5 Things We Don’t Need

The late standup comic, George Carlin used to practice what he called “Observational Humor.” If he observed something that bugged him, he might call our attention to it and proclaim that it needed to cease. One example was bald guys that grew their hair out in the back and wore it in a ponytail. It bugged Carlin. He said it was” something we didn’t need “and wasn’t going to be tolerated any longer.

In the spirit of George Carlin and with the swap meet, car show and cruise in season back upon us, here is my version of 5 Things We Don’t Need.

Baseball caps have always been part of car culture and it makes sense to protect your noggin if you’re planning to spend your day out of doors. What doesn’t make sense is to wear a visor with a prickly wig attached. When did these things first show up-more than a decade ago? I’m trying to remember if the first one I saw evoked a smile. I’m quite certain that the second one, did not. I get that they’re a goof, meant to be humorous but it’s a joke that is only funny the first time you see it. By now we’ve all seen it. I think Carlin would agree that visors with prickly wigs attached should go away. It’s a joke that lost its punch years ago.

Muscle shirts, tanks or any form fitting shirts without sleeves seem to be popular with car guys. Unfortunately, I don’t think most guys know whether they look good in them or not. In a recent Melissa McCarthy movie the joke was made: “Only guys with muscles should wear muscle shirts” and I think she may be on to something. A burly guy I called “Big Dog” used to wear them to the races all the time. When I bought a sleeveless shirt that had vintage sprint cars on it, my daughter called me “Little Dog” every time I wore it. Eventually I got the message. If you want an honest assessment of how you look in your muscle shirt, ask your teenage daughter.

Do you know what a “Time Out” is? A Time Out is a homemade doll of a two or three-year-old standing with its face concealed in shame. I must believe that women make these…only an adoring mother would find anything cute about a pouting tot. But the bigger question is how did these dolls find their way to car shows and cruise ins to begin with? Somehow, they became a fairly common sight in years past but I believe they are now on the decline. I say let’s outlaw them altogether. Then the question becomes: “How do you dispose of one?” My answer: Goodwill!

According to Wikipedia, oversized dice originated during World War II. Pilots hung them in the cockpit of their fighter planes displaying “seven pips” before a “sortie mission.” At a time when the mortality rate was high, anything that a soldier perceived gave him good luck was justified. Though their history is solid, somehow over time, enlarged dice lost their dignity. Tell me, when you see a set of flocked dayglow green dice hanging from a rearview mirror, do you think about bravery? I think oversized dice have become a tacky metaphor for hot rodding or nostalgia in general. In fact, I hadn’t even thought about fuzzy dice in years…and then I came across a whole table full at the “Mild to Wild” Show. They are for sure something we don’t need.

Lastly, there is Betty Boof. The character was created in 1930 by a contemporary of Walt Disney’s named Max Fleischer. As popular as Betty was, she was retired after nine years as the star of her own cartoons that appeared in theatres prior to the featured attraction. People grew bored with Betty because besides being cute, she didn’t really have much going on and her cartoons mostly consisted of her being chased around. It has been the merchandising of her likeness on everything from greeting cards to coffee cups that has kept Betty in the public eye ever since. At some point someone rendered her as fifties style car shop with roller skates on her feet and a tray in her hand. For some reason that image really resonated with people and she has been typecast as a waitress ever since. Evidently it is Betty the Car Hop that will forever be linked to hot rodders but at eighty nine she is overdue for retirement. It is time to give Betty a rest.

ONE MILE IN

Even before the sun had tickled the clouds pink, he stood there. The campfire had been waning since about four, but Jack had risen, stoked it with some dead wood and had a pot of coffee percolating before any of his buddies had even split an eye. Around him more fires were stoked.  Be it the same campfire he had woken or what waited between the frame rails of the hop up the crew had brought.

Since being discharged and relocating to his new home, Jack had embraced the culture that his armed forces buddies had spoke of.
California. It never rains!  It was May of 1947. Two months in but still, in the early morning in the high desert, Winter still breathed a chill across the dry lake. Minutes and the sunrise chased each other the sunrise gave light to El Mirage. Jack sipped from his tin cup, his team was soon awake and Cappy had a skillet over the coals, frying up some bacon and eggs for the team. As enticing as the pork belly smelled, Jack fired up the roadster then sat down on a stoop. He leaned in and with a flat blade screw driver set about his work on the trio of 97’s.

There were 9 members of the team. All were survivors from the B-17 bomber West Coast Doll.

As Jack sipped his coffee and listened as the heavily modified ’42 Merc mill sing her song, he thought of his lost tail gunner, Daryl. “We should have 10 of us here.” He whispered out loud. As much as he tried to bury the memory, to this day he can still feel the shudder as their plane took the hit at the tail section erasing Daryl’s life.

They were 1 mile out and headed in, but a renegade Focke-Wulf FW-190 came out of nowhere and riddled the tail section. Daryl never had a chance. If it were not for a pair of P-51’s that had been in the area, the loss of crew would have been deadlier. West Coast Doll came in and landed. Out of 39 missions she had survived and had returned home safely. The surviving crew decided then they would remember their fallen crew member by living out his dream of a hot rod racing wide open on the dry lakes. A pact was made. When the war was over, the remaining crew would converge on Daryl’s garage and finish his roadster and compete in his memory.

The team of 9 worked hard on the Model A Roadster. Daryl had her about 70% done, but not enough to be race ready. With all hands on deck, the car was race ready and ready for her debut in a month’s time. From faded black to bright red, Chipper even painted a near perfect match to the nose art on their bomber on the cowl sides. West Coast Doll was ready for her debut. Jack would drive her. From Golden, Co he had experience. Be it racing on dirt tracks, sprint cars, jalopies or hill climbs. Jack could drive anything, especially fast. Cappy was an engine savant. He and Jack took their time and made the Merc engine singing like the Andrews sisters. As the deadline drew nearer, the former bomber crew worked day and night on the roadster. Drong and Jose’ along with Von and Crow made it their job to weld and fab the frame and other chassis details. Gilbert was the extra hand and filled in to help bleed brakes, grab some grub or be an extra set of eyes and volunteered his ’40 Ford pick up to be the tow vehicle and push truck.

“Time is interesting isn’t it?” Jack mused to his buddies one evening. The sun had started to drop beneath the horizon and the finishing touches were being dealt with on the roadster. “As a kid, you lay around on, say, a June afternoon, bored, completely out of your mind. Nothing to do as the sun just strolls across the sky. As the grandfather clock in the foyer marks off seconds of the day, of your life.” Jack paused and took a pull off of the ice cold Acme beer in his calloused hands. “Summer break drives into school days then into winter break. Then school, then spring break. We do not notice Mom and her hair as it greys. Or Pop as his hair falls out and he starts to get weaker.” About this time his buddies had paused and turned their undivided attention to Jack. They noticed he had wet eyes and wiped an arm across his face. “Time is a gift and it is also a curse. I look back and wonder when it became so damned fast. How memories became a blur. My friends, all we have is now. Let’s make this trip one for the books and also, I have an idea.”

Jack climbed into The West Coast Doll. He hunkered down into the bomber seat. Von and Crow made sure his belts were tight as Drong checked the fluids. Cappy stood by and signaled Jack to fire the roadster up. Jose’ made one last walk around and checked tire pressures. Gilbert, Drong and Chipper climbed into the ’40 and eased up to the back of the roadster. The crew climbed into the bed of the pickup pushed Jack toward the starting line. The starter nodded and jack hit the go pedal. Gilbert nailed the throttle and gave The West Coast Doll a helluva a push. And just like time, Jack watched as the landscape raced by. He poured coals to the fire, feathering the throttle and kept steady on the wheel. A marker was set to locate 1 mile in and when Jack roared past he floored it. But, as he did so, he pulled a hidden lever inside the roadster and a secret valve opened up and at 130 MPH, the ashes of Daryl were released upon the race course.

The West Coast Doll did not set any records that day, but she did well in her class. And for the crew of that wounded B-17 bomber, they lay their friend to rest the best way they thought possible.

by Mark “Spooky” Karol-Chik

Mild to Wild Motorsports Swap Meet

It took guts for promoter Steve Moore to move his successful swap meet from Albany to Salem. Not only did he move the venue but he rescheduled a bit later in the year. The new February date conflicted with Puyallup, Washington’s Early Bird Swap Meet which has a fifty year history and Skagit Speedway’s Northwest Racer’s Swap Meet held at Burlington (WA) High School. In spite of the competition, Moore report that this year’s edition of the Mild to Wild Motorsports Swap Meet was his second highest attended show in its thirteen year run. Beyond that, all vendor booths were sold out and a waiting list existed that included another thirty seven vendors that unfortunately could not be accommodated. Efforts will be made to include all that wish to participate next year.

Why the boost in interest? Pairing the gathering with other automotive events; The Salem Roadster Show and the Salem Indoor Dirt Track Races, likely had something to do with it. The Roadster Show in fact, pooled advertising dollars with Moore and they co-promoted their events happening simultaneously in adjacent buildings. But both benefited by the scheduling of the short track racing held on the grounds as well. We talked to people that planned to attend multiple events. One swapper was heading to the Roadster Show just as soon as he finished making his rounds. One family of racers was camped at fairgrounds for the weekend. Dad had a booth at the swap meet and the kids were racing on dirt oval that night!

Speaking of racetracks, three that I know of were represented at the swap. Michael Short and Joel Imamura of Bar-S Motorsports were manning a large booth and letting patrons know that they will be operating Willamette Speedway this season. When asked if they were still operating a retail store in Albany, I was told that the store had been relocated to the racetrack in Lebanon and was open five days a week. Heather Boice, who has managed Cottage Grove Speedway for numerous seasons, had a table at the far end of Columbia Hall. If you wanted information about her venue, the Head Honcho (Honcha?) was front and center. Even River City Speedway (Saint Helens) had Representative Darrin Rye on hand, passing out schedules and answering questions.

As far as the merchandise offered, this swap remains very Stock Car oriented. Mostly Late Model and Modified stuff but we did spy a Sprint Car or two. Regarding the quality of the used merch, it was all over the board (Why do people haul around used rubber?) or you could buy new- Besides Bar-S, Jeremy Shank of Left Coast Motorsportshad a boatload of stuff, William Drager of Drager Performance had a sizable booth and there were likely others.

As an added attraction, Moore sets up ramps and conducts valve cover races every year. He says people always show up with new entries but they’ve accumulated a pretty decent stable by now so anybody that wants to can play.

All in all, it’s a very upbeat gathering of enthusiasts and along with the swapping some hi-jinx and tom foolery ensues.

13th Annual Salem Roadster Show

The 13th Annual Salem Roadster Show is in the books; with record attendance, a bunch of happy exhibitor’s, and over $5,800 raised for the Corporal Ronil Singh Memorial Fund.

Attendees were treated to a new batch of vehicles again this year. Show Promoters Bob Symon and Greg Roach attend shows from British Columbia to Nevada, only inviting the “Best of the Best” to show one time in Salem.

This unique format show has no judging, but each exhibitor leaves with a beautiful jacket with Salem Roadster Show Award Winner embroidered across the back. These jackets have become very sought after in the hobby, and you see a lot of folks wearing them proudly at other shows and events.

One of the highlights of the show was the first Pacific NW appearance of an amazing 1940 Ford Pickup called 40 Shades, built in part by the team of show presenting sponsor Carolina Kustoms in Portland. Owners Chris and Angela Church were fresh off a Best in Class win at the Grand National Roadster Show, and a Best Truck at SEMA in Las Vegas, and headed off to Texas after the show for a run through many of the Goodguys events. There’s not much on this truck that has not been either massaged or hand built, and the hours, dollars, and dedication really show.

Trucks continued to show their growth in popularity, making up almost a quarter of the vehicles on display. One of those being an amazing 1958 Dodge D100 Sweptside Pickup. Less than 3000 of these trucks with 2 door station wagon quarter panels affixed to the box sides after the fenders were removed, were built over the 3 year period of production, and less than 900 were built in 1958. And for those who looked in the cab, you saw what just may have been the first radio in an overhead console, along with other unique options.

Along with displays from Presenting Sponsors Precision Auto Body & Paint, Weston Kia/Buick/GMC, Carolina Kustoms, and The Insurance Garage, there were enough vehicles and vendors to keep attendees of all kinds interested in the show.

One of the great aspects of this year’s show, was the fundraising effort for the Corporal Ronil Singh Memorial Fund. Corporal Singh was killed in the line of duty December 26th in Newman, CA, leaving behind a wife and 5 month old son. Exhibitors and sponsors donated items that could be purchased at the show, or were raffled off at the exhibitor’s dinner, with all proceeds going to the fund. Over $5,800 was raised, and along with an amazing handmade quilt from exhibitor Susan Ainsworth-Smith, will be sent to the fund for distribution to Singh’s family.

Show Promoters Bob and Greg would like to thank all of the sponsors, vendors, exhibitors, and attendees for making this year’s show their best ever. Work is already taking place for next year’s show, and they promise some new attractions, and an even bigger show for all to see. You can check out an entire photo gallery of the show at www.pdxcarculture.com or their website at www.salem-roadstershow.com.

Found Treasure

When you hear the phrase “barn find” you think antique car, old muscle car or a vintage race car. Well, this is very similar, and it has to do with a vintage race car.

When I retired one of my projects was to clean and organize the attic. I have gotten to the point that I am going through old photos. In my search, I found a treasure: 6 original photos of the 1966 Le Mans winning Ford GT40 Mark II.

I had heard stories that car companies would go around the country displaying an award-winning race car. Apparently, it is true. In 1967 Ford displayed the GT40 Mark II at Wilson Ford in Corvallis, Oregon.

In 1980 I was working in the parts department of a dealership in Corvallis. One of the salesmen, knowing I like race cars, gave me some photos. The photos were originally taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera and the date, 1967, was hand written on the back. The photos show the car being delivered to Wilson’s Ford on an open flatbed trailer that was being towed by a ‘67 Ford Ranchero. The photos in the showroom show how small the GT40 is, and how low it is compared to a ‘67 Ford Galaxy and a ‘67 Ford Falcon. I had heard stories that car companies would go around the country displaying an award-winning race car. Apparently, it is true. In 1967 Ford displayed the GT40 Mark II at Wilson Ford in Corvallis, Oregon.

It’s funny that the flatbed trailer the GT40 Mark II was delivered in was so different from the modern transporters. Nowadays you see a Semi truck and trailer with room enough for up to 3 race cars. These transporters may have engine shop, machine shop, fabricating shop, or even a place to sit back and relax.

Back in ‘67 I would love to have seen this great race car, one of my favorites.

In 1966 the Ford Motor Co. entered 8 cars in the 24-hour race at Le Mans. Five other GT40s were entered by privateers. Ford swept the top three places with the GT40 Mark II serial number P/1046 came up the winner.

After a complete restoration, in 2014 it was reported that the Ford GT40 Mark II serial number P/1046 was sold for $22 million dollars. Since I can’t afford the real car the photos are the next best, found treasure.

Highschool Hero

The guys had been telling me about Monroe High School for quite a while. All girls. Our school, Benson Tech, was all boys. Obviously, Monroe High was a subject of great interest among many of my classmates. “The deal is,” my classmates said, “you cruise on by the front of the school, stop at the stop sign, then cut loose from there.”

It was the coolest thing you could do, so they said, to impress the chicks. The chicks really dug it when you did big, hairy burnouts in front of their school. It meant you had a fast car. It was a manly thing.

Now, my ’57 Ranchero was no slouch. I had swept a lot of floors to earn the bread to keep it on the road. Plus I was an auto shop major. That qualified me as an expert mechanic, capable of doing all the maintenance, hop up mods and all that.

She was real fine. Had a 4-speed with a 289. Oh sure she could litem up okay. Smoke the hydes for a good block—or two or even three, if anybody cared to know. 9 Grand hole shots would do it every time (we liked to use that hot rod jargon to impress the guys and the chicks – when there were any around).

Next morning found me headed off to school early. Mom must have been amazed at that. Even more so, that I had taken the time to wash the car. Aw, but I was on a mission.

Once I hit the street in front of Monroe High, I idled her down nice and slow. Exhaust rumbling nice and low, loping down the street in second gear. All the better so they would notice my big cam. Yes it was good to be behind the wheel of my trusty rod. I was enjoying the scenery – all those short skirts billowing in the morning breeze.

As I rolled up to the stop sign, I stab the throttle good and hard. Had to make sure I had the attention of everyone around. A little old lady lived in the small house on the corner across from the school. I guess she usually parked her little old Studebaker on the curb out front. I imagine it must have been kind of neat to have a front-row view of all the action every morning. I would have to impress her too.

I had a firm grip on the steering wheel as the incredible launch pushed me deep into my seat. I was already off the gas and on the brakes in the split instant I realized I had made a big mistake!

In my haste, I had forgotten about the worn threads and loose nut on my steering wheel shaft. Then there was the minor inconvenience of the brakes pulling hard to the right on emergency stops. Pretty hard for this loose nut to correct when the steering wheel is no longer hooked to the car. It had pulled right off in my hands.

It must have been quite a sight when I crashed into the back end of that little old ladies Studebaker. Front end of my trusty Ranchero rolled up like an accordion. What’s left of the little old Studebaker now sitting in her front yard.

Then me, piling out of my car and with a mighty heave, launching the detached steering wheel high into the air. I vaguely recall hearing some applause from the schoolyard.

I was late arriving to auto shop that morning. When my Ranchero arrived on a hook, I nonchalantly announced that I was bringing in a new project.

’nuff said. … way too much said.

—Chuck Fasst

Grand National Roadster Show

Recently I talked about “Bucket List” items. Probably many of us have such a list and the things we want to do of course varies. A lot of the things on my list include car events and activities, surprising I know. But, one of those events has been the Grand National Roadster Show, sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts, presented by Meguiar’s Premium Car Care Products, and as of late, held at the LA County Fair Complex in Pomona California. This show has been going on for a lot of years and this year was the 70th Annual.

The fact that this was the 70th is significant. Another significant thing about this show is the AMBR Award, Americas Most Beautiful Roadster. This “Class” is open to all United States built roadsters, roadster pickups and touring cars 1937 and older, including designer roadsters that resemble a 1937 or older roadster. This special class has awards for Display, Engineering, Undercarriage, Paint, Engine, Interior and detail. The winner has their name applied to the perpetual 9-foot-tall trophy, a $10,000 cash package and the title.

Among the names shown on the trophy, some with connections to the Northwest are, Blackie Gijeian, George Barris, Leroy “Tex” Smith, Bob Tindle, Lonnie Gilbertson, John Corno, Dennis Varni, Boyd Coddington, Darryl Hollenbeck, dating all the way back to the first “Grand Daddy of Them All” show in 1950. It has a distinguished history.

There were 6 buildings each with their own ‘theme,” filled with fantastic vehicles, living up to the “Grand Daddy” moniker. Outside in the open areas between and around the buildings, on Saturday and Sunday, there were cars displayed that were driven to the show by their owners, like a cruise-in. Many of these were included by their owner’s club affiliations. They numbered in the hundreds.

There were as many as 300 vendors displaying anything and everything you might need to help you build your “AMBR” for next years show.
My friend Jim Estes and I drove down to Pomona from Portland, Oregon in his new diesel-powered GMC pickup. Amazingly, it got a best MPG of 21.9 on one leg of the trip. I was surprised and glad since we shared the costs of the trip. After we got back though, I checked to see what the trip costs would have been if we had flown and rented a car. Of course, it would have saved us two travel days each way and it would have cost about the same. I think next time we’ll fly and rent. Another “bucket list” show happens to be at the same place over Father’s Day weekend in June each year, The LA Roadster Show. We’ll have to try to make that one, one of these days.

Spinning the Big Wheel

Parnelli Jones was considered one of the “Big Wheels” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had arrived on the scene in 1961 and shared Rookie of the Year honors with Bobby Marshman after an inspired performance. In 1962 he broke the 150 mph barrier, qualifying J.C. Agajanian’s roadster in the pole position and forfeited a commanding lead after losing his brakes. In only his third start, Jones again captured the pole and went on to win the 500 stopping the foreign invasion (Team Lotus) dead in their tracks.

In what would turn out to be his final Memorial Day classic (1967), Jones was again the man to beat. His assigned steed was Andy Granatelli’s Turbo Car, the most technically advanced racecar to ever appear at Indianapolis. Legal to the letter but extremely controversial, Jones’ turbine powered, four wheel drive rocket ship was a dark horse. There had simply been no precedent. Turbines had always been eligible, but no one had ever qualified one. Adding to the mystique, Granatelli, Jones and everyone else involved with the race car, shrugged when asked about its capability. Their qualifying time was nothing spectacular but some found their ambivalence suspect…Perhaps they were saving what they knew until race day?

At the drop of the green flag, Jones laid his hand on the table. He chased the first two rows of qualifiers into turn one drifting high and powered around them. In the short chute he crisscrossed the track and devoured the leader Mario Andretti as they entered turn two. By the time he reached the start/finish line, Jones was already leading by a country mile and pulling away. At fifteen laps the Turbine was twelve seconds ahead of second place. Then at eighteen laps, it began to rain.

The 500 was postponed until the following day but when racing resumed, Jones’ domination continued.

Meanwhile after starting back in the twenty sixth position, a rookie from the NASCAR ranks was experiencing his first Indy car race. Lee Roy Yarbrough was well known down in Florida but here at the Brickyard, he was just another neophyte. He had a year old Vollstedt Ford to drive for seatbelt magnate Jim Robbins. It was a competitive car but Yarbrough spun in the opening laps and by now was just trying to keep pace with the field.

On the fifty second lap Jones swooped in on Yarbrough to put him yet another lap down. “My car runs so quiet, the other drivers can’t hear me coming,” Jones explained later. Nor could Yarbrough see him, evidently. Even if he could, he wouldn’t have been expecting the leader to dive underneath him (left wheels under the line) going into the turn. The racers touched wheels and began a graceful pirouette into the infield. The Turbine T-boned the Vollstedt briefly, then they slid together and separated. Amazingly, neither car was disabled, and both contestants were able to continue after a pit stop to change out their flat spotted tires.

Jones claimed that after the initial contact, the cars never touched again but photographs show damage to body panels on both racers after the incident. Was the damage merely cosmetic? We’ll never know.

The balance of Jones’ race is well documented. He continued to ride roughshod over the field until four laps from the finish when a six dollar bearing in the gearbox failed. Yarbrough soldiered on until he was involved in second incident, this time trying to avoid a spinning car. The crumpled Vollstedt was abandon in the infield with a total of eighty seven laps scored.

In Bill Libby’s biography “Parnelli” the incident was blamed entirely on Yarbrough but examination of the film tells a very different story. For his part, Jones never accepted any responsibility-then again, why would he? When you are a former 500 champion and a respected veteran, you think about your legacy. With everyone willing to point a finger at Yarbrough, it was prudent for Jones to keep his mouth shut.

HAULIN’ BUNS: A partly fabricated and almost entirely true story of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile’s first lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“How fast does it go?” I asked. “ It hauls buns!” said the overly cheery 20-something-year old sitting next to me. With a wry smile and a huge crank of the comically large steering wheel, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile gently eased itself onto the surface of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

For the sake of their identities, we shall call the two representatives from your favorite hotdog manufacturing company Jessica and Chris. Why the secrecy? Though the famed Wienermobile had graced the Racing Capitol of the World with it’s presence before, this time around was a little different.

On a crisp winter morning between snowfalls, the Wienermobile was going to take its first flying lap around the famed 2.5 mile oval. In years past the “frank” was quarantined to the parking lot, but today this dog was going to cook up some new history. Track security wouldn’t mind right? (Shhh… don’t tell anyone)

Though the banking in turn one is a slight 9 degrees, you could feel the weight shift to the left side. Chris at the wheel filled me in on the specifics.

“There are six Wienermobiles out there right now,” he explained. “Jessica and I are recent college grads. I was a Communications major and she wants to work in Human Resources. We are two of thousands of candidates from around the country that applied for the job.” Both from opposite sides of the U.S., the two were put together back in June.

“Oscar Mayer pairs us up,” piped up Jessica from the second row of seats as we entered turn 2. “Chris and I never met before then. We are a team for 6 months, assigned a region of the country- ours is the Midwest of course – then we get reassigned a new partner, a new dog and a new region. We do that for six more months then retire as Hotdoggers.”

Two kids in a giant hotdog traveling across the Midwest in all weather conditions for one year – what could go wrong? After their residency they could decide to stay in the Oscar Mayer/ Kraft Heinz family or move on to the next adventure.

The first adaptation of the Wienermobile was built in 1936 by Oscar Mayer’s nephew – Carl G. Mayer. The dog has evolved over the decades and you might have seen the 1952 version at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The “Hotdogger” program was invented and recent grads like Chris and Jessica were the perfect candidates.

In the early days of the Wienermobile, various actors were hired to play the character “Little Oscar” and hand out whistles and hotdogs. The most notable was George A. Molchan who toured as Little Oscar for 20 years, then dawned the costume for another 16 to greet fans at the Oscar Mayer restaurant in Walt Disney World. Like the rest of his troupe, George had a hard time finding viable work as a little person in the 1940s. The Little Oscar character was a rewarding role for decades before the Hotdogger program was put in place in 1988.
Jessica let out a high-pitched breath like a balloon with a small hole in it as the 27- foot long crossed the yard of bricks. “This is one of the coolest things we have done. Like, ever.” She said.

As we quickly snuck back into the Speedway’s parking lot, Jessica talked about their busy itinerary as ambassadors of the bun. “We go to sports venues – pretty much all ball parks. Makes sense right? We go to schools, museums, grocery store openings and children’s hospitals. Yeah it’s about promoting the product – but it’s more about making people smile.” The following day they planned to hit a local brewery and drive around Circle City.

With a handful of stickers, “Weiner Whistles” and postcards, Jessica and Chris left me outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum with a beaming smile and a childlike euphoria. None of my coworkers would understand my excitement of riding around my favorite place in my favorite enlarged novelty food vehicle. No one else had to. The Wienermobile had performed its magic and served its purpose – it brightened my day…. And it made me hungry.

NWDRA HI-PERFORMANCE AUTOMOTIVE SWAP MEET January 27, 2019

Does anyone stay home to watch the Pro Bowl? I mean, I enjoy pro football as much as the next guy but aren’t most of us ready for a break between the Playoffs and the Super Bowl? I think the answer is “yes” and that helps explain why the Northwest Drag Racing Association’s swap meet held the weekend prior to the Super Bowl, is always so well attended.

This year the club was celebrating their 43rd year- the inaugural having taken place way back in 1975. “The first (gathering) was held at Mount Hood Community College,” explained Event Spokespeople Andy Tabor and Lettie. “From there we moved to Canby Fairgrounds because we needed more room and from there we moved here because it was warmer!” (Heat is certainly a consideration when planning a mid-winter swap meet).

When asked what they were shopping for, two racers that had driven up from Roseburg responded that it was mostly a social event for them. “We don’t get too much time to shoot the breeze at the track,” they agreed. A massive fellow was pulling a wagon overstuffed with goodies like Santa’s sleigh. “My wife likes the flea market,” he stated. She had found a vintage game of Pick-Up-Stix and was over the moon. Sure enough, the offering at this gathering is diverse. Hardcore new and used engine components are plentiful as is gently used safety equipment ( I, myself purchased a used driving suit last year). But there is also a huge selection of non-racing items, hence the “flea market” reference.

When asked what else the organizers had planned for the coming year, they mentioned “The Classic”- a racing event they started at PIR then relocated to Woodburn. There are new events still being planned for the upcoming season so for more information call Lettie at (503) 644-5707.