Winter time is a perfect time for a museum trip. In the shadow of the Tacoma Dome, a mere thirty minute drive south of Seattle, lies the LeMay – America’s Car Museum.
If you’re thinking “stodgy”, you probably haven’t been to a museum (any modern museum) in a while. See, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. At some point somebody realized that a bunch of exhibits of anything surrounded by velvet ropes to keep the observer at arm’s length, gets old fast. Hey, if it’s cool we want to get a closer look, right? Anymore, most modern museums encourage you to get closer. In fact, many exhibits these days are actually “hands on.” It’s what they’re calling: interactive. And believe you me, this approach has changed the entire experience. Going to the museum today is much more fun and interesting than it used to be.
The LeMay is a great example of a modern museum having opened in June of 2012. You have four floors to explore with as many as 350 vehicles on display at any given time. There is literally something for everyone in this collection, including the kids. Many of the vehicles belong to the museum but there are also cars on loan for a limited engagement. There are also numerous theme displays like: Masters of Mustang, Legends of Motorsports – The NASCAR Story, Route 66 and the British Invasion. And speaking of hands on, there are even racing simulators and a slot car track! (Extra fee for these)
Cost of admission is $16 for adults with various discounts available depending on your age, whether or not you served in the military, etc. And if you read this paper, you’re very likely to be spending the better part of the day there so it’s worth every penny! Doors are open at 10:00 am and close at 5 pm, seven days a week. For more information: (253) 779-8490.
Here were are in the middle of January 2015, it seems like decades since the last Cruise-in/Car Show. I know it hasn’t been but I’m just sayin’. So I thought we should put a little picture story together from some happenings from last season. I know it’s not the same but it’s maybe the best I can do at this point. It’s been a while but I know you all remember the shiny orb that greets your skyward glance during the day, even if we haven’t seen much of it for what seems like a really long time. But remember the warmth you’ve felt from it? The sunburn you’ve gotten if you spent too much time out in it, which I strongly recommend not doing! I say strongly because I have and now I’m learning all about why it’s said that you should wear sunblock, don’t get too much sun, wear a hat and so on, but that’s another story. Suffice to say, mind your mother, she actually does know a lot.
Here are some pics from Cutsforth’s Cruise in Canby, Cruisin’ the Gut in Vancouver and the Cruise to Damascus, All from last season. Enjoy.
If you answered 209 you’re right on the money. I must admit up front, that the older I get, the memory does seem to get a bit cloudier. But as I recall the year was 1958 and I was 17 years old trying to operate a 1957 Pontiac Hardtop when the Washington State Patrol decided I had made a few infractions on the local driving laws.
It was December and the eastern Washington snow and ice was starting to pile up. My mother (God Love Her) ran a little restaurant and after school I would offer my assistance as a handy boy helper, kind of a jack of all trades. Like any eating establishment there was always a pile or two of refuse to haul to the local dump. Well I convinced my mother that we could save that $15 per month in garbage collector expenses and I would be in charge of hauling the refuse, alias garbage, to the dump at no expense. Now all I needed was a vehicle to transport it in. We had a nice ¾ ton Dodge truck, but dad certainly had to use that in his daily work and my 1926 Model “T” Tall Coupe didn’t have any room.
So the only thing left was my brother Richard’s 1957 Pontiac Hardtop. Now it was a hard decision for Mom and me to make but as the refuge started piling up we finally decided as long as I was real careful not to spill any of that garbage in the trunk or occasionally in the back seat when room was needed. I promised Mom we would be real careful with brother’s fancy new car and it sure was nice of him to leave it in our trust as he was out wandering the world working a job in Nevada.
As I recall everything was going along fine and about three times a week I would load up the Pontiac and head towards the local dump that just happened to be located about a mile from our favorite winter ice skating pond. Well it was a little more than a pond it was a place named Liberty Lake. She really froze over big time for several months every winter and probably froze down up to ten feet deep in certain areas, or so I was told. Well as fate would have it I got word that a bunch of the gang, boys and girls, were planning a big ice skating get together complete with bonfire and roast wienies out at the lake on just the same time and day I was planning another garbage run. If I hurried I could haul the refuse then stop by say a quick hello to the ice-skaters and get a free hot dog at the bonfire and still get back to the restaurant in good time. Everything was going as planned until I got to Liberty Lake and the ice pond. I think more than one of my friends was impressed that I was operating a brand new Pontiac Hardtop in the dead of winter on that snow and ice with some authority. That’s about the time my head got way too big for that little brain of mine, and someone, I think it was my good buddy Larry, suggested why don’t we spin a few doughnuts out on the ice in that fancy high new Pontiac.
Well never being one to back down from a stupid dare, I hopped in that fancy hardtop and headed for the ice pond. Wow ! It was fun out there on the ice spinning those cookies and doughnuts and it even got more exciting when two of the older cheerleaders from Central Valley High jumped in alongside Larry and me and away we went. In my haste to get to the ice I neglected to witness, in plain sight for everyone to see, the sign stating it is against the law to operate a moving vehicle on Liberty Lake when or if ice skaters are performing. Well that’s when old Johnny Law came into the picture, got me for illegally being on the ice doing those cookies / doughnuts and got me for doing an estimated 77 MPH in 1958 in a 1957 Pontiac Hardtop at 17 years of age. It was a blast and that hot dog was one of the best I ever had.
Oh by the way the fine from Johnny Law was $210. In my haste to tell this story I neglected to mention that before my brother Rich left town he had a little custom work done on the Pontiac. His goal was to do about a $500 lowering job on a $10 budget, so he and his buddies got out the cutting torch and did a number on the coil springs to lower that car down about 3–4”.
Now everything was looking good until he decided to take it out for a spin and pulled into Ron’s Drive Inn. In doing so he had to pass over a little 2” speed bump. You guessed it, they lowered it so much, that little bump tore both mufflers loose from that Hi-Horse Power V-8 and now he had not only the lowest but also the loudest 57 Pontiac in the Spokane Valley.
He stuck to his budget and did another $10 repair. Instead of replacing the mufflers he added two three foot pieces of tail pipe where the mufflers used to be and created a set of straight pipes that could wake the dead. Now you know why I got that bigger than expected ticket from Washington’s Finest – he got me for that crazy hotrod exhaust. He said when I was out on the ice spinning doughnuts that the noise was so loud it sounded like one of the new F16 fighter jets taking off from Fairchild Air Force Base. It was so loud he thought it might break the glass on his 57 Patty Wagon. That car and myself left some memories, as ten years later at our High School reunion guys were still wondering what ever happened to that garbage hauling 57 Pontiac that left a mark in the ice and got me a big fat ticket at Liberty Lake. All and all it was a great winter to remember back in 1958.
“Racing is a selfish sport,” Marco Andretti once quipped. In the last turn, on the last lap, Andretti had just robbed another competitor of a podium finish. He made no apologies…and no truer words were ever spoken.
Conversely, Brad Rhodes may well be the most unselfish racer I’ve ever met. He hosted foster children in his home for over a decade. Today he manages a house occupied by mentally and physically challenged adults. He finds the work rewarding…and oh yeah, did I mention that he is the 2014 Northwest Wingless Tour (NWWT) champion? The path Rhodes took to get to this point in his life was an interesting one…
He was born in North Carolina into a family of loggers. “Dad was my inspiration,” Rhodes says. “He wasn’t a racer but he was a driver.” In his early twenties, the senior Rhodes had nearly been killed in a logging accident. He walked with a profound limp but loved to drive fast. “He was a wild man on the road,” Brad insists. “That was his racing.” Early on, the family pulled up stakes and relocated to Eugene, Oregon where extended family had already settled. Rhodes learned how to drive piloting his father’s hot-rodded truck on their rural property. He even attended the races at Riverside Speedway in Cottage Grove a couple times as a boy. Though he enjoyed the spectacle, he wasn’t smitten…then. Instead it was dirt bikes that captured his fancy.
For about ten years (early nineties to 2003) Rhodes and a buddy hauled their Honda CR500’s back and forth from Eugene to the dunes. A decade of playing in the sand certainly taught him some seat-of-the-pants vehicle control. It was fun but it wasn’t racing.
Then financial hard times struck. Rhodes had trained to be a brick layer but he didn’t have the back for it. He’d switched to electrical about the time the bottom fell out. A contact back in Tennessee suggested that prospects for work might be better back there. Rhodes sold his Honda, his house, everything and moved his young family southeast. It turned out to be a huge mistake. His union training was frowned upon in a non-union market and Rhodes struggled to make ends meet. He supported his family for almost a year on $10 an hour!
A death in the Rhodes family brought him back to the northwest for the services. At that time, Brad took a hard look at what another sibling was doing which was being a foster care provider. Having been foster parents, it didn’t seem like that big of a stretch. Being the compassionate people that they are, it was a relatively easy decision for Brad and his wife to make. They returned to Oregon to pursue their new careers and the rest, as they say, is history.
Once Rhodes and his family were resettled and their financial needs were met, he began to think again in terms of recreation. He’d had a blast with his dirt bike but this time he thought he might like to try his hand at racing. On line he discovered a shop in Portland that rent race cars by the event. Rhodes was thinking a Modified or a Late Model (stock car) but it turned out that the rentals were for road racing vehicles only. Since he had no interest in racing on pavement, that might have been the end of the story but it turned out that the shop owned a Sprint Car as well. The owner of the business suggested that if Rhodes purchased his own Sprinter, they could assist him with that. One trip to Grays Harbor for a NWWT event and Rhodes was convinced.
He purchased an older car that had seen action in another non-wing club. Predictably, when Rhodes prepared to make his Sprint Car debut at Cottage Grove, the old sled refused to fire. His fortunes improved however as the season progressed. Mostly thanks to crew member Chris Petersen (a former champion himself) Rhodes learned how set up, drive, and maintain a Sprint Car. When the final checkered flag fell on 2011, Rhodes stood fifth in overall points. Better yet, he had garnered Rookie of the Year honors.
His stats continued to improve the following season and he finished one position better in points. In 2013 however, Rhodes over extended himself financially and was forced to drop off the tour. In 2014 he was back with a vengeance. By now he had a newer, more competitive chassis, a racing engine assembled by Jeff Rabourn and Petersen solidly in his corner. He had even procured some much needed sponsorship from Pro Tow and Beaverton Automotive. Rhodes commit to the entire series which took the racers to Sunset Speedway in Banks, OR and Coos Bay, as well as Grays Harbor and Cottage Grove. When the dust had settled he had no wins but two podium finishes. That coupled with a perfect attendance record enabled Rhodes to amass the points necessary to clinch the title.
Will he defend that title? “I didn’t set out to win this one,” he laughs. At mid-season he was prepared to let Petersen take over the car for one race but that event rained out. That one night’s point loss probably would have been a game changer. Either way, it doesn’t seem to matter much to the forty five year old. It’s more about the process…it’s more about the road.
Fantastic stories and laughs were had all around at the 37th Annual Woodburn Dragstrip Awards Dinner at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville. Specialty awards and championship trophies were handed out, with every person in attendance having a grand time.
In racing news, Nicholas Shepherd was honored with the Kershaw Knives Driver of the Year award, finishing fourth in the Sunoco Series Pro category as well as winning the Division 6 Race of Champions Pro Championship, representing the division in Pomona at the World Finals. RFC Chaplain’s Dave Cookman and Al Lyda were rewarded as Persons of the Year for their dedication and joy brought to everyone they meet. Duane Merritt and Joe Adams were both awarded with the Pico Wiring Crew Member of the Year award, for their excellent work in tuning driver’s Julie Adams and Traci DePeel to a 1st and 5th place finish in the Super Pro category. Kacee Pitts earned the Most Improved Driver award for finishing with a Championship in the Wilson’s Napa High School as Powderpuff category, as well as a 4th place finish in her first year competing in the Sunoco Race Fuels ET Series Sportsman category. Duane Stoner was crowned as Employee of the Year, Quality Concrete was awarded as Sponsor of the Year, Stephanie gross won the $1000 drawing from A-1 Performance Trans and Converters, Devon Hilton, Cliff Mansfield, and Kacee Pitts tied with the most Perfect Lights (5), sharing the award for $600 in product from NW Wholesale/Hilton Racing, the suppliers of Goodyear/Hoosier/Mickey Thompson Racing Tires.
Alisha Miller was congratulated to the highest degree in the Jr Dragster category, earning World of Speed Jr Dragster Driver of the Year honors, thanks to her 6 event wins (in 10 races), Jr Thunder Championship, and Division 6 Summit ET Finals Jr Thunder Championship. Chad Rice was the recipient of the Person of the Year Award, for his excellence in helping new drivers in the Race Cars for Kids program, as well as all other contestants. Ryan Bese concluded an excellent first year of competing in the Jr program with the Rookie of the Year honor, and Rilynn Saucy earned Most Improved Driver after going from 7th to 2nd in the Jr Storm category. Jr racers collectively voted World of Speed as Sponsor of the Year, and Kacee Pitts, Alisha Miller, and Ryan Bese earned overall #1 Qualifier awards.
We wish to thank everybody for the spectacular 2014 racing season, and hope that everyone enjoys their off season. There are only 104 days until racing season starts again!!!
2014 Season Champions
SUNOCO RACE FUELS ET SERIES
Super Pro: Julie Adams
Pro: Steve Stuart
Sportsman: Jerry Durant Jr
Motorcycle: Don DePeel
High School: Kacee Pitts
WORLD OF SPEED JR DRAG RACING SERIES
Jr Lightning: Taylor Toftemark
Jr Thunder: Alisha Miller
Jr Storm: Ramon Vincent
SPORT COMPACT CHALLENGE
Sport Compact Pro: Bernd Arndt
Sport Compact Sportsman: Hoppy Hopkins
NOSTALGIA HOT ROD SERIES
Top Gas: Mike Miller
Hot Rod I: Rick Sales Sr
Street Machine I: Dave Bronec
Hot Rod II: Garry Heinrich
Street Machine II: Tony Bombara
Stick Shift: Dick Arnold
Inline/Flathead: CJ Stoakes
Dragster/Roadster: Steve Marcus
Super Shifter: John Masterman
Volkswagen: Devon Hilton
Pickup: Jerry Durant Jr
Olympic Iron Works Harley: John Plaster
Powderpuff: Kacee Pitts
Hole in the Hood: Jay Phillips
FALL ET & JR SERIES
Electronics: Bill/Tony McNeal
Transbrake: Dave Bronec
Foot Brake: Jerry Durant Jr
Jr Lightning: Kyler Pitts
Jr Thunder: Trevin Walberg
Kershaw Knives Driver of the Year: Nicholas Shepherd
Person of the Year: Dave Cookman & Al Lyda
Pico Wiring Crew Member of the Year: Duane Merritt & Joe Adams
Most Improved Driver: Kacee Pitts
Sponsor of the Year: Quality Concrete
Employee of the Year: Duane Stoner
A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points Winner: Stephanie Gross
NW Wholesale/Hilton Racing Perfect Light Club Most .000’s Award: 5 Perfect Lights: Devon Hilton, Cliff Mansfield, Kacee Pitts
World of Speed Jr Dragster Specialty Awards
Driver of the Year: Alisha Miller
Person of the Year: Chad Rice
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Bese
Most Improved Driver: Rilynn Saucy
Sponsor of the Year: World of Speed
Most #1 Qualifiers, Lightning: Kacee Pitts
Most #1 Qualifiers, Thunder: Alisha Miller
Most #1 Qualifiers, Storm: Ryan Bese
September 13th 2014, turned out to be perfect weather wise for the Downtown Cruise-in. The good weather no doubt contributed to the better than ever turn out, more car than any year previously. The quality of cars was really good too.
Several clubs showed up in mass this year and represented the Ford Mustang very well. A whole side street of Mustangs from 1964 ½ to nearly new were spit shined and gleaming in the sun. There was a parking lot nearly full of Nomads.
There were Rat Rods, Street Rods, Customs, Street Machines, Cruisers, Old and new Race cars, Camaros, Corvettes, Rusty Relics, Completely Restored cars, cars under construction, Hot Rods and Late Model examples that will one day likely be collector cars themselves.
The Cruise came off almost without a hitch. The Club, Trick ‘n Racy Cars, and the Downtown merchant association, Main Street Oregon City, had everything under control from start to finish. The trophies/awards, were donated by local businesses and individuals, with some of them being handmade, which made them quite unique.
The 6th Annual Cruise next year is scheduled for September 12th 2015. Again it will be a one day cruise starting at 10:00am and ending at 4:00pm. Put it on your calendar and come visit Historic Downtown Oregon City.
Steve Kaiser didn’t play much football, basketball or baseball back in the 1940s and 50s when he was growing up. Didn’t play a musical instrument in the school band or take a class in auto shop, as Jefferson High School didn’t offer a car building program back then. He did excel in the creative arts. Thanks to his understanding of how shapes, colors and artistic form create a true work of art, and we at R&R publication are proud to bring you Mr. Steve Kaiser’s four works’ of artistic automotive wonder.
Steve was happily married for over forty years. The proud father of two fantastic kids and three grandchildren. He lost his wife Vicki to illness a few years back. He was a dedicated employee at Boeing Air-Craft for over twenty two years and at age seventy two is enjoying his retirement. Steve has also been very active in the Toys-for-Tots program here in the Portland area. Just a few weeks ago he made a super delivery of a whole truck load of bikes and safety helmets for kids of all ages.
Steve would like to recognize and thank the following individuals who over the past thirty plus years have played a role in the designing and building of his four custom built creations: Russ Meeks, Richard Pruitt, Lonnie Gilbertson, Mitch Kim, Jim Sanders, The Crew at Paolo Engine Service, Lenny Roeger and Steve’s #1 good buddy Larry Wilson who worked on every car.
Mr. Kaiser, we at Roddin’ & Racin’ want to thank you for sharing your fantastic world-class artistic creations with us and our thousands of readers in the northwest. “ALL for the Love of Hot Rods and Custom Cars.”
Last month we published a couple pictures of a car that as today December 19th is still unidentified. Yes, we are still waiting for someone who knows about that car to email us, or call us and share their knowledge. However, we must not stand in the way of progress and with that in mind we have another picture of a “What’s It.” I’ve seen something like this one before but I’m not sure what it is, who made it etc. etc. The body is aluminum, the engine is a four cylinder Crosley we think. The workmanship very good and it appears it’s complete.
It’s an odd looking car and it’s quite small. Any ideas? If you know something about this car and would like to share your knowledge please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can give me Ed Gilbert a call at 503-522-5050. I would like to publish the answers to “What’s it” in a coming issue of R & R NW.
If you have or know of a candidate for this type of column please respond with that info as well. Thank you. Ed.
The recent Veterans Parade was well attended with several custom cars and street rods from the Pharaohs Street Rods in the parade. The local Missing In America Project representative Bob Collison was on hand with his 1926 Ford Model T Coupe, handing out information on the MIAP program in the Hollywood district of Portland. The Pharaohs Street Rodders Car Club is one of the top fundraising groups in Oregon supporting the MIAP and the Lines for Life Veterans Programs.
The mission of the MIAP is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. And to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes.
For more information on the MIAP local programs please see their web page at www.miap.us.
It was crazy hot for mid-October on the Monterey peninsula. It was dry and dusty, I was covered with grit from head to toe yet in my glory. I was a ten year old kid, one of 42,000 plus on hand to witness New Zealander Bruce McLaren destroy his competitors at Laguna Seca.
His car was the iconic M6A, a swoopy, papaya colored sports racer with a booming small block Chevy engine. This win was particularly satisfying for me as my older brother had chosen the previous year’s winner, Jim Hall to win in his high winged Chaparral. On this day however, the tall Texan was fighting over heating problems and finished a full lap behind (sorry Scotty). Tenacious George Follmer was third in a Lola driving for Roger Penske.
A year later (1968) the weatherman conjured up something completely different…rain. McLaren was back with a new, less curvaceous M8A and stuck it on the pole. “My Car” was back too, now in Penske’s Sunoco livery with capable Mark Donohue up. Atop the velocity stacks was a gaping air box and the whole package was finished in royal blue with yellow pin striping. It was pretty and fast, fast enough to claim fifth starting position on the grid. In a downpour however, Donohue struggled on slick tires, eventually finishing eighth. McLaren himself couldn’t do much better, ultimately claiming fifth. I didn’t see my car again for 28 years.
My hunch is that Penske sold the M6A to sometimes professional driver Jerry Hansen before the ’68 season concluded. If I’m right, the car probably languished as a club racer for several years after that. Hansen was one of SCCA’s most accomplished drivers and won 27 national titles but walked the thin line between being an amateur and a pro (possibly because he had a regular job and couldn’t follow the entire series). After that…who knows? My car fell off my radar until the Can-Am Reunion held in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin in July of 1996.
By then vintage racing was the rage and the M6A had been restored to its original configuration. Harry Mathews was the owner/driver and made a respectable showing, especially when you consider the evolution of the division. The year after McLaren had won his first championship, most competitors jumped to bigger displacement engines (Since there were no rules restricting this, why wouldn’t you?). Consequently, even Team McLaren’s power plants went from 359 to 427 cubic inches in one year. By the demise of the original Can-Am series in 1974, there were fire belching, twin turbo charged, monster engines in competition, some producing in excess of 1,000 horsepower!
There were over sixty cars in competition at Elkhart Lake and of the small blocks, Mathews was among the five fastest. He qualified 24th overall and held his own in the race, on a course with a long straightaway where horsepower mattered.
Also in attendance that weekend was another vintage racer named Richard Griot. When Griot inquired as to whether or not the iconic McLaren was for sale, he was told “No, I don’t think I will ever sell it”. Turns out Griot had patience and kept after Mathews, making regular calls. In the years that followed Griot continued to grow his car care products business and in 2008, when it looked like the world was coming to an end, Mathews finally said over a routine phone call by Griot, “Fly on out and bring your checkbook”. Griot was on a plane the very next day and the deal was done.
Today the McLaren is the centerpiece of Griot’s personal race car collection housed at corporate headquarters in Tacoma, WA. In the same way you would never admit to having a favorite child, Griot won’t admit that the M6A is his favorite race car…but his fondness for the yellow orange missle is evident.
“Actually, it’s my car,” I told him when we met at his open house last weekend. And then I proceeded to relate my story of claiming the car as my own some 47 years ago. Griot was amused by the tale and took it in the spirit in which it was intended.
“Okay,” he smiled raising his eyebrows, “But I get to drive it!”