Have you ever noticed that when you retire everyone asks, “How’s retirement?” “What are you going to do now?” I just retired after 35+ years from a great job with NAPA Auto Parts and I started to think about my bucket list; how I now, could possibly get some of the things on my list checked off.
Last January I happened to see an ad for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion featuring the 50-year anniversary of Can Am and Trans Am race cars. This has always been part of my bucket list before I even knew what a bucket list was. You know, sleek bodies, big tires, tall velocity stacks, giant wings… cars that go up to 185 MPH: McLaren, Lola, Shadow, Ferraris… I could go on and on. As a gearhead I have always loved auto racing, of course, and the Can Am cars have always been my favorite.
Let the adventure begin!
Leaving Albany with my good friend Steve Veltman, heading south on I-5. All adventures are not without problems. We found out that because I had made our motel reservations in January when our American Express card through Costco was still the card we always used, I hadn’t thought about the fact that when the motel tried to charge AmEx for the reservation now, that it wouldn’t got through. Of course not… I called the motel only a few hours after receiving the dreaded “transaction denied” notification that came in at 3 AM, but the motel had already given our room away and had no ideas to help out, only saying “Doubt there’s any rooms in the Monterey area, it’s a race weekend.”
As we drove down the road I made contact with my cousin, Pat, in Gilroy, CA. Thank you! She had a place for us to stay that night. Meanwhile, back at home my wife was searching for a place for the rest of the weekend. She found one closer to the track than the original place, only costing twice as much instead of the 3-4 times as much as thought it might be.
Arriving at the track, I was completely overwhelmed seeing cars that I had only seen in magazines and on TV. The historic race is a giant event with cars from all of the US, Europe and Australia. Can Am cars more local to me, the Tacoma area, Willamette Valley and the southern Oregon coast area had representation.
We Took a break from the races and went to the Canepa Motorsports Shop open house. There, they restore vintage race cars and have a museum. We saw cars such as the 6 wheel Tyrell Formula 1 car, Le Mans winning Porsche and Ferraris. What a great place to visit! Twice! I left one of my cameras there. They watched over it for me until I could get back on the way home. Back to the races…
Thank goodness for shuttles. The Mazda Raceway is not level as it is built in a valley. The races go up and down hills on the course. At the top of the highest hill is a turn fittingly called “the corkscrew.” It is an S curve that drops three stories in less than an eighth of a mile. Pretty impressive to watch the cars come around at the top and follow them down the corkscrew!
In the pits was where I saw one of my favorite Can Am cars, a 1971 Shadow Mark II. It has small diameter tires, extreme aerodynamics and a Chevy V-8 engine that has approximately 800HP! I met the current owner, Dennis Losher and we were able to talk for a long time about the car. He even let me sit in it! Getting into a Can Am car is feat in itself-put your hands here, don’t touch this, don’t touch that, stand on the seat, (yes the seat), straighten your legs, slide down into the seat. Squeeze and wiggle, then you’re in! I could imagine what it is like to race this car. You can’t see the front end because it drops off so quickly-better aerodynamics. The engine is right behind you and the velocity stacks are right above your head. Pretty amazing.
While I was in the Shadow pit area, I met Don Nichols, designer and engineer of the first tiny tire Shadow. Even at the age of 93 he is still sharp. He told me how they built the front suspension with small coil springs the size of engine valve springs.
I also got to meet up with a former co-worker and his McLaren M8E/D Can Am car. His car was on display only-oil and coolant don’t mix, possibly a cracked block.
If you think traffic in Portland is bad, try the Monterey Bay area with the historic Races, Pebble Beach Concourse D’Elegance Car Show and several auto auctions and car shows going on at the same time!
We also watched vintage Formula 1 Races. They were exciting, loud and fast Lotus, Brabham, Ferrari, March and Tyrell race cars.
The Trans Am cars were just brute power, fast and loud. Muscle cars you see on the street: Mustangs Camaros, Javelins and a Dodge Challenger were represented there. Quite something to feel and hear.
Getting older is interesting. Leaving behind some important things was humbling (did I mention my glasses?). I left them in a restaurant and got them back also. But I did quickly get into my new habit of checking as I stood up to go anywhere: wallet, glasses, phone, keys-wallet, glasses, phone, keys… so with help from family, old and new friends and my wife who is not afraid of computers, I was able to check one thing off my bucket list. It was a memorable weekend and my own bed never looked and felt so good!
The GoodGuys host three-day weekend, first class car shows all over America every year starting in March and continuing through November. We, here in the NorthWest are lucky enough to get two of these events right here in our own back yard, one in the Seattle area, Puyallup Washington and one in Spokane. Pleasanton California, their home turf or kinda where it all began, gets four shows a year. Definitely worth the drive from almost anywhere out west and beyond.
I’ve been going to these long before Roddin’ & Racin’ NorthWest ever started but I have to say that this year’s 29th WESCO Pacific Northwest Nationals at the Washington State Fair Event Center in Puyallup Washington was really a great one.
There seemed to be tons of cars in attendance that I had never seen before. It’s really gratifying to an old car enthusiast like me to see that our hobby is going strong, in large part thanks to organizations like the GoodGuys Rod & Custom Association. Memberships and info are available on line. www.good-guys.com. The 2017 schedule isn’t out yet but check back on their site or better yet become a member and you’ll be notified when the new year schedule is out and come check out the fun next year.
Lyn St.James is more than a retired racecar driver. While other previous Indy500 participants fade into obscurity, Ms. St.James tours the country giving talks, encouraging the next generation to join the circus of motorsports and tells tales about her career.
Ms. St.James has quite a few stories to her impressive resume. She started racing in 1974 with a Ford Pinto (that she immediately drove into a lake). By 1979 she competed nationally as a professional driver. Ford had faith in her talent and she worked her way up into bigger and faster road racing divisions. Her top accomplishments include winning the 24 hours of Daytona twice (1987, 1990) and the 12 hours of Sebring (1990). This road led her to competing famed racecourses like LeMans and Nurburgring. In 1992, eleven years after visiting the most iconic race in the world, St. James competed in her first Indy500. She would win the Rookie of the Year title, finishing 11th- the first woman to hold that honor. She has competed against legends Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell and Rick Mears, all while facing the adversity of being a woman in a male dominated sport.
This last summer Ms.St.James came out to speak at the World of Speed motorsports museum in Wilsonville, Oregon to promote their impressive Heroes and History Indy500 display. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview my idol further about the centennial Indy500, her training habits, and even politics. What continues to impress me about Ms. St. James is her quick and candid frankness when answering my inquiries. This is a sampling of some of my favorite answers.
The last time we talked was out at Indy, I saw you just before you got behind the wheel of a vintage Indycar. Tell me about that experience. How did that all come about?
That actually came as a result of the IMS museum. They organized that exhibition. Some were museum cars owned by the museum and some were independent owners. I was asked if I wanted to drive one and I said ‘certainly’. The car that I was driving was the 1935 Pirrung that Wilbur Shaw finished second in the 1935 Indy500 and it is actually owned by a woman…It was really lovely, I didn’t know what to expect, those cars are not that easy to drive!…Two things she said to me, one was to be careful as we got out onto the track because that was a fairly tight turn, almost a U turn. She said that if you turn the steering wheel too tightly it will override the steering box and you will lose your steering. The other thing was that there was this handpump that she had to use to pump oil into the engine. She wasn’t just a passenger!
It has been 24 years since you won the Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In those years how have you seen the sport change?
It has gone through a number of changes. The most significant are the improvements in safety, both the tracks as well as the cars. The demands of the increased downforce and physical capability that is needed to drive these cars has demanded that these drivers be amazingly fit athletes. The technology has taken leaps. The equipment itself has changed. I look at those cars, and I talk to some of the drivers, and I read about what is like to drive them and I scratch my head. I know that it is well beyond what my skills are able to do. I admire and I am in awe of what those competitors are doing right now.
If you could have anyone as your teammate, who would you want and why?
Rick Mears. Just because his driving style and mine are probably what I can tell are the most similar, and he is very open and willing to share. He is one of my idols and that would be my choice of teammate.
In your opinion, who is the most underrated female racer (and yes you include in that pool)?
(long pause) That is a tough question. One of the things that I learned a long time ago was to never expect, anticipate or judge other people’s opinion of my skills because if you do, you are down a downward spiral. We have enough challenge to control our own self doubt, our own internal thoughts. When you allow other people’s thoughts to penetrate your brain and process those, you are in dangerous territory. There are some people that overrated my driving and those that have underrated it. I don’t value that… the key people that I really regarded was the respect that I would get from my teammates and from my owners, my crew.
If you had one piece of advice, one takeaway from listening to your speech and your stories, what would it be?
You have to have the confidence and believe in yourself. If you rely on lap times and external opinions, whatever. If you rely on external information to feel good about who you are, then you are in quicksand. You have to figure out how to have that confidence in yourself, and it ain’t easy. It comes from lap times sometimes, but if you rely on that you are really set up for failure.
I remember the photo on the cover. It was the August 1969 issue of Road & Track magazine. Pictured is a slender, bearded man with a receding hairline. He is wearing a dark two piece suit and a skinny black tie. He is gazing downward and smiling. At his feet is a prototype of the flattest, lowest profile race car you have ever seen. It is the original Shadow Mk. I and man photographed beside it is its owner, Don Nichols.
Mind you, the concept was not his own. A 31 year-old designer named Trevor Harris conceived of the idea and Nichols decided to finance it. Nichols was a virtual unknown in the southern California racing scene at this time. He was a former Military Intelligence officer who had made his fortune in Japan. He had been a major motorsports figure over there, importing tires and parts, even promoting racing.
To achieve the ultra-low stance, the Shadow needed small (but wide) racing tires which Nichols convinced Firestone to make for him. The project generated a ton of publicity but the concept didn’t really work. The Shadow was entered in a handful of races in 1970 but failed to finish any of them. What was essentially a go-cart with a fuel injected Chevrolet V-8 engine, rocketed down straightaways and resisted turning. The Mk. I was parked before the season ended.
For 1971, Nichols hired two Englishmen who had proven track records. Designer Peter Bryant would pen and construct an all new Shadow and Formula One ace Jackie Oliver would drive it. The Mk. II had bigger wheels than the original but smaller than their competition. Other than that, the rest of the racer was pretty conventional. Nichols also procured Universal Oil Products (UOP) as a sponsor. It was an association that would forever link them with the Shadow racing team. The Bryant/Oliver effort was competitive from the get-go but failed to finish many races.
By their third year racing, the Shadow Team had abandoned the small tire concept. The Mk. III was the Mk. II chassis reworked and fitted with normal size tires. Bryant and Oliver continued to run up front but couldn’t win and still suffered reliability issues.
Aspiring to race Formula One and feeling an obligation to his sponsor, changes were mandated for 1973. Nichols retained Oliver but released Bryant and moved his entire operation to England. There he employed the services of Tony Southgate to design a new sports racer as well as a Formula One car. The team had been experimenting with a twin turbo charged engine for the two-seater and Southgate designed the DN2 with that in mind. Unfortunately that engine was never fully developed so the new Shadow was forced to soldier on with a weight disadvantage. The results were predictable; Oliver remained competitive but zero victories were achieved. Meanwhile Shadow’s Formula One debut (DN1) in which Oliver also contested along with original Shadow pilot George Follmer, fared better. Both drivers captured third place finishes in an inaugural season filled with ups and downs.
Southgate refined his two seater design around the normally aspirated Chevrolet for ’74 and produced Nichols’ first winner. Oliver and Follmer dominated the final season of unrestricted sports racer competition, frequently bringing their DN4’s home first and second.
The team’s fortunes in Formula One were mixed. There were successes like when Jean-Pierre Jarier captured the pole position for the first two races in 1975. Brit Tom Pryce won a non-championship race for the team in ’75 but then was killed driving a Shadow in the South African Gran Prix two years later. Aussie Alan Jones claimed Shadow’s only Formula One victory in Austria in 1977 then left the team to drive for Williams. Both Oliver (who had stepped out of the driver’s seat and was now in a management role) and Southgate left Shadow at the end of that year as well, to form a team of their own. Ultimately Shadow lost UOP as their sponsor and by 1980 they were struggling just to make the starting grid. Late in the ’80 season, Chinese businessman Teddy Yip simply absorbed the Shadow team with his own and Don Nichols was out of racing.
Thirty six years later, the only place you’re able to watch a Shadow race car at speed is at a historic racing event like the Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Here, there are a surprising number of Shadows, between the sports racers and Formula One cars, they total nine.
But a bigger surprise still, is when we find Don Nichols himself hunkered down in a lounge chair in the Mk II’s pit. At ninety three, he is content to sit in the sunshine and simply soak in the atmosphere. On his face is a knowing smile, not unlike the smile that appeared on the cover of that magazine so many years ago. Out on the racecourse, a pair of DN4’s are pulling away from the field…
The seventh annual Meltdown Drags packed the pits and stands at the historic Byron Dragway in Byron, Illinois. Over 500 nostalgic drag cars representing 42 States battled it out in front of a crowd that broke an attendance record held at the track since 1964.
In order to compete at the event, drag cars must be 1966 or older in vintage, and “era correct” in appearance…and these racers are here to do just that…RACE! It so incredible to see these car, many of which are still untouched survivors from back in the day, battling it out, and still with an obvious desire to WIN!!
Racing action started at noon and ran through the evening hours with some great night time drags under the lights. If you needed a break from half track burnouts and wheel stands there was also a car show that hosted over 600 vehicles, a swap meet, and a fun and very tasteful pin-up contest.
Some of the racing legends on hand this year included Jack Merkel, Jr Grove, and Barb Hamilton, all of which had their original Willys coupes on hand to drool over. Mark your calendars for the 8th Meltdown, it is truly one of the coolest nostalgia racing events out there.
Sometimes in reviewing the events of one’s day requires adding a little more to the story.
Thus about a month ago out at the Kool Guys Breakfast Car Club get together not one but two world class vintage Mercury automobiles show up at breakfast time. Now it’s not every day one gets to see just one of these classics but for two of them to come rolling in. I just had to feature two cars in this Featured Rides of the Month story for October 2016.
First a 1950 Mercury Coupe, sporting a 383ci. Stroker Chevy for power / 350-3 on the floor tranny and a 9” Dutchman Ford Rear-End. ‘74 Camaro front clip with disc brakes keeps her on the highway. She fancies a Corvette Grill and sports a delicious deep purple paint with world class Mitch Kim laying down the straight as an arrow pin-stripping. Chromed out Americans enhance the stance to perfection on all four corners and the interior features Cadillac all leather bucket seats with built in heaters. The lucky owner of this award winning ’50 Merc is Bob Bresee and yes he attended the auto class at Benson Tech High back in the fifty’s. He also spent a hitch in the US Navy Submarine Service during Vietnam. He makes his home in the Clackamas area of Portland and he is an active member in good standing with the Kool Guy’s Breakfast Group at the Carver Hanger out in Carver.
Second, a 1951 Mercury Custom Coupe. She’s powered with a 355 ci Chevy producing over 5oo hp /700r tranny and 9” Ford rear-end. She features an Art Morrison Chassis and carries that candy red paint job with class. The top is chopped 4 ½” and she sports a full set of skirts on the back with w/white walls over full custom flaired chromed wheel covers, plus a set of three capped off chromed laker-plug pipes running along each perimeter. Add a custom one off front bumper, a set of baby tear drop spots plus a silky smooth shaved hood and rear deck including frenched-in tail-lights. The interior is a million dollar look complete with center console coming off from the dash, all in light banana leather stitched to perfection. This is one fine million-dollar custom deluxe world class built 1951 Mercury Coupe. This fantastic car is included in Mark Hettervig collection of customs here in the Portland, Oregon area. She wins awards when-ever and where-ever she is shown. We at R&R NW Publication would like to thank Bob and Mark for sharing both of their fantastic vintage ’50 and ’51 Mercury orphaned classic rides with our thousands of readers all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Tony and Leona Aragon have quite a story in the history of their two beautiful artistic automobile works of art.
To make the action a little more complete we are adding a delicious 1929 candy blue St Rod Bucket from Larry William’s garage in the Gresham, Oregon area.
This all for the love story begins when Tony Aragon picks up a copy of the want ads promoting cars and trucks from all over the USA. Now if I remember the story correctly Tony’s Grandpa had a 1935 Plymouth 4 dr. that he had spent some time in as a kid rolling around in the back seat, no seat belts required on vehicles back in those days. Well the story goes that low and behold Tony finds a 1935 Dodge 2 dr. sedan listed in the want-ads that, is the car of his dreams. The only problem is the car is located in the state of Florida! Now let’s see Tony and his bride live in Oregon and his dream car is over 3,000 miles away, as the Grow flies, in Florida. Now for those of you that have met Mr. Aragon in person you can testify to the fact that he is some-what of a larger person in statue. He must have kept poor Leona awake tossing and turning in his sleep for the next two weeks just dreaming about that ’35 Dodge as he wanted it so badly. Now the story goes that for Leona to get another night sleep after two weeks of Tony’s sleepless acting out, she finally made the statement,( all of us husbands needed to hear more often) If you love that car so much why don’t you go and get it! What Tony went over 3000 miles to retrieve around ten years ago has turned out to be one fine custom work of automobile artistic wonder.
This 1935 Dodge 2 dr sedan features a 350 Chevy for power, a 350 turbo tranny and a 9” Ford rear-end. The top is deliciously chopped 3 ½ inches and the House of Color Candy Tangerine covers the lower half and Viper Silver covers the chopped top and the upper hood area. They rolled the pan under up front and she sports some baby spot turn signals plus bumpers are history. To enhance the stance 17” American Racing Chrome on the back and 15” up front makes this Mopar a thing of beauty. Speaking of beauty the interior on this show machine is all done in pillow top and over stuffed fine grey and orange leather. Tony grew up in Hollister, Cal and Leona is a true Oregonian and attended Marshall High here in Portland. They have four adult children and seven grandchildren and life has been good to the Aragon Family.
The second custom vehicle sitting in the two car garage at the Aragon family home is non-other than Leona’s creation. Dedicated to the memory of her late father Robert Calhoun who was the recipient of three prestigious Army medals for Valor in the Line of Duty and two Purple Hearts for wounds he received in combat.
1928 Ford Model “A” P.U. St Rod Bucket. For power she sports a ’66 Buick Nailhead 425ci / 450 HP / Turbo 400 Buick 3 speed tranny / 8” Dutchman rear-end. Twin four barrel Elderbrock Carbs feed the power plant. She features chrome baby tear-drop head-lights and a ’32 model B Grill Shell. The stance on this one off beauty is created with 850‘s on the rear and 550’s up front with baby chrome moons coming alive over the yellow accented wheels. The candy blue metallic finish and the white on white leather interior including the white box cover make this a one off joy to behold. Larry Williams is the proud owner of this artistic Street Rod and back in the 60’s he attended Clackamas High School. He now makes his home in the Gresham area. Your 1928 Ford Street Rod is a beauty on wheels and we at R&R NW Publication would like to thank each of our participants in our All for the Love Story for October 2016.
This 1971 Chevy P.U. is all Chevy powered and features a delicious custom interior plus frenched in Cadillac tail-lights a custom one off tail-gate with Chevy logo. Rolled pan and frenched in License Plate. The box is custom covered with super graphics and the Teal Green color on this beauty is fantastic. Things really come alive when you open the hood and the salute and dedication to Leona’s father are witnessed to in the Patriotic Tribute to the Foot Solders plus The Heartbeat of America Chevy Logo in artistic Graphics. The Bumper-less front end sports a tubular grill and the Engine compartment is flawlessly detailed and chromed to perfection. The Leona girl’s dedication to her father really is truly achieved to perfection.
Trick “N Racy Cars Club is pleased to announce that it has awarded three annual scholarships to three deserving Clackamas Community College students studying in the Automotive program for the 2016-2017 school year.
The recipients are Tanner Burdick, Adrian Camacho and Garrett Watson. Each student selected had strong academic credential and interest in the school’s car repair programs as well as a strong desire to improve their lives through education.
Congratulations to these hard working students who are working to improve their lives.
I’ve been going to these Goodguys Rod & Custom Association for a lot of years now and I think this year’s show was maybe bigger, more cars, than any I’ve been to in recent years. The number and quality of cars present was pretty impressive. The Swap meet grew this year too. A few more parts, more cars for sale and more people.
I’m always impressed with the quality of cars that come from Canada. Our brothers from up north really turn out some fantastic builds and I’m glad they come to the US to share their work with us.
This year I attended the drag races on Friday night at the Pacific Raceway, formerly SIR, Seattle International Raceway. It seemed like a “run what ya brung” kinda race. There were some amazingly fast cars there, some with a turbo or two, and blowers and then there were some that had trouble getting out of their own way. But it was fun just the same. A couple pro-mod cars were just frighteningly fast but certainly fun to watch.
A few of my friends brought their cars and picked a great spot in the shade to park since it was quite warm this year. I like going to these big shows like this because of all the vendors in attendance. When the big companies come and bring their big trailers full of product it’s great. You get to speak directly to someone with a lot of knowledge and you can get an up close look at the parts. More vendors ought to put these shows on the AD budget. It may or may not produce an instant boost in sales but I’ll bet it produces sales going forward for some time. I’m living proof of that. I checked out the Flowmaster display and learned all I could about what I wanted for my truck. I didn’t buy them at the show but I did buy them some months later when I was ready, all because of the info I got at a manufacturers booth at a car show.
Put the Goodguys 30th Annual Pacific Northwest Nationals on your July 2017 calendar and look for the exact dates in Roddin’ & Racin’ NorthWest in the spring next year. More coverage next month.