1000 Words

Everyone has heard the saying: “A picture is worth 1000 words.” More than ever, with cameras in everyone’s pocket and a fast and easy way to share, those words ring true. Positive or negative, the exposure and sheer mobility that a single photograph can have is staggering. This has always been true for as long as we had photographs, some just stick with us. A first image of the earth taken from the moon, Freddie Mercury playing the sold-out stadium of Live Aid, Muhammad Ali standing over the fallen Heavyweight World Champion, Sonny Liston, protesters on the streets of Selma, AL in 1964 or in Minneapolis, MN last month- these images leave a lasting impression because they are indicative of a special, and often important moment in time. This significance helps us understand and see. The language of photographs is not limited to sports, politics, news, or any one thing or any single emotion that is why each image is worth 1,000 words.

Motorsports is no exception. Through the decades of sanctioned automobile racing, there are some images that stick out. Yes there are moments, people and amazing feats that tell longer stories- but as far as single images—these speak volumes and stand the test of time as being iconic in their own right.

High Speeds and High Tempers
1979 — Daytona 500, Daytona Motor Speedway, Photograph by Ric Feld.

Arguably the most famous fistfight in motorsports history, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison wrestle on national television the afternoon of February 18th, 1979. The high drama and high emotions of racecar drivers are familiar to those who consume the sport, but this particular brawl was pumped into hundreds of thousands of homes across America—live for the first time. Ever. According to the L.A. Times, that particular race had a 10.5 rating, or a little over 15 million people watching. Yarborough and brother, Donnie Allison’s, duel for the win was thrilling enough before taking each other out on the last lap. Yeah, Richard Petty ended up taking the checkers, but Allisons v. Yarborough hooked a whole new slew of fans and helped put NASCAR on the trajectory they took right to the bank.

Leaping Lotuses
1966 — German Grand Prix, Nurburging, Photographer unknown.

Sir Jackie Stewart (front) with Graham Hill (behind)
If the idea of one or two tires leaving the ground is scary to you, try all four. In a spindly Lotus. In the 60’s. At high speeds. Every lap. At the one of the most dangerous and deadly race courses ever in history. Look no further for evidence of big balls than these guys. If there was ever an image to reference in an argument about the bravery needed in this sport, this would be a good one. Besides the cars, drivers, era, and track being iconic in their own right, this image captured the imagination of fans all over the world.

First Kiss
1969 — Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, photographer unknown.

It has been called a Cinderella Story. Driver, Mario Andretti (right) was already stirring buzz as a talented newcomer to the sport of auto racing. Car owner and president of STP, Andy Granatelli (left) helped revolutionalize the sport with never-before-seen marketing and sponsorship strategy for the ages. Both would become legends. Year after arduous year, Andy Granatelli and brothers fielded cars without a win at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the heat of victory, Granatelli’s overabundant excitement made him grab young Andretti’s face and kiss his cheek. This jubilation became immortalized in thousands of ads for Andy’s company and the car’s main sponsor, STP. Making sure that the image was available absolutely everywhere that money could buy for at least the following year, Granatelli did everything in his power to make STP and Mario a household name- both of which eventually happened. Andretti to this day admits that he is still embarrassed by that kiss, but he says it with a smile.

A Show of Force — 1966 LeMans 24 Hour Race, LeMans

It is an unbelievable story. Goliath vs. Goliath of the Ford Motor Company challenging the Ferrari for the crown of endurance racing in the 1960s. After a very dramatic battle, (one that has been recently depicted in the 2018 blockbuster Ford v Ferrari) Ford found themselves not only triumphant over the Ferrari team at the end of a grueling 24-hour race—but decisively so. Looking like a clear first-second-third victory, there was a request from a Ford executive for the team to cross the finish line together. This hammered in a very strong message to the motorsports world, saying ‘we are here, and we mean business.’ Cora Veltman

Magic Muffler
Photo by Ron Lahr. Taken years and years ago at a Southern California dragstrip. This famous photo is on display at the NHRA Museum in Pamona, California. Ron was not a professional photographer. Ed Gilbert

1929 Roadster Pickup

In December 2018, I bought a 29 Roadster Pickup, all stock, and taken apart.  Last December I started working on making a street/drag race Hot Rod out of it.

For the baseline, I bought a reproduction replica, of an original Model A frame, minus the rear section.  In between other projects, this is how far along it has come.  I have been collecting mainly 60s era speed parts, like the Halibrand Championship quick change, floater rear axle, and the Hilborn Fuel Injection.  My Brother Jerry gave me the engine out of his 32 Ford dirt tracker, over 15 years ago. The engine is a 355” Chevy, with 6” rods, JE pistons, Dart “Iron Eagle” heads, and it will run the injector, and a Vertex Magneto, making between 500 and 600 HP, backed up by a Ford Toploader 4 speed.

Between the fenders that came with the package, and the ones that I got from Jim Lindsay, the little truck has some pretty nice sheet metal, and I no plans to paint it very soon. The front axle is a genuine 32 Ford, and will sport Lincoln drum brakes. I built the ladder bars out of thin wall Chromoly tube, that was given to me, by a late friend. The center cross member is an important part of the chassis construction, as you want to limit the chassis flex, when dropping the clutch at 6500 to 7000 rpms.
I am sourcing some small bucket seats, and getting ready to mount the steering and pedals, along with building the headers. It will have a roll bar similar to the one’s shown above. The plan is to have a complete separate engine / trans package to drive it on the street.

With the current world crisis, we are dealing with, our events will get a late start this year but, I am pushing to get it ready for some action sometime this Summer. I hope all is well with you, and looking forward to seeing many of you, this Summer

Cruising 101

With the cancellation of Brooking’s 26th Annual Azalea Festival Car Show due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Leslie Wilkinson had a late-night idea for a replacement.

So she reached out to her friends in the local car clubs, starting with Jim and Kathy Haggerty of the Curry County Cruisers.
The idea went out via social media and before you knew it, the unsanctioned event was blooming.

Rich Wilson of the Better Car Shows team (Southern Oregon Rod and Custom Show) contacted me and we set our goal to motor on over to show support for the cause.

The weather could not have been better if you had placed your order weeks in advance.

A day of smiling faces of grateful participants and hoards of general public members lining the street, sidewalks and lawns to watch and wave as 110 vehicles cruised by.

From the very moment of releasing the drivers from the Brookings staging area by blocking hwy 101 long enough to get everyone out in one forward parade motion, to the final resting place in Crescent City, there was no political agenda or law enforcement interference, just fun for all that understood the purpose of being calm and honoring Memorial Day.
The event collected $1,120 dollars and about 300 food items for local food banks from the folks that drove the route through city streets and assorted rest home parking lots.

For my co-pilot and myself, we joined the cause coming from Roseburg Oregon and traveling more than 300 miles over the trip duration without hesitation, staying overnight in Crescent City and talking about the fun of the cruise on the way home in the morning. I mean to tell you, it was a pleasure to not be home doing chores or watching the TV.
Thanks to all that participated and to Leslie for the insight to ignite the day!

One of One

It began as a dune buggy class. When the track operator eliminated the road course and insisted everyone race on the quarter mile dirt oval, it called for a new vehicle. Established chassis builder Jim Belfiore produced a dozen frames and sold them for $800 apiece. One of his creations powered by a four cylinder Datsun mounted up front captured the 1983 track championship.

Energetic racer Bruce Kranak, never one to follow the crowd, had a different idea. He owned a Volkswagen performance shop in San Jose so his choice of power plant was no surprise. What was unique was the configuration. Whereas Belfiore had opted for the traditional Sprint Car layout, Kranak flip-flopped the major components. He positioned the fuel tank in front of the driver and tucked a hot rodded Rabbit engine up under the tail. It remains to my knowledge, the only upright rear engined Sprint Car ever built. It was truly “One of One”.

There was a mad thrash to complete the car in time for the early May season opener. The fiberglass skin was unpainted and the chassis was bare metal but the car was fast! Kranak bowed out before the checkered flag fell but emerged from the cockpit ecstatic- He knew that he had a potential winner. Throughout June research and development continued and Kranak put together a string of top five finishes. Finally on the first of August after a race long battle with a pair of Belfiore cars, Kranak achieved his first win. It had to be a gratifying moment and rewarded the team’s outside-the-box thinking. Throughout the remainder of the season, Kranak either finished third or fell out. (I recall an issue with universal joint failure- This situation was remedied when the team installed u-joints procured from an Indycar manufacturer.) In the final points tally Kranak was ranked fifth overall.

When the 1985 season rolled around the team was loaded for bear and Kranak captured the Opener. After placing second twice more in May he won his third feature with the car on June 21st, taking over the points lead for the division. In spite of a couple more top five finishes, Kranak lost the lead when he took his family on vacation in late July. Then at the final points meet of the season, the likeable veteran wheel hopped another competitor and struck the cement retaining wall upside down. The roll cage of the unique race car was crushed in the accident and Kranak was extracted complaining of neck pain. He was stabilized and transferred to a local hospital where his injury was diagnosed as a broken neck. Sadly the crash ended Kranak’s racing career and the wrecked racecar was set aside.

During the off season Kranak made a deal with fellow VW enthusiast/racer Dion LeBeau for the purchase of the car. LeBeau rebuilt the roll cage and worked out an arrangement with Kranak wherein the business owner became primary sponsor. Personality-wise Kranak and LeBeau were polar opposites. Whereas Kranak was a loquacious extrovert, LeBeau was sullen and introverted. Nonetheless, he was a capable mechanic and a veteran driver in his own right. LeBeau put together a two car effort that included newcomer John Brumund piloting an older conventional buggy (also Rabbit powered).

At a Sunday April season opener, the new team served notice to all that they were serious competitors for the title by both placing in the top five.
LeBeau won his first feature with the car on Memorial Day weekend 1986. He ran consistently throughout the year and finished second in the point standings. At the end of season 2-day challenge race against the Nevada competitors (Quincy, CA), LeBeau placed fourth. It was second highest of the California based entries.

In 1987 LeBeau announced that the car was for sale but planned to race it until a buyer came calling. Though he captured numerous heat races, he didn’t win another feature that year. Still, a string of consistent placings (ten top fives during the regular season) earned him his first championship. One night in July, fearing his mount had a terminal engine problem, LeBeau switched cars with his teammate Brumund and Brumund became the third different driver to win a feature with the car. When the team made the long tow to Quincy at season’s end, LeBeau led the California contingency with a solid fifth place finish.

Without a potential buyer on line, LeBeau decided the campaign the car himself in 1988 in what turned out to be his home track’s last year of operation. On May 27th he won his second feature with the car and repeat on June 10th, tying Kranak’s record. Unfortunately LeBeau crashed the car heavily a month later and finished the season sixth in the points. In post season action the car was cobbled back together but crashed again on October 15th and couldn’t be repaired in time to make the annual trip to Quincy.

At the conclusion of 1988, a new club for the four cylinder Sprint Cars was formed (SORA) and a traveling schedule assembled. LeBeau chose to participate only in the events relatively close to his San Jose home- two at Antioch Speedway and two at Watsonville. By now his racer had five full seasons of wear plus three grueling crashes in its lifespan. LeBeau qualified fourth fastest at Antioch and finished fourth in the feature but the highlights reel ended there. In 1990 LeBeau kept the car at home.

In 1991 LeBeau made his final appearances with the car. The records show that on July 20th at Antioch LeBeau was scored tenth in the B Main. Five weeks later the car was fifth in one of three Heats, earning a transfer to the feature but likely didn’t take the green flag. After that, I never saw LeBeau or the unique car again.

In a perfect world, Bruce Kranak’s successful brainchild received the ground-up restoration it deserved. With seven feature wins and one championship to its credit, it certainly deserves some recognition.

1970 Mac’s IT Rotax Special — Four Engines, Four Wheel Drive

The Can-Am Racing series was an open comp, run what you brung. There were cars that were very successful such as McLarens and Porsches. Then there were cars that were creative. The AVS Shadow with its tiny tires ran, but always seemed to have problems. The Chaparral 2J, was built with a snowmobile engine connected to a fan to suck the air out from under the car in order to create a vacuum. It ran so well it was banned.

These were cars that the designers and builders thought of outside the box. In that time came Jack Hoare, an ex-Shelby American engine builder and crew worker. Jack raced in the Can-Am series in an older McLaren that was Ford-powered. He thought, “How about lighter with better traction?

How about 4 smaller engines, located at each tire, for better weight distribution and better traction?”

The car is sponsored by Mac’s Super Gross Company manufacturing chemicals, products for automobiles, hand cleaners and other items. That is where the name came from. In the name MAC’S IT, the IT comes from Innovation Racing with Jack Hoare.

The car was built around four two-cylinder, two-cycle 775cc Rotax snowmobile engines producing 110 hp each for a total of 440 hp in a car that weighed approximately 1200 pounds. The four engines have two in the front and two in the rear. With a complicated drivetrain system, centrifugal clutches come off the engine’s driving belts through a variable ratio pulley system. These connect to a modified VW transaxle that provide power to the wheels. The same system on both front and rear engines are connected together by a balance shaft. There were problems with push me, pull you action and trying to get everything synchronized. The car did have some power loss due to the drive system.
Now comes testing, at the Orange County Speedway which is a dragstrip. The team set up cones on the strip to resemble a road course. Just about every time test driver Hiroshi Fushida would accelerate hard the balance shaft would twist and break with a loud bang. They eliminated the balance shaft, so the two front engines and the two rear engines ran separately from each other. This made the car more reliable but still had the synchronization problem.

Off to the races: the Can-Am race at Laguna Seca. With a few practice laps the car stayed together, but it was smokey and noisy, sounding like a herd of chainsaws. Now came time for qualifying. The driver Hiroshi Matsushita recorded a lap at 1 minute 29.4 seconds. That was 18.6 seconds behind the slowest qualifier. The pole-sitter was Vic Elford with a time of 58.8 seconds driving the Chaparral 2J. At that rate, Hiroshi would be lapped by the leader about every three laps. The Mac IT Special did not qualify for the race and, unfortunately, the Mac IT was never to be seen again.

Even though it did not qualify, it just goes to show the ingenuity of people like Jack Hoare that think outside the box. Others that try something different don’t do as well as everyone else and some do far better than expected. Oh, by the way, one car that did far better was the Chaparral 2J , the sucker car that was later banned from racing.

And the Beat Goes On

Greetings GearHeads and GearHeadettes. What a year this has been, eh? By now we would be hitting all kinds of cruise-ins and all kinds of racing would be going on. Except as of press time, there is nothing going on!

So who knows what is coming? I will not even digress.

National collector car day is coming right up—July  10. There won’t be a whole lot happening. Perhaps you could fire up your hot rod for a moment of noise or something?

So I did take notice of a number of pretty cool car events which consisted of people driving their cars and staying in them. Heard there was some big ones. So could drive in theaters be making a comeback?
So did anyone see Jay Leno driving around in a Cybertruck with Elon Musk? They were last seen disappearing down some tunnel.

Oh and now this: Tesla car makes Edmunds Top 10 Muscle Car List! A four-door electric car? My, my—times, they are a changin’  And then there was the new Tesla Roadster. The MuskFather is adding a rocket thruster behind the rear license plate, James Bond style! Sounds like it is going to be the fastest, factory street car on earth!

So I should mention The FarSight Viewers again. Remember… The ones that report on the news before it happens. So, one of their top remote viewers reported on a gunship taking a missile strike. Well, it happened on the Straits of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. I have been there. Yes, not that long ago I was a US Merchant Marine sailing the world. Yes, I was a driver of ships once upon a time.
Anyway, it was a friendly fire incident between 2 Iranian warships conducting war games on May 11. And let me tell you, there were some unhappy Ayatollahs over there. The rest of the remote viewers were all predicting a bunch of rioting. I will say they sure hit that nail on the head, ya think?

Here is something else to think about. This brave new digital world that we are all running towards, head over heels… Cybersecurity is what I often think about – hackers. Anyway, Honda was forced to close a number of their factories around the world recently, due to a ransomware attack. Sounds like genuine cyberwar could be on its way!

So we have mentioned USMA before. They have developed a new hashtag- #TogetherWeRace . Go check it out. You will find their Covid-19 toolkit. They have developed protocols to revitalize Motorsports in such a way as has been done before to revive this nation’s economy.

That’s all folks. Chuck Fasst #GearHeadsWorld