Quiz Time! What does 17+57+58+77 ad up to?

1957 Pontiac Hardtop

1957 Pontiac Hardtop

If you answered 209 you’re right on the money. I must admit up front, that the older I get, the memory does seem to get a bit cloudier. But as I recall the year was 1958 and I was 17 years old trying to operate a 1957 Pontiac Hardtop when the Washington State Patrol decided I had made a few infractions on the local driving laws.
   

It was December and the eastern Washington snow and ice was starting to pile up. My mother (God Love Her) ran a little restaurant and after school I would offer my assistance as a handy boy helper, kind of a jack of all trades. Like any eating establishment there was always a pile or two of refuse to haul to the local dump. Well I convinced my mother that we could save that $15 per month in garbage collector expenses and I would be in charge of hauling the refuse, alias garbage, to the dump at no expense. Now all I needed was a vehicle to transport it in. We had a nice ¾  ton Dodge truck, but dad certainly had to use that in his daily work and my 1926 Model “T” Tall Coupe didn’t have any room.

So the only thing left was my brother Richard’s 1957 Pontiac Hardtop. Now it was a hard decision for Mom and me to make but as the refuge started piling up we finally decided as long as I was real careful not to spill any of that garbage in the trunk or occasionally in the back seat when room was needed. I promised Mom we would be real careful with brother’s fancy new car and it sure was nice of him to leave it in our trust as he was out wandering the world working a job in Nevada.

As I recall everything was going along fine and about three times a week I would load up the Pontiac and head towards the local dump that  just happened to be located about a mile from our favorite winter ice skating pond. Well it was a little more than a pond it was a place named Liberty Lake. She really froze over big time for several months every winter and probably froze down up to ten feet deep in certain areas, or so I was told. Well as fate would have it I got word that a bunch of the gang, boys and girls, were planning a big ice skating get together complete with bonfire and roast wienies out at the lake on just the same time and day I was planning another garbage run. If I hurried I could haul the refuse then stop by say a quick hello to the ice-skaters and get a free hot dog at the bonfire and still get back to the restaurant in good time. Everything was going as planned until I got to Liberty Lake and the ice pond.  I think more than one of my friends was impressed that I was operating a brand new Pontiac Hardtop in the dead of winter on that snow and ice with some authority. That’s about the time my head got way too big for that little brain of mine, and someone, I think it was my good buddy Larry, suggested why don’t we spin a few doughnuts out on the ice in that fancy high new Pontiac.

Well never being one to back down from a stupid dare, I hopped in that fancy hardtop and headed for the ice pond. Wow ! It was fun out there on the ice spinning those cookies and doughnuts and it even got more exciting when two of the older cheerleaders from Central Valley High jumped in alongside Larry and me and away we went. In my haste to get to the ice I neglected to witness, in plain sight for everyone to see, the sign stating it is against the law to operate a moving vehicle on Liberty Lake when or if ice skaters are performing. Well that’s when old Johnny Law came into the picture, got me for illegally being on the ice doing those cookies / doughnuts and  got me for doing an estimated 77 MPH in 1958 in a 1957 Pontiac Hardtop at 17 years of age. It was a blast and that hot dog was one of the best I ever had.

Oh by the way the fine from Johnny Law was $210. In my haste to tell this story I neglected to mention that before my brother Rich left town he had a little custom work done on the Pontiac. His goal was to do about a $500 lowering job on a $10 budget, so he and his buddies got out the cutting torch and did a number on the coil springs to lower that car down about 3–4”.  

Now everything was looking good until he decided to take it out for a spin and pulled into Ron’s Drive Inn. In doing so he had to pass over a little 2” speed bump. You guessed it, they lowered it so much, that little bump tore both mufflers loose from that Hi-Horse Power V-8 and now he had not only the lowest but also the loudest 57 Pontiac in the Spokane Valley.

He stuck to his budget and did another $10 repair. Instead of replacing the mufflers he added two three foot pieces of tail pipe where the mufflers used to be and created a set of straight pipes that could wake the dead. Now you know why I got that bigger than expected ticket from Washington’s Finest – he got me for that crazy hotrod exhaust. He said when I was out on the ice spinning doughnuts that the noise was so loud it sounded like one of the new F16 fighter jets taking off from Fairchild Air Force Base. It was so loud he thought it might break the glass on his 57 Patty Wagon. That car and myself left some memories, as ten years later at our High School reunion guys were still wondering what ever happened to that garbage hauling 57 Pontiac that left a mark in the ice and got me a big fat ticket at Liberty Lake. All and all it was a great winter to remember back in 1958.

Rhodes to Success

Rhodes-8

“Racing is a selfish sport,” Marco Andretti once quipped. In the last turn, on the last lap, Andretti had just robbed another competitor of a podium finish. He made no apologies…and no truer words were ever spoken.

Conversely, Brad Rhodes may well be the most unselfish racer I’ve ever met. He hosted foster children in his home for over a decade. Today he manages a house occupied by mentally and physically challenged adults. He finds the work rewarding…and oh yeah, did I mention that he is the 2014 Northwest Wingless Tour (NWWT) champion? The path Rhodes took to get to this point in his life was an interesting one…

He was born in North Carolina into a family of loggers. “Dad was my inspiration,” Rhodes says. “He wasn’t a racer but he was a driver.” In his early twenties, the senior Rhodes had nearly been killed in a logging accident. He walked with a profound limp but loved to drive fast. “He was a wild man on the road,” Brad insists. “That was his racing.” Early on, the family pulled up stakes and relocated to Eugene, Oregon where extended family had already settled. Rhodes learned how to drive piloting his father’s hot-rodded truck on their rural property. He even attended the races at Riverside Speedway in Cottage Grove a couple times as a boy. Though he enjoyed the spectacle, he wasn’t smitten…then. Instead it was dirt bikes that captured his fancy.

For about ten years (early nineties to 2003) Rhodes and a buddy hauled their Honda CR500’s back and forth from Eugene to the dunes. A decade of playing in the sand certainly taught him some seat-of-the-pants vehicle control. It was fun but it wasn’t racing.

Then financial hard times struck. Rhodes had trained to be a brick layer but he didn’t have the back for it. He’d switched to electrical about the time the bottom fell out. A contact back in Tennessee suggested that prospects for work might be better back there. Rhodes sold his Honda, his house, everything and moved his young family southeast. It turned out to be a huge mistake. His union training was frowned upon in a non-union market and Rhodes struggled to make ends meet. He supported his family for almost a year on $10 an hour!

A death in the Rhodes family brought him back to the northwest for the services. At that time, Brad took a hard look at what another sibling was doing which was being a foster care provider. Having been foster parents, it didn’t seem like that big of a stretch. Being the compassionate people that they are, it was a relatively easy decision for Brad and his wife to make. They returned to Oregon to pursue their new careers and the rest, as they say, is history.

Once Rhodes and his family were resettled and their financial needs were met, he began to think again in terms of recreation. He’d had a blast with his dirt bike but this time he thought he might like to try his hand at racing. On line he discovered a shop in Portland that rent race cars by the event. Rhodes was thinking a Modified or a Late Model (stock car) but it turned out that the rentals were for road racing vehicles only. Since he had no interest in racing on pavement, that might have been the end of the story but it turned out that the shop owned a Sprint Car as well. The owner of the business suggested that if Rhodes purchased his own Sprinter, they could assist him with that. One trip to Grays Harbor for a NWWT event and Rhodes was convinced.

He purchased an older car that had seen action in another non-wing club. Predictably, when Rhodes prepared to make his Sprint Car debut at Cottage Grove, the old sled refused to fire. His fortunes improved however as the season progressed. Mostly thanks to crew member Chris Petersen (a former champion himself) Rhodes learned how set up, drive, and maintain a Sprint Car. When the final checkered flag fell on 2011, Rhodes stood fifth in overall points. Better yet, he had garnered Rookie of the Year honors.

His stats continued to improve the following season and he finished one position better in points. In 2013 however, Rhodes over extended himself financially and was forced to drop off the tour. In 2014 he was back with a vengeance. By now he had a newer, more competitive chassis, a racing engine assembled by Jeff Rabourn and Petersen solidly in his corner. He had even procured some much needed sponsorship from Pro Tow and Beaverton Automotive. Rhodes commit to the entire series which took the racers to Sunset Speedway in Banks, OR and Coos Bay, as well as Grays Harbor and Cottage Grove. When the dust had settled he had no wins but two podium finishes. That coupled with a perfect attendance record enabled Rhodes to amass the points necessary to clinch the title.

Will he defend that title? “I didn’t set out to win this one,” he laughs. At mid-season he was prepared to let Petersen take over the car for one race but that event rained out. That one night’s point loss probably would have been a game changer. Either way, it doesn’t seem to matter much to the forty five year old. It’s more about the process…it’s more about the road.

World of Speed Jr Dragster Specialty Awards Driver of the Year Alisha Miller

World of Speed Jr Dragster Specialty Awards Driver of the Year Alisha Miller

Fantastic stories and laughs were had all around at the 37th Annual Woodburn Dragstrip Awards Dinner at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville. Specialty awards and championship trophies were handed out, with every person in attendance having a grand time.

In racing news, Nicholas Shepherd was honored with the Kershaw Knives Driver of the Year award, finishing fourth in the Sunoco Series Pro category as well as winning the Division 6 Race of Champions Pro Championship, representing the division in Pomona at the World Finals. RFC Chaplain’s Dave Cookman and Al Lyda were rewarded as Persons of the Year for their dedication and joy brought to everyone they meet.  Duane Merritt and Joe Adams were both awarded with the Pico Wiring Crew Member of the Year award, for their excellent work in tuning driver’s Julie Adams and Traci DePeel to a 1st and 5th place finish in the Super Pro category. Kacee Pitts earned the Most Improved Driver award for finishing with a Championship in the Wilson’s Napa High School as Powderpuff category, as well as a 4th place finish in her first year competing in the Sunoco Race Fuels ET Series Sportsman category.  Duane Stoner was crowned as Employee of the Year, Quality Concrete was awarded as Sponsor of the Year, Stephanie gross won the $1000 drawing from A-1 Performance Trans and Converters, Devon Hilton, Cliff Mansfield, and Kacee Pitts tied with the most Perfect Lights (5), sharing the award for $600 in product from NW Wholesale/Hilton Racing, the suppliers of Goodyear/Hoosier/Mickey Thompson Racing Tires.

Alisha Miller was congratulated to the highest degree in the Jr Dragster category, earning World of Speed Jr Dragster Driver of the Year honors, thanks to her 6 event wins (in 10 races), Jr Thunder Championship, and Division 6 Summit ET Finals Jr Thunder Championship. Chad Rice was the recipient of the Person of the Year Award, for his excellence in helping new drivers in the Race Cars for Kids program, as well as all other contestants. Ryan Bese concluded an excellent first year of competing in the Jr program with the Rookie of the Year honor, and Rilynn Saucy earned Most Improved Driver after going from 7th to 2nd in the Jr Storm category. Jr racers collectively voted World of Speed as Sponsor of the Year, and Kacee Pitts, Alisha Miller, and Ryan Bese earned overall #1 Qualifier awards.

We wish to thank everybody for the spectacular 2014 racing season, and hope that everyone enjoys their off season. There are only 104 days until racing season starts again!!!

2014 Season Champions

SUNOCO RACE FUELS ET SERIES
Super Pro: Julie Adams
Pro: Steve Stuart
Sportsman: Jerry Durant Jr
Motorcycle: Don DePeel
WILSON’S NAPA
High School: Kacee Pitts
 
WORLD OF SPEED JR DRAG RACING SERIES
Jr Lightning: Taylor Toftemark
Jr Thunder: Alisha Miller
Jr Storm: Ramon Vincent
 
SPORT COMPACT CHALLENGE
Sport Compact Pro: Bernd Arndt
Sport Compact Sportsman: Hoppy Hopkins
 
NOSTALGIA HOT ROD SERIES
Top Gas: Mike Miller
Hot Rod I: Rick Sales Sr
Street Machine I: Dave Bronec
Hot Rod II: Garry Heinrich
Street Machine II: Tony Bombara
Stick Shift: Dick Arnold
Inline/Flathead: CJ Stoakes
SPECIALTY SERIES
Dragster/Roadster: Steve Marcus
Super Shifter: John Masterman
Volkswagen: Devon Hilton
Pickup: Jerry Durant Jr
Olympic Iron Works Harley: John Plaster
Powderpuff: Kacee Pitts
Hole in the Hood: Jay Phillips
 
FALL ET & JR SERIES
Electronics: Bill/Tony McNeal
Transbrake: Dave Bronec
Foot Brake: Jerry Durant Jr
Jr Lightning: Kyler Pitts
Jr Thunder: Trevin Walberg
 
Specialty Awards
Kershaw Knives Driver of the Year: Nicholas Shepherd
Person of the Year: Dave Cookman & Al Lyda
Pico Wiring Crew Member of the Year: Duane Merritt & Joe Adams
Most Improved Driver: Kacee Pitts
Sponsor of the Year: Quality Concrete
Employee of the Year: Duane Stoner

A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points Winner: Stephanie Gross

NW Wholesale/Hilton Racing Perfect Light Club Most .000’s Award: 5 Perfect Lights: Devon Hilton, Cliff Mansfield, Kacee Pitts
 
World of Speed Jr Dragster Specialty Awards
Driver of the Year: Alisha Miller
Person of the Year: Chad Rice
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Bese
Most Improved Driver: Rilynn Saucy
Sponsor of the Year: World of Speed
Most #1 Qualifiers, Lightning: Kacee Pitts
Most #1 Qualifiers, Thunder: Alisha Miller
Most #1 Qualifiers, Storm: Ryan Bese

MY CAR

MY Car

It was crazy hot for mid-October on the Monterey peninsula. It was dry and dusty, I was covered with grit from head to toe yet in my glory. I was a ten year old kid, one of 42,000 plus on hand to witness New Zealander Bruce McLaren destroy his competitors at Laguna Seca.

His car was the iconic M6A, a swoopy, papaya colored sports racer with a booming small block Chevy engine. This win was particularly satisfying for me as my older brother had chosen the previous year’s winner, Jim Hall to win in his high winged Chaparral. On this day however, the tall Texan was fighting over heating problems and finished a full lap behind (sorry Scotty). Tenacious George Follmer was third in a Lola driving for Roger Penske.

A year later (1968) the weatherman conjured up something completely different…rain. McLaren was back with a new, less curvaceous M8A and stuck it on the pole. “My Car” was back too, now in Penske’s Sunoco livery with capable Mark Donohue up. Atop the velocity stacks was a gaping air box and the whole package was finished in royal blue with yellow pin striping. It was pretty and fast, fast enough to claim fifth starting position on the grid. In a downpour however, Donohue struggled on slick tires, eventually finishing eighth. McLaren himself couldn’t do much better, ultimately claiming fifth. I didn’t see my car again for 28 years.

My hunch is that Penske sold the M6A to sometimes professional driver Jerry Hansen before the ’68 season concluded. If I’m right, the car probably languished as a club racer for several years after that. Hansen was one of SCCA’s most accomplished drivers and won 27 national titles but walked the thin line between being an amateur and a pro (possibly because he had a regular job and couldn’t follow the entire series). After that…who knows? My car fell off my radar until the Can-Am Reunion held in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin in July of 1996.
By then vintage racing was the rage and the M6A had been restored to its original configuration. Harry Mathews was the owner/driver and made a respectable showing, especially when you consider the evolution of the division. The year after McLaren had won his first championship, most competitors jumped to bigger displacement engines (Since there were no rules restricting this, why wouldn’t you?). Consequently, even Team McLaren’s power plants went from 359 to 427 cubic inches in one year. By the demise of the original Can-Am series in 1974, there were fire belching, twin turbo charged, monster engines in competition, some producing in excess of 1,000 horsepower!

There were over sixty cars in competition at Elkhart Lake and of the small blocks, Mathews was among the five fastest. He qualified 24th overall and held his own in the race, on a course with a long straightaway where horsepower mattered.

Also in attendance that weekend was another vintage racer named Richard Griot. When Griot inquired as to whether or not the iconic McLaren was for sale, he was told “No, I don’t think I will ever sell it”. Turns out Griot had patience and kept after Mathews, making regular calls.  In the years that followed Griot continued to grow his car care products business and in 2008, when it looked like the world was coming to an end, Mathews finally said over a routine phone call by Griot, “Fly on out and bring your checkbook”.  Griot was on a plane the very next day and the deal was done.  

Today the McLaren is the centerpiece of Griot’s personal race car collection housed at corporate headquarters in Tacoma, WA. In the same way you would never admit to having a favorite child, Griot won’t admit that the M6A is his favorite race car…but his fondness for the yellow orange missle is evident.
“Actually, it’s my car,” I told him when we met at his open house last weekend. And then I proceeded to relate my story of claiming the car as my own some 47 years ago. Griot was amused by the tale and took it in the spirit in which it was intended.
“Okay,” he smiled raising his eyebrows, “But I get to drive it!”

NATIONAL CORVETTE MUSEUM

Most, if not all of you, know about what happened during the wee hours of the morning on February 12th this year. The security cam video went viral on the internet showing eight (8) Corvettes fall, one after another, into an ever enlarging HOLE that developed in the floor under where these cars were parked on display in the museum’s “Sky Dome.” No one was there, fortunately, since it was early in the morning before the Museum opened, so no one was hurt. That can’t be said for the cars however.

The list consisted of the following cars:

1962 Corvette
1984 PPG Pace Car
1992 1 Millionth Corvette produced
1993 ZR-1 Spyder
1993 40th Anniversary Ruby Red Coupe
2001 “Mallet Hammer” Z-06
2009 1.5 Millionth Corvette Produced
2009 ZR-1 Prototype “Blue Devil”

Looking into the gaping hole you can see some of the cars and while damaged, those don’t look too bad. The others are buried under the ones you see and tons of concrete and dirt. Those cars got the worst of the damage. It’s surprising to me that they were found and recovered at all.
Early on, GM said they would help with restoration of the cars. The Museum said they would restore them but then many on lookers said “No,” leave them as they are and display them as found. I submitted my two cents worth in this regard, suggesting that a ‘to scale’ graphic be created and applied to the floor once the hole was filled and the floor repaired, so that future visitors could experience the scope of the damage but, without the danger and the dust. Others had expressed this idea and the Museum entertained and discussed all the ideas that were submitted. This one was considered too expensive both initially and to maintain. I was told that they are discussing, at a minimum, putting the outline of the hole in actual size on the newly repaired floor but a decision hasn’t been finalized. I think that’s a great idea.
The construction crew arrived back at the Museum this week to begin re-filling the hole. The plan is to fill it entirely with rock and then re-enforce the fill by drilling and filling with columns of concrete to support the floor.
Many of the cars that were recovered were displayed in the months since the sinkhole happened. The curiosity factor created a significant boost in attendance since the sinkhole in February. Since some of the cars were literally destroyed and in consideration of the idea that displaying them as recovered would be a historical display, the Museum’s current plans are just that. Create a permanent display of badly damaged cars showing what happened to them.
The “Blue Devil” ZR-1 prototype was sent to GM in Michigan for restoration. Two weeks later it was as good as new. It was transported to SEMA for display and it arrived back at the Museum on November 14th, looking as spectacular as ever. The White 1 Millionth Corvette and the Black 1962 Corvette will be restored as well. The remaining five cars will be in the future “Sinkhole” display.
My wife and I are members and we visited the Museum in 2003 during the 50th Anniversary celebration. Celebrating the first Corvette’s birthdate, June 30th 1953. Since I’m a lifelong Corvette nut, it was cool to go there and see the displays and we look forward to going back again soon, but I think we should wait until the Skydome floor is finished and the damaged Corvettes are displayed again. I’d like to see that since we couldn’t go this year.
The Corvette Assembly Plant is across the freeway from the Museum too. They offer tours of the assembly plant which are fascinating to any car nut. When you plan your trip to the Museum and the Assembly Plant, I recommend that you contact the plant for tour info BEFORE you book your trip. They have certain black out times and dates where you will not be able to tour the plant. Don’t plan and book your trip without checking for their schedules.

The Super-Sonic Pedal Car Racer and the Seattle City Transit Bus

Super-Sonic Pedal Cars

The year is 1947 and as I remember the some-what cloudy details, my older brother Richard and I were just pulling into Seattle Washington’s Train Depot arriving on a one day ride from Spokane on the Northern Pacific Train. We were all dressed out in our next years back to school clothes with a promise to Mom that those clothes would return in the spotless new condition as they were in, when she put us on that train.

We were on our way to visit her sister and our three cousins, who had the neatest toy pedal cars in the world. They had fire trucks, airplanes, cars, pickups, and my favorite, a Super Sonic Race Car. Wow! This was the fastest and neatest pedal car in the neighborhood where my cousins lived. What was so neat about where they lived, it was on Fremont Hill. You could look straight across the water and see the most fantastic premier hill in Seattle for pedal car downhill racing. Its name of course is Queen Ann, and for those of you that didn’t remember that the city of Seattle was built on seven hills and the Queen Ann is the steepest and curviest and longest from top to bottom, of all seven. The Fremont and the Queen Ann hills had one thing in common: at the bottom they both ended up in Lake Washington, just above the Fremont Boat Lockes.

Well as I remember I could hardly sleep the first night there, as all I could think about was that fantastic Super-Sonic Race Car and Fremont Hill. The next morning my brother Rich and I were anxiously but, in a friendly way debating on who and what pedal cars should be teamed up to whom. Well, he got the Super-Sonic and I got the Airplane. Much to our surprise the cousins went along with our decision.

There is one thing that stands out in my memory of that days’ events and that was when my cousin Butchy appeared at the top of those steep stairs leading up to my Aunt and Uncles home. He was all decked out in knee-pads, elbow pads, padded gloves and a crash helmet. Now we all knew that Butchy was the first born and Aunty really liked him best but wasn’t that a little over dressing for our first day in Seattle or did he know something that Rich and I had over looked?

We all jumped in our assigned rides and we were off, down Fremont Hill. Me on the Airplane, Jimmy on one little car, Fred on the pickup, Butchy on the fire truck and Rich on the Super Sonic Racer. We all started out with some competitive racing, with the lead switching on several occasions. But, as time went on, the age of the contestants came alive with Fred and Jimmy slowing and bowing out. Butchy hung in there on his Fire truck but finally the weight of his fancy, color matching, elbow pads and knee-pads and that crash helmet that kept twisting around on his head and blinding him, the poor kid almost crashed several times.

Well down Fremont Hill my brother and I raced, him on the Super Sonic Racer and me on my airplane, that I swear, felt like it wanted to take off and fly. I’ll tell you one thing, there was not a better dressed couple of brothers from Spokane racing in Seattle on that day in late August 1947. Everything was looking pretty good as I could still see the Super Sonic Racer ahead maybe just two blocks. Then a Seattle City Transit Bus went flying by me and my airplane. The last thing I truly remember is the bright red tail lights on that bus and down the hill I raced right past Rich on the Super Sonic who was legally stopped at a red light at the intersection of 118th and Fremont. Down I raced with nothing but me and that same Seattle City Transit Bus ahead. Well, I swear that Airplane Pedal Car and I had become one and I flew past that city bus on the left and to my amazement I was looking eye to eye with that Seattle City Transit Bus Driver. Unfortunately, trying to stop that Airplane with my new Converse All-star shoe brakes didn’t work all that well and off came the soles. In trying to get my legs in a more aeronautical position while I was in flight, I kinda did a number on my new Levi’s but, my new shirt was still wearable and, I won the race. What’s remarkable is that I ended up 57 feet short of being IN Lake Washington! Watch out Queen Ann Hill, here I come!

For you penny watchers, a dozen eggs was just 32 cents. A Coke was a nickel and a pair of Converse All stars were $4.49. All in All the summer of 1947 was the best ever!