Spirited Exhibition

South Sound Speedway is a tidy little 3/8ths mile paved oval, just south of Tacoma. I had been there twenty years ago to spectate. Around the same time, a Street Stock racer named Tom Curvat had given me the opportunity to try out his Olds on the now defunct Portland Speedway. That was the last time I had tested a car on an asphalt track anywhere.
Enter West Coast Vintage Racer Dick Nelson. Nelson purchased my Maxim Midget about four years ago. When he called with an offer to let me drive the car at South Sound, I jumped at the chance.

What an eclectic group of race cars! Six Midgets were on hand, three Volkswagens, my old Pontiac, a Chevy II and a Flathead. The big bore class was equally diverse; Sprint Cars and Super Modifieds from different eras, a dozen in all. Most were powered by small block Chevys but there was an inline six (GMC), at least one big block and the fabulous Ranger.
WCVR don’t race for a purse. They provide a show in exchange for track time. The club will generally arrive a day in advance to test and tune at leisure. Then on race night they join the regular program as an added attraction.

Nelson practiced in his powder blue ’72 Trostle Sprint Car on Friday, warmed up the Midget and even gave teenage Trista Churchill a try out. On Saturday unfortunately, the Pontiac fell ill. Nelson suspected it had dropped a cylinder and eventually it lost oil pressure all together. Apparently my disappointment was evident and that prompted Nelson to offer up his Sprint Car for one of the hot lap sessions.

Now this was a whole different deal. Nelson’s car is his baby and one of the most competitive in the club. I was thrilled to try it out but didn’t want to take a chance of hurting it. Even spinning it out might lead to disaster. I pushed off and was immediately impressed by how easily it steered. I was a bit tentative at first and left the bottom groove open for the faster drivers to pass. I tried to run a consistent line and not make any sudden moves. When no one dove in underneath me, I would edge to the inside and accelerate hard coming out of the turn. The car neither pushed toward the wall nor felt like it wanted to swap ends. The steering responded to the slightest movement. There was no wandering even under braking. On the straightaways, the car was an absolute rocket and kept pulling as long as I kept my foot in it. Too soon, the checkered flag appeared and I returned to Nelson’s pit. “Wow,” I told him, “what a sweetheart of a car!” Nelson smiled like a proud Papa. My face was etched in a smile as well; the adrenalin rush lasted into the night.

The club got to qualify individually and Nelson was fifth fast. In the heat race I was startled by how hard everyone drove. There were no strokers, these guys really race! Veteran Pat Bliss snatched the lead in Del McClure’s GMC. Behind him there was much brake smoke (even a little nudging) and jockeying for position. Fast Timer Glenn Walker in Marv Price’s “Eight ball” sliced through the pack like a hot knife through butter. Others like Kirt Rompain in Bart Smith’s beautifully restored Tipke offset roadster advanced his position as well but Bliss hung on for the win. Nelson held his own, crossing the line in the third position.

Bliss claimed the Trophy Dash also but scratched from Feature due to a leaky head gasket. On the initial start, Nelson charged past Jeff Kennedy to lead but Dave Craver spun the Ranger forcing a yellow. The restart was a carbon copy up front. Nelson took the Trostle high and wide, leading down the back straightaway. Rompain, who had worked on his mount right up until final call, would not be denied in this event however. Taking full advantage of his inside weight, stormed past Nelson and won the Feature going away. Nelson placed second and a relative newcomer named Milt Foster finished a position or two further back.

Foster is a typical WCVR participant. The son of a short track racer, Foster always had an interest but didn’t climb behind the wheel until age fifty five. “I married young,” he says, “and put two kids through college.” He found an old Super Modified that reminded him of the racing he observed as a kid and decided to restore it. Glenn Walker strolled up at his first race and offered to put a set up on the car. “So I wouldn’t kill myself,” Foster laughs. “That’s the best thing about the club, (the veteran’s) willingness to help out,” he says. That and the pre-race track time which afforded him the opportunity time to learn how to race.

After the Feature I was waiting in Nelson’s pit to congratulate him. “Man, you drove that thing harder than I would have,” I exclaimed. “I always drive like that!” Nelson grinned. Later this month he will celebrate his eightieth birthday. Spirited exhibition indeed.

And the Hits Just Keep on Coming when it comes to EVs

Some of you know we have been talking a lot about EVs and AVs in this column as of late. That is because there is plenty of news to be had concerning these vehicles. And we have more news for you this month.

First I would like to say that the RPM Act is moving right along with more than 180 members of Congress endorsing it so far. And I hope you enjoyed Collector Car Appreciation Day last month. This is another example of congress steppeing up and recognizing us GearHeads for the contributions we have made to America with our cars, down through the years. They recognize that we have made contributions in a number of ways. One of which is the advancement of Americana. This uniquely American, hot rodding phenomenon did indeed manage to spread around the world through the years.

Now this leads into another subject that I would like to address. Cruising these hotrods was also a unique part of Americana that served as a rite of passage for many young hot-rodders in cities and towns throughout this country. Unfortunately, those who hold positions in leadership came to feel that this kind of pastime was unwholesome and not worthy of the good people in this country.

So, town by town and City by City the pastime of cruising was gradually stamped out from one Coast to the other. Now many years have gone by. And guess what? It seems that many of those cities and towns now miss us.
As a result, there has been a resurgence of organized cruising activities in cities and towns all across the country. In particular, the current powers-that-be have recognized the benefits to local merchants and economies that come hand in hand.

In recent years we have seen cruising events spring up in the Vancouver and Battle Ground areas. The biggest one around has been the Vancouver Cruisin’ the Gut which was growing from year to year and contributing to a number of charitable causes along with many local Merchants along Main Street.

This annual, Summer Event had been started by a local Gearhead, Phil Medina. The event continued to grow, drawing in tens of thousands, despite the promoter being saddled down with increasing bills for insurance and police. All of a sudden, this year the name gets changed to Cruisin’ The Couve. That is because the original OG was no longer in charge. City Hall and the merchants stepped right up and took it all over.

I am not going to go into the nitty-gritty of all of the details but the information is out there in social media. I will just say that no GearHead would just simply give up his event because he couldn’t handle it anymore. Some out there would say that he could not afford to keep going.

I for one fail to see the necessity for having an army of police out there working overtime in cars, motorcycles, bicycles and walking around along with a big headquarters trailer parked there. What I found particularly offensive was when they moved in at 10 PM sharp with their lights and barricades and shut down the entire street to close down the event.
What are they afraid of? A riot might break out? Did anybody get a load of most of the Cruisers that were out there? They were old dudes. OGs from a past era, cruising along and behaving themselves just fine. I mean give me a break!

Well that was then and this is now. And now is the future. And the future is autonomous vehicles. So these AVs are electric cars that drive themselves. I don’t expect that there will be much cruising being done in those things. So here is a little news coming out of Portland. The new Transportation bill is going to allow a $2,500 rebate towards the purchase of some EVs. In addition a $2,500 rebate will be made available if you scrap your car that is 20 years old or older. And this is in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit you will receive.

This should be a great savings for many. But let’s not forget where much of that money comes from. You know how it is, it’s always the people who eventually end up footing the bill. Let us not forget that.

Next, on a bit of a sad note the Dodge Viper which has been in production since 1995 is coming to an end and the plant will be shuttered. Also AM General has sold their Hummer plant to an outfit called SF Motors who will be a manufacturing EV’s. Oh and the CEO of shell has announced that he will be buying a plug-in.

Intel has been doing their research and has recently released numbers. Essentially they are saying that the autonomous ride-hailing industry which is mainly Uber and Lyft will generate trillions for the economy. Maybe we are all going to get rich? And then we have news from the UK and France. It is looking like internal combustion vehicles will be gone by 2040.

So there you have it GearHeads. Let’s end this month’s column on a fast note. A company called Lucid Motors has an EV that has hit 235 miles per hour and they are making it faster.

‘Nuff said, Chuck Fasst

A Whole Other Animal

“How do we describe Global Rally at it’s simplest form? Crazy cars that drive over jumps, handle gravel, dirt and pavement sections. A lot of action.”
Oliver Eriksson driving the RedBull sponsored Honda Civic.

Those words rang in my ears as I looked around the Lucas Oil Speedway- Red Bull Global Rally cross hybrid track. What exactly was I looking at? The guest sanctioning body took the basic .686 mile pavement oval and made some additions. Instead of turn two, the Rally cars would cut through a dirt chicane out in the infield and over a large gravel jump laid adjacent to start/finish, and loop around in a mud puddle before rejoining the pavement course between turns three and four. Sitting on a grassy knoll, surveying the scene in front of me I realized that this adaptation of auto racing was both vaguely similar and completely different.

In this version of racing, a fast start is key. Each race lasts roughly 10 minutes depending on the course. The race weekend schedule is littered with a bunch of these short sprints, each finish designating points to set up the main event. That being said, the race weekend is extremely laid back. Two days of racing equates to maybe six or eight shorts bursts of competition by the title series, called ‘Super Cars’ followed by a development group referred to as the ‘Lights.’ In all, there is a lot of flexibility in the schedules, fostering a laid back and casual atmosphere around the track.

The only the pit crews seem to be flung into a frenzy. This style of racing is so rough on the cars that a lot needs to be cleaned, replaced and monitored between each bout. Once the car comes zipping in off of the track, it is immediately propped up on jacks, the hood is flown open, and a little army of technicians descend on the race-fresh vehicle. Quick engine changes are common and each crewman has to have hustle in their job description.

The Red Bull Global Rallycross series has twelve races, most of them in the United States. Each course is made- to order for race weekend, each having a completely different layout and challenges. A few elements are consistent. The track must have pavement and dirt, all must have a jump of some kind and all must involve what the series refers to as a ‘Joker.’

A Joker is an addition on the racecourse that every driver must take once in each race. They are not allowed to take this route on the first lap, but they can take it only once per round. Sometimes the course is designed so that the Joker is a short cut, and sometimes the Joker is the long way around. The key is taking the Joker lap to strategy.

In the main event that I attended, the Supercar winner, Scott Speed driving the Olberto sponsored Volkswagen Bug for Andretti Autosport took the Joker when he was comfortably out front so that the long lag time did not affect his position. His teammate, Tanner Foust in the Rockstar Energy Drink Volkswagen Bug finished second and Steve Arpin in the Lorenbro motorsports Derive Efficiency Ford Fiesta rounded out the podium.

Upon celebrating in Winner’s Circle, it was clear that the series focused on the younger fans. After the traditional podium pictures and champagne fight, the drivers invited all of the kids to come up on stage and have their photo taken. Shortly thereafter, each of the podium winners spent as long as needed in order to sign every autograph and take every picture requested. This time is not a luxury in other styles of racing and I personally think that this attention to the younger demographic is what is fueling the sport’s popularity. Admission cheap, the racing is fast and the pits are open to anyone that bought a ticket to the show. The drivers are diverse, young and often very accessible.

“Global Rallycross is so different to what usually comes around here.” Commented Sebastian Eriksson (no relation to Oliver Eriksson) driving the other Team Red Bull sponsored Honda Civic. “I think it is fun for the fans to see something different. They seem to enjoy it very much.”

American Legion

I didn’t make it to this year’s 4th Annual American Legion, Carl Douglas Post 74 Cruise-In. Jim Beltramo, Post 74’s Historian, sent me a bunch of pictures and info so I could put this little story together to tell you about this great cruise.
The cruise was held at the Viewpoint Restaurant on Springwater Road out toward Estacada Oregon, on July 8th. “We had a great turnout this year.” With 138 Hot Rods, Street Rods, Antiques, trucks and Motorcycles, I say it was indeed a good turnout. The weather was terrific and they offered 23 different classes, plus Best of Show and Participants Choice. Barney and Terri Hobbs took home Best of Show honors with their 1937 Chevy 1-ton Truck (transport) with the 1937 Chevy Business coupe displayed on the bed of the truck. Participants Choice went to Stan Pongratz and his 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner.
If you live in or near the Portland, Oregon area and want a great cruise to participate in or to just attend as a spectator look for this one coming back for its 5th Annual next July 2018.

No Attack No Chance

When the first yellow flag of the race unfurled, team owner Michael Andretti had to have been feeling good. It was on lap 53, just beyond quarter distance in this year’s Indianapolis 500. Andretti had a record six entries in the contest and five of them were running in the top ten.

It had been a pretty decent month. Their cars hadn’t been the outright fastest but they had been very competitive. It seemed the Honda teams were enjoying a slight horsepower advantage so they had that going for them. The big question was reliability- Would they go the distance? Many Honda power plants had already failed during practice.

Defending 500 Champion Alexander Rossi led the team in qualifying, placing his NAPA Auto Parts sponsored mount on the outside of row one. In row two were veteran Takuma Sato (traded this season for Carlos Munoz from A.J. Foyt Ent.) and rookie Fernando Alonso. Alonso had stolen all the press this month. He was a two time Formula One Champion who had skipped Monte Carlo to participate in this year’s 500. Sitting smack dab in the middle of row three was Michael’s son, Marco. Not a winner but always a contender at the Brickyard. Behind him in the tenth slot was 2014 winner and unofficial team leader Ryan Hunter-Reay. And finally back in the twenty seventh starting spot, another rookie Jack Harvey.

At the drop of the green flag Chip Ganassi’s drivers took the point. Pole sitter Scott Dixon led the first five laps before turning it over to crowd favorite Tony Kanaan. Rossi and Sato held their own while Alonso took a step back to find his rhythm and Marco advanced. Kanaan led for twenty two circuits then passed the baton to hometown hero Ed Carpenter. Carpenter and teammate J.R. Hildebrand led through lap thirty four when Rossi decided to make his move. Alonso (having found his mojo) followed Rossi to the point and the duo proceeded to swap positions until the aforementioned first yellow flag occurred. This yellow was for a n incident involving sophomore driver Jay Howard and Dixon. It was switched to a red flag when the seriousness of this accident was realized though both drivers walked away. When the race was stopped Alonso was the leader, Rossi was second, Sato was now third, Carpenter was fourth in his Chevrolet and Hunter-Reay had advanced to fifth. Marco Andretti was still in the top ten and Harvey was nowhere on the horizon.

When racing resumed the Andretti boys continued their fun and games up front. Sato had just taken the lead for the first time when Foyt driver Conor Daly hit the wall and Harvey ran over the debris. Both cars were eliminated.



Sato led the restart but succumbed to Rossi on lap seventy six. Hunter-Reay forged into the lead for the first time three laps later. Andretti Autosports dominated the middle portion of the race. The lead was traded back and forth between Rossi, Alonso and Hunter-Reay. At one point (with Sato) the team occupied positions one through four!

Then as it has happened so many times in past, the entire complexion of the race began to change. After leading on seven separate occasions for a total of twenty eight laps, Hunter-Reay blew his engine. Thirty laps later another front runner Charlie Kimball popped the motor in his Ganassi Honda. Was it a trend?
And then here came Alonso, smoke pouring from the back of his papaya colored Honda. He ground to a halt on the front straightaway just past the pit lane and climbed from his car to a tremendous ovation. Meanwhile an underrated second year driver named Max Chilton had taken over the race. Chilton piloting yet another Ganassi Honda would lead the most laps of the day. But clawing his way to the front was three time winner Helio Castroneves. Carrying the banner for Roger Penske and Chevrolet, Castroneves was on mission- to join Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only four time Indy winners.

In the closing laps things had gone to hell for Andretti. Hunter-Reay and Alonso were sidelined. A refueling issue had negated Rossi’s earlier efforts and a lost winglet had ruined Marco’s chance of a high finish. Only Sato remained within striking distance—it was all on him.



Sato you may remember had been in this position before. In 2012 he attempted a last lap pass on Dario Franchitti and spun into the wall. If he regretted it, he never said so nor did he apologize. “No Attack—No Chance” is his motto (and it likely helped him secure a three year stint with A. J. Foyt).

With seven laps remaining Chilton was doing a yeoman’s job but Castroneves wanted it more. He battled past the remarkable rookie Ed Jones and seized the lead from Chilton.

Now it was Sato’s time. Would his Honda hold together? There was no way to know. He pointed his Dallara toward the outside groove and kept his foot buried in it. Around Castroneves he went and he kept on going, actually opening a gap at the finish.

Andretti Autosports won their third Indy 500 in the last four years. Takuma Sato earned immortality in his native Japan. In the USA you might say: “He went for it!”

Changes at World of Speed

In April, I talked briefly about the World of Speed and their recent display change. Here is a reminder that they replaced the Indy car display with one of our (my) favorites… Muscle cars! These are cars I grew up with at least from a distance, I could never afford them when they first came out and I for sure can’t afford them now. However, I like to look at them and the WOS has captured a large number of them for their new-ish Muscle Car Display.

Go check them out before they go away. You rarely see cars like these on the streets and they are all beautiful in their own right.

World of Speed, 27490 SW 95th Ave.  
Wilsonville, OR., info@worldofspeed.org  
(503) 563-6444.

Silver Auction

April brought Silver Auctions to the greater Portland/Vancouver area. They had about 100 cars on consignment, not all of them “Collector” cars. In fact, they had a large number of maybe “future collector cars” that are in fact very current cars.
One particularly nice older restoration of a 1955 Chevy Convertible, a few “baby” Birds, a beautiful 66 Nova resto-mod, just to name a few.

Silver is based in Spokane but they have auctions all over the Northwest as well as Arizona. I was at their last auction in Phoenix in January. They had a ton of cars Phoenix got a rather unusual winter storm that simply dumped rain on their auction almost non-stop, but then I already reported on that one. Check out their website silverauctions.com for their schedule.


The Endless Summer Cruise-In

Thanks to the Pharaohs Street Rodders and, their dedicated team of club members, the Endless Summer Cruise-In got underway at 3:30 pm Wednesday June 6th with a parking lot full of Classic Custom Cars, Street Rods and Super Trucks. All proceeds from this fund raising event are dedicated to the Veterans MIAP and the Lines for Life programs, plus a few other local charities. This is a weekly Cruise-In, running every Wednesday (weather permitting) from 3:30 to 7 pm at the East Hills Church Parking lot, on Main Street in beautiful down-town Gresham, Oregon. From June to September this fantastic fundraising event has raised tens of thousands of dollars for our Veterans programs, including the Lines for Life and the Missing in America Program plus a special gift is always dedicated to East Hills Youth Programs from the Pharaohs Street Rodders. In addition, there is a booth set up representing Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, raising funds for the Children’s Cancer Research program up at OHSU, with a state licensed raffle on a brand-new Ford Mustang.
The Endless Summer Cruise-In has a reputation of judging and presenting award winning trophies to just about every car entered at least once throughout the four months that the show is on. A special point of interest, no Pharaohs club member’s vehicles are entered in the judging for a trophy during the regular show time events. Every week about ten trophy plaques and one special Keith Preskey Dedicated Cruiser Award Trophy is presented to just the vehicles entered.

The Endless Summer Cruise-In has become a wonderful family outing not just for the custom and classic car enthusiast, but for the opportunity to witness first-hand how a group of local men and women have grown together with the goal of helping our U.S. Veterans with a dedicated positive program of fund raising for them in their hour of need. Plus the food and drink offerings in down-town Gresham are fantastic. In addition, the ice cream parlors are guaranteed, fun for the whole family. Put this outing on your to do list and I guarantee you won’t be sorry. Stop by the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital KDCCP booth and say hello.

 

Beaches Summertime Cruise

The summer time cruises are back! There are a number of recurring events that happen all summer long. One such weekly cruise is the one at PIR, Beaches Summertime Cruise, celebrating their 22nd year.

This cruise goes on every Wednesday starting at 4pm and lasting till dusk. It’s really amazing, this cruise consistently brings in hundreds of participants particularly on opening night which was June 7th this year. The number I heard was 1800 cars. See, I told you it was amazing.

At the same time that the cruise is going on there are 1/8 mile drags going on too. You can go watch the drags and well as “cruise” the cars displayed for one low fee of $5.00 when you drive your pre-73 car. If you don’t bring a car but still want to get in it will cost you a little more but the proceeds, after expenses, are donated to charity.

So, plan a Wednesday afternoon/evening and come check out one of the biggest cruises in the Portland Oregon area. Beaches Restaurant is the organizer and they sell food and drink. There are picnic tables in the shade to use and live music from a number of local bands. It’s a party atmosphere but for the whole family with lots to see. You’ll have a good time, I think.


Orange is the New Fast

Bruce McLaren was born in New Zealand in 1937. Early in adolescence, he was plagued by an unusual illness that affected the growth of his legs. Bedridden for stints of his childhood, Bruce was restless. By age 13 he was enrolled in a technical college and assisted in his father’s racing endeavors. Blazing through Formula 2 in his early twenties, no limp could slow the ‘Flying Kiwi’ down- even if one leg was longer than the other.

At age 22 he was the youngest driver to win a top tier Formula1 race in 1959. A short number of years later, McLaren started his own team christened with his namesake, thus creating one of the most successful cross- discipline racing teams of all time. With Bruce at the helm, the team conquered in the Canadian-American Challenge Cup- or CanAm series, while developing a significant Formula1 program.

All the while, external pressures tried to lure Bruce’s attention to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the early to mid 60’s, the top drivers from around the world looked at Indy as an ultimate testament to one’s ability and engineers came to play with their newest and best innovations. This was the era of the great ‘Tire Wars’ when Goodyear and Firestone were locked in eternal battle to establish superiority. Seeing Bruce’s talents and innovations, Goodyear urged McLaren toward the Greatest Spectacle. Driver and fellow Kiwi, Denny Hulme added to the whispers, asking Bruce to build him a competitive car.

So in 1970- a month before Bruce’s fateful death, the team rolled in three M15 cars for Hulme and Chris Amon to drive. Bruce himself was supposed to pilot a Carroll Shelby turbine, but the builder would pull it from qualifying- citing safety concerns. Early in the month, Hulme’s ride caught fire and he sustained burns on his hands and feet. Amon reportedly came out to see the famed Speedway but was shaken by its speed and magnitude, and thus backed out of his driving obligation. Carl Williams and Peter Revson then filled the M15s. They would finish 9th and 22nd respectively and Team McLaren would win the prestigious Designers Award.

While shaking down a CanAm car in Goodwood, England a couple of weeks later Bruce McLaren suddenly crashed and lost his life- but the McLaren team did not die with him.

Flying the trademarked ‘Papaya’ Orange, Team McLaren would carry on in all racing fronts- winning USAC and CanAm Championships.

In 1974 and again in 1976 Johnny Rutherford drove a McLaren into Victory Lane at Indy. He publicly states that those chassis were some of the best he has ever piloted.

Only after Bruce’s death did McLaren’s Formula1 program write themselves into the record books. To date, the program has twelve championships, second only to Ferrari with fifteen. Some of the greatest drivers in history have raced with McLaren including Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Alain Prost, and Aryton Senna.

The new era of McLaren Formula1 has seen some problems. Mika Hakkinen was the last to bring home the bacon in 1999 and since, McLaren has fallen from grace. The sport has changed, the engines have evolved and current McLaren pilot and two-time World Champion, Fernando Alonso decided that it was time to make a new statement.

On April 12th of this year, Alonso and team announced that they would be withdrawing from Formula1’s biggest race of the year, the Monaco Grand Prix, to race at Indy. Shock, awe and criticism ensued but Alonso stuck with his decision to drive the orange no. 29 McLaren Honda with Andretti Autosport for the month.

“We came out here to unite the two worlds of racing” explained Alonso “and I think we did just that…” Fans from around the world made a special trip to see Alonso on racing’s Greatest Stage and Indycar.com reported that over 2 million people tuned in just to see his rookie orientation.

The Andretti guys took him under their wings and after a month of being at the top of the practice leaderboard, Alonso was ready to qualify. He lined up 5th for the race and spent the majority of the day up front. After slipping down to 6th at the start, Alonso came roaring into the lead on lap 37. A crowd of 300,000 came to their feet to see the rookie take point.

Alonso and the other Andretti drivers would command most of the race—but after a triumphant fight, Alonso coasted to a smoky stop with 20 laps to go. A disappointed crowd applauded him for his heroic efforts, and it was clear that the abrupt end hurt the Spaniard.

“I can say that I found a new family here”…Alonso said afterward, “I need to tell the F1 guys, you have a good thing going here.” Though he was scored as finishing 24th, Alonso’s efforts rekindle a historical relationship—one uniting Formula1 with Indycar and resurrecting a team’s pedigree at Racing’s Greatest Spectacle.