Game Changer

By the early sixties, the Formula One teams of Grand Prix racing had evolved from a front engined configuration, to a rear. Though the rear engined lay out had been experimented with over the years at Indianapolis, the concept had yet to be successful. A state of the art Indy Car in 1960 was a ponderous 1,700lb sled propelled by a ground pounding Offenhauser engine. There were various chassis manufacturers but basically they were all alike. Thirty three of them took the green flag at the 500 that year, but their reign was about to be challenged.

Father and son, Charles and John Cooper of England along with their driver Aussie Jack Brabham, had led the rear engine revolution in Formula One. They captured the World Championship in 1959 and were in the United States pursuing a second title in the fall of 1960. Indy winner Roger Ward encouraged them to bring their Grand Prix car to the Speedway for testing and the team agreed. Riding on their standard road racing rubber with their tiny Coventry-Climax engine, Brabham attacked the two and a half mile oval with unexpected gusto. No one on hand had ever seen a car carry more speed through the corners. Their lap times would have easily qualified them for The 500 and an ecstatic Ward begged them to return in May. The team professed not to have the funds to pursue such an endeavor. That was when fellow road racer (and heir to the tissue fortune) Jim Kimberly stepped forward to offer sponsorship.

The team clinched the 1960 Formula One crown and arrived in Indianapolis the following spring to little fanfare. Their car had a slightly larger engine than the Grand Prix version but was still significantly smaller than the Offenhausers. Plus the Cooper itself was dwarfed by the roadsters; it was dubbed “a funny car” and not considered a threat by anyone. In addition to all else, it was painted green which was considered “bad luck” at the Speedway.

Brabham and his team were unfazed by the naysayers and went about their race prep. They knew they didn’t have the fastest car- You didn’t need to have the fastest car to win a 500 mile contest. They knew their engine was reliable and would go the distance. They also knew that like all of their competitors, they would have to make pit stops along the way. The Cooper weighed about 700 pounds less than the average roadster so it would be easier on tires. The Coventry-Climax engine also got better mileage (twelve mpg compared to two or three) so fewer stops were anticipated.

Brabham did a respectable job in qualifying (starting thirteenth) and drove a conservative race. In retrospect too conservative, the driver admitting later that he could have pushed harder. They still needed three pit stops, probably because their Dunlop tires didn’t hold up as well as the tried and true Firestones everyone else was using. The roadsters blew by the Cooper all afternoon but Brabham held his own through the turns. When A. J. Foyt took the checkered flag at 200 laps, Brabham was in the ninth position.

The Indianapolis establishment was slow to recognize Brabham and the Cooper’s accomplishment. Seemingly only the astute realized that they had changed the course of Indy car design going forward. Mickey Thompson returned in 1962 with a brace of rear engine cars, one of which qualified eighth. Then in 1963 Colin Chapman arrived from England with his Ford powered Lotus cars. These cars were a match for the Offenhauser horsepower-wise and only a fluke kept them from Victory Lane. In 1964 Roger Ward himself finished second in an American built rear engine car- one of twelve that qualified for the 500 that year. Then in 1965 Jimmy Clark won the race outright in Chapman’s Lotus. Four more rear engined cars followed him across the line. In fact, only six of the thirty three starters that year had their engines mounted in front of the driver. In 1966 the last roadster qualified for the Indianapolis 500 and ironically was eliminated on the first lap. So the revolution that the little Cooper started in 1961 had completely changed the face of Indy car. The process took five years.

Though Jack Brabham is included in the Indianapolis Hall of Fame, he has received little recognition for his influence on “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Fortunately he won other accolades like a third World Championship in a car of his own design (1966). He was also knighted by the Queen of England (1978). “Sir” Jack Brabham retired as a driver at forty four and lived to the ripe old age of eighty eight. A documentary about his life in racing is due for release next year
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Of Beasts and Beauty at the Portland Roadster Show

Greetings GearHeads and GearHeadettes. By the time you are reading this, Summer will be right around the bend. And you know what that means Gearheads? Oh yeah, good times.

But I digress. At press time we are smack in the middle of Spring and Gearheads know what that means – car shows. Now, the couple dozen of you GearHeads who do read this column are used to pics and copy of swoopy cars of the future. And the reason for that is of course that the EVs and AVs ARE our future. I hope everybody by now knows what an AV is?. I write about Autonomous Vehicles because well, they are our future and there is a constant stream of news about them. And indeed we have more news this month, but…

You readers may have noticed all of the good-looking Hotrods in this issue. This is the Portland Roadster Show issue and we felt we would like to get us some o’ that too.

Now, over here at GearHeadsWorld we love ourselves some beautiful hotrods as well as other uh, beautiful things too. With that being said, the young lady up above introducing the Show is Savannah, model/spokeswoman for GearHeadsWorld.

So this was a very special show for Savannah as it was her very first. You see, Savannah hails from Hungary and they just don’t have shows like this over there. She was awestruck by the Kaleidoscope of colors as well as the corn dogs. Yes she has never heard of them and she saw her first one at the show. Why do Americans deep fry their wieners in cornmeal and stick a stick in them?

We see Savannah showing us this radical, full custom Mopar because she likes it. Here at GearHeadsWorld, we like to pick our show favorite. Now, we usually lean towards the smoke and fire racing type vehicles. But this year we picked this one because it makes us nostalgic. Remembering the years we toured the show circuit and came across a lot of full custom displays like this. Sometimes beauty before badass. What more can I say.

From here, Savannah will be heading to Southern California. Anyone down in those parts who may require her services can give us a holler. You can check the rest of her pics over at #GearHeadsWorld.

Before we move on, we would like to give honorable mention to the Beaches Display. All of that sand and the palm trees and everything remind us of Fun in the Sun with our rods. And who better to remind us of that. If you have not been living in a cave then you know about the Beaches Restaurants in Vancouver and at the Portland Airport.

It was 20 some years ago when they decided to hold a car cruise over at their first Beaches location in Vancouver. That has since grown into what very well may be the biggest weekly car cruise in the West. This Cruise In, held all summer long on Wednesday nights at PIR in conjunction with the drag races has gone on to raise way over $2 million for local charities! Their best days count well over 1000 cars and bikes on display.

So there are bands, BBQs, drinks and a whole lot more. If your car has mods and is cool, they will generally find a place for you on most Wednesdays during the summer, no matter what it is… Sorta.

All right, moving on to less exciting news. As of press time we have had another fatality. You probably heard about the Uber AV that ran down a woman in Arizona. As a result numerous AV companies have a suspended their testing. One of the head industry Geeks had this to say, “The cars aren’t smart enough yet.”

Highly-leveraged Tesla continues to face challenges in delivering their latest model to their anxious worshippers who have plunked down their dollars for first delivery. They remain months behind. We will wait and see how it all shakes out.

And that’s all for now GearHeads.

#GearHeadsWorld


We Were Soldiers

On dirt floors and mighty dreams we wrenched. It was not easy. Some of us were just working on John Deere’s or Model T’s before the big break spilled upon us like a gorgeous sunrise over the valley.
We were brothers. Cousins. Friends. But the heat of competition placed us all apart. Each in our own regime. Clawing away at the hardened earth of our self proclaimed trenches to wring out secrets of speed.
Weight. Combustion. Aluminum. 
It was the dawn of Hot Rodding. A term we would not know for two more decades. 
Regardless. 
It is what we did.
We were soldiers.
We saw the torment as racers skipped meals to gain horsepower. 
One single digit.
We witnessed the pain of a failed tire. 
The hard lick of a failed rim. 
The pain and loss of chrome smoke and fire.
Fire. 
The worst.
We were soldiers.
Gasoline, oil. steel and iron. Rubber, grit and hope. Leather, combustion
speed, death.
Glory.
We were soldiers.

Corvettes at World of Speed

The World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville, Oregon periodically changes their displays. Currently they are displaying a number of Corvettes. This display nearly spans the 65 years of the Corvettes existence.

The first production Corvette was built in June of 1953 in Flint Michigan. The Corvette is referred to as “Americas Sports Car.” Also in this display is a 1959 Ferrari TR, also known as a 250 Testa Rossa. These Ferraris dominated the World Sportscar Championship Series at the time.
Next the museum will change out these displays and have a Porsche display opening on April 28th. Please support our local automobile museum.


62nd Annual Portland Roadster Show a Big Hit

The 62nd Portland Roadster Show wrapped up March 18th, with record crowds and many happy exhibitors. Once again the PRS awarded more trophies and cash awards than any International Show Car Association (ISCA) show in the country.

Dave Kindig and KevDogg from Kindig-It Designs were back with their impressive trailer and three of their newest builds. The 1958 Lincoln Continental that Kindig-It built for Tad and Sue Leach of Idaho took home the Grand Sweepstakes Trophy for Best in Show and a $10,000 check. They also brought along the 57 Corvette they had built for Charity Kindig’s parents, and it took home a Best in Class. The 66 Nova they brought took home a second in class.

Also back was the PRS’s number one Ambassador and one of the Kings’ of Kustoms, John D’Agostino. John was key in bringing some great cars up from California, including Cliff Mattis’s 41 Buick name Dillinger, which took home the King of Customs award and a $3000 prize.

There was an amazing three car turntable display in Hall C, which featured the 1940 Ford Coupe of Dennis Holt from Spokane Valley. The beautiful black coupe took home the World Cup of Hot Rodding Award and a $5000 prize.

For the kids, the Optimus Prime semi truck from the Transformer movies was on display along with its arch nemesis Galvatron, and the wrecker as well. Limited Edition posters and stickers were given out to luck kids in attendance.

The PRS Hall of Fame also inducted the 55 Ford F100 Truck known as Down n’ Dirty of John & Tracielyn Rydzewski. The truck originally showed in the 2001 PRS and has been built almost entirely by John and his friends from Pacific Styles and Lo Limit Accessories. The truck was just returning from Chicago and the ISCA Finals where they took home an amazing Second Place Truck, and a Top Twenty for the entire show! Welcome to John & Tracielyn and their amazing truck.

The Portland Roadster Show is owned and produced by the Multnomah Hot Rod Council, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. It’s the only show of its kind that is managed and staffed entirely by volunteers. Co-Producers Duane Caseday and David Jothen can’t say enough wonderful things about all of their great volunteers, and the member clubs of the MHRC. They have already begun the planning for their 63rd annual show, and exhibitor, vendor and sponsor applications are available on their website at www.portlandroadstershow.com.


Full Tilt

“I have the sickness,” he said with a smile, pushing his beer back and forth across the polished wood table at the restaurant we met for lunch. “My first Sprint car race was at Terre Haute a long time ago and I was like: ‘WOW, This is really cool.”

The sickness he speaks of is an affinity for racing. Ask a true race fan and they will tell you that the sport gets under your skin, you become addicted to going to the dirt track, the drag strip or anywhere they drop a green flag. Renowned motorsports photographer John Mahoney takes that passion to another level.

Mahoney, a Indiana native, discovered dirt track racing first then graduated on to his first Indy500 in 1955. “I have not missed a ‘500’ since” he states proudly. You might know his name, you might not- but if you follow American open wheel racing at any point in the last 40-odd years, you have undoubtedly seen his work.

Mahoney has photographed the stars of USAC, long before they become stars. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree is psychology and went to work for the state of Indiana. During his studies, he met and befriended an equally well known and talented would- be motorsports photographer Gene Crucean.

“I got my first Press Pass by pretending to write for a fake newspaper.” Mahoney admits wryly. “We called it Northwest News.” It was the mid sixties and he and his first wife had moved to southern California. “We reached out to the track in Sacramento, asking for passes but got no reply. I just wanted to get into the pits for free!” He had Crucean pose as the pretend editor for Northwest News and kept sending in requests. “The weekend of the race I was out in southern California, I was at a hotel- they were always having parties in the hotels- and I ran into JC Agajanian, you know, the promoter for Ascot Speedway. I thought to myself: ‘its now or never’ and walked up to him, saying that I was a writer for Northwest News and we never heard back about credentials. JC said that he had never heard of Northwest News but pulled out a pass from his pocket and gave it to me!” Later on Mahoney got hooked up with a couple legitimate racing publications, his photography flourished and the rest is history.

The camera was merely a means to an end. In order to get in the gate, being a member of the press was an easy and fun way to be close to the action. For John Mahoney, it was his golden ticket. His ex father-in-law was a master in the darkroom and quickly taught young Mahoney the tricks to developing film and printing his own pictures. Many years later at a pivotal point in his career with the Indiana Employment office, Mahoney decided to take make his ever-growing weekend hobby and turn it into his sole career. “It was a risk” he admits, “But it was the right choice.”

Dirt track sprint car and midget racing was, is, and will forever be his favorite. He has had the privilege to work with some of the biggest names around. From Foyt – his personal favorite-, Andretti, Rich Vogler, Bryan Clauson, Tony Stewart, and many more. In the handful of best races he has seen, the Hoosier will list big, local, Indiana races over the decades at the top.

“Some guys says that the ‘good ol days of racing was better- BOLOGNA! Some of the best drivers and racing is happening today!” Though the sport has changed, Mahoney loves it the same as ever. “Yeah the money aspect has changed racing, but the on track skill is as good as it always has been.” He cites the talent of Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell as reference. “THESE at the good ‘ol days!”

Mahoney is constantly asked for photographs for varying projects. Trying to obtain credit for his images is a never-ending battle. He has helped put together a few books on the history of USAC racing and is currently working with Dave Argabright and Pat Sullivan on another. His personal photo collection is featured proudly in “FULL TILT: The Motorsports Photography of John Mahoney” and on his website johnmahoneyphoto.com.

Mahoney, unlike most professional artists- is about as humble as they come. He refuses to admit how influential and important his vast experience is. He also jokes that he has yet to make a good portfolio of racing pictures. His wife, Martha, made a point to pull me aside after our lunch meal. “He is one of the best, no doubt. He will never say it but – if you have seen his work, you know.” Between portraits, actions shots and details of the track — John Mahoney is one of the best visual storytellers in racing. For a career made through the lens of a camera, Mahoney has managed to live his life at the place he loves best and the manner he loves best: at Full Tilt.