The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of it All

Hey there GearHeads, after the glowing report we gave on the new Corvette ZR1 in this last column — I guess I would have to say that we are somewhat obligated to report on the latest, not so good news at press time. It seems that one of these glorious new Corvettes suffered grievous injury at the hands of, shall we say, a high-level GM exec.
“A good Corvette gone bad… With a little help.”

Right, you all heard this. It was the pace car at the Indy Car races and the big wig behind the wheel appears to have gotten a little over-excited and got himself into a understeer situation in a corner as he was leading the pack. So, the old girl came around on him and he put her in the wall. Oops! We are guessing that at some point during the ride, he reached down and clicked the Traction Control button to the off position. But we are just speculating. Let’s just say that it was a party foul.

And now for our monthly report on the Muskfather. The boys over at Bangshift have reported something about a memo regarding a movement to “flatten” Tesla’s management structure. Whatever that means. However we can say in his defense that his production numbers are climbing.

Aw but what is not so good is the latest from Consumer Reports. They have downgraded the Tesla 3 due to its stopping distance. They are saying that it is worse than a Ford F-100! Finally there is speculation that those Tesla big rigs we have seen, might have been some kind of one-off deal. Nobody is seeing any others around. So I guess we won’t be hearing anything about their stopping distance anytime soon?

Now here is a bit of the ugly – some of you may have heard about the “Social Credit” program going on over in China? That deal is so incredibly ridiculous and repressive that I won’t even waste time in this column. But I will mention that China really likes the EVs! Well, small wonder that they would like the electrical vehicles, seeing how they are sitting on the largest cache of rare earth metals that are required to make batteries.

Anyway, China has decided to be a good Big Brother to all of their population who can afford to buy the new EVs. They will receive license plates for free! However, the rest of the poor misfortunates who cannot afford them, will have to pay excessively High premiums for their plates and they will have to wait a very long time to get them.
Perhaps this may lead to a glut in the market for gas-powered, Chinese cars. Anybody interested?

In conclusion, I would like to jump up onto my stump for a moment. I don’t know if it is my social sciences college degree from back in the day. or my days as a Navy guy staring into a radar in various parts of the world or my more recent, short career with the Merchant Marines where I was a watch stander all around the world. But I have always been an observer of society and how it is changing. By that I mean – not for the better! Everybody pulling for their own selves or their own ideologies at the expense of others. There is that saying – history is doomed to repeat itself. I often wonder why us humans in our civilizations can be so damned dumb through the centuries?

I have recently been in situations where I have been personally harmed by others asserting their will over me. And these others were racers. It is painful for me to note that even amongst racers, there are those who would hold so little regard for the welfare of fellow Gearheads. It’s sad.

’nuff said on that. So GearHeads, most of you should know by now that National Collector Car Appreciation Day is coming right up in July, Friday the 13th. This would be a good time for car clubs or events to incorporate this into their day. At least we should all take the time to think about the impact our whole industry has had on the American way for the last century.

—Chuck Fasst, GearHeadsWorld.blogspot.com

My Vintage Vantage

At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway you are in constant search of the next good vantage point. There isn’t one spot from which you can view the entire 2.5 mile oval but there are countless positions to observe from and there is always much to see.

This morning my perch is among the seventy five privately owned vintage Indy cars that are participating in the weekend’s festivities. I am an interested bystander as Greg Wilke prepares to take the family’s 1968 Eagle out for the morning session. Wilke is struggling and his female companion seems more intent on documenting the occasion on her cell phone, than assisting him. When his new carbon fiber helmet topples free and begins sliding down the nose of the race car, I can no longer stay behind the barrier. I snatch the helmet just before it hits the blacktop and with that, I have become “a crew member”. Wilke is wondering out loud where the hell his teenage son is and fussing with his belts. Ultimately I get him to stand up in the cockpit. I unsnap some of the upholstery and lengthen the lap belts a bit. As we get the five point buckle fastened, Junior arrives with the starter. The engine shrieks to life and away Wilke goes. I scramble to the closest vantage point; the grassy knolls inside turn two but the Eagle fails to appear. Apparently Wilke stalled the racer somewhere on his way to the track. They got it re-fired but it wouldn’t go in gear. Back in their pit stall, Wilke handles the disappointment of not getting to run much better than I would have. “I’m an owner, not a driver.” He says. Mostly he is pissed at his son who talked him into taking the racer out in the first place. He is grateful for my help and gives me the history of his car.

This Eagle is a sister car to the one in which Bobby Unser won his first Indy 500 (1968). The Wilke family (Leader Cards, Inc.) has owned it since it was new. It has participated in four 500’s always piloted by hard charger, Mike Mosley. It has carried Bardahl livery, Zecol/Lubaid, Murphy’s dept. store and in its final season; Vivitar Cameras. It has been propelled by various power plants: turbo charged Offenhausers, four cam Fords and Chevrolets.

In my fantasy I own a vintage Indy car with a small block Chevrolet engine- Just because they’re somewhat familiar to me, affordable and I want to be able to drive it! Not even in my fantasy world do I own an Indy car with an engine valued at twice the cost of my house.

I think the Klingerman brothers have the right perspective on this. They located a couple authentic one off Indy Specials from 1969 and ’70 and built their own engines for them. Though their Cecil and Morris Marauder chassis originally cradled exotic Offys and Fords they replaced them with production based units. The Cecil carries an injected Chevy Sprint Car mill; the Marauder rocks a Ford which they turbo charged for fun. These alternatives make perfect sense to me particularly if you plan to take the cars out and play with them (which the Klingermans do).

Steve Francis of New Milford, CT appreciates what the Klingermans have done but was fortunate enough to locate an Indy car in Australia that was powered by a Chevrolet engine since day one. His Cheetah is one of two cars built by Howard Gilbert for the 1967 season. The companion car to Francis’s in fact, was the surprise winner of the ’69 season opener in Phoenix driven by George Follmer. So the classic “cigar-era” Cheetah is not only historically correct but inexpensive to maintain.

Others will say: “As long as we’re fantasizing, why not go for broke?” Okay, if money is no object, I want the 1946 Novi.

When racing resumed at Indianapolis after World War II, Frank Kurtis introduced a new profile to the Speedway. Piloted by Ralph Hepburn his supercharged, V8 powered, front wheel drive monster broke the track record in qualifying. Though it was a full five miles per hour faster than its closest competitor, the Novi balked during the race. In 1947 team owner W.C. Winfield brought two cars to the contest and by driving with a light foot, Herb Ardinger managed to start and finish the 500 in the fourth position. His teammate Cliff Bergere meanwhile barfed the engine in the second Novi after starting on the front row. By its third appearance the Kurtis Novi’s reputation preceded it. Bergere abandon his seat declaring that the car was too dangerous to drive. ’46 pilot Hepburn climbed in and promptly hammered the wall, killing himself. Duke Nalon now assigned to the former Ardinger ride, qualified easily in the eleventh spot and brought his Novi home third. Though the Novis would continue to compete for many years and typically qualify among the fastest, they would never place any higher than third.

So which of the two team cars is this #15 Kurtis Novi? It hardly matters but I would put its value at well into the millions. If you were to take this specimen out for leisurely cruise and hurt the engine, where you gonna find another one? Unfortunately some toys are too valuable to play with.

Jack’s Specialty Parts

Last month we put a picture of Jack Corley on the cover of the paper… I neglected to put a caption on that picture saying “Next Month” a story about Jack Corley. I got a few calls asking why did you put a picture and on the cover? “I looked all through the paper for the story and there isn’t one.” I laughed it off and made a couple lame excuses about it being a nice picture of Jack and that Jack is a good guy and long-time supporter of R & R NW. Well Jack is a nice guy and the picture in lasts month issue was a good picture and representative of what you’ll find at swap meets all over the Northwest throughout the year. He is a hard-working vendor helping old car enthusiasts from all over, to restore, rebuild, refurbish their old cars, me included!

Jack has been in the parts business longer than some of you reading this have been… He started in parts/sales in Portland at George Lawrence Co. Warehouse back in 1955. He moved to a manufacturers rep. with Niehoff in 1956 where he worked for just a few days/weeks short of 20 years. He’s been in the automotive/race car world before that. Starting in 1953 working for Ed Tonkin’s Motors, a Kaiser dealership, on then named, Union Avenue in Portland.

He simultaneously operated a “race car performance parts, side hustle” business, called Jack’s Specialty Speed starting in 1956 featuring race car stuff. He even built and rented complete race cars to racers and he bought and sold race cars too. Through his travels as he came across “excess inventory” at dealerships he would buy that inventory. Car manufacturers limited what and how much a dealership could return in terms of parts. Speaking from experience, I once was the “parts manager” at a dealership, the OE manufacturer seemed to make it as difficult as possible to return parts, I think in an effort to discourage returns. That’s just my opinion. This practice created an opportunity to acquire OE parts and Jack took advantage of it. He also bought out aftermarket parts stores excess inventories. Jack would load these buys in the trunk of his car which was often overloaded and take them home where he eventually built a 15,000 square foot building to store and inventory the stuff.

Essentially, he ended up with what I’ll call a “Parts House,” specializing in old, maybe obsolete, primarily “hard parts.” And he called it Jack’s Specialty Parts. For about 10 years Jack would hold a “Swap Meet” in the backyard parts paradise. They had a Friday night, movie night, camp out, the night before the swap meet. Unfortunately, I never attended, mostly because I was simply unaware, too bad. It sounds like that was a lot of fun.

In about 1999, Jack “retired”… well, he started selling parts from this parts house full time. About 10 years ago he moved to his currently location at 909 NE Cleveland Ave., in Gresham. If you never been there you should go visit him. Over the years he has collected way more than a few auto-related, what I’ll call memorabilia pieces and they decorate many square feet of the walls of his “store.” Jack tells me that he had to down size considerably, that part of his business when he moved.

If you’re looking for hard parts for your latest rebuild of your treasured old car, you have an old car parts house as close as your phone. Jack has many years of experience in parts to help you make that treasure as good as it can be. Give him call at 503-667-1725, or visit him at 909 NE Cleveland Ave. in Gresham, OR.

Ms. Understood

One thing is for sure; Danica Patrick is a household name in America. Those outside of racing have a very basic understanding of her, but even some of the most dedicated fans I have met have only a superficial view of the GoDaddy Girl. This year, Danica announced that she will be retiring from her role as racecar driver, and decided to end her career with one last shot at Victory Lane. They dubbed it the ‘Danica Double.’ Two races: NASCAR’s Daytona 500, and the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Here, she wanted to redeem her reputation, end the doubts of her talent and (maybe) make history. Neither of those races shook out the way she wanted them- 35th at Daytona and a 30th at Indy. As we end the chapter on her racing career, there are still countless misconceptions, false stories and heated arguments involving Danica. At the end of the day, her image is her legacy and things have spiraled out of control, Danica Patrick is gravely misunderstood.

The first thing that Danica haters bring up is the stats. In calling attention to the scoreboard, no, her record is not overwhelmingly impressive. She started her professional racing career in the Formula Atlantic series before moving up in open wheel to IndyCar. She was not the first woman to race in IndyCar, the Indy500, or even be the first female Indy500 Rookie of the Year. Patrick was, however, the first woman to win an IndyCar race at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan back in 2008. To those who say that she won off fuel strategy and thus does not count as a real win…Shut up! That argument is invalid. Every win in modern motorsports has something to do with strategy.

Should Danica Patrick be inducted into the motorsports-based Halls of Fame? If the criterion is based on statistical wins and poles… No. After the 2011 season with Andretti Autosport, Danica took her rising star and sponsorship money and went over to NASCAR. Here, she raced 6 seasons. In that time she scored 7 top 10’s, and 0 top 5 finishes. She is however, the first woman to win a pole in NASCAR and did so for the 2013 Daytona 500. Add that to her 3 poles, 20 top 5’s and 7 podiums in IndyCar she had a somewhat modest career. The numbers are a small blip in the Danica superstardom. As she grew bigger, so did her reputation.

As someone who has personally worked with and in proximity to Danica Patrick, I testify from my own experience that she is perfectly respectful to those around her. The stories I have heard from others say different. I take those with a grain of salt. She is blunt, honest and answers questions thoughtfully. I will say that her patience is very short, but so is her time. Think about what you are going to say to her beforehand, and furthermore, really think about if your question is worth asking. If you have to answer the same question 1,000 times in a season- you would get a little annoyed too.

Danica is also a very public sore loser. When things fall apart on the racetrack, the disappointment radiates off of her. She cares. This should not be a deciding factor in her image. There is something to say about taking defeat with grace and poise, but many great moments in racing have sprung from the heartbreak of losing. A.J. Foyt jumping out of his car on pit lane at the 1982 Indianapolis 500 and beating his Coyote with a hammer. How about later on as a team owner, backhanding Arie Luyendyk on camera after a dispute in Texas in ‘97? Tony Stewart still is not ‘graceful’ when his day goes south nor is Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch or was Mario Andretti in his hayday.

As a young fan, I will never forget the 2008 Indy500 when Ryan Briscoe took Danica out in a pit incident. Danica literally marched down the pit lane to confront her fellow driver. She had to be held back by security. Through racing’s long and heated history, one thing is for sure. Like Foyt, Stewart and countless others: hell hath no fury like an angry racecar driver. She proved to me her true grit that day.

A separation is in order. As frustrating as an on track incident is, drivers still have a role to play with the fans. There have been many a negative stories about Danica in this category as well. I have to chalk some of it up to fans not choosing their time appropriately. There is absolutely no excuse, however, for a driver to be rude to fans. I personally have seen Danica be respectful with her hoards of followers.

Something that Patrick is adamant about is her reputation as a role model. She did not ask for that spotlight. The on track novelty of being a woman in a man’s world has long since worn off. She is first and foremost a driver- that means she is an inspiration to little girls and little boys alike. If she has proved anything in her career, gender does not play a factor.

In the spirit of full-frontal feminism, Danica has harnessed the power of what she brings to the table. A mantra of hers is ‘rock what you got’ – and she has used her differences to market herself. The provocative GoDaddy commercials and racy pictures at the beginning of her career were all a means to an end. It worked. In her book Danica: Crossing the Line she notes that she was in control of her comfort level the whole time. Instead of questioning her path to household fame, maybe ask yourself why there is a demand for cheesecake pictures of her in the first place.

At the end of the day Danica Patrick is only human. She has been faced with an unfair amount of scrutiny and judgment over the years. Be reasonable your expectations. She gets tired of being asked the same regurgitated questions, being forced into a role as the token female, and fighting off the army of liquored up race fans asking for her phone number. As much as we would like to believe that the motorsports community has evolved, racing is still very much a boy’s club. Danica has helped fight that battle, even though she was unfairly drafted into that war. For that, I have the upmost respect for her. She has made her money, and she had the opportunity to do what she loved. Maybe she changed perceptions just a little. She doesn’t care what we think of her. In her last press conference after crashing out on the 68th lap of the Indianapolis 500 with a smile she leaned into the microphone and said to the media: “I will miss you- most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me a little bit.”

All American Classics Wrecking Yard

In 1989 an idea was hatched.  Why not a wrecking yard dedicated to vintage cars?

In 1989, think about it, a ’69 Chevrolet/Ford/Mopar was 20 years old.  Who was looking for these cars?  Todd Toedtli was.

What IF he gathered cast off projects and created a salvage yard where one could find window cranks for a ’62 Impala?  What if, when dealerships sent piles of NOS mouldings to a salvage yard that were left for scrap, he could document the pieces and then resell them?  What if he plowed the unused portion of the defunct dairy farm, lay down some rows of gravel, and then organize row by row of vintage tin?  What if, with every car that was purchased or donated to the yard,  a spreadsheet was created and then every part  inventoried?

“What if” became “He did”, and All American Classics was born.

The yard started as a five acre lot, expanded, and eventually grew to as large as 20 acres at one point in time.  Name the car; it’s crossed the gates, but Todd has a penchant for GM and, especially, Camaros and Impalas.

“You know, some of these Camaros were actually driven into the yard,” Todd says.

One can see what are the remains of the many ’67-’69 Camaros and Firebirds, and they’re stunning.

“When those cars were purchased, they were just cast off projects.  Unwanted.”  Todd shakes his head.  “Today, they would bring good money as a runner/driver.  Who knew?”

From muscle cars to luxury cars.  Hardtops to station wagons and convertibles.  Pick up trucks, too.
“At one point, we had so many 1955-1959 Chevrolet and GMC trucks;  stylesides, step sides.”  Todd shrugs his shoulders.  “They were picked to the bones!  At one point, you just have to pull the plug and knock ’em in the head.”

Currently at the yard,  there are no longer any mid to late ’50’s Chevrolet or GMC trucks.  Heck, even the early Ford trucks are hard to find.  But, they’re always looking!  In the yard’s ever changing landscape, there are still a handful of 1947-1954 Chevrolet/GMC trucks as well as two Suburbans, a few 1960-1966 Chevy trucks, one 1959 Ford F-100, and a 1966 Ford F-250.   A few 1967-1972 Chevy and GMC trucks round out the offerings. But, of course, trucks aren’t all you’ll find at AAC.

“We tried to stock newer cars and trucks; even some imports, but as of January this past year, I have decided to go back to where it all began.” says Todd.   “We will have some stock of new vehicles.  Camaros and Corvettes of course.  Some Mustangs.  But, I really love being a yard where time has stood still.  Come on down and wander.  It  doesn’t cost anything, and who knows, you may find that missing part.”  Todd adds.

Speaking of missing parts, take a look at your own current project. Impala. Galaxie. Newport. Camaro. Mustang, Cutlass, Skylark, Chevelle, Nova, Falcon.  We’re sure you’ve realized that the pickings are slim, my friends. The aftermarket fenders and such are VERY affordable, but from what we have seen, lack in quality and applicatiion.  Most of the parts are made offshore from dies that were purchased from the manfacturer but, even then, have been used beyond their time.  Chrome plating on that $100 ’67 Camaro bumper from a supplier simply doesn’t have the same as an OEM piece, and the fit is not as good as an original OEM core.  We’ve seen it.

And, be it a frame for a ’65 Cadillac or a set of lower control arms for a Nova, each used part is inspected before the customer even touches it.  In fact, when the folks at AAC quote you a price, you can be assured it’s a part that Todd has personally inspected. You don’t have to be a local to shop, either. At All American Classics they aim to please. Parts can be picked up locally, or they’ll ship them to you. They even ship internationally.

At the present time, the yard is down to five acres. We know, we know, we can hear all of the yelling and such, but let’s take that into perspective. Some of the cars at AAC had been there since 1989.  That’s almost 30 years. 30 years of parts pulled, rain, frost, and freezing.   Years of customers forgetting to close a door. Vandals breaking rear windows.  Inner door panels, dash pads, and bucket seats pulled from cars. 30 years of many different hands pulling parts like taffy.  We’re all human; mistakes happen.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time!” Todd laughs and looks over his shoulder as Pat, the yard supervisor, brings up a fully stripped ’72 Cutlass sedan for inspection. Todd pauses then says, “I’ll probably be crucified for that one, too.”  A fully stripped 4-door sedan is now headed to the crusher.

But the cars are still out there.  In the last two weeks alone, AAC has purchased two vintage cars. One a 1939 Buick 4-door sedan that had been garaged since 1961.  It will be sold as a project. The other car is a 1962 Impala SS convertible.  It’s in need of a full restoration, but what a find!

“I am always looking for old cars.” says Todd. “I take all calls, and sometimes I’m lucky.”

So, if you heard rumors that All American was closing their doors for good, never fear. They’re still here. They continue to maintain a footprint, have 800 cars ready to be parted out, and still have project cars ready to be purchased and taken home.

ALEXANDER ROSSI: An evening at World of Speed Motorsports Museum

I can’t believe it. Alexander Rossi in Wilsonville. I am there. The doors are to open at 6:00. I was there at 5:30. I expected a mass of people, after all, it is Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi! There was only one other person there. At 6:00, the doors opened and by then, there were a lot more people. I bought my ticket and entered paradise. The marque display was Porsche 911 cars.
The Porsche 911 is a beautiful car. In race form, with wide wheels and tires, with it’s aerodynamic body work and flared fenders and wings it’s gorgeous. The 57 racer that was driven by Portland’s, Monte Shelton was there.

I met Ron Huehli, the curator of the museum. In 2017, Ron drove the number 26, a 1966 Lola at the vintage race at the speedway. The Lola was originally raced by Roger Ward, who came in 18th in the 500, in 1966. Mr. Huegli was kind enough to show me around the facilities. We went through the area designated for restoration, the shop area where auto repair classes are held and storage for cars not on display. In that area was stored Rolla Vollstedt’s first Indy car he built. The Offy powered car rain in the 1965 Indy 500. It was driven by a northwest driver, Billy Foster of Canada.
Enter Alexander Rossi. He said that he was glad to be there. He would be starting in 32nd positions in this years 500, not 3rd like last year. Would be challenge. He seemed positive that he could work his way up through the field.

Now question and answer time:

What is the difference between Formula 1 and Indy cars?

“Formula 1 is more robotic. As a driver you have to optimize the package that you have. Where you have no adjustments to the car. In Indy cars, you can adjust spring rate, roll center and dampeners, all within the rules The Indy cars are more of a driver’s car and how much the driver wants to win.”

Do you prefer to hand out with Formula 1 drivers or Indy car drivers?

“Indy car drivers. Indy car drivers are real people.”

Have you seen the PIR track yet?

“No, not yet.” “We are concentrating on the 500.” We are excited to come back to Portland.”

What is the difference your own car and an Indy car?

“My Honda Pilot goes from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds.” “It’s a different environment. In the Indy car, you are in the zone, concentrating.” In the Pilot, it’s about comfort.”

Any speeding tickets?

“Why, yes.”

What’s a normal day?

“Wake up. Go work out. Go to the Honda Development Center. Work on the racing simulator and practice on the different tracks. Or, go do whatever my manager has arranged for me, like a cooking show, in my own kitchen.”

What other forms of motorsports would you like to drive?

“I am very fortunate to be able to drive Indy cars, here I’ll stay.”

Having raced Formula 1, today, would you rather race at the Grand Prix of Monaco or the Indy 500?

“I would, 100 percent be at the Indianapolis 500. There is nothing better than the Indy 500.”

What was the first car you drove when you got your driver’s license?

“I might get in trouble for answering that but, it was a Chevy Silverado. The team I drive for, Andretti Motorsports, that car is powered by Honda. Some competitors have cars powered by Chevrolet. Now, we are a Honda Family.”

After winning the 2016 500, coasting across the start-finish line, coming to a stop, you sat in the car for a long time?

“I got to hear the crowd as I coasted around turn 4. Getting a chance to listen to the crowd cheering was very very special.”

There were other questions but, I thought these were an example of some of the good questions. Now, off to the “meet and greet.” There are over 200 people there. Among them was Tony Wilson, Founder of Wilson’s NAPA, with about 20 stores throughout the Wilsonville Valley and the Columbia Gorge. Also, my former boss for 18 years. After I got Alexander’s autograph, I asked him a question about what happened on the second qualifying attempt?

“I had a low line and it took all I could do to keep the car on the track.”

On Sunday I watched the greatest spectacle in racing, watching Alexander move up through the field. Driving smoothly, he was passing cars on the outside, dodging wrecks, and working his way into the top 10. At one time he was leading the race, then he finished in fourth. Great job of driving especially since he started 32nd.

I’m looking forward to watching him race at Portland International Raceway in the September Grand Prix of Portland.