Jack’s Specialty Parts

If you’ve attended an automotive swap meet in the last thirty years, you’ve seen this guy. He stands about five foot nothing, dresses in a navy blue shop coat and wears his hair in a crew cut. Generally he slouches; hands deep in the pockets of his jacket and in front of him are a train of six foot tables. On the table are boxes containing new old stock; carburetors, distributors, starters, generators and what have you.

Lately, there haven’t been too many swap meets but that doesn’t keep Jack Corley from going to work. Five days a week (though he is pushing ninety) he patrols the long aisles of his Gresham warehouse. There are thousands upon thousands of parts here- mostly stuff for older domestics. He doesn’t have to check the computer to know whether or not he has your part. Actually, there is no computer…the inventory list is in his head.

Corley started in parts business working for a Kaiser dealership. As the last Kaiser rolled off the assembly line in 1955; that was just a few years back. He bounced around some; his longest stint was with Niehoff Ignition Company (almost twenty years). He also ventured into auto racing and became a distributor for numerous high performance lines.

Yeah, Corley’s bread and butter is NOS auto parts but if you’ve never been to his warehouse, you owe it to yourself to go. He still owns the Offenhauser Midget he raced in the sixties and the steel bodied ’32 with the Hemi engine he used to terrorize the streets of Portland back in the day. Walking into his warehouse is like stepping into a time machine. There is an extensive assortment of oil cans, race car toys, car club plaques, old calendars, posters, pennants and automotive displays. There are walls in the office covered with framed 8 x 10 racing photos. It is truly one of the most impressive collections of automobilia in the Pacific Northwest.

But don’t forget why you came! Whether you’re restoring a concourse vintage car or scabbing together a rat rod, Jack Corley is your man. Don’t look for him on the Interweb cause of course, he isn’t there. The physical address for his warehouse is: 909 NE Cleveland Ave., Gresham, OR 97030. The phone number for Jack’s Specialty Parts is: (503) 667-1725.

THE LAST RACE

The last supermodified race at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon Oct. 6, 2007

First, I must say that I am getting older and the memory is not what it used to be. This story is written from my memory, my photos, what I saw, what I heard and the Internet. We all know what’s on the Internet is the truth.

This race was advertised as SMRA Supermodified vs. Winged Sprint Cars. There were 14 race cars there. There were five winged sprints cars and nine offset supermodified cars. There were several veteran drivers plus one who seemed to be a very young man. This young man whom I didn’t know his age or his racing experience was Nick Tomlinson. It turns out he was 12 years old at the time of this race, driving a winged 360 sprint car. When I saw him on the track, it looked like he was driving by looking out the side of the car as if he could not see over the hood. He did seem a lot shorter than the other drivers. At the drivers’ meeting, it was determined that he would start in the back of the main event. As the leaders caught up with him, he was to pull off into the pits. That is what I overheard at the drivers’ meeting.

The heat races were excellent with a combo of supers and sprint cars. The main event was all set with SMRA rules that inverted the top eight qualifiers. This put Kyler Barraza, driver of a sprint car, on the pole. This was followed by top west coast super drivers Jim Birges, Troy Regier, Rick Veenstra, Martin McKeefery, Brian Ware among others like top sprint drivers Matt Hein, Andy Alberding, Gary Davis, and bringing up the rear, Nick Tomlinson for a total of 14 starters.

At the start Barraza took off with the rest of the supers and sprints. Battling in the pack, Regier and Veenstra moved up to 2nd and 3rd. On lap 25, Veenstra got loose and went for an off track excursion. There was a yellow flag, Barraza was leading and Regier was second. It was a battle for the lead. I watched Regier making moves on the inside, on the outside, trying his best. By the end of 40 laps, Kyler Barraza was the winner. This was only the fourth time that a sprint car has won this race in 20 years. Kyler was the first driver with a 360 engine to win. After all that great racing, I don’t remember seeing Tomlinson pulling into the pits, but he must have because I didn’t see him at all after the first few laps.

Some people say supermodified racing is dead on the west coast. I don’t think so. A few weeks ago, in Meridian, Idaho, there was the JP Memorial Classic Supermodified Reunion with cars and drivers from several west coast states. I would call that the drop of the green flag, the revival of supermodified racing on the west coast.

Coburg Cruise

As we all know, this year is different than other years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us plan our summers, particularly weekends, around attending car shows or other old car related events. Virtually every show and event this summer has been cancelled primarily because of the inability to comply with social distancing and other health restrictions designed to keep all of us safe.

The City of Coburg (just north of Eugene along I-5) has been holding an annual car show in their city park for the past 27 years. It is one of my favorite shows to attend. They pack about 200 cars into the park and people come to view the cars in droves. They also have a pancake breakfast and maybe the best barbequed chicken lunch of any car show in the area.

Coming up on their 28th show, the folks putting the show on were unwilling to simply cancel the show. So, they put together an alternative plan to hold a cruise rather than the traditional static display type of show. Arrangements were to stage vehicles at a local vineyards a couple of miles north of town. An estimated 200 or more cars showed up. A local DJ played music while drivers and their passengers awaiting the notice to depart for the cruise. Unlike many cruises, this one was not set up for cars to run back and forth on a closed course in a parade type of atmosphere. Bringing crowds together like that obviously makes social distancing impossible. For this event, cars were broken up into groups of about fifty cars and each group was led on the cruise course by a local public servant, either someone from the fire department of the police department. The course was laid out in such a way that it went through every section of the city. It even went over to the other side of I-5 and through the camp ground. Town residents has been advised of the cruise route well in advance. As we cruised, we encountered many, many small groups of friends and/or family watching from sidewalks, front yards and front porches. The format seemed to be very well accepted by the viewers.

The participants in all seemed to be having a great time. There was a lot of visiting back and forth before the cruise and most everyone was smiling. It was a beautiful summer morning and people were anxious to get together with other car people, drive and show off their vehicles. It was almost as if everyone had just let out a huge sigh and said “at last”.

Usually you are required to register to enter a car show, the process this time was much less formal and no entry fees were charged although they did accept donations and it appeared that most drivers were in fact donating. The show historically is a fund raiser for no-profit programs in the city.

Drivers were encouraged to take advantage of local businesses and restaurants upon the conclusion of the cruise. It appeared that most did in fact hang around, many buying lunch and then heading to the city park in small groups to eat and talk cars.

All in all, a very nice event in a very difficult time.

2020… What a Year

We are certainly hoping all is well out there in hot rod land. No doubt there were quite a number of readers who were caught up in these fires. The publisher was in the line of fire and evacuated as well. If you are reading this, then we at least got some kind of an issue out. Just that, is an amazing accomplishment during these natural disasters and extreme declining economy.

It appears that it is the Covid condition that is doing the worst damage to the automotive industry. Motorsports will never be the same again. The electric vehicle industry is making major inroads during this time. It looks like we may be entering into a new era of shared ridership where fewer and fewer citizens will actually own their own car.

In the performance sector we are seeing more and more of these EVs running quarter mile ETs in the 9s and showing impressive performance on road courses and places like Pikes Peak. They are coming at us from every angle, that is for sure.

Along these lines, the guys over at Racing Junk have been making some noise about a leaked document from GM concerning the C8 Corvette. It speaks of a hybrid model coming out in 2023 that will feature what they call, eAWD for all-wheel drive. They are saying this one will be the fastest of all time when under full power!

In other news, you know it’s bad when shows like the SEMA show, PRI Show and Drag Week are cancelled. At press time however there is a second Rocky Mountain drag tour scheduled. This will be meant to take the place of the canceled Drag Week. The LS fest was also pulled off. This was a crazy event featuring all kinds of LS powered vehicles involved in all kinds of crazy merriment.

The LS Fest is featured prominently in the new eMagazine put out by Holley. Motor Life Digital Magazine will feature excerpts of the latest in car culture.

Well GearHeads as cool car season winds down, we are certainly wishing the best of luck to those of you who have been affected by this outrageous year of 2020. Sure am hoping there were not too many cool hot rods destroyed by these fires! Do your best to keep on keepin’ on—and stay free.

Recommended Reading

We are all spending more time alone these days and it is easy to slip into a funk. Perhaps what you need is a good read. Fortunately I have assembled my own library of hot rod and racing books to help me through these dark times. I have chosen five books to recommend that I found humorous as well as entertaining. Enjoy!

They Call Me Mister 500 by Andy Granatelli (1969). This is among the oldest books on my shelf and one of my favorites. It was given to me by my Aunt Ruthie who was very supportive and encouraged anything her nieces and nephews were passionate about. Interestingly, this book was published the year Granatelli won his first Indy 500 but ends at the conclusion of the ’68 racing season. So we learn all about the Granatelli brother’s early days; growing up in Chicago, opening a garage, becoming a distributor of speed equipment, promoting races and finally competing in the Indy 500. Would you believe they drove their first entry from Chicago to Indianapolis? The story of Andy attempting to qualify the racecar himself is an absolute classic- I still laugh about it. The chapters regarding his efforts to resurrect the Novi marque and revolutionize the sport with his turbine cars are very informative yet heart breaking. As corny as it sounds, this book changed my life in many ways. I recommend it to everyone.

Stand On It by Stroker Ace (1973). Yeah, this was made into a bad Burt Reynolds movie but if you hold that against it, you’ll miss out. This fictional story (written by Bill Neely under an alias) is based on the true to life exploits of Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, Linda Vaughn and others. It was a time when big money was just beginning to permeate the sport but political correctness didn’t yet exist. This book is raunchy and dated, but fun. It’s fiction but if you know the history, it isn’t much of a stretch.

Cannonball! by Brock Yates (2002). I know! Another bad Burt Reynolds movie! But the story of this cross country race is true and Yates was a participant. In fact, he won it in 1971 in a Ferrari Daytona partnered with professional racer Dan Gurney. Yates published the story of his maiden voyage in Car and Driver that year when I was a wee lad/subscriber. When I read his report, it blew my mind! I loved the story so much I gave a speech on it in my middle school English class. Yates raced again in ’72,’75 and in the final edition held in ’79. The book covers the entire history of the event and though it didn’t make me laugh out loud, I smiled throughout. Yates also wrote the screenplay for the original Cannonball! movie and to his credit wanted Steve McQueen to star. I think we can all agree that it would have been a different movie with McQueen rather than Reynolds at the controls.

Sunday Money by Jeff McGregor (2005). I wish I could remember who recommended this one to me because it made me laugh the hardest. McGregor is a racing outsider that purchased a motorhome and followed the NASCAR tour when it was at the peak of popularity. Obviously well-educated and highly literate McGregor takes it all in and shares his observations with the reader. Sometimes he is critical about what he sees but I think he is fair. He doesn’t simply slam your average, working class fan- he digs deeper. He seems to understand why people become passionate about auto racing. At times his musings are downright poetic.

Cages Are For Monkeys by Kevin Olson (2016). The title refers to a transition in Midget car racing for safety reasons. When Olson began racing Midgets only a simple roll bar (or hoop) behind the driver’s head was required; today’s drivers are completely surrounded by a roll cage and it’s changed the way they drive. My first exposure to Olson was in Open Wheel magazine. There was a photo of him published repeatedly in which he was dancing with a Christmas tree. Apparently it was taken at an awards banquet at which he got drunk and made a spectacle of himself. Years later he became a columnist for Sprint Car & Midget and I discovered that there was much more to him. His essays were sometimes nonsensical but other times serious and quite thoughtful. The book is the story of his life and it turns out that he is an accomplished racer…And he tells some funny stories. In the end, racing and family are the two things that matter most to Kevin Olson. I can hardly argue with that.