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!

The Hangar — Kool Guys Hot Rods Breakfast

About 12 years ago three old car guys decided to create a Friday morning breakfast group made up of other old car guys. Fred Davis, Vern Farris and Tom Hoffman organized it and got the word out, kind of like the famous saying, “if you build it they will come,” and they did.

Now twelve years later every Friday, rain or shine, a bunch of guys show up at the “Hanger” in beautiful downtown Carver. During good weather months, they drive their hot rods, show cars, cruisers etc. During the bad weather months, they drive their daily drivers.

Often the turn out fills the restaurant and the Parking lot looks like a Car Show or Cruise-in during the spring, summer and fall. I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones as a result of attending.

It’s kind of a club, kinda not. It’s not a formal organization, there is no membership, no dues or other formalities but I’ve seen tee shirts, I think hats and what not. Sometimes a worthy cause will present itself and there will be a cruise, a poker run, a request for donations etc. etc. just to help someone out that has a need. Mostly it’s just some good food, good friendly conversation and an opportunity to drive your old car on a short trip and check out what the Jones have done.

Again, the ‘meet up’ is every Friday, except holidays, at The Carver Hanger. The restaurant opens precisely at 8am, but the meet up starts anytime around 7ish. Everyone is welcome.