a cool little hot rod and a step up to a more competitive mount for Larry. He ended the season with no less than five heat race wins, two Semi Mains, one Trophy Dash and four “A” Main top fives. Traditionally Yarimie wasn’t a points chaser but this would prove to be his most consistent season, garnering a twelfth in the overall standings. Sadly, ’71 would prove much more challenging.

While Yarimie struggled just to make the program, fellow veteran Ed Hopper and racing partner Dick Cinelli introduced a lightweight new Super that was competitive right out of the box. The new #54 had a unique rounded off coupe body that included little triangular windows on either side of the cockpit. (It was so popular in fact, that the Speedway used line art of the racer in their weekly display ads.) The car elevated Hopper to a potential winner and he finished out the season second in points. When Yarimie and his team had the opportunity to purchase the car, they jumped on it.

In 1972 a replica of the San Jose Speedway was constructed in the central valley. The new Madera raceway was the same length as San Jose (1/3 mile) but had less banking. Yarimie and his crew participate with their new racer (christened the Eaton Bros. Chevy) in the Copper Classic then held in Salt Lake City and drove all night to make Madera’s Sunday Opener. Yarimie arrived just in time to qualify but easily made it into the program. In front of five thousand enthusiastic fans, Yarimie ran down local favorite Lloyd Beard, taking the lead on the sixth canto. On June 25th 1972, after fourteen years of competition, Yarimie claimed his first victory and $465 in prize money. He would finish second the following weekend at the same venue.

Opening day 1973 back in San Jose found Yarimie in Tony Casho’s potent #44. He finished second behind legendary Howard Kaeding in his heat, placed third in the Trophy Dash, fifth in the Final heat and won the Feature outright. It was a satisfying win for Casho as well as Yarimie and paid $610. Unfortunately, the accomplishment was overshadowed by a last lap spectacular involving Kaeding and Nick Ringo-neither driver was injured. Most that were in attendance that day recall the smash up (captured by numerous photographers) rather than Yarimie’s second career win.

In the years that followed, Yarimie continued to campaign the ex-Hopper car with varying success. The livery changed (from blue with flames over the nose to gold) and the numbers changed (from #92 to #5 to #4) but Yarimie never won another Feature.

By 1978 the Speedway had closed and Super Modified racing moved to the dirt track at the fairgrounds. Like many, Yarimie did his best to convert his asphalt car for dirt competition. At the biggest race of the season, the Johnny Key (8/5/78), Yarimie transferred out of the Semi Main to start at the back of the Feature. In the one hundred lap grind, he strong-armed his straight axle car to a respectable seventh. He was paid $310 for his night’s work and at the end of the season was crowned Semi Main Champion. As far as I can tell, at forty four years of age he retired from racing. I wouldn’t meet Larry face to face for another sixteen years.

In 1994 I was strolling through a small automotive swap meet in Auburn, CA. On one of the tables among the auto parts was a wooden planter made to look like a Sprint Car. I remembered the planters being sold at the Fairgrounds Speedway. “You get this down in San Jose?” I asked. The crusty older gentleman smiled and pushed the straw cowboy hat back on his forehead. “Yeah, I used to race in San Jose,” he replied quietly. “What’s your name,” I inquired. “Larry Yarimie,” he said offering his hand.

Within the blink of an eye I reverted back to my childhood. I became a ten-year-old “fan-boy” standing in front of one of my idols. I wanted to tell him that he’d won many races in the Hot Wheels I’d assigned to him…but I refrained. I did run home to retrieve my album of Super Modified photos. He spent twenty minutes or so going through it page by page, commenting. It was awesome. He was totally humble but I think he could tell that he had been (and still was) a hero to me.

After I’d moved to Oregon I met another former San Josean who had crewed for many of the “old guard.” He had known Yarimie and shared with me what he remembered. He said he thought Larry had been a truck driver by profession and wasn’t a wealthy man by any means. He thought he was a better racer than the stats would suggest. He thought Larry had lost a son in some sort of accident, he was shot. He didn’t know what the circumstances were, but the death had devastated Larry. “He never was the same after that,” he said.

I had sensed a profound sadness about Yarimie when I met him. Today I wish I’d told him about all the races he’d won on my bedroom carpet. I think it would have put a smile on his weary face.

NOTE — Most of the photographs for this article were provided by Loel Burt—a lifelong fan and friend of Larry Yarimie

Where are we going with all of this?

Greetings GearHeads. By the time you are reading this, another year has passed. How did you like the last one? Dare I ask? At press time, a lot was going on in the country. Maybe some of you may have received a shot in the arm by now? Maybe this year, Motorsports will receive the shot in the arm it needs?
2020 was definitely the lamest year of all time when it comes to hot rodding. There were a number of races that went off around the place but hot rod cruises were damned few.

There will, however be less racing out in the world for VW this year. They are pulling out of Motorsports racing completely to focus on EV production cars. Next we see that Audi is pulling out of formula E competition followed by BMW who will be concentrating solely on EV production cars. The EVs are coming to the streets boys… And lots of them!

It looks like Atlanta dragway has gone up for sale. We were sorry to hear of the death of Dan-O. He was an OG Motorsports photographer in the LA area who got mowed down in an LA street race.

“… They were cruising against Communism.”

When it comes to car cruises in 2020. There was something worth mentioning that took place October 10th 2020. It was referred to as a car caravan by the Miami Herald. This car caravan consisted of primarily Cuban Americans and numbered at about 20K, they are saying!

They were cruising against Communism. Many of these participants were exiles who have experienced the evil and destruction of Communism firsthand in their countries. They see this coming to America and stand up against it.

Unfortunately, the influence of communism is shot through and through this country from shore to shore at levels most Americans would not even believe. And this is coming straight out of CCP. Yes the Communist Chinese badly want to rule the world. This should come as a surprise to none of us. Levels of communist corruption today are infected throughout Wall Street, politics CTC and public education in this country.

There is no question that many more Americans need to become vastly more informed on this subject. This writer is one who never likes to mix politics with hot rodding. But the CCP stands on its own as the premier threat of all time, to the United States.

Us Hot Rodders are pretty much long in the tooth. We are like the OG’s of the old school Hot Rodding started here in America in the last century. We are the last generation. It gets harder and harder for most of us to muster up what it takes to put on any kind of a cruise in these days. It makes me wonder what we might have left, if and when the time comes for us to stand up and make a statement for our country?

At press time something else is going on in our capitol. We will see how that all sorts out by the time you read this. I must add that censorship has gone way off the hook in this country. There appears to be no such thing as free press anymore, especially on the social platforms. The silencing is being done to second tier news channels as well as all kinds of content creators. This is outrageous, extremely troubling and un-American. Fcu

Let me just close with my new definition of a vacuum: When big money begets big corruption and big communism comes rushing in.
’nuff said.

The Mirage Catcher

Call it fate, but on the day that Kirk Alston set his record at El Mirage, he disappeared. I kind of know what happened. Even though a lot of people witnessed it, they still refuse to believe.
But I do.

My name is Andy “Pops” Gilbert. I am part of the Safety Crew for the SCTA. I’ve been a member since ’39 and have driven the ambulance since ’53. Although I’m in my upper seventies, I’m still pretty sharp. No sight loss, hearings a little off (due to a lot of years working on uncapped engines), a bit overweight but I am agile and my mind is alert, so I know my story holds weight. It all began the Sunday prior to the opening of racing season.

Kirk was an interesting kid and he had a lot going or him. He kind of reminded me of a cross between Vic Edelbrock, Sr. and Barney Navarro, a real master of wringing horsepower out of anything. Nowadays, kids tend to play with Camaros and Mustangs for V-8 thrills, or worse yet, Japanese crap boxes with thundering stereos. Kirk leaned more toward the older engines: Flathead Fords, Hudson sixes, old Hemis, Rocket Olds engines and so fourth. Hell, he even had a literature collection that would make the archives at Peterson Publishing jealous!

Kirk always wore a fresh flattop haircut a T-shirt with jeans or a set of old coveralls. A nice kid really, anyway….

He was really working hard on his roadster, preparing the 296 inch Flathead for the spring meet. I didn’t see the boy much during this time. Most of his preparations he did himself and he rarely called except to give me a hard time about Dale Jarrett losing a race.

Things are hectic the night before racing season takes off and sometimes-peculiar things happen. Well, I had just finished watching NASCAR Tonight when the phone rang. Somehow, I knew it would be Kirk. Jarrett had taken third behind a smarmy Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin had won, so I did not expect to have Kirk give me to hard of a time. “Hello?” I said, and then Kirk was there, as if speaking from far away it seemed. “Pops? This is Kirk, Can…Can ya come by my place?” I spoke, “Sure son, what’s the—” But he cut me off in mid-sentence, “Just come by.” He then hung up on me.

My mind raced. He surely didn’t need mechanical help. Hell, even the guys who’d been around for awhile went to him for odd questions. So, nothing mechanical, so maybe it was his family? That had always been a mystery to me. His mother had died while giving birth and his father had fallen into the bottle shortly after. He bounced from Uncle to Aunt and then finally ended up in foster care till he was 18. Then he set out on his own, living off of a trust fund his grandparents had set aside for him when he was just born, thus, money wasn’t a worry for him. I felt bad for the kid, really. He did not associate that much with kids his age, so us older guys invited him to shows and such to give him a social life of some kind at least.

As I drove toward his house, I thought about how much of a whiz he was with an engine. A natural, really. A strong confident fellow and that is why the call bothered me. He did not sound sure of himself.

I pulled up his driveway, things looked normal. There sat his ’49 Olds 88, a ’34 Ford truck cab sat waiting the finishing touches on the chop he had started and a set of Deuce rails were leaned up against side of the garage. A light spilled out of the crack beneath the garage door and bled across the concrete.

He called for me to come into the garage. As I entered I saw his ’27 “T” Lakester on jack stands. He was sitting on the workbench against the far side of the garage, looking like the cat that had just caught the canary.

“Pops, how ya doing old man?” His voice was sprite and mischievous. I remember Stu Hilborn talking to me the same way on the day he unveiled his fuel injection set up way back when. Cautiously I prodded Kirk, “What, you discover a speed secret to top them all, Kirk boy?” His eyes narrowed and his grin broadened. “That’s only the surface, Pops.” He scooted off of the bench and motioned to me to follow him to the engine stand that sat at the front of his Lakester.

The mill itself was under a grease stained canvas tarp. Kirk smiled and whipped the tarp off of the engine. The engine was obviously the 59 L block I had given him awhile back, but the heads were something else. They looked like a set of Ardun’s, but had an exotic look like that of anything running at Le Mans today. Closer examination answered one question, but raised many more.

The heads were a dual overhead cam design and the induction system was similar to Hilborn’s idea, except this was a reverse firing engine and had electronics involved! A dual coil ignition setup was evident and there were two plugs per cylinder. Amazing and very impressive. Then I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks. Pop riveted to the back of one of the immense valve covers was a brass SCTA timing plaque, which read as follows:
This certifies that Kirk “Allspeed” Alston went 207.156 MPH at El Mirage Dry Lake, April 17th, 1953.

I read the plaque again and again trying to figure it out. Then I stepped back and let my eyes take in the engine that was before me. It was a bastard really. A mixture of old and new. It was so scary to look at that I kept rubbing the green engine to assure me that it was real. I looked at Kirk and I could tell by his facial expression that the novelty of his phantom engine had worn off and he was looking for real answers. Answers that I knew I could not provide.

I spoke, “How can it be?” He cleared his throat. He had been staring at the engine but then tore his eyes from the thing and looked me straight in the eye, then spoke; “Since the beginning of last week, I have been having some pretty realistic dreams. I have been living another life in my sleep, building this engine with the likes of Duntov, Bill Kenz, Stuart Hilborn, Vic Senior and others.

We’ve tested and combined ideas from today’s technology and yesterdays. And, well, this is the final product. Dean Moon wanted me to run it in his ’32 Sedan, but I told him I wanted it for my “T”. So, last night they all gave me that plaque as a gift of sorts to put onto the engine and they told me Kenny Howard would have a surprise painted for me on the nose of the “T”. Sure enough, this morning I went out and across the front of the car was this.”

I walked up and saw with my own eyes, a pinstriped and lettered nosepiece by the master himself, Von Dutch. It read The Mirage Catcher. I looked at the bright red striping and lettering on the steel blue colored lakester. It looked sharp, really sharp! It was probably the cleanest machine I have seen since the Pierson brothers unveiled their ’34 coupe years ago.

He was trembling, and again looked at me for answers. So, I spoke. “Ya know, Kirk, there are a might bit of strange things that happen in this world, and a lot of others, like yourself, look for answers that cannot be found. I say this, if it feels right then why worry. There’s a plan for you and this here creation you have here. Godspeed, Kirk. And no worries.”

He smiled back at me. I nodded and made for the door. It was late and I didn’t want to get in his way as he lowered the engine into his roadster. He again thanked me and went to work. He worked best alone he had always told me. So I walked out to my pick up and headed home. As I drove home, I thought about that phantom engine again. Could it be true? Did all of my friends from long ago reach across time and help a lonely hot rodder in building something that was both new and old? A cool chill ran up my spine. Maybe so……

Next day at the lakes was dry and hot. The sky was a steel blue color with no clouds at all. I sat at my post and watched the cars all run. It was smooth sailing all day long with no incidents at all. As I watched I smiled to myself and thought how wonderful this all was. The teamwork, the camaraderie, the cars. Being here beneath a sunny sky and watching guys who have put their souls into a piece of tin, attempt a personal glory: nothing has changed.

Be it a Riley four port or a computerized Rat big block motor, the same drive to obtain higher speeds with a given design has always been there. I closed my eyes and listened as a “B” class roadster blazed passed. I then determined that when I would die, that here, right here in the high desert of California, I would have my ashes strewn.

This is all about hot rods you see. I love them. Always have, always will. At about 1:05 it was Kirk’s turn. My radio popped to life and a voice squawked “Hey Andy, this is your boy, ain’t it?” I smiled and hit the button. “Just close your eyes and let your senses tell you what is going on.” was my reply.

The Lakester began to wind up as he took it through the gears. The strange hybrid motor growled and sang. It seemed to hypnotize everyone present as it resonated throughout the valley. Kirk entered the traps kicking up a huge rooster tale of silt as he sent his car sailing.

Inside the timing booth a buzz was growing into a roar. The kid was going to set an incredible record! Across my two-way radio I listened as excited voices shot back and forth. He really was going to do it!

Then I saw it. A mirage began to spread across the desert floor. It was almost alive as it seemed to spread like a cloud’s shadow across the desert floor. Wavering and silver in appearance, it seemed to coil like a snake waiting for its prey. The whole valley was nothing but sound now. Radios, the distant murmur of the spectators and the roar of that amazing engine.

The mirage then leapt off of the desert floor and wavered in front of Kirk. A person could see into it, actually. It was clearer. The sky seemed bluer. The haze of today’s modern California sky, one has grown accustomed to was not there.

The mirage was fast too. I watched with horrendous fascination as It raced alongside of Kirk’s Lakester and open even wider. Without slowing Kirk entered the mirage. Full bore. Then Kirk, the car and its amazing engine disappeared.

As the rooster tail dissipated, the seriousness of the situation became clear.   Where were the driver and the car?

Now the radio was alive. Everyone; barking and yelling trying to get the most information on what had happened.  As a safety crew member I have seen it all. Bloody, bruised, ugh, even death. This was beyond any of that. For there was nothing. No traces of the car or Kirk. Most of the folks out there that day claim that Kirk left. He drove off of the course and just flat out left town. I knew the truth. You see, he had caught a mirage. Simple as that.

That evening, on a whim I looked through my old magazine collection. I grabbed a stack of 1953 Hop Up’s and out of the stack, one fell and hit the floor. I stooped to pick it up and froze as I stared at the cover.

There on the cover was Kirk with his Mirage Catcher. Across the top of the picture was the caption- Mysterious Kirk “Allspeed” Alston and his amazing Mirage Catcher” I stared at the magazine for a long time before putting it away. I did not want to read it.

Around me time was changing. I knew that I would not sleep that night. As I finish writing this, I can hear traffic growing with the rush of the oncoming sunrise and I wonder what things will be like today at El Mirage.

—Written by Mark Karol-Chik September, 1996

MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI

After my story on the movie American Graffiti, I toyed with the idea of writing a second story—one about the sequel to American Graffiti, More American Graffiti. That movie was good, of course, just not as good as the original. So, where were you in ‘63, ‘64, ‘65, and ‘66? I was in Southern Oregon, not yet old enough to drive.

More American Graffiti was filmed in 1979, the year my son was born. It was not as big of a hit as its predecessor and only grossed 15 million dollars. Other movies that year grossed 10 times that much.

The movie was broken up into several stories. The stories covered drag racing, the Vietnam war and the protests, San Francisco and the hippie movement, and a rock and roll band. Well, let’s get to the story you and I would be most interested in: John Milner, drag racer. Milner’s yellow ‘32 coupe was more of a stage prop throughout the whole movie. The Milner character is a local drag racer with a home built fuel rail dragster. The big New Year’s Eve race is coming up with the “Factory Team” showing up, looking for a new driver. John Milner (Paul LeMat) looks to beat the Factory Team and win the championship and possibly a new driving job. So, here we are at the dragstrip. This was actually a real dragstrip, the Fremont Raceway in Fremont, CA. Now, I can say that I’ve been there. Back in the same time frame of the movie, the mid ‘60s, my Uncle Tom took me to my first drag race. We watched the early flip top body funny cars. It was great. Speaking of the original Fremont Raceway, how about the original starter, Chet Carter, was the starter for Fremont for 30 years. Also, the announcer in the movie was Steve Evans. In real life, he was an announcer and reporter covering the NHRA drag racing for TNN, ABC and NBC.

Now, let’s get down to the cars. Milner’s rail in real life was the Don Long top fuel dragster. The “Factory Team” car was one belonging to Pierre Poncia, who raced until 1971, right there at Fremont. Other cars that were involved were a custom body Corvette, a 1957 Chevy 210, a Willie’s straight front axle dragster, and several period correct slingshot dragsters. There were vintage shots with drivers wearing open face helmets and fire suits with respirators on each side of the face covers.

Almost all the same actors were in this movie except Richard Dreyfuss. Harrison Ford traded his four wheel vehicle, a ‘55 Chevy, for two wheels. He was a motorcycle cop for a quick scene. Oh, yeah, Ron Howard had hair. Speaking of Harrison Ford, that will lead us into trivia and bloopers for both American Graffiti and More American Graffiti. Harrison Ford initially turned down the American Graffiti movie because he was offered $485 a week. This is less than he earned as a carpenter at the time and not enough to support his family. When the offer was upped to $500, he accepted, and the rest is history. More bloopers from American Graffiti: Richard Dreyfuss’ Citroen is a 1972. A red Mustang is parked across from Mel’s Drive-in (in ‘62?). A white Toyota Corolla was at an intersection. A 1973 Olds Cutlass is also seen at an intersection. Toad’s (Charles Martin Smith) crashes his Vespa at Mel’s Drive-in. This was an actual accident that happened and was kept in the film.

More American Graffiti had its share of trivia as well. In the setting during the Vietnam War a protester burned his draft card with a Bic lighter. Bic lighters weren’t made until 1973. An orange Plymouth race car had a Chrysler Direct Connections Logo on the license plate. That logo was not made until 1972. At the track, the radio sign was showing its call letters KYA-FM. Back then it was an AM station. Cars at the track: there was a 1970 yellow Chevy Camaro and a black 1970 Chevy pickup. Also, someone was wearing a tee shirt with a ‘70s Camaro on it.

One thing I thought was interesting was that some of the scenes not at the track were split screen or multiple screens of the same picture, just like the movie Grand Prix.

Overall, the movie was good. I enjoyed the vintage slingshot dragsters and the music from when I was growing up in those years.

One for the Little Guys

On the eve of the 1968 Monterey Grand Prix, Seattle’s Don Jensen kneeled in a smoke filled motel room. One hundred percent chance of rain was forecast for tomorrow’s race so he was cutting thick grooves in his tires. Somewhere nearby, Portlander Monte Shelton was seething. He had been promised a special set of tires for his closed cockpit Porsche Carrera 6 and his tire distributor had let him down. Now any advantage he may have had in his under-powered sports racer had vaporized.

Canadian John Cannon may have been in the worst frame of mind of all. He was broke and so he had agreed to sell his three year old McLaren to a group of enthusiasts for $7,000. They would take delivery at the conclusion of the series. The former pilot in the Royal Air Force had been trying for a decade to make it as a professional race car driver. He had won some races but mostly it had been a losing proposition. The McLaren’s small block Chevy engine was scabbed together with old parts and Cannon did well to qualify mid-pack against his high dollar, large displacement competition. In desperation he took a knife to his goggles, cutting slits to allow them to drain. If the race was to be run in a downpour, he would need to be able to see.

Then on race morning Cannon got a break. He had done some testing for Firestone and his friend on the tire truck had a set of rain tires for him. A formula car driver had ordered them for Saturday and they had gone unclaimed. Cannon mounted them on his car for the morning warmup session and noted a marked improvement. Perhaps even more encouraging were his goggles which worked like a charm.

Misfortune beset some competitors before the green flag was displayed. Second fastest qualifier Jim Hall’s winged Chaparral refused to fire. The new McKee of Charlie Hayes which was slated to start a couple rows ahead of Cannon; was also forced to scratch. The race was started in a deluge and there was an immediate reshuffling of positions as some of the front runners tip-toed around the course. Cannon, able to see, began passing cars in his sure-footed McLaren. Fast qualifier Bruce McLaren led the first lap followed by Peter Revson in a 427 Ford, McLaren teammate Denny Hulme and Mark Donohue in Roger Penske’s entry. Cannon had advanced to eighth and by the seventh lap had passed the foursome in front of him.

“It was just bloody incredible,” reflected McLaren after the race. “Cannon was driving as if the track was dry!” Dan Gurney report that when he saw Cannon pull alongside, he thought it was a hallucination.
There were other drivers that performed well in the wet. George Follmer, who had started the race on Firestone “intermediates,” clawed his way up to second before spinning off into the ice plant. Another Canadian George Eaton, piloting a car very similar to Cannon’s, started 18th and quickly advanced into the top ten.

By lap fifteen, Cannon had lapped all the cars up to eighth place. McLaren (who hung on to second in the early going) continued: “He could go around a whole pack of people in a corner and make it look routine. I couldn’t believe it.” Within a few more laps, Cannon had a thirty second lead over the marque’s namesake. Though he was undoubtedly enjoying himself, the same cannot be said for his competitors. “Everybody went off course at least once,” remembered Shelton. Drivers stopped in the pits for replacement goggles; some just pulled over to the side of the track to clean theirs.

By the thirty fifth lap Cannon had lapped the entire field and continued to pull away. Eaton meanwhile was up to fourth. “All Canadian drivers are good mudders,” he explained after the checkered flag “We dash about in the worst kinds of weather without really knowing any better.”
In the second half of race, Cannon’s dominance continued although there were a number of close calls. Hulme (a native of New Zealand who had also done his share of racing in the rain) advanced to second and Eaton ran third.

“My only problem,” Cannon related later, “was that we didn’t have very good pit equipment. We just had a blackboard and in the wet, it wasn’t very good. Then one lap I came around, there was a real pit board with information on it!” Turned out that Team McLaren rival, Jim Hall had taken over direction of Cannon’s race.

At the finish Cannon was one lap plus five seconds ahead of Hulme in the factory McLaren effort. Series rookie Eaton held on for the show position. In spite of the many off course excursions and fender crunches, twenty of the thirty starters completed the grind. Jensen finished five laps behind the winner in thirteenth but tied Hulme, Eaton and five others for the fourth fastest race lap. Sheldon was scored nineteenth-a full twelve laps behind Cannon.

Later that evening at the victory banquet, Cannon received a standing ovation from his fellow drivers (and a check for almost $20,000- a huge purse for that time).

“I’m going to get a tribe of Indians to do a rain dance at every race!” the jubilant winner chirped. And in 1968, no one would have had a problem with (him saying) that.

Tales of Covid Times

Greetings GearHeads. And welcome to another Covid celebration. Our copy deadline for this issue happens to fall on Veterans Day. As I sit in the Olive Garden partaking of my free meal, I look  across at a sea of empty tables and chairs. This also happens to be the first day of a new set of paranoid pandemic rules laid out for this county by the governor of Oregon.

Yet again, restaurants along with a number of other grassroots businesses are being adversely affected by the latest round of pandemic punishments to be laid down by our esteemed decision makers on high.
Consider your average Olive Garden with 25 to 30 personnel and a capacity of 200, allowed to serve a couple of dozen patrons. Sounds to me like there are some policymakers that truly deserve to be slapped upside the head!

Granted we may not expect much of decision making ability from some knuckle dragger making his way through the pits. But as far as supposedly educated, elected officials and their ilk. We expect a lot more – a whole lot more! Like the ability to think their way out of a pandemic paper sack without horribly damaging droves of additional humans.
This writer is reminded of a certain military policy that was often used: Punish the masses for the sins of the few. This policy was as ineffective then as it is now. And yet we continue to see these kinds of policies put in use everywhere, all the time. Just throw a blanket over the whole thing, hurting everybody and solving the problem, supposedly. Anyone know what a crock is?

The effectiveness of an authoritarian government can be measured by the culture of fear and the number of those who are too poor to afford a pot to piss in – such as the homeless. Folks, just take a good hard look around the United States of America.

And then they have the street racers. Or so they are being called by much of the media. However some Media have begun to refer to what’s happening around Portland as events or shows. These would seem to be more accurate descriptors considering that there seems to be no actual racing competition going on. This seems to be an epidemic of hooning
This would appear to be an offshoot of groups of fun havers like the Hoonigans on YouTube. The Hoonigans came about by way of video sensation Ken Block and his viral gymkhana videos on YouTube.
In recent years these “bridge takeovers” and “street takeovers” have come about, around the city of Portland. These kids block all traffic and get on about their crazy hooning. Some of them have mad skillz – others don’t. There have been a few deaths. The latest being a motorcyclist and an onlooker.

At press time, the most recent event took place smack in the middle of the intersection of NE Columbia boulevard and MLK boulevard. It is said the hooning went on for three hours! The cops had other pressing business going on downtown.

All I can say is, back in the day when we were doing our actual street racing. We did it in out of the way places like, Alcoa, Firestone, Airport road and many others. We generally did our racing late and we most certainly never blocked traffic. We did not have a high death toll as well.
Nowadays it appears as if Portland has become somewhat of a magnet for hooners from outlying areas. Perhaps the hooners are taking advantage of all of the action that continues to go on downtown requiring the attention of all the cops in the area. At any rate, this, in your face blocking of traffic and the rest of the craziness is taking it too far. The 911 emergency system was completely overloaded! It is too bad how these kids trash the good names of the vast majority of other hot rodders out there.

So here is a question. What do Sandy Monro, Malcolm Bricklin and Arcimoto have in common? 3 wheeled EVs. And we will have more on that at a later time.

And then we have GPT-3. Have yourself a conversation with this character and it will learn you a lot on the subject of AI deep learning. You will get an indication of just how closer we are coming to Singularity. It won’t be long before it will be us and we will be it!

Veteran’s Day

It is a day of remembrance, honor, and thanks. Albeit, the clamor from the big box stores to come out and get a drill for a special price, and all of the major stores offering special prices on mattresses, I ask you to pause and reflect. Veteran’s day should be a day to pause and to honor those who have served or have fallen. With that in mind, I wrote this story about 7 years ago. I was inspired by a 1969 Mustang Mach I.
Beyond our soldiers, I wanted to remember those who serve behind the front lines.

The life savers.  Those who sweat and toil to save lives and sometimes give their own.

With that, I give you this story. Enjoy. It’s for Her.

“Look over there, Across the street, There’s a car made just for me!”
The lyrics of the great Eddie Cochran resonated through my mind as I saw it. I was just about a block away, but I know a desirable car when I see one. I loaded the customers paint in his car and walked to the intersection to try and get a better look. Sure enough, it was a white 1969 Mustang Mach 1. Being though it is summer, I hurried back inside to check and see if there were orders needed to be tended to. But, that car was on my mind.

I did a quick check and sure enough we were caught up for the time being, so I ventured across MLK Jr Blvd and into the Office Depot parking lot. The car looked like a genuine low mileage survivor. Sure, it had the wrong wheels, but it was a bare bones Mach 1. I walked to it and noticed it had some moss actually growing around the side scoops, so I knew right there it was a native vehicle. Funny how these things happen in Portland. So mentally I started a check list.

Hood pins? Check. Proper hood striping for a ’69 351, Check. Dual exhaust tips per each side? Check.

But this car had no window louvers or a four speed or spoiler. It was a genny bare bones ’69 Mach I! My pulse was racing. Truthfully? It is not at the top of cars of choice, but a low mileage survivor is always something to savor. I snapped a quick picture with my phone from about 20 feet away. I had to go in for a closer look. I glanced into the driver’s side and noticed it was an automatic car with the low-end gauge cluster with a blue interior.

And it hit me.

The driver’s seat was the only place clear in the car. I shook my head, snapped a picture with my phone again and looked closer. Grocery sacks both plastic and paper were everywhere in the car. I walked to the back of the car and took another picture. Sure enough, the backlight was filled with debris. Aghast, I walked to The passenger side and did not even bother to look but took a picture instead. It too was packed to the headliner. Full!

I stepped back and walked away. Thanks to our thirst as a society for reality shows, I am quite aware of the hoarder syndrome. Hell, a few Summer’s back, I had helped a dear friend of mine go through her Grandfather’s estate and that was an experience. But to see it on four wheels in a desirable muscle car? This blew me away. I forwarded the pics to my closest of friends.

And the replies started to come back. WTF? LOL? Really? Seriously? But Deke sent me a message that hit home. It read, this needs to be rescued, did you get the license plate? I stopped in my tracks. By that time, I was back in the store and was showing the pics I snapped to my co-workers. Did I get a pic of a license plate? I clicked and scanned and of the four shots, there it was. A shot of the rear of the Mustang, back window filled up, split exhaust tips visible and an original blue and gold Oregon tag. I tapped it and sent it to Deke. And waited.

The day waned on and as it is in the house paint industry in the Summer, I left the store sore and tired. I had a long trek ahead and the cold beer waiting seemed like it was beyond the 30 miles I had to drive home.

The Mustang was a cold fire burning in my mind. If, when, I could…As a car guy, these thoughts singe your thinking process. Electricity could be shut off and you are drinking water from the Columbia, but if you have that Hemi ‘Cuda or Boss Mustang, life is fine.

Why was it filled with trash? Why did it have the wishbone 14″ Mustang GT wheels instead? Who would treat a car like this as such?

It was the next afternoon when the message was received. And it hit hard. I have an address. It burned into my memory. Deke is amazing. He is a soft-spoken person. Always there when you need him. We became good friends after he had rescued my ass in my ’63 Econoline pick up for the 100th time it seemed. Actually, it was three, but as much trouble as that vehicle was, the debts for a fellow car lover seemed to be adding up.
But this is what he does. Flat hauling a stalled project. Brake job? He is there. Mounting and balancing that set of tired bias ply tires? No question. And always with a fridge full of ‘Stones. I stared at my phone. We had an address and Deke was ready with a trailer and spoke of halving the cost of buying the forlorn Mach 1. I balked and texted him, do we really try to buy the car? His response was this person has no idea what they have. This could be a great opportunity to own a piece of muscle car era pony car, and besides, I would buy your half because Beth would look cute in this. I smiled. Beth was his misses and put up with our car shenanigans always. I messaged him back, Deal.

The day was set. Early, on a cold grey November, Saturday, Deke arrived at my place. His duallie was freshly fueled and the trailer was willing and ready. I climbed in and Deke said, “Let’s rescue a Mach 1!” We rolled out of St Helens and talked of cars we always wanted. The lost Nomad. The ’60 Edsel Ranger Starliner I almost got. Where a ’46 Ford coupe with a fullhouse flattie sat near his house (not telling you!) and so forth.

We ventured into Northwest Portland and weaved between streets, ‘til his GPS led us to a humble bungalow at the end of a dead-end street. It was a quiet pleasant house. Neatly manicured yard. And there it was. Parked in the driveway next to a nearly new Land Rover.
“You kidding me?,” I almost shouted. There it sat. Wimbledon White 1969 Mustang Mach 1, out in the elements. I was mixed emotionally. Rage. Humor. Disgust.

I was out before Deke could grab my arm. The whole plan was to buy this car from a recluse. A confused person. Someone who was lost. I knocked on the door. And waited.

Someone who is lost—that thought stayed with me as the door to the house opened.

The gentleman was as tall as me. His eyes were hazel and seemed to search the horizon. Innocent. Wondering. His hair was very white and styled in a clean cut from decades ago. He smiled at me and extended his hand. I did not even have a chance to speak when he asked, “Is she home?”

I looked at him, shifted my stance and asked, “My name is David. Who is she?”

He cleared his throat and responded. “My wife.” He shook his head, cleared his throat. His eyes were welling up with tears. It was a scene I had heard about from articles on OPB or The Nation magazine, but to see it in real life. Whew…I am still saddened by it.

He continued, “Niko is a nurse. She told me she should be home in January of 1969. I bought her that Mustang you know. “His smile trailed off to the ol’ girl parked in the driveway. I looked over Deke’s shoulder at Mach 1. Deke’s face changed. His gaze hit the ground as the story began to unfurl.

“Yeah. We married in 1965. She and I were med students. Going to save the world. But I had an issue with my eyesight you know? Not someone who would serve the military so well, but Niko, she was always the healthy one. She went and served. We wrote letters you know? HA! You kids today. Letters…anyway, she told me it was January 1969 when she would come home. So, I asked her, what do you want as a present? Her response was, “A new car and things that will remind me of the freedom we have in our country.” The man paused.

My intentions of purchase long since vanished. Hell, I almost felt ashamed.

But he continued. “You know, some say freedom is not free. I stood by that mantra for years. But Niko, she said to me, “Freedom is free…it is WAR that costs us in treasure and lives.”

At this point I looked to the man in front of me. His body was starting to shudder. Shake. I dared to look into his eyes. It was 2013. 1969 was a lifetime ago. I saw the hurt. Tears. I tore my gaze away. He grabbed my hands. His voice was like a knife.  “IT’S FOR HER.”

My vision was blurred. Tears of pain spilled from my eyes. My breath was held in my throat in long drawn out hiccups. Deke had walked down the driveway ahead of me. The strong duallie was fired up and waiting. I went to leave, but he grabbed my arm again and looked at me.

“It’s for her you know. I like to buy her things to please her, presents. I put them in that Mustang. She will come home someday, and the car and all its treasures will spill the laughter out of her I so long to hear.”
I looked him in the eyes. Smiled. Shook his hand and said,
“As many have served and have been forgotten. I am glad to have known and met you. So that I can pass her memory to others, so she is not forgotten. She will come home sir.  Just wait.”

In Honor of our Veterans. Female. Male. Combat or Nursing. Thank you.

Our Automotive Hobby Working Together

On the morning of November 13th, I received an Instant Message through my PDXCarCulture Facebook page from Tracey Boston. He asked if I could post something about a possible lost item that a friend of his had found. His friend apparently works for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and had found what appeared to be a unique and possible rare hubcap along Hwy 26. From the photos, and some research from both Tracey and me, it appeared the hubcap was from a Wolseley. Wolseley was a British motor vehicle company founded in 1901 that manufactured a variety of vehicles under a variety of owners. I created a post along with a photo that Tracey provided asking if anyone out in FB land recognized, or knew of someone who may have lost a hubcap.

Almost immediately, I received a response from Nicholas Coker, who is a member of the Oregon Mini Society. He said that he was going to reach out to his group and see if anyone had lost, or knew of someone who had lost the hubcap. He got back to me that evening, saying he had found the owner! Amazingly, the owner had just gotten his car back on the road after hitting a deer, and apparently had lost the hubcap on a drive.

I passed on the information on the possible owner to Tracey, who forwarded to his friend at ODOT. Saturday morning I received a note from Nicholas saying the hubcap was home! In just over 24 hours, the power of our hobby, and the spirit of our automotive community came together and accomplished something kind of cool.

So in these strange times, and when we haven’t gotten to see one another for many months, just remember that we still have the power to reach out and the power to communicate. As I often say, “we may be in the same storm, but we aren’t all in the same boat.” Reach out to your car friends, and make new ones by taking that extra step.
Happy Holidays!

NASCAR 2020 Cup Champion, Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott, son of Bill Elliott, has won the 2020 NASCAR Cup Championship. With the help of his major sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts, his Hendricks Motor Sports, number 9, Chevrolet Camaro rocketed from starting last to finish first, in the 2020 final 4 last race of the year at the Phoenix Raceway.

Chase is the third youngest driver to win the championship at 24 years, 11 months and 11 days. His father won the championship in 1988. Chase’s win put them in rare company because there are only a few father/sons to accomplish that feat.

When asked what the championship means to him, he said, “I’m not sure that I still even know, I just, man, I’m at a loss for words. This is unbelievable. Oh my gosh. We did it. I mean, we did it. That’s all I’ve got to tell you. Unreal.”

Hendrick Motor Sports now has 13 Cup championships with four different drivers. Jimmy Johnson with 7, Jeff Gordon with 4 and Terry Labonte who won with Hendricks in 1996.

It’s really exciting that Chase is so young and stands a chance to win more championships as his career progresses. It’s also exciting that NAPA is sponsoring the number 9 now and going forward. I hope that we get this COVID stuff under control and can return to normal early next year. Keep your fingers crossed.

Visit with the Voyteks

You would think a writer for this newspaper would be prepared. You know, always having a notepad, pens and camera on him, ready to take down any information to store away for possible future use. Yeah, about that…so here we go by memory! You also may know “old guys” memories may not be so good.

My friend, Steve Veltman, called and asked if I would like to meet him at the Voyteks’ shop in Scio. I have known Bernie and Jimmy Voytek for several years. I have been out to their shop before. The shop is like a shop out of the sixties. It is so cool. It has old posters, race car photos, mostly of cars Jimmy and Bernie have worked on or cars that they have raced themselves. Steve brought his vintage supermodified to have the Voyteks check it out and set it up for races. As Steve and I stepped into the shop, it looked like nothing had changed since the last time I was there. Bernie and Jimmy’s shop is one that specializes in race car repair, prep and restoration. Like I said, the shop is old fashioned. There’s room enough for one race car, work benches, and old plastic models on the shelves on the wall. Again, it is so cool.

Jimmy and Bernie not only repair race cars, but they also race dirt and pavement sprint cars as well as offset supermodifieds. After standing around talking races we went out back behind the shop. There they had several enclosed race car trailers that contained sprint cars and an offset super.

As we BS’ed, one of the stories was about a time when Jimmy and Bernie sold an offset supermodified to a racer that ran at Willamette Speedway. To my knowledge, (some days there’s not much of that left), the racer took the super frame and engine and put it in a wedge shaped outlaw superstock to run at the speedway on the dirt. I hear the car did not do very well. Sometimes you just can’t take a car meant to race on pavement and try to make it work on dirt!

Back to the shop. There was a race car with a great history. Bernie and Jimmy were restoring Billy Vukovich III’s supermodified, the “Spirit of Madera.” Billy drove this car for several years until he stopped racing supers in 1988 and went on to race Indy cars. The car was assembled. They were down to getting the correct colors to paint the car. They had to go through old racing magazines to get the correct colors and then to paint it. They had to get the specifications on the different wings, and suspension modifications. I had heard several years ago that they had Billy’s super, but now to see it was something else. Who would have thought that our small Oregon town like Scio, population 983 last count, would have such a piece of racing history? It was hard for me not to drool on Billy’s super. To see it up close and personal—it was an honor.
We had a great time talking about racing and the different tracks that the Voyteks had raced at as well as the different cars that they had worked on. I had a great day there. Even though I wasn’t really prepared, you can still get great pictures with your phone!