Eugene’s Last Stand

September 24, 1964.

Summer’s burn was starting to wane as the early days of Autumn begin to embrace the city.
On this Sunday, in the early hours of dawn, a job was going down. A large sum of laundered money was in the trunk of a car and waiting at Union Station. The only clue that Cardone had was it was in a sedan.

Sundays at a train station are interesting. Sparse. In the underworld, this is a safe way to make transactions. Cardone walked into the station and took note of those around him. A hobo asleep in the corner. The ticket taker sat reading the Sunday Times. A soldier with a letter in his hands. He looked anxious. Cardone’s guess was the kid was headed off to basics, then off to whatever killing field we send our youth off to now days.

Not a security guard or person who would raise his shackles and call the deal off. He reached into his lapel and withdrew his cigarette case. Pulled a Lucky from inside and lit up with his Zippo. He inhaled and walked toward the parking lot.

It was 7:30. The good people of the city were attending their church of choice or just waking. He descended the concrete stairs and walked with a purpose his Oxford wingtips crunched and scuffed across the baked asphalt.

He paused. Sedan.

The cop that they had put the screws to had been informed that if he did not comply, that, well, his story would be spilled and besides losing his job, his life was on the line.
His name was Eugene Falks. He was a tall and lanky man. Just looking at him one could see that he was raised by an oppressive mother who pressured this poor guy to fear everything. Even his own shadow. Easy target. It started casual. Falks was such an easy target.
No friends. Living in his Mother’s house. Virgin.

Christ!

In this age of whatever the world is becoming.

Regardless, it took a matter of weeks for them to wrangle him for 500k. Right from the metro’s own account. Cold hard cash too.

So here he was in the midst of the parking lot and saw it. White on white. A fresh ’64 Plymouth Belvedere sedan. Keys in the ignition. But Cardone paused. It seemed to easy. He reached in and snagged the keys from the ignition. Stood upright and took in the surroundings.

No wind. Not a sound.

The murmur of traffic building as the sun ascended the skies on this crisp Sunday morning. He took the final drag off of his cigarette and walked to the back of the Belvedere.
He inserted the key and with a twist of the wrist it popped crisply.

—Whomp—

BwaaaHOOooooo—! The Locomotive was all fired up and let go another announcement of its departure-

BAAAaaaWOOOOOOOOoooo!!!!

Cardone glanced up and saw the huge locomotive leaving the station.
Phwuh — Phwuh, Phuw, Phuwh, phuhphwuhphwuhphwuh……

8 A.M. Time is close.

Soon the beat cops would be looking for things that, well, they have no business looking for. Carbone lifts the trunk and looks down and in the back-ground he hears an engine fire.

Two large Samsonite suitcases are there. He clenches his fists and his knuckles crack in order. All apart of his routine. A grin cracks his face and he reaches downward and to his left an Edsel eases out from a parking space.

BAAAAWHHOOOOOOOO!!!!- phwuhphwuhphwuhphuw-

The massive locomotive is gaining speed as is the Edsel.

He hits the latch release on the Samsonite and it splits open.

Sawdust.

Carbone raises his gaze from the trunk of the Plymouth. The Edsel is gaining ground and the sun rises as the city is now awake. Over the railway crossing Eugene dashes. The Dawn Express lets go with another shout and then separates Carbone from the access road.
And it hits. A stolen car filled with sawdust.

His hands start to shake. It all seemed so easy.

“Reserve is off!”

“Andwearestartingoffattenthousandtenthousand… tenthousanddollARS. Eleven? Eleventhousandelevendthousandd… Twelve! Twelvethousanddollars. Who else? Do I hear thirteen?Thirteenthousand?Thirteenthousand? Once. Twice… One more time… SOLD!”

This constant rhythm of words is pumped through the loudspeakers for hours on end, the cadence of money exchanging hands. This was the sound that I heard going through the tunnel entering the Indiana State Fairgrounds arena. Usually home to the Indianapolis semi-pro hockey team, the building was turned into a auction stage for the week.

The largest touring auction series in the United States, the Mecum show has been coming to Indianapolis for 31 years. They have a total of 14 stops on their tour and touch all corners of the US of A. Every Mecum event is televised live on NBC Sports and it is easy to see the entertainment value.

Mecum proudly states that they have the most stops on their tour; the most collector cars offered at auction, the most cars sold at auction and the most dollar volume of sales.
The Indianapolis stop alone is a six-day extravaganza. They feature 300 cars a day minimum for sale in order to show all 2,000+ lots that have been consigned.

“There are no restrictions,” said a seller named Michael in a vaguely east- coast- style accent. “I make my living selling cars at these things — primarily Volkswagens. That’s my little Bug right there!” Nestled between an impossibly tall 2000s Ford F150 and a brutish 1960s Ford Mustang was his little cherry-red Bug.

“This is my 21st car this weekend for sale. I have sold 13 of da ones I brought. Whatever I don’t sell, we ship home. You see — mine have a reserve.” He leans over and points to a yellow sticker centered at the top of the windshield. “That there means that I, as the teller won’t take home any less than THAT amount. When one of my cars is up for sale, I can stand up there with the auctioneer. If no one is biddin’ at my asking price here, I can give him the nod. That tells him that I’ll take anything for it- just to not have to pack it up and take it home. He tells the crowd that the reserve is off- and the biddin’ really starts.”

Unlike Barrett- Jackson auctions, Mecum does not have any parameters of what types of cars people can put up for sale. No restriction of year, make, model, rarity, or current condition makes for a cornucopia of options. Buyers can be anywhere from the Average Joe who pick up a car for fun, to serious collectors looking for diamonds. Sit in the auction arena for 20 minutes and you will see a varied array of items come up for bid and hundreds of thousands of dollars- if not millions- change hands.

Part of the excitement comes from the randomness of what is put up for sale. “Sellers pick which stop they want to sell at based on the market of that city,” explained one of the traveling Mecum security staff. “Trucks you want to sell at the Kansas City or the Houston stops. Exotics go better in LA or Kissimmee (FL).”

Sellers can put one lot up for sale or many. The collection that captured my attention was the Jim Street Estate.

James Skonzakes, better known by the moniker Jim Street, bankrolled the legendary car customizer George Barris to make a dream car in the early 1950s. The ultimate result was the Golden Sahara II. After the second round of modifications, Street invested over $75,000 (equivalent to $675,000+ today) in this technological masterpiece. Street used it as a marketing tool and lent the Golden Sahara II to motor events and dealerships to show off the car’s new- age voice control system, remotes that could drive the car and even the self- driving feature. This must have melted the minds of onlookers back in the mid 50’s. Unexpectedly pulled from the show circuit and stashed in a garage for decades, the Golden Sahara II fell into a state of disrepair.

If that piece of rolling art was not enough to capture the imagination, the other lot in the Jim Street Estate collection was “Kookie’s Kar.” Hailed as the “catalyst that started the T-Bucket Craze” this car is the definition of a classic hot rod. You might have heard of it from the TV show “77 Sunset Strip” though it has undergone an extensive re-customization since then. Also stashed from public eyes for decades, both lots were put up for bid with no reserve to begin with- it would be completely at the digression to the pool of buyers what they wanted to pay for it. Estimates were between $100,000 – $1.2 million each. It all depends on who has the money and how bad they want to take either car home.

Though the lineup of cars is seemingly random, it is clear that Saturday’s lots are the top shelf items. A collection of Ford GTs, a group of cars being sold by baseball icon Reggie Jackson and others will join the Golden Sahara II and Kookie’s Kar.

Cars are displayed in groups organized by which day they will be put up for sale. In the morning they are rolled to a big screening / staging area where buyers and people representing buyers give the cars one last look over.

“I call them Flashlight Commandos” laughs Michael, “likely is that if their boss wants my car, they will have picked it out in the catalog already and they are making sure that it doesn’t leak or nothin’.”

Once past staging, the car is driven up to the queue and given a last wipe down. The handlers cut the engine and manually push it on stage. All the while, an auctioneer is hammering words a mile a minute until it is time.

“Okayfolks. ABeetle. ABeetle. LotW201.” The auctioneer lists the car’s stats, make, model, and asking price then recites the bill of sale in one breath. The bidding starts. Teams of Mecum employees are dispersed throughout the crowd of bidders. Referred to as Ringmen, they are in charge of relaying if someone in their section wants to place a bid. To alert the auctioneer when they have an interested buyer, the Ringmen holds up fingers to represent how many thousand dollars and gives a short yell. Every time a desirable car is on the auction block, these Ringmen sound like a chorus of squawking birds until the price is driven up to draw out the top buyer.

“Once. Twice. SOLD!” The auctioneer hammers down their gavel and the Ringmen let out another shout to celebrate the fact that they just sold another car. If a lot is not desirable, the seller can give notice to take off the reserve price then the crowd practically falls over themselves to get the car at the lowest price possible. This happens for hours on end without let up. The energy level is incredible, and it is hard to understand without being there in person. Auctioneers are the ringmasters but the Ringmen run the show.

As I exit through the tunnel on my way out, the auctioneer is still drumming up the crowd. “What is that?” he yells, “THE RESERVE IS OFF!” I close the door behind me just as I hear a loud cheer from the crowd.

Medford Rod & Custom Show

It’s always exciting when spring arrives. Better weather is coming and with it, car shows, cruise-ins, swap meets and other fun car related events begin to happen everywhere. Of course, there are big car shows in January, February, March, and April through-out the Northwest. In fact, there are so many that this lowly reporter just can’t get to all of them. Luckily, (and thankfully) I have several dedicated volunteers who can cover some of them and that lets us be able to bring you stories about them.

One I’ve been covering for a number of years now, is the Medford Rod & Custom Show. Promoter, Rich Wilson, always does a great job of getting new and different entrants to bring their cars for all of us to enjoy. It would be pretty boring to see the same cars, trucks, and motorcycles every year. At this show you don’t have to worry, there’s something different every year.

Many of you reading this may recall the marque Kaiser and/or Frazier. Some of you, probably have never heard of them. Fewer still, of you have ever actually seen either of them in person. There was a Frazier on display at the Medford Rod and Custom Show. It wasn’t a hot rod or a custom, but a restored and well preserved old car that took me down memory lane.

I’ve mention before that Rich does something that I’ve only seen at his show. Any of you that have shown your cars in a show like this can confirm that it is a lot of work. Cleaning, polishing, setting up your display and then maintaining it throughout the show can be a challenge and with your car on display you’re kind of stuck. You can’t really go home, you may not live locally, you can’t go back to your hotel, you have to keep your display looking clean and fresh. Rich creates a small “Participants Lounge” area at the show, where you can go to get a snack, a soda or just relax when all that dusting becomes too tedious. I’ve only ever seen this terrific idea at the Medford Rod & Custom Show. Other show promoters take note!

This year the weather co-operated and stayed clear and sunny for the most part. The better weather resulted in a very busy Hot Rod parking area just outside the several display buildings. Many who came to see the show drove their own old car/hot rod etc. which created an outdoor cruise atmosphere and additional car display for everyone to enjoy.

If you’ve never participated in or gone to this great show as a spectator, put it on your “to do list” for 2019. It’s worth it!


Portland Swap Meet

The 54th Annual Portland Swap Meet has come and gone again for another year. The weather even co-operated mostly this year. That doesn’t mean the wind didn’t blow and that it didn’t rain… No, it means the weather has been worse during other years. It rained some and the wind blew some, but the swap meet was as successful as ever.

One of my friends has accused me of having rust in my veins… I don’t! Well at least I don’t think I do, but I am getting old. However, back to the PSM. It’s been around a long time. It’s changed some, grown, it’s shrunk, it’s been rained on etc. and yet it continues to be a one of the best swap meets on the west coast.

The organization that puts it on has gotten it down to a science at this point. There are large parking areas conveniently near by where one can catch any number of shuttle buses that will take you to and from quickly and easily. This swap meet is well attended and the attention to traffic flow and transportation is much appreciated and well-orchestrated by the organizer.
I always find most if not all of what I’m needing for my projects. I’m looking forward to the next Portland Swap Meet, which by the way, is scheduled for April 5-6 & 7 2019. Put the date on your calendar and plan to attend.

Game Changer

By the early sixties, the Formula One teams of Grand Prix racing had evolved from a front engined configuration, to a rear. Though the rear engined lay out had been experimented with over the years at Indianapolis, the concept had yet to be successful. A state of the art Indy Car in 1960 was a ponderous 1,700lb sled propelled by a ground pounding Offenhauser engine. There were various chassis manufacturers but basically they were all alike. Thirty three of them took the green flag at the 500 that year, but their reign was about to be challenged.

Father and son, Charles and John Cooper of England along with their driver Aussie Jack Brabham, had led the rear engine revolution in Formula One. They captured the World Championship in 1959 and were in the United States pursuing a second title in the fall of 1960. Indy winner Roger Ward encouraged them to bring their Grand Prix car to the Speedway for testing and the team agreed. Riding on their standard road racing rubber with their tiny Coventry-Climax engine, Brabham attacked the two and a half mile oval with unexpected gusto. No one on hand had ever seen a car carry more speed through the corners. Their lap times would have easily qualified them for The 500 and an ecstatic Ward begged them to return in May. The team professed not to have the funds to pursue such an endeavor. That was when fellow road racer (and heir to the tissue fortune) Jim Kimberly stepped forward to offer sponsorship.

The team clinched the 1960 Formula One crown and arrived in Indianapolis the following spring to little fanfare. Their car had a slightly larger engine than the Grand Prix version but was still significantly smaller than the Offenhausers. Plus the Cooper itself was dwarfed by the roadsters; it was dubbed “a funny car” and not considered a threat by anyone. In addition to all else, it was painted green which was considered “bad luck” at the Speedway.

Brabham and his team were unfazed by the naysayers and went about their race prep. They knew they didn’t have the fastest car- You didn’t need to have the fastest car to win a 500 mile contest. They knew their engine was reliable and would go the distance. They also knew that like all of their competitors, they would have to make pit stops along the way. The Cooper weighed about 700 pounds less than the average roadster so it would be easier on tires. The Coventry-Climax engine also got better mileage (twelve mpg compared to two or three) so fewer stops were anticipated.

Brabham did a respectable job in qualifying (starting thirteenth) and drove a conservative race. In retrospect too conservative, the driver admitting later that he could have pushed harder. They still needed three pit stops, probably because their Dunlop tires didn’t hold up as well as the tried and true Firestones everyone else was using. The roadsters blew by the Cooper all afternoon but Brabham held his own through the turns. When A. J. Foyt took the checkered flag at 200 laps, Brabham was in the ninth position.

The Indianapolis establishment was slow to recognize Brabham and the Cooper’s accomplishment. Seemingly only the astute realized that they had changed the course of Indy car design going forward. Mickey Thompson returned in 1962 with a brace of rear engine cars, one of which qualified eighth. Then in 1963 Colin Chapman arrived from England with his Ford powered Lotus cars. These cars were a match for the Offenhauser horsepower-wise and only a fluke kept them from Victory Lane. In 1964 Roger Ward himself finished second in an American built rear engine car- one of twelve that qualified for the 500 that year. Then in 1965 Jimmy Clark won the race outright in Chapman’s Lotus. Four more rear engined cars followed him across the line. In fact, only six of the thirty three starters that year had their engines mounted in front of the driver. In 1966 the last roadster qualified for the Indianapolis 500 and ironically was eliminated on the first lap. So the revolution that the little Cooper started in 1961 had completely changed the face of Indy car. The process took five years.

Though Jack Brabham is included in the Indianapolis Hall of Fame, he has received little recognition for his influence on “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Fortunately he won other accolades like a third World Championship in a car of his own design (1966). He was also knighted by the Queen of England (1978). “Sir” Jack Brabham retired as a driver at forty four and lived to the ripe old age of eighty eight. A documentary about his life in racing is due for release next year
.

Of Beasts and Beauty at the Portland Roadster Show

Greetings GearHeads and GearHeadettes. By the time you are reading this, Summer will be right around the bend. And you know what that means Gearheads? Oh yeah, good times.

But I digress. At press time we are smack in the middle of Spring and Gearheads know what that means – car shows. Now, the couple dozen of you GearHeads who do read this column are used to pics and copy of swoopy cars of the future. And the reason for that is of course that the EVs and AVs ARE our future. I hope everybody by now knows what an AV is?. I write about Autonomous Vehicles because well, they are our future and there is a constant stream of news about them. And indeed we have more news this month, but…

You readers may have noticed all of the good-looking Hotrods in this issue. This is the Portland Roadster Show issue and we felt we would like to get us some o’ that too.

Now, over here at GearHeadsWorld we love ourselves some beautiful hotrods as well as other uh, beautiful things too. With that being said, the young lady up above introducing the Show is Savannah, model/spokeswoman for GearHeadsWorld.

So this was a very special show for Savannah as it was her very first. You see, Savannah hails from Hungary and they just don’t have shows like this over there. She was awestruck by the Kaleidoscope of colors as well as the corn dogs. Yes she has never heard of them and she saw her first one at the show. Why do Americans deep fry their wieners in cornmeal and stick a stick in them?

We see Savannah showing us this radical, full custom Mopar because she likes it. Here at GearHeadsWorld, we like to pick our show favorite. Now, we usually lean towards the smoke and fire racing type vehicles. But this year we picked this one because it makes us nostalgic. Remembering the years we toured the show circuit and came across a lot of full custom displays like this. Sometimes beauty before badass. What more can I say.

From here, Savannah will be heading to Southern California. Anyone down in those parts who may require her services can give us a holler. You can check the rest of her pics over at #GearHeadsWorld.

Before we move on, we would like to give honorable mention to the Beaches Display. All of that sand and the palm trees and everything remind us of Fun in the Sun with our rods. And who better to remind us of that. If you have not been living in a cave then you know about the Beaches Restaurants in Vancouver and at the Portland Airport.

It was 20 some years ago when they decided to hold a car cruise over at their first Beaches location in Vancouver. That has since grown into what very well may be the biggest weekly car cruise in the West. This Cruise In, held all summer long on Wednesday nights at PIR in conjunction with the drag races has gone on to raise way over $2 million for local charities! Their best days count well over 1000 cars and bikes on display.

So there are bands, BBQs, drinks and a whole lot more. If your car has mods and is cool, they will generally find a place for you on most Wednesdays during the summer, no matter what it is… Sorta.

All right, moving on to less exciting news. As of press time we have had another fatality. You probably heard about the Uber AV that ran down a woman in Arizona. As a result numerous AV companies have a suspended their testing. One of the head industry Geeks had this to say, “The cars aren’t smart enough yet.”

Highly-leveraged Tesla continues to face challenges in delivering their latest model to their anxious worshippers who have plunked down their dollars for first delivery. They remain months behind. We will wait and see how it all shakes out.

And that’s all for now GearHeads.

#GearHeadsWorld


We Were Soldiers

On dirt floors and mighty dreams we wrenched. It was not easy. Some of us were just working on John Deere’s or Model T’s before the big break spilled upon us like a gorgeous sunrise over the valley.
We were brothers. Cousins. Friends. But the heat of competition placed us all apart. Each in our own regime. Clawing away at the hardened earth of our self proclaimed trenches to wring out secrets of speed.
Weight. Combustion. Aluminum. 
It was the dawn of Hot Rodding. A term we would not know for two more decades. 
Regardless. 
It is what we did.
We were soldiers.
We saw the torment as racers skipped meals to gain horsepower. 
One single digit.
We witnessed the pain of a failed tire. 
The hard lick of a failed rim. 
The pain and loss of chrome smoke and fire.
Fire. 
The worst.
We were soldiers.
Gasoline, oil. steel and iron. Rubber, grit and hope. Leather, combustion
speed, death.
Glory.
We were soldiers.

62nd Annual Portland Roadster Show a Big Hit

The 62nd Portland Roadster Show wrapped up March 18th, with record crowds and many happy exhibitors. Once again the PRS awarded more trophies and cash awards than any International Show Car Association (ISCA) show in the country.

Dave Kindig and KevDogg from Kindig-It Designs were back with their impressive trailer and three of their newest builds. The 1958 Lincoln Continental that Kindig-It built for Tad and Sue Leach of Idaho took home the Grand Sweepstakes Trophy for Best in Show and a $10,000 check. They also brought along the 57 Corvette they had built for Charity Kindig’s parents, and it took home a Best in Class. The 66 Nova they brought took home a second in class.

Also back was the PRS’s number one Ambassador and one of the Kings’ of Kustoms, John D’Agostino. John was key in bringing some great cars up from California, including Cliff Mattis’s 41 Buick name Dillinger, which took home the King of Customs award and a $3000 prize.

There was an amazing three car turntable display in Hall C, which featured the 1940 Ford Coupe of Dennis Holt from Spokane Valley. The beautiful black coupe took home the World Cup of Hot Rodding Award and a $5000 prize.

For the kids, the Optimus Prime semi truck from the Transformer movies was on display along with its arch nemesis Galvatron, and the wrecker as well. Limited Edition posters and stickers were given out to luck kids in attendance.

The PRS Hall of Fame also inducted the 55 Ford F100 Truck known as Down n’ Dirty of John & Tracielyn Rydzewski. The truck originally showed in the 2001 PRS and has been built almost entirely by John and his friends from Pacific Styles and Lo Limit Accessories. The truck was just returning from Chicago and the ISCA Finals where they took home an amazing Second Place Truck, and a Top Twenty for the entire show! Welcome to John & Tracielyn and their amazing truck.

The Portland Roadster Show is owned and produced by the Multnomah Hot Rod Council, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. It’s the only show of its kind that is managed and staffed entirely by volunteers. Co-Producers Duane Caseday and David Jothen can’t say enough wonderful things about all of their great volunteers, and the member clubs of the MHRC. They have already begun the planning for their 63rd annual show, and exhibitor, vendor and sponsor applications are available on their website at www.portlandroadstershow.com.


Full Tilt

“I have the sickness,” he said with a smile, pushing his beer back and forth across the polished wood table at the restaurant we met for lunch. “My first Sprint car race was at Terre Haute a long time ago and I was like: ‘WOW, This is really cool.”

The sickness he speaks of is an affinity for racing. Ask a true race fan and they will tell you that the sport gets under your skin, you become addicted to going to the dirt track, the drag strip or anywhere they drop a green flag. Renowned motorsports photographer John Mahoney takes that passion to another level.

Mahoney, a Indiana native, discovered dirt track racing first then graduated on to his first Indy500 in 1955. “I have not missed a ‘500’ since” he states proudly. You might know his name, you might not- but if you follow American open wheel racing at any point in the last 40-odd years, you have undoubtedly seen his work.

Mahoney has photographed the stars of USAC, long before they become stars. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree is psychology and went to work for the state of Indiana. During his studies, he met and befriended an equally well known and talented would- be motorsports photographer Gene Crucean.

“I got my first Press Pass by pretending to write for a fake newspaper.” Mahoney admits wryly. “We called it Northwest News.” It was the mid sixties and he and his first wife had moved to southern California. “We reached out to the track in Sacramento, asking for passes but got no reply. I just wanted to get into the pits for free!” He had Crucean pose as the pretend editor for Northwest News and kept sending in requests. “The weekend of the race I was out in southern California, I was at a hotel- they were always having parties in the hotels- and I ran into JC Agajanian, you know, the promoter for Ascot Speedway. I thought to myself: ‘its now or never’ and walked up to him, saying that I was a writer for Northwest News and we never heard back about credentials. JC said that he had never heard of Northwest News but pulled out a pass from his pocket and gave it to me!” Later on Mahoney got hooked up with a couple legitimate racing publications, his photography flourished and the rest is history.

The camera was merely a means to an end. In order to get in the gate, being a member of the press was an easy and fun way to be close to the action. For John Mahoney, it was his golden ticket. His ex father-in-law was a master in the darkroom and quickly taught young Mahoney the tricks to developing film and printing his own pictures. Many years later at a pivotal point in his career with the Indiana Employment office, Mahoney decided to take make his ever-growing weekend hobby and turn it into his sole career. “It was a risk” he admits, “But it was the right choice.”

Dirt track sprint car and midget racing was, is, and will forever be his favorite. He has had the privilege to work with some of the biggest names around. From Foyt – his personal favorite-, Andretti, Rich Vogler, Bryan Clauson, Tony Stewart, and many more. In the handful of best races he has seen, the Hoosier will list big, local, Indiana races over the decades at the top.

“Some guys says that the ‘good ol days of racing was better- BOLOGNA! Some of the best drivers and racing is happening today!” Though the sport has changed, Mahoney loves it the same as ever. “Yeah the money aspect has changed racing, but the on track skill is as good as it always has been.” He cites the talent of Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell as reference. “THESE at the good ‘ol days!”

Mahoney is constantly asked for photographs for varying projects. Trying to obtain credit for his images is a never-ending battle. He has helped put together a few books on the history of USAC racing and is currently working with Dave Argabright and Pat Sullivan on another. His personal photo collection is featured proudly in “FULL TILT: The Motorsports Photography of John Mahoney” and on his website johnmahoneyphoto.com.

Mahoney, unlike most professional artists- is about as humble as they come. He refuses to admit how influential and important his vast experience is. He also jokes that he has yet to make a good portfolio of racing pictures. His wife, Martha, made a point to pull me aside after our lunch meal. “He is one of the best, no doubt. He will never say it but – if you have seen his work, you know.” Between portraits, actions shots and details of the track — John Mahoney is one of the best visual storytellers in racing. For a career made through the lens of a camera, Mahoney has managed to live his life at the place he loves best and the manner he loves best: at Full Tilt.

FUGLY: 5 Ugly Race Cars

In celebration of fifty years of attending short track races throughout California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, I have decided to open up my personal photo archives and share with you loyal readers. All race cars hold some interest for me… open wheel cars are of particular interest. Here are a handful of images that are memorable for one reason or another and I think deserve another viewing.

The #95 was one of three decidedly different four cylinder sprint cars campaigned by Reno racer Mike Wood…come to think of it; it was very likely the same chassis with three different variations of coachwork. This configuration appeared at the Plumas County Fair races in 1987. It featured a lightweight corrugated aluminum engine cover (repurposed cooler of some kind?) and a low drag, stationary airfoil. Fellow competitor Tom “Smokey” Stover described the racer as a “hot dog cart with a wing”. All got a good look at Wood’s creation as it didn’t move quickly and failed to transfer from the consolation race.

Tony Thomas’s Wolverine sprint car originally included “sail-like” panels on either side of the tail tank and a trough nose. After he was asked to remove the panels, Thomas installed a conventional hood and this hideous elbow guard. But what made his racer truly unique were the less noticeable features; ultra-long radius rods and a single torsion tube across the front. All major components, the engine, the seat, the fuel tank, were all mounted lower and further back in the chassis than usual… and it worked. Thomas won three of the first four races he contested in the car. When asked to make more revisions Thomas chose instead to retire this chassis. Eventually it was sold and campaigned (less successfully) by another owner. Thomas readily admitted his creation was ugly; his wife in fact dubbed the car “The Munstermobile”.

In the “free-wheeling seventies” some adventuresome short track racers began experimenting with rear engine cars. Some like the Sneva family from Spokane were successful, especially on asphalt. Others, not so much. Portlander Gary Clark forsake a conventional upright sprinter for this rear engine design. I was told that he didn’t start from scratch- part of the chassis (likely the front) was scavenged from a formula car. Regardless, you really need to know your geometry to make a racer like this work on dirt and reportedly Clark struggled. Beet’s Body Shop on Mt. Tabor applied the unusual parrot green, red and yellow paint scheme. The good news was, people noticed the #42 and it actually generated more business for the sponsor.

Is there anything uglier than a wrecked race car? I think not. This flathead powered roadster belonged to Willie Anderson and was campaigned throughout the Pacific Northwest by Jack “Crash” Timmings. On the final afternoon of the 1951 racing season at Portland Speedway, Timmings blew a tire and impacted the guardrail head on. Jack was a big guy and as strong as a bull. He mangled the steering wheel where his chest made contact in the wreck but emerged from the roadster unscathed. After a quick trip to the hospital, Timmings returned to the track to see Len Sutton claim his championship. Jack resented the moniker “Crash” by the way- in an interview years later the gentle giant defended himself saying: “I don’t think I crashed any more than anyone else.”

I’ve always taken a lot of pride in the appearance of my race cars but this four cylinder modified was an exception. It was built by the Myer brothers in San Jose for next to nothing and I purchased it from them for $500. with trailer. Ready to do battle at Baylands Raceway Park circa 1988 is my sponsor John “Rooster” Horton. He didn’t win the Feature that night. Horton was a customer of mine that became a sponsor and ultimately a good friend. The car had started life as a super modified and was originally built to accept a V-8 engine. In the following years the car’s appearance improved greatly but at the end of the day, the 2×4 chassis was just too heavy for a four cylinder engine to pull. I nicknamed the car: “The Box” as an endearment… my fellow competitors however called it: “The S**t Box” or “The Penalty Box” as numerous racers were forced to drive it when their primary cars broke down.

I used to say it was so ugly, it was cute… but to everyone else it was just “Fugly.”