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.

MetalWorks’ Transformed TriFive

There was once a young man, we’ll call him Pete who grew up late 1950s and 60s, and like many young men of his era, cars were a very large and influential part of his life. A childhood buddy of Pete’s purchased a 1955 Chevy when he was a junior in high school and the pair spent countless hours together under the hood of the trifive.

Looking back now Pete recalls tearing down various components and modifying or rebuilding them, then taking the 55 for test drives to evaluate the results of their efforts. Pete loved the time spent wrenching on the Chevy and he learned a lot, but for him it was more about the camaraderie between friends, and the “under hood talk.” This was the pre-internet era so automotive knowledge was gained by browsing issues of small pages hot rod magazines, and helpful tips from older guys willing to hand out advice. The reward for all their hard work was cruising the local A&W root beer stand on friday nights, and even a little bit of street racing for good measure.

Flash forward a few decades into Pete’s retirement years and he finds himself at the perfect phase of his life to build his dream car. Now there are a lot of cool cars out there, but Pete has the fondest memories of his time around his buddies 55, so he knows that is the car for him. Being conscious of how his old friend that owed the 55 Chevy in high school might feel, Pete contacted his lifelong buddy and asked him what he thought about Pete doing a 55, and his response was “man, go for it!

The next big step was locating a shop to turn Pete’s dream into a reality, so Pete began an intense search for the perfect shop. Two variables were key in Pete’s search; a shop that had a strong pedigree for building high end TriFive Chevys as well as a shop that performed the bulk of the build “in house” instead of farming out multiple steps of the build to other specialty shops. Through his searching Pete came across MetalWorks in Eugene, Oregon and could clearly see in the shop’s build galleries that they handle their restorations internally—even the acid dipping process.
Pete was very interested in the having MetalWork’s tackle his dream 55 build, but the deal wasn’t sealed until he had a long conversation with Jon, the owner of MetalWorks. Pete expressed that he didn’t have a 55 Chevy yet, just the desire to build one, and inquired if MetalWorks would be willing to locate him a car…and the answer was “sure.”

MetalWorks located 3 potential staring points for the build with various prices. It was stated that there was no point in buying a more expensive car to simply throw away parts that were not going to get used, but to focus on a project car that matched the build. A project was chosen, and the crew at MetalWorks got busy transforming it to Pete’s vision.

The 55 chosen for the starting point was a forgotten relic of the Pro-Steet era of the early 1990s. The rolling chassis was sold, and the body sent off for acid dipping. The necessary metal work was performed in addition to custom features such as 2.5” mini tubs, shaved gas door, and smoothed dash, just to name a few on an extensive list. The body was sat on a multi-link IRS Art Morrison chassis and all its sheet metal, glass, and drive train mocked up for proper fit and function before being sent to the body shop. Once in the shop the body was massaged to perfection, then, shot in coats of grey and black.

Paint was followed by wet sanding and buffing until the body looked like marble. The chassis was painted and fully assembled as a roller with engine and transmission set into place. The body was mated to the chassis and the rest of the assembly was performed along with wiring and upholstery.

The combo of the 55’s new GM Performance 430hp LS3 topped with MSD fuel injection and the Art Morrison chassis deliver an amazing level of comfort, performance, and reliability. Pete can jump in the Chevy and enjoy years of cruising without the plaguing issues often associated with carbureted engines and today’s modern gasoline. The chassis delivers a level of comfort and smooth handling that will not leave Pete feeling fatigued even after long hours behind the wheel. The 55 truly performs on both looks and performance—it is the definition of ProTouring in a classic car, and we hope Pete collects many memories in it feeling like the luckiest body in high school.


All for the Love of a Classic Custom Cadillac La Salle

This delicious 1933 Cadillac La Salle Town Sedan is about as fine an example of a Classic Custom Vehicle as one would ever dream of owning. Dick and Jean Cheney who reside in the Lents District of Portland found this one of kind Custom Cadillac La Salle back in the state of Iowa. She’s not only a Classic she became a Custom when the previous owner decided the six cylinder Cadillac engine that came from the factory back in ’33 wasn’t quite enough power for super highway driving. So out with the flathead V-8 and in with a 472 ci V/8 producing about 375 HP. Add on a later model Caddy tranny and a matching rear-end and she is almost ready for the Freeway. Install Power steering, Air Conditioning and a 12 Volt Electrical System with Factory Caddy Gauges and now she’s a true classic custom Cadillac La Salle Town Sedan that can go anywhere, anytime in style. The Surf-Blue finish on this Caddy came from the Jaguar family and is about the only thing on this car that isn’t Cadillac. The wide whites on those monster big tires and wheels really finish this dream machine off, plus the light baby blue fabric interior is stitched with perfection and is in like new condition.

Mr. Cheney was with the George Lawrence Marketing group located in northwest Portland for a good many years. Mrs. Cheney was with the Portland Public Schools for thirty nine plus years. They are both active members with the Loose-Ends Car Club here in Portland area. A special note of interest: The 1933 Cadillac LaSalle just won a nice trophy at the Endless Summer Cruise-In in Gresham. We at Roddin & Racin NW Publication hope the Cheney Family has a nice big room to handle all the awards and trophies that you’re 1933 Cadillac LaSalle Town Sedan will be winning, from all the shows you enter her in.

National Collector Car Appreciation Day is Arriving

First and foremost I would like to take a moment to mention Vic Edelbrock Jr., who passed away at press time. He caught a cold and he died at age 80. I had the pleasure of talking with him on a number of occasions as he represented his company. If there ever was a true GearHead, he was one.
On a lighter note we are announcing the birthday of SEMA hall-of-famer Alex Xydias who has turned 95.

Now announcing National Collector Car Appreciation Day. This is our own personal holiday Gearheads. So, yes there are many members of Congress who think highly of us and our industry. They acknowledge that we have contributed much to America throughout the last century. So please take a moment to think about this on Friday July 14th. All GearHeads are encouraged to drive their cars on that day. There are many events going on to celebrate this holiday all across the nation and even in some foreign Nations. Check SEMAsan.com for a list of events.

In other news the Recognizing The Protection of Motorsports (RPM) act continues to gain support in the House and Senate. We have over 125 Congressional sponsors. This is the act that is helping to beat back the EPA in there efforts for over enforcement of regulations that pertain to purpose-built race cars with vin tags and all of the industries that support them. If you have not yet signed on to this effort go to www.SEMA.org/RPM.

SEMA is actively working in a number of states on a number of issues. Interestingly a recent bill has passed in Oregon which allows all military vehicles to obtain SP plates. This does not mean much to me because, as a certified signer for SP plates , I would pass all military vehicles. Now on to the state of Washington. They have opened their roads to use by autonomous vehicles. They see the economic value of getting involved with this. This is big, big money and a lot is happening.

Now something interesting in California. The Senate has passed the surveillance transparency bill SB 21. This bill will require all police surveillance such as license plate readers, drones and such to be approved locally. They are leading the way in this effort. In addition California has been working on tightening up federal asset civil forfeiture laws. There are horror stories about people traveling to buy a collector car and being pulled over by cops who find the cash they are carrying and steal it from them under these Federal statutes. All they have to do is simply suspect that the cash might be ill-gotten and they can just take it! So what do you think of that Gearheads?

Audi is coming to NY. intending to demonstrate and test vehicles in New York with Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) Level 3 automation, according to the company. It will conduct the first autonomous vehicle demonstration in state history, beginning in Albany, near the state capitol, in mid-June.

I have had plenty to say about EVs and AVs in this column. Now let’s talk about some predictions. “Rethinks” is a think tank who has been looking into a future of driverless autonomous vehicles and the impact they will have. They are saying that ride-sharing will grow big and will cause car sales to collapse. Ride-sharing will reduce the American vehicle Fleet to one fifth of today’s.

Manufacturing of new cars will drop 70% by 2030. Price of oil will drop drastically by 2021. Dealerships, gas stations and car repair shops will completely disappear. Even now we have GM divesting their manufacturing in all of Europe and in numerous other countries. What do you think of all of this Gearheads?

Now let’s talk about how the EVs and AVs are entering into the racing world.

Universities, high schools and middle schools are getting more involved in this technology. Many of them are building kart tracks for the students. High schools have the ev Grand Prix.

Jegs has built some EV Jr Dragsters. They are bad fast and they have to slow them down for the kids. Most of us know the ungodly torque EVs can make. New technology that is leading to super fast charging is really going to propel this industry, not only in racing but on the streets.
A company called Dubuc Motors is set to release their Tomahawk luxury, carbon fiber, sports car in 2018. It can do 0 to 60 in 2 seconds with its 1,000 lbs/ft of torque and 4 electric motors.

They say, “We think we can even go eventually under 1 second 0 to 60 making it faster then any vehicle in existence.”
Daymak Inc. has announced its new product, the Daymak-C5-Blast Go-Kart, a machine the Daymak team believes will be the fastest electric go kart in the world.
“We have developed the fastest, 100% clean energy go kart in the world by far,” says Aldo Baiocchi, President of Daymak, adding that company plans are to achieve 0 to 60 in less than 1.5 seconds.

“It will be a little faster than the Tesla P100D,” says Baiocchi.
According to Daymak, the C5 Blast Go-Kart features a liquid cool 10000w watt motor, Daymak Drive controller, 8 EDF motors. 4 in front and 4 in rear.

Then we have the Chinese Start Up company, NIO who has come out with the electric Hybrid called EP9 that has set a new production lap at Nurburgring surpassing the Lamborghini Huracan.

A lot of talk has been in the news lately of self-driving Taxi’s, with Über and other Taxi companies being interested in the technology. Now the Russian technology giant Yandex, has unveiled its self-driving Taxi prototype. The company has stated that eventually it would like to partner with car manufacturers who are looking to bring autonomous cars to the market. And don’t forget the Uber Flying Car, coming to skies near you soon.

We would like to give kudos to an area shop, Steve’s Auto Restorations for donating a steel ’34 Custom Roadster body to the Ironmen Foundation providing scholarships to the children of fallen U.S. soldiers.

And finally, Panther has just released their new line of 2017 water cars. I am remembering a vid I saw of one of these that looked like a Corvette and it was a monster on the water.

~Chuck Fasst, GearHeadsWorld.blogspot.com

Medford Rod & Custom Show

Every Spring even as early as January there are car shows everywhere. For instance, the Portland Roadster Show which has been running continuously every year for 61 years, but wait that’s not all.

Rich Wilson of Better Car Shows LLC. In Central Point, Oregon (Medford) puts together a terrific show every spring. One of my traveling buddy’s Bill Nelson and I have made the trek a few times now and we are never disappointed. I don’t know where Rich finds them but every year he fills up four buildings and outdoor spillage with show cars, hot rods, super nice drivers, vendors, and other auto related stuff. I guess it’s true that the old car hobby is alive and thriving everywhere in America.

Have you ever displayed your car in a multi-day show? Me too. After the set up you didn’t have much to do except run the duster over your pride and joy once in a while. Then hang out with the other participants and swap car stories. All good fun but it can get tiresome ‘Standing’ around, especially when you get to be my age.

Rich has come up with an idea that’s just spectacular, that helps solve this problem. He brings in comfy overstuffed chairs. Occasional tables. Sofas etc. and sets them up in a private anti-room near the main display area for the participants to use to take a much needed rest during the show. What a great idea. He also recruits helpers who cook off site and bring in meals around noon and later and he supplies beverages, coffee, soft drinks etc. for the participants. Only VIPs have access to this space with their “participant” lanyard. Everyone seems to love it. I commented to Rich that I’d never heard of doing this but that I thought it was such a good idea. His reaction was a humble shrug and a comment that he wanted to show his appreciation to the car owners for coming out.

Next spring look for their AD in Roddin’ & Racin’ for the Medford Rod and Custom show. It’s worth it even if you have to drive 350 miles. I recommend Holiday Inn Express. They had the best beds I’ve ever experienced in a Hotel/Motel.


 

One Race Wonder

40 years ago when the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) decided to abandon their fledgling Formula 5000 series and resurrect the Can Am, most everyone was caught off guard. The decision was made in November of 1976 with a start date seven months later. The predominant chassis in F5000 was Lola and the manufacturer agreed to produce a fendered conversion kit that could easily retrofit the existing cars for the new series. Racer Doug Schulz had a different idea…and he knew precisely who could bring his concept to fruition.

Enter Bob McKee of Palantine, Illinois. McKee had been building quality competitive race cars since 1962 but in small numbers. He had constructed cars for the original Can Am series and is credited with fielding the first successful turbo charged sports racer. He also wasn’t afraid to think outside the box; consider his McKee Mark 14 which featured a twin turbo charged Oldsmobile engine, Ferguson four wheel drive and a pop-up air brake!

Schulz and McKee blended their ideas to create the “Schkee DB-1”, a swoopy semi-closed cockpit sports car built on the Lola platform. To some the car resembled the Batmobile; all agreed that its profile was striking. Thanks to McKee’s vast experience, the Schkee’s shape worked aerodynamically even without wind tunnel testing. Meanwhile Lola factory’s body kit was made available (imagine a blanket draped over the open wheeler from end to end) but unfortunately there was little time for fine tuning. When the season opened June 12th at St. Jovite (Canada) veteran driver Brian Redman promptly flipped his car over backward! Sadly this wasn’t an isolated occurrence as club racer Elliot Forbes-Robinson also accomplished a 360 degree blow over in his Lola conversion. Miraculously “EFR” emerged unscathed and actually had his car repaired in time to race on Sunday. Redman’s injuries kept him sidelined the entire season.

While the rest of the Lola contingent scrambled for more downforce, the Schkee in the capable hands of Tom Klauser qualified on pole. In the race itself, Klauser was off like a shot, building up an insurmountable lead. He spun off course at one point and pit to change rubber. Due to complications removing the tire skirts, the swap took a full four minutes and he STILL won the event by a large margin. Little did anyone know that St. Jovite would be the Schkee’s only moment of glory.

Stop number two on the tour was Laguna Seca where Klauser again set fast time then barfed the engine in warm ups. Unfortunately the Schkee was forced to scratch from Sunday’s race as no spare was available. Round three Watkins Glen and with a fresh power plant, Klauser qualified second. In the race he was scored a dismal fifteenth. A second Schkee was completed for Schulz to pilot in the fourth and fifth rounds. His results were less impressive. The fact was, their cars handled beautifully but their engines had no reliability. And without significant sponsorship, an engine program was out of the question.

Klauser’s only other finish of note was at the season finale at Riverside. In his final appearance in the Schkee he qualified thirteenth and finished ninth. Broke and without prospects for the future, Schulz sold the team at season’s end to Tom Spaulding.

Spaulding appeared to do better in the sponsorship department and campaigned the car through much of the 1978 season with Vetter Motorcycle Fairings (now defunct) and Sony Electronics logos. He managed four top ten finishes but never within the top five. The quality and quantity of the competition was improving and Spaulding was at best, a solid mid-pack runner.

The last appearance of the Schkee in Can Am competition was the ’79 Laguna Seca race. In a one off deal with Spaulding, French Formula One ace Patrick Gaillard qualified the car thirteenth and brought it home a respectable eleventh. In its final race the Schkee was utilized as a camera car and this Can Am video can be viewed on the internet.

By the following year Lola had introduced an all new T530 and the conversions were relegated to the back of the grid. A Schkee “DB-3” was entered in the first few Can Ams of 1980 with Klauser listed as the driver but apparently this effort never materialized.

At least one of the Schkees exists to this day. The unique one race wonder was offered for sale in “as raced” condition for a paltry $189,500.

Feature Ride of the Month: 1940 Pontiac Coupe “Extravagant”

The dictionary might describe this sweet and clean little 1940 Pontiac as free from imperfections or defects!

I would describe it as extravagantly beautiful! Mr. Steve Walls from the little town of Estacada, Oregon took a rusted out ‘40 Pontiac Coupe, that was headed to the recycle crushing machine, and turned it into a piece of artistic vehicular wonderment. In a little over 995 days (three years) Steve worked day and night on a total rebuild. Every inch of this vehicle needed attention. From a fresh new chassis sporting a 350 Chevy for power to a 350 tranny and a ten bolt rear-end. 100 percent of this rebuild was performed by Mr. Walls, including the gorgeous Viper Blue Pearl exterior paint and the delicious all black-on-black leather interior including a real Banjo brand classic steering wheel.

 To keep her a little safer running down the highway he added a Camaro front clip and disc brakes on all four corners. To enhance the stance he went with 550/15” rubber up front and 850/15”out back over Tork-Thrust American chromed mag wheels. From the all stock ’40 Pontiac, including bumpers up front to the smooth and clean shaved and filled rear deck lid. This little Pontiac is one fine ride. Steve added a set of Ford tear drop tail-lights, removed the rear bumper, plus rolled the gravel pan under creating a true custom work of art. She is “SO PONTIAC” with all the little chrome pieces here and there upfront in the hood area, to the flawless clean and neat rear-end. Steve attended Estacada High School back in the 60s and was an active member in the Road Runners custom car club. Estacada High didn’t offer any auto shop programs back then, but that didn’t keep Mr. Walls from building his share of custom rides. His self-taught body and fender work and his love for cars are still with him today. We at R&R NW Publication are proud to make your 1940 custom Pontiac Coupe our featured ride for the month of June 2017.

 

THEY ARE COMING TO PORTLAND: Are You Ready?

We start off this month’s column with some breaking news—the AVs are coming to Portland. That’s right autonomous vehicles will soon be driving on Portland streets. The mayor of wonderfully weird Portland has sent out an open invitation to all of the AV experimenters. They are invited to come and practice on Portland streets. We are to understand that their travels will be on only selected streets but it is as yet unclear on exactly where that might take place.This will be called the Smart Autonomous Vehicle Initiative.

So, heads up Gearheads guess you might want to keep an eye out.

In fact more and more people are learning they need to keep an eye out for Tesla cars as well, as more and more of them continue to crash, some fatal the lawsuits continue. In fact the latest is the class action suit against Tesla Model S and Model X. This one involves safety defects and enhanced autopilot AP 2.0. they are saying that owners have become essentially beta testers of half-baked programming. Numerous crashes have insued.

Here is an interesting factoid about Tesla. They are said to be the biggest player in the AV and EV fields. However they are currently losing somewhere around $16,000 per vehicle on every sale. They expect that to change drastically soon.

So there is a little something more for all of you Gearheads to chew on. And remember that SEMA continues the battle with the RPM bill. I expect the RPM bill is the 1st of many more major battles to come as regards the rest of our cars.

~Chuck Fasst

Points & Plugs

This year has certainly been an interesting one for me.  Interesting doesn’t mean all good or all bad… just different.  I’m the oldest of all my cousins born in the younger generation of our family.  My Mom has several sisters and brothers spanning several generations.  My first cousin Linda (our Mom are sisters) was born in March 1950, I was born in August 1949, so I was just almost seven months older.

Her brother Jerry, whom we refer to each other as, “… my brother from another mother,” haven’t always been “buds” but we have grown closer in the last 15 years. He and his lovely wife Donna live in Phoenix, AZ. He and his wife publish “Roddin’ & Racin’” in Arizona and have for the last 26 plus years. They are single handedly responsible for the paper you are reading right now. Jerry bugged me for years to start a paper here in Oregon.

I’ll bet that most people have a cell phone… and as a result of cell phones being in common use these days with “free,” no charge long distance calling it’s a lot easier to stay in daily contact with our friends and relatives even went they aren’t living near us. Technologies are amazing, aren’t they?

Recently Jerry called me (we talk all the time) but didn’t sound like his usual upbeat self. The moment I answered and he responded, I instinctively responded, “What’s wrong?” His response was a shock. His sister Linda, my cousin, had been a passenger with her son-in-law in his car that was hit, head on, by a drunk driver. He had minor injuries, she had much more serious injuries, including broken bones and they were transported to a local hospital where treatments were administered but Linda’s internal injuries were so serious that she passed away within a few hours.  Totally shocking and sad. RIP Linda, you’re home with God.

My low back has been giving me a lot of trouble… for years actually but now with the dreaded Arthritis setting in, it’s really been bothering me. An MRI reviewed by the best local area Orthopedic Surgeon revealed all kinds of bad going on. Obviously, I knew it, ‘cause I could hardly walk some days and the pain was increasing. Doctor Keenen is sought after for his expertise in back surgery so getting on the surgery schedule can be a challenge. As such I called his office to try and schedule my surgery and lucked out that he had a cancellation the following Monday. Linda’s Memorial was the week before surgery and after I got back on Friday I had planned to actually spend the weekend, Saturday and Sunday working on the 66 Biscayne. I had a lot I wanted to do before surgery because I knew I’d be out for a while and wouldn’t be able to work on any projects. Saturday morning, after a restless nights’ sleep I found that I couldn’t walk. My legs were so painful that I could barely get out of bed. I tried some stretching exercises which also caused pain and it only helped a little. I was down and couldn’t do anything, either day. I went upstairs to my office to work on the R&R NW but couldn’t walk down the stairs after doing a little work. This really isn’t going the way I envisioned it.

The beauty of “spinal decompression” surgery is that after the surgery, all that constant pain is gone! Of course, there is surgical pain, and in my case bone spur, calcification removal, (arthritis) so I wasn’t pain free but better for sure. They let me out after one night in the place of no sleep. Thanks goodness. They say they want to keep you overnight just to make sure us old people (my description) come out of the anesthetic fully and that everything is working. What that means I found out is that if you can’t tinkle… the word wasn’t scary before but it is NOW, CATHETER, and I’ll not bore you with the details because it ain’t pretty, but if you don’t know what I’m talking about I can only hope you never find out. My rules are don’t lift over five pounds, no stretching, bending, or twisting. Best thing for me is walking, with a cane, but hey at least I’m walking.

I visited my General Practitioner a few days after getting released because I was having some issues. Of course, there they always ask you a bunch of questions that you never ever thought you’d be having a conversation about… with anyone… but hey getting old ain’t for sissys. I didn’t know that a BM would be cause for a celebration but it surely was. The Doc and I got a big laugh out of that. His comment was, “Did you ever think you would be celebrating a BM?” No. No I didn’t but there is a first time for everything, and there was drinking and dancing and everything. Sorry if that’s TMI. I guess I’m just a sharer.

Purple Reign

By the late sixties, his time had passed. I feel fortunate to have watched one of his last Feature wins (’69?) over arch nemesis Al Pombo and Everett Edlund. Once on the grid during driver introductions, I saw him lean out of his Modified, cup his hands around his mouth and hiss: “Booooo Pombo!” And sadly, I witnessed his final qualifying attempt (1972) in which his throttle stuck and he augered into the wall, ending his driving career. The colorful career of Marshall Sargent and his purple #7 was over…but man, what a ride!

Sargent was born in Arkansas in 1931 and relocated to Salinas (CA) while still a boy. He ran his first race on a converted baseball diamond at Fort Ord. By the time he joined the hardtop ranks at San Jose Speedway, he’d notched several wins in the Monterey area. Al “The Mombo Man” Pombo was a top contender and a natural rivalry developed between the two. Over the next twenty years each would amass over five hundred Feature victories, Sargent claimed his total was closer to one thousand. “My best season was eighteen Main Events at San Jose,” he told scribe Dusty Frazer in an ’81 interview. “That same year I won eleven out of sixteen races at Clovis and 16 out of 27 races at Fresno.” Sargent indeed was State of California Modified Champion in 1960 and won that year’s most prestigious race; The Johnny Key Classic. He captured the “Key Race” again in ’63 on his way to a second San Jose Speedway title.
Sargent also achieved success when he ventured outside his home state. In 1959 he drove a Lola sports car to a class win in the Daytona 12-hour and finished sixth in the Atlanta 500 driving relief for Tommy Pistone. In 1963 Sargent was one of the first Americans to be invited to race his Modified in Australia during the off season. He had a huge impact there, even convincing the Aussies to race counter clockwise! Down under a small crowd for a weekend event was 15,000; one night he drew 55,000! “That had to be the ultimate feeling for me in my racing career,” Sargent told Frazer. “It was as big a thrill as if I had won the Indy 500.” There had been other offers to go big-time including an invitation from Elmer George to try out the HOW Special at Indianapolis but it was never the right offer. In most cases he was asked to leave his wife and three sons in California and that simply wasn’t an option.

Promoter Bob Barkhimer whose relationship with Sargent dates back to Salinas days, considered him one of the best drivers to ever emerge from Northern California. “He was in the mold of A.J. Foyt,” noted Barkhimer, “Burley, muscular, brave, loud, intimidating to the other drivers and smart. Marshall would have gobbled up A.J. in a Modified on one of the area tracks, Fresno, San Jose, both on and off the track.” The promoter also revealed decades after the fact that he used to pay Sargent today’s equivalent of over a $1,000 a week to “spice up the races with some added showmanship”. The agreement was that he couldn’t purposely crash a car, lose a race or start a fist fight but other than that, anything went.

A move Sargent was famous for was jumping out of his race car on a red flag and berating the Starter. Sometimes he’d grab a flag and break it and the crowd would go wild! If they booed him (which about 50% did) he’d take out his comb and slowly comb his hair. This for some reason really got the crowd excited! Barkhimer related one story about a race which Sargent clearly lost. He yelled so long and loud that the winner finally said: “Maybe you’re right, I didn’t win. Let’s pool first and second and split (the prize money).” At that point Sargent finally relented and smiled from ear to ear.

In 1967 the veteran experienced a near fatal accident at San Jose during qualifying and was sidelined for the next two seasons. The freakishly similar accident in ’72 forced him out of the cockpit for good at age thirty seven. Sargent spent the last twenty years of his life supporting his son’s racing efforts. A special Sprint Car race entitled “The Pombo/Sargent Classic” was established in 1986 to commemorate the duo’s epic battles and that annual event continues to this day.