Marine “Kuzie” Kuzmanich is a party guy. He’s been throwing parties for himself for as long as anyone can remember.
Used to be that he’d prepare all the food for the party too, but at eighty nine, he now leaves that responsibility to others. Today he is confined to a wheelchair and has little mobility; still he enjoys being the center of attention. It is hard to imagine that fifty some years ago, behind the wheel of a stock car, he was virtually unbeatable.
Kuzmanich and Donald “Duck” Collins met as teenagers. Both attended Benson technical high school in Portland and became fast friends. After the war, Collins pieced together a roadster and joined a group of grass root enthusiasts out at the Portland ½ mile oval. Initially, Collins planned to pilot his creation himself but when his buddy was able to circulate a second and a half a lap faster, Kuzie became the designated driver. In their first outing, Kuzmanich hustled the roadster up to second place in the fifty lap Feature before a front tire disintegrated. After quickly replacing the wheel, they reentered the fray and finished seventh. It was out of the money but still deemed a success and a partnership was born.
The late 1940’s and early fifties were filled with low key circle track events (and even some drag racing) primarily at Portland and nearby Jantzen Beach Arena. In the mid-fifties, stock cars became the rage and the team assembled a ’48 Mercury to compete in the Early Model division. All the while, Kuzmanich and Collins worked fulltime jobs and raised families. To them, racing was just a hobby yet they were always competitive and won their share of races.
Stock car racing continued to grow in popularity and after Kuzie captured the Late Model Championship in 1958, the racing community really began to take notice. Saavy businessman Bud Meadows who owned the Pontiac dealership on Sandy Boulevard, was one who’d had his eye on the duo. Meadows first became interested in racing while watching his daughter (Merit) wheel quarter midgets. Merit Meadows was a talented enough racer to win back to back state championships and in 1959 claimed a national title. At sixteen years of age she hung up her helmet however, so her father was on the lookout for his next racing venture.
With a full understanding of the adage: “Win on Sunday – Sell on Monday”, Meadows chose to align himself with Kuzmanich and Collins. He put Kuzie on a flight to the Midwest to pick up their new racer; a flat, sleek looking Catalina. The Pontiac was purchased with a 389 c.i. engine. It had dual four barrel carbs and NO options. Norm Zaayer who was an original crew member on the team, laughs “It had glass in it and that was all! No heater even, so Kuzie about froze to death driving it home!” Once back in Portland it was gutted and prepped for racing. On the hood it boast 333 horsepower (apparently Bor-A-Car did some of the machine work) and “Little Beaver” adorned the front quarter panels.
The Pontiac was fast right out of the box. In an early season contest that included several NASCAR hot dogs up from California, Kuzmanich came out on top. First he lowered the track record in qualifying then led every lap of the Feature. Many of the five thousand plus in attendance that day said it was the finest race they’d ever seen. Kuzmanich completed the 175 laps in one hour and twenty two minutes. The race was run without a single incident. When NASCAR brought west coast Champion Eddie Gray up from Southern California for a 250 lap race he had his hands full with local talent. Portlanders Art Watts and Carl Joiner both gave Gray a run for the money but it was Kuzie in the Pontiac crossing the finish line in second. By the conclusion of the ’60 season the Bud Meadows team had broken several track records, won numerous races and garnered third in the overall O.A.R.A. (Oregon Auto Racing Association) championship.
For their 1961 entry, Kuzmanich and Collins only had to drive as far as the dealership. This model (a “Ventura” procured from one of their salesmen) too was a winner thanks to Kuzie’s skill behind the wheel and Collins’ race prep and maintenance. Rarely did they not finish a race and as a result, they improved their championship standing to second. They liked their ’61 car so well in fact, that they elected to run it again it ’62. While their competitors were busy sorting out new mounts, the Meadows team won three of their first four races. By early Fall, they were O.A.R.A. Champions. And as if to prove this was no fluke, they repeat as champions again in 1963.
At some point during the ’63 season, a new Pontiac with stacked headlights was introduced. This racer, perhaps the most handsome of the lot, was painted black with only the roof and rear quarter panels in white. It boast 405 horsepower from its 421 c.i. mill and had a huge numeral “1” emblazoned on the doors. At the end of their second championship season, it was announced that a new “Tempest” would be built to defend their titles but apparently this car never materialized. Instead the ’63 car (now renumbered #28) was campaigned again in 1964 and though competitive, it was not the winner the 1960 or ’61 cars had been.
Shortly thereafter, Meadows decided to pursue other interests and the team was disbanded. Collins shifted his focus to open wheel cars though he and Kuzie remained the best of friends. Kuzmanich’s last race was likely a NASCAR Winston West meet in Monroe Washington on July 4th, 1968. He is credited with finishing eighteenth.
Today Kuzie’s room at the retirement home is devoid of racing mementos. His family tells me that he doesn’t like to be reminded of things he can’t do any longer. I can tell you that no one looks forward to the Old Timer’s picnic more than Kuzie Kuzmanich- He still likes to party.
On February 12, 2014 the National Corvette Museum experienced a massive sinkhole collapse in the Skydome of the Museum, taking with it eight prized Corvettes—and it was all caught on security footage that has since been viewed more than 8.6 million times. The Corvettes have been recovered, two have been restored, and the hole has been filed.
Due to the popularity of the sinkhole story, the Museum worked with Creative Arts Unlimited to develop an immersive exhibit chronicling the story. On Friday February 12, 2016, the second anniversary of the sink-hole disaster, the Museum opened the Skydome Sinkhole Exhibit at the National Corvette Museum in Boling Green Kentucky.
If you are looking for a vacation destination consider a stop at the National Corvette Museum where you can check out this new display and well as enjoy the history of Americas Sports Car. Don’t forget the Corvette factory is just across the freeway where you can take a tour and see new Corvettes being built. A real treat for most any gearhead.
Some of you will remember the story about my “55 Barn Find” from a nearly a few years ago, some of you won’t. I’ll catch everyone up now. I bought a 55 Chevrolet 2dr. Delray that I referred to as a “Barn Find.” It have been languishing in a “Barn” for some thirteen years under the ownership of the guy I bought it from. That dated back to 1999. Prior to that the car likely sat unused for a minimum of another 12 or 13 years. The last license date was 1987.
The car appeared to be in “OK” condition, even if unused for a lengthy slumber. I found only minor rust, really, considering the car’s age. A few dents, cracked windows, stuck latches, locks, flat tires etc. and it didn’t run, heck it barely rolled. The brakes were gone, battery dead and yet to me it was a beauty.
When trailered my treasure home from miles north of Seattle back to Oregon and I got the chance to look it over better I decided it looked like it would maybe run if I just woke it up. decided to try and rebuilt the carb, the generator, replaced the distributor, repaired and replaced as necessary, the exhaust, the fuel lines, the fuel pump, the gas tank, the battery, the fan belt, the spark plugs, the oil and filter.
The engine turned over and eventually it even started, but it ran on about 3 of the 6 cylinders. The valves were stuck so I literally used a pri-bar to close the valves each time they stuck open and I kept doing that until eventually they began to open and close on their own. Once it got it to where it would run I addressed the brakes, repairing and replacing as needed to get the car to stop.
The maiden voyage was a sight to behold. Simply breathtaking! What an accomplishment. I was proud, until I actually got the car all the way up to 25 MPH. It was truly freightening. I think my comments included, “isn’t it cool?”
“Wow I’ve wanted another one of these for 40 plus years? “What a pile.” “I don’t remember the one I used to have being so bad.” This thing was awful, worn out, even dangerous. I had never intended to “restore” it back to stock, I just wanted to get it running and mobile so that I could drive it occasionally as I set about collecting the many parts I needed to create the car of my dreams. I had to laugh at myself, “car of my dreams?” it was a nightmare.
Fast forward some time now from then to 2016. The car sat around waiting while I bought parts, restored another frame for it, pulled the engine and transmission from a wrecked Chevy Suburban, built a narrowed 9in. posi-traction differential, relocated the rear springs to allow for wider wheels and tires, installed tubular A-arm, new springs etc. etc.
As it often happens one runs out of money before the run out of things to buy. That dilemma post-pones everything for a while and that brings me up to date.
After collecting parts and pieces as I could afford them, I’m now able to get back to work. I cleared away the moth balls, charged the low battery, hand choked it and fired it up a few weeks back. I pulled it out of the shop and drove it around the yard a little and then put it on the 2 post. It was at last the time to take the car apart enough to get it off its original frame. I disconnected the steering gear box from the frame, discovered I didn’t have a pitman arm puller or a socket big enough to remove the nut holding the pitman arm on the steering shaft, so I called a “real” mechanic, my friend Jim and he said yes he had both and yes I could borrow them. You know it’s amazing how easy the right tools make some jobs. I mean it, it took every bit of 2 minutes to get the nut off and then pull the pitman arm. Thanks Jim. There are 14 bolts that actually bolt the body to the frame through the rubber mounting bushings, floors and body mount brackets. Surprisingly all of them came out without much fuss… except that one. Of course the one that was rusted/stuck badly had to be one that you couldn’t get to both ends of. After several different attempts to loosen it I decided I’d just drag out the plasma cutter and cut the nut off, easy huh?
I’m never surprised at my lack of patience. I can usually plod along on most jobs because I’m aware that it’s a process. Many steps have to be taken to get the work done. There just isn’t any fast way or a short cut one can use to significantly shorten the process, but I always have to try. I bet you do to. Back to the plasma cutter. The car is on the rack, up in the air (above me) so I can get to the bolt under the rear splash apron. It’s the bolt that’s right in a little “pocket” that you can get to but there, is a 90 degree closed corner behind the bolt. I figured it would be simple and my lack of patience convinced me I was right. I didn’t need to put on my welding jacket, I wasn’t “welding,” I was just going to cut the end off one little bolt. I didn’t think about the fact that there would be “sparks and molten metal, being splattered by the high pressure air from the plasma torch, into a corner where the only way out was right back at ME! The molten slag that went down my open coveralls only burned for a minute. Now three weeks later, I’ve healed almost completely, all except my pride.
The core support has 2 bolts that bolt it to the frame in front so those bolts had to come out. All the shift linkage, gas pedal linkage, brake lines at the master cylinder, wires from the firewall to the engine, emergency brake cable connections, battery cables, fuel line at the gas tank and the speedo cable were all disconnected. I set the car down on its tires again and using some 2X4’s under the rocker panels, I set the lift arms and slowly raise the body from the frame. On the 55 there is a small “L” bracket on each side of the frame at the bottom of front fender splash apron where the splash apron is bolted with a sheet metal screw. Though I took the bolts out, the apron flange and the frame bracket interfere with each other and require a little finesse to get them to clear each other as the body is lifted, and ‘VIOLA’ the body is off!
Remembering back to the patience I don’t have, I had to get the “new” frame rolled up under the body to attempt a test fit. Well that couldn’t work because I’ve installed an oversized frame mounted gas tank and the spare tire well won’t clear it and the steering column has to come out before I can attempt to put the body on the frame.
Well now we are kinda up to date on the “55 Barn Find.” I’ll put together another installment for a future issue. It is getting exciting for me. See you next time. ED.
NOT GOOD FOR GEARHEADS
Here is a topic that’s often discussed by many people in the car hobby. The one about transplanting a later model engine, transmission, differential, suspension, steering or brakes in an old car. This discussion sometimes goes like, “I’m going to put an LS based engine and an overdrive transmission, in my blah blah blah.” Speaking from experience, one then starts seeking out info from others on how to do this transplant. Seeking out books, publications and articles in a myriad of magazines is also a source for accomplishing this goal. I’ve looked and read and talked to many people about how my goal could be met, as have many of my friends.
One thing that seems constant is how, when talked about, it’s always an ‘easy’ ‘simple’ one or two step process. Well, some of that is right, the process part. I’m here to tell you the easy part or the simple part usually ain’t. And the “all you gotta do is…” is never ALL YOU GOTTA DO. Neither is the, “you only need one of…!” It just isn’t true.
It’s unfortunate that is no “Best” way to make one of the “updates” easy. I read maybe three or four “How too…” books on what parts to buy, what parts work together and what don’t. Why this way or that is “Best.” And still I’m frustrated at every turn. Here is an example. One book said that “this” pan was the best fit and would work with my engine transplant into my 55 Chev. Well it fits alright but the sump is too low, a couple inches below the front frame cross member. Of course I wanted the car to be lower than stock so I bought dropped spindles, new springs etc. to use with my new tubular “A’ arms, new and improved power steering gear box blah blah blah. It all seemed to fit together and it looked great when I assembled the frame but then when I set the engine in on the new motor mount brackets and tried to install my new headers, the one on the right side of the car fit and cleared everything well but the driver’s side header wouldn’t clear the steering gear box. More research revealed the dreaded answer, “Oh, those headers won’t work with that application, you need to use…”
I’ve discussed this situation almost at every turn with many of friends. We have all experienced a similar thing. Bob installed and uninstalled his engine and trans maybe 30 or 40 times, (I’m exaggerating, it was only 29) but you get the idea.
My friend Jeff and I were narrowing and building Ford 9” differentials at the same time and the same was true in that process. Ford 9 inch diffs are offset to one side and have to be centered in a Chevy to keep the driveshaft in the proper relationship with the engine/transmission. This is in addition to making sure you have the correct pinion angle. My son was putting a 400 small block in his pickup that had had a small block in it already. He experienced difficulty with fitment issue too. He was exasperated (and tired) when he said, “I just want it to go back together with ease, I’m tired of fighting every step. I don’t understand why it won’t work…” I tried to calm him frustration by explaining that when we get these bright ideas to “fix” our cars and trucks we are actually re-engineering a machine. Unfortunately we don’t have the knowledge that trained engineers have or the resources, so our process is simply trial and error, or my case, error and error.
It’s almost funny when I think about how many parts I’ve bought only to find out “that won’t work with this” or “that only fits if you also use one of those.” I’m sure that many of you can relate to this situation. You know though, it’s really all part of the fun. I like the challenge of figuring out how to do things I’ve never done before. I get a sense of accomplishment when I succeed. I think that’s one of the reasons we mess with this car hobby.
Every January for quite a while now, the NWDRA has held a swap meet at the Clark County Event Center. This year the swap meet was bigger than in recent years but I like going to this meet because it’s smallish and I usually find good deals on good stuff.
Last year I ran across a Ford 8’ differential center section that looked to be brand new/rebuilt for a decent price. I didn’t need it but my friend Jim wanted one. He was in Turlock California at a swap meet there, so I called him and told him about what I found and he said he wanted it, so I bought it. He was pleased with the find when he saw it and it’s now in the Model A his is building.
I don’t know yet what the date for next year’s meet is but stay tuned to the “Coming Events” page in this paper as January approaches and plan to attend.
A Model “T” Ride for all Seasons
1927 Model “T” 2 dr sedan. She sports a 289 cubic inch modified V8 for power, with a top loader 4 speed stick tranny on the floor for fun. A tricked out ’67 Corvette C2 rear-end with a carbon fiber mono spring. Delicious brown leather bucket seats up front and a 25 gallon petrol tank hidden under that plush rear seat. Custom electro gauges were added to the dash and she features a Mustang II front-end with disc brakes on all four corners. 18″ tires and custom wheels in the back and 16” up front make for a down the road stance.
I’m told by the owner Mr. Steven K. Bee that the color on this “T” is from a Model “A” and carries a handle of Bronson Yellow on the body and Seal Brown on the fenders. She wears that all-steel roof with class and a Model “A” visor over the front windshield finishes off this ride with a unique look. A brassy and classy Model ”T” ride for all seasons, rain or shine, Steve brings her out.
Attending Benson Tech High school back in the early sixties Mr. Bee didn’t take the opportunity to participate in any auto shop programs, but he did excel in the Graphic Arts department. He’s a true Oregonian, born here in Portland some 70 years ago. Steve went on to use his graphic arts background spending most of his adult work history with the Home Builders Association and with Bridgetown Printing Company. He and his wife Joyce make their home out in the Sandy area, where Steve not only built a fantastic ’27 Model “T” boy toy, but he and his lovely wife also built a beautiful 3,000 square foot retirement home.
In one of his out buildings is a work in progress. His very first car he stole for $60 back in high school, and it’s almost ready for a paint job, after the body off rebuild. Watch for a future story in R&R NW on Steve’s 1931 Model “A” Ford 2 dr. sedan.
Steve is an active member in good standing, with the “Kool Guys Hot Rod Breakfast” meeting every friday morning around 8 a.m. in Carver at the Hangar Restaurant. In addition Steve has been instrumental in helping start the new wednesday “Hump-Day Hot Rods Breakfast” at the Eagle Creek Saloon in Eagle Creek, Oregon. You can see him and his ’27 “T” at both, come rain or come shine. We at R&R NW Publication are excited to make this Model “T” our featured car of the Month for March 2016.
The 2015 “Angels on Wheels Toy Run”
Once again the Multnomah Hot Rod Council / Portland Roadster Show and the 19 local street rod and custom car clubs that make up the roster of the MHRC, all participated in the 5th annual Angels on Wheels Christmas Toy Run, all for the kids at Legacy Emanuel/Randall Children’s Hospital on December 12th. A week earlier on December 5th several custom car and bike clubs from the Portland and Vancouver area did their 2015 Kids Toy Run at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and at the Shriners Hospital up on the hill at OHSU.
In addition to the 19 MHRC car clubs that participated in the Angels on Wheels Toy Run, the well-known Mustang Wranglers car club from the Portland area was on hand with hundreds of gifts and are always big supporters. There were three other fantastic car clubs that drove all the way to Portland from the Oregon and Washington coasts to help out. A special thank you and recognition to the Beach Barons Car Club from Longbeach, the Mid-Night Cruzers from the Aberdeen area, and to the Lower Columbia Classics Car Club from Astoria for their generous gifts of toys and their gifts of time and expense to travel all that way for kids at Randell Children’s Hospital.
Just how many toys? Randall Children’s Hospital Director Sally Kirchoff and MHRC chairperson Bryan Fakler estimated, at last count, over 10,000 gifts of toys in every shape, size and color were all brought in time to distribute to hundreds of children at the hospital on Christmas, plus thousands of additional toys for distribution throughout the year. An estimated retail cost of all these toys is over $80,000.
Thanks to all the participating retailers for their generous free gift offerings plus all the stores that participated with their biggest discounts ever.
The people that make up these 19 car clubs are the same special individuals that put on the world class Portland Roadster Show. This year’s show promises to be the biggest and best ever, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the PRS. It is scheduled for March 18-20 at the Portland Expo Center. Yes, the tradition continues with over 300 of the hottest street rods, custom cars, trucks, bikes, and much, much more. Mark your calendar for one of those special attractions that’s coming to the PRS, including a full concert on stage Saturday night by Johnnie Limbo and the Lug Nuts. The MHRC is inviting everyone that’s coming to the concert to join our year-round Angels on Wheels Toy Drive and donate a new toy gift for the kids at Randell Children’s Hospital.
Additional scheduled guests for you to meet and greet are world class car builder and TV personality Chip Foose, Dave Kindig, John D’Agostino and Gene Winfield. You’re all invited to the 60th Portland Roadster Show, where there’s always plenty of parking at the Portland Expo Center.
The staff here at R&R NW Publication would like to thank the MHRC and The Portland Roadster Show and all of the car and bike clubs and hundreds of charitable minded individuals that took part in all of the wonderful toy drives throughout Oregon and Washington over these past many years. Your all to be complimented and congratulated for not only making a lot of little kids mighty happy at Christmas time and through-out the year, but you have given a thumbs up to your individual car and bike clubs image for a positive and charitable job well done. Hope to see all of you at the show.
All of these flamed-out, scalloped and super tricked out rides have one big thing in common—they’re all getting heated up with excitement to attend the upcoming 2016 Portland Roadster Show. The tradition does truly continue with the 60th anniversary of the Portland Roadster Show scheduled for March 18-20 at the Portland Expo Center.
The Multnomah Hod Rod Council presents the Portland roadster Show, one of the oldest continuous running premiere hot rod, custom car, truck and bike shows in the United States.
The other thing these all of these gorgeous tricked out automobile creations have in common—they have all been on display as featured stars at one of our Portland Roadster Shows in the past 60 years.
The one common denominator that the owners of these three gorgeous classic custom cars have is: they both belong to the Multnomah Hot Rod Council and they both have a love for street rods and classic custom cars, trucks and bikes.
The 1965 CORVETTE STING RAY is an all original matching numbers car. For power, it has a 327 CI L79 350 HP / Muncie close ratio 4 speed tranny / 353 Posi-traction rear w/heavy duty sway bars front & rear / power steering / power antenna / factory hardtop / telescoping steering column / leather seats / teak wood steering wheel. The proud owner, Mike Itel from Scappoose, Oregon would like to recognize Paul & Mickey at Gray’s Automotive for their balancing and blueprinting, Steve Heuer Customs, for the fantastic red finish, plus several other additions to the rebuild, the chrome work by Cruisin’ Classics and the interior by Jerry’s Auto Upholstery.
THE 1971 CORVETTE, “Autumn Leaves,” will be appearing at the 60th anniversary of the Portland Roadster Show. You will have an opportunity to come and see this fantastic work of creative artistic automobile transformation in person at the show and check out all the specs on this ’71 work of art, from proud owner and Corvette lover Mr. Mike Itel. This car will “leave” you spellbound.
Mike is a true Oregonian country boy, born and raised on a farm down around Woodburn. He attended Portland Community College and then on to Portland State University studying Civil Engineering. Mike worked for the Port of Portland for 40 years and is now enjoying a well-earned retirement. He joined the MHRC in 1973 as a member of the Columbia Corvette Club. For the past five years Mike has held the office of president of the Multnomah Hot Rod Council. He is also an active member of the Northwest Corvette Association, The Road Knights and the Pharaohs Street Rodders car clubs. Mike and his wife Anne have made their home in the Scappoose area for the past twenty years and their daughter is a student at OSU.
THE 1955 CHEVY OLD SCHOOL RESTO-MOD 150 Center Post / She’s Running a ZZ3 350 ci 375 hp for power, turbo 400 tranny, Nova rear-end w/Camaro clip. It’s been de-chromed and features a shaved nose and rear-deck with a Nomad rear bumper. 18” front and 20” rear tires with Coys rims, make this flawless all black-beauty second to none in its class. David Jothen is the proud owner and builder of this delicious ’55 Chevy that is a rolling dedication to his father Jack, from whom he drew his inspiration. David is the immediate past president of the Pharaohs Street Rodders and has been a member of the MHRC since 1979, as a member of the Trans Am Club of Oregon, the Inimini Truckers Club, the NW Lowriders and now the Pharaohs. David has been the official photographer for the Portland Roadster Show for the past four years. He has also been the co-producer of the show for the past two years. David and his wife Diane and their two loyal pets Loki & Winnie live in the Damascus area. David attended Mt Hood CC and the U of O, receiving degrees in Media/Communications. He is also a licensed commercial and residential realtor and recently earned his insurance broker license, specializing in classic and collector cars.
Yes the tradition continues at the 60th anniversary of the Portland Roadster Show, held at the Portland Expo Center come March 18th, 19th & 20th. Another thing these three unique and gorgeous classic cars have in common: they are all scheduled to be in the show where the cars are always the stars at The Portland Roadster Show.
We at R&R NW Publication are honored and pleased to recognize the scores of volunteer individuals that are active members of the MHRC and are dedicated to making the Portland Roadster Show one of the premier street rod and classic custom car, truck and bike shows in the whole country.
February 6th was the date for the first Petersen Collector Car Auction of 2016. It was held in Salem at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in the Jackman-Long Building. What a great showing of consigned cars and trucks as well as memorabilia. There was also a great showing of bidders too.
The bidding started off with a flurry with the memorabilia crossing the block. A small amount of signs, clocks, gas station air stations and pumps. All of these were in new/restored condition and a great addition to anyone’s TV room or “Man Cave.”
There was a great turnout of potential bidders and they came to buy. The auction had a 60% sell through and the prices were respectable. The quality of the vehicles was very good and I think that both the sellers and the buyer went home happy.
I raised my hand to bid on a car just as the auctioneer hammered it sold and I missed it. I shouldn’t have hesitated, but that’s the way it goes.
If you’re looking to sell your special interest car or truck your Hot Rod or collector car, plan ahead and consign early for the next Petersen Collector Car Auction, July 9th at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Roseburg. I’ll see you there. Petersen Collector Car-541-689-6824.