“I have the sickness,” he said with a smile, pushing his beer back and forth across the polished wood table at the restaurant we met for lunch. “My first Sprint car race was at Terre Haute a long time ago and I was like: ‘WOW, This is really cool.”
The sickness he speaks of is an affinity for racing. Ask a true race fan and they will tell you that the sport gets under your skin, you become addicted to going to the dirt track, the drag strip or anywhere they drop a green flag. Renowned motorsports photographer John Mahoney takes that passion to another level.
Mahoney, a Indiana native, discovered dirt track racing first then graduated on to his first Indy500 in 1955. “I have not missed a ‘500’ since” he states proudly. You might know his name, you might not- but if you follow American open wheel racing at any point in the last 40-odd years, you have undoubtedly seen his work.
Mahoney has photographed the stars of USAC, long before they become stars. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree is psychology and went to work for the state of Indiana. During his studies, he met and befriended an equally well known and talented would- be motorsports photographer Gene Crucean.
“I got my first Press Pass by pretending to write for a fake newspaper.” Mahoney admits wryly. “We called it Northwest News.” It was the mid sixties and he and his first wife had moved to southern California. “We reached out to the track in Sacramento, asking for passes but got no reply. I just wanted to get into the pits for free!” He had Crucean pose as the pretend editor for Northwest News and kept sending in requests. “The weekend of the race I was out in southern California, I was at a hotel- they were always having parties in the hotels- and I ran into JC Agajanian, you know, the promoter for Ascot Speedway. I thought to myself: ‘its now or never’ and walked up to him, saying that I was a writer for Northwest News and we never heard back about credentials. JC said that he had never heard of Northwest News but pulled out a pass from his pocket and gave it to me!” Later on Mahoney got hooked up with a couple legitimate racing publications, his photography flourished and the rest is history.
The camera was merely a means to an end. In order to get in the gate, being a member of the press was an easy and fun way to be close to the action. For John Mahoney, it was his golden ticket. His ex father-in-law was a master in the darkroom and quickly taught young Mahoney the tricks to developing film and printing his own pictures. Many years later at a pivotal point in his career with the Indiana Employment office, Mahoney decided to take make his ever-growing weekend hobby and turn it into his sole career. “It was a risk” he admits, “But it was the right choice.”
Dirt track sprint car and midget racing was, is, and will forever be his favorite. He has had the privilege to work with some of the biggest names around. From Foyt – his personal favorite-, Andretti, Rich Vogler, Bryan Clauson, Tony Stewart, and many more. In the handful of best races he has seen, the Hoosier will list big, local, Indiana races over the decades at the top.
“Some guys says that the ‘good ol days of racing was better- BOLOGNA! Some of the best drivers and racing is happening today!” Though the sport has changed, Mahoney loves it the same as ever. “Yeah the money aspect has changed racing, but the on track skill is as good as it always has been.” He cites the talent of Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell as reference. “THESE at the good ‘ol days!”
Mahoney is constantly asked for photographs for varying projects. Trying to obtain credit for his images is a never-ending battle. He has helped put together a few books on the history of USAC racing and is currently working with Dave Argabright and Pat Sullivan on another. His personal photo collection is featured proudly in “FULL TILT: The Motorsports Photography of John Mahoney” and on his website johnmahoneyphoto.com.
Mahoney, unlike most professional artists- is about as humble as they come. He refuses to admit how influential and important his vast experience is. He also jokes that he has yet to make a good portfolio of racing pictures. His wife, Martha, made a point to pull me aside after our lunch meal. “He is one of the best, no doubt. He will never say it but – if you have seen his work, you know.” Between portraits, actions shots and details of the track — John Mahoney is one of the best visual storytellers in racing. For a career made through the lens of a camera, Mahoney has managed to live his life at the place he loves best and the manner he loves best: at Full Tilt.
In celebration of fifty years of attending short track races throughout California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, I have decided to open up my personal photo archives and share with you loyal readers. All race cars hold some interest for me… open wheel cars are of particular interest. Here are a handful of images that are memorable for one reason or another and I think deserve another viewing.
The #95 was one of three decidedly different four cylinder sprint cars campaigned by Reno racer Mike Wood…come to think of it; it was very likely the same chassis with three different variations of coachwork. This configuration appeared at the Plumas County Fair races in 1987. It featured a lightweight corrugated aluminum engine cover (repurposed cooler of some kind?) and a low drag, stationary airfoil. Fellow competitor Tom “Smokey” Stover described the racer as a “hot dog cart with a wing”. All got a good look at Wood’s creation as it didn’t move quickly and failed to transfer from the consolation race.
Tony Thomas’s Wolverine sprint car originally included “sail-like” panels on either side of the tail tank and a trough nose. After he was asked to remove the panels, Thomas installed a conventional hood and this hideous elbow guard. But what made his racer truly unique were the less noticeable features; ultra-long radius rods and a single torsion tube across the front. All major components, the engine, the seat, the fuel tank, were all mounted lower and further back in the chassis than usual… and it worked. Thomas won three of the first four races he contested in the car. When asked to make more revisions Thomas chose instead to retire this chassis. Eventually it was sold and campaigned (less successfully) by another owner. Thomas readily admitted his creation was ugly; his wife in fact dubbed the car “The Munstermobile”.
In the “free-wheeling seventies” some adventuresome short track racers began experimenting with rear engine cars. Some like the Sneva family from Spokane were successful, especially on asphalt. Others, not so much. Portlander Gary Clark forsake a conventional upright sprinter for this rear engine design. I was told that he didn’t start from scratch- part of the chassis (likely the front) was scavenged from a formula car. Regardless, you really need to know your geometry to make a racer like this work on dirt and reportedly Clark struggled. Beet’s Body Shop on Mt. Tabor applied the unusual parrot green, red and yellow paint scheme. The good news was, people noticed the #42 and it actually generated more business for the sponsor.
Is there anything uglier than a wrecked race car? I think not. This flathead powered roadster belonged to Willie Anderson and was campaigned throughout the Pacific Northwest by Jack “Crash” Timmings. On the final afternoon of the 1951 racing season at Portland Speedway, Timmings blew a tire and impacted the guardrail head on. Jack was a big guy and as strong as a bull. He mangled the steering wheel where his chest made contact in the wreck but emerged from the roadster unscathed. After a quick trip to the hospital, Timmings returned to the track to see Len Sutton claim his championship. Jack resented the moniker “Crash” by the way- in an interview years later the gentle giant defended himself saying: “I don’t think I crashed any more than anyone else.”
I’ve always taken a lot of pride in the appearance of my race cars but this four cylinder modified was an exception. It was built by the Myer brothers in San Jose for next to nothing and I purchased it from them for $500. with trailer. Ready to do battle at Baylands Raceway Park circa 1988 is my sponsor John “Rooster” Horton. He didn’t win the Feature that night. Horton was a customer of mine that became a sponsor and ultimately a good friend. The car had started life as a super modified and was originally built to accept a V-8 engine. In the following years the car’s appearance improved greatly but at the end of the day, the 2×4 chassis was just too heavy for a four cylinder engine to pull. I nicknamed the car: “The Box” as an endearment… my fellow competitors however called it: “The S**t Box” or “The Penalty Box” as numerous racers were forced to drive it when their primary cars broke down.
I used to say it was so ugly, it was cute… but to everyone else it was just “Fugly.”
This month I need to mention 2 former racers. Just prior to the Press deadline we lost them. Both of these guys campaigned hard running versions of the Chevrolet Vega at PIR back in the 80s. I was there back then with my “Avenger” Vega. Larry Merritt and Doug Sandstrom. I wish them well on their final run.
Next I will make mention of another who continues to make his mark in the world of racing. This guy got his start wreaking havoc around the streets of Camas in his Pontiac Trans Am while in high school. Don’t know if Greg Biffle ever made it to PIR. But he sure did find his way to the Portland Speedway where he made many runs resulting in championships from there on into the NASCAR professional ranks. He has now joined Team GT (General Tire). What all that entails will be announced.
This next item has been big news at press time but I think most of us are aware by now of Elon musk’s latest antics. His own personal red, Tesla Roadster is currently racing through outer space attached to his Falcon Heavy Rocket, definitely making it the fastest car of all time. One could imagine that he has made many earth-bound roadsters quite jealous.
Along with all of the other news of production woahs and battery issues, we could mention one other news development that may be construed as a positive. We have a Tesla Model 3 which crashed into a pole resulting in almost a perfect T-bone of the front end. Then we have the Tesla Model S that recently rear-ended a fire truck. The front end was wiped out on that one. The encouraging word out of all of this is that their front ends seem to make pretty good crumple zones.
While we are talking about the EV cars, I need to mention the Rimac Hypercar. This is the second generation EV from Croatia, the successor to Concept One. They say this one should dyno out to somewhere north of 1100 horsepower. It will be introduced at the Geneva Motor Show. This one should easily blow away the Koenigsegg. Price: $1 Million.
And I guess we would be remiss if I did not mention the latest rumor coming from the Ford ranks. They say Mach 1 is coming. However, they are saying that it will be an SUV. It is said that it will be out in 2020. So we will just have to wait to see what all the excitement is about.
Now, here is some news that might excite a few GearHeads. The new Corvette ZR1 is definitely out there. And it is busy proving that it can run with any super car at any price. Chevrolet proved that earlier this year during validation testing. The car ran for 24 hours. we will just say that the behemoth has four radiators and it has blown away the best that the Ford GT could offer.
Now that we have gotten you GearHeads all excited what with news of supercars and hypercars, we will leave you with this: AV Cop Cars. That’s right Gomer, we are talking about cop cars that will pull you over but there will be no cop inside. Whaddaya think of that?
’nuff said — Chuck Fasst.
There aren’t many FULL customs being built any more. Full resto-mods, full high dollar builds yes; but customs like those that were being built at many custom shops back in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s aren’t being built much any more. Tom Zink’s 1941 Ford “Custom” “Victoria” is a custom built in the tradition mentioned above.
Tom and Marsha Zink of Gresham Oregon bought a fairly straight 41 Ford Coupe a few years back and then set about turning it into what you see here. The list of “Mods” is extensive with not much of the original sheet metal, trim, glass or any part really is left untouched. We don’t have room to list all of the changes that made but we’ll touch on as many as we can.
The frame is a Jim Meyers Racing fabrication. (Jim Meyer Racing Products, Lincoln City, OR. 541-994-7717.) Made specifically for this car with GMC independent front suspension, chromed, a Mustang rack & pinion steering, power disc brakes and stainless steel exhaust. The rear diff is a Dutchman 9”unit, narrowed 4”, the trans is a Ford AOD that backs up a Ford 351 Windsor bored .030 over and polished or chromed wherever possible. This then is in keeping with the latest trend to put a Ford in a Ford. Nice.
Fenders on stock 41 Fords are bolt on units. These have been reshaped, wheel openings changed and massaged, before they were welded in place. The body sides have been extended down and channeled over the frame and the hood reshaped, sectioned, and welded to make it a one-piece hood from the original two-piece.
The coupe top has been modified using the top and vent windows from a 51 Ford Victoria hardtop with hand formed side glass frames to create possibly the only 41 Ford 2 dr. hardtop alive. The other body mods are countless.
The interior sports power windows, handmade or modified 51 Ford Victoria pieces, modified Corvette seats, Chrysler dash, creature comforts from Vintage Air, Ididit Steering all wrapped in beautiful beige leather with contrasting dark blue carpet. Almost no part of the beautiful car has been left untouched. It’s simply beautiful from top to bottom, inside and out.
As I place this story in the March issue, Tom, Marsha and “Victoria” are at the Sacramento Autorama, one of the longest running Car Shows in America. I hope she brings home some more gold in the form of another Best of Show Trophy.
“Victoria,” has placed first in the following shows as a Radical Custom in 2017. Forest Grove, Portland Roadster Show, Spokane Speed and Custom, Boise Roadster Show and the “Grand Daddy” here in the West, The Grand National Roadster Show, Pomona California.
As I place this story in the March issue Tom, Marsha and “Victoria” are at the Sacramento Autorama, one of the longest running Car Shows in America. I hope she brings home some more gold in the form of another Best of Show Trophy or trophys.
Late NOTE: Victoria cleaned up at the Sacramento Autorama in the Custom D’ Elegance class with Five Awards. Outstanding Under Carriage, Outstanding Paint, Outstanding Interior, Outstanding Detail, and an Achievement Award. Congratulations Tom and Marsha.
I guess the best way to sum up the February 3rd, collector car auction is a single word is, . . . WOW!
I’ve been going to this auction for many years now and I have to say the consignments (92 this year) were some of the best I’ve seen there.
As always, they sell a few automobilia items first thing and then it’s off to the cars. I was wishing I had been able to get my Chevy Biscayne done in time but alas it wasn’t to be. I just ran out of time. To bad too because with a nearly 50% sell thru, this was a successful auction.
There were a number of very nicely restored cars and trucks available, some big dollar cars and they sold. One in particular was a super nice 63 Nova that was restor-moded very tastefully and it brought worthy bids and found a new home.
There were a couple newer Challengers, two Hellcats, neither quite met reserve but came close. Of course, though some cars were no sales at the auction; however, they may still be available. Call Curt or Susan @ 541-689-6824 if there is one you are still interested in. For instance, there was a nice old 1920 Model T Ford Truck that would be a great advertising tool for a business that’s still available for sale. It might look great with your company name hand painted on wooden side racks.
There were a number of special interest dealers in attendance too and they came to buy, and they did just that. You can be assured that the cars were right as were the prices because some of these buyers took several cars back to their places of business.
The next Oregon’s original Oregonian owned Collector Car Auction will be in Roseburg at the Douglas County Fair Grounds, July 7th. Mark your calendars, consign early and plan to attend.
Pa had succumbed to the bottle and had passed four years ago, leaving Ma to care for me and my younger kin. At 11. I knew what I had to do. As the oldest, I would badger for odd jobs and always at 4:30 P.M. would be on the corner peddling the evening news to passers by. As a paper boy, I had nailed down this territory years ago on this prime corner and sold The Picayune to passers by to earn my keep.
As the month drew to a close, me, Emery knew that many in the city would be scrambling to make rent. A busy intersection would attract many types. Grifters, Hobos, and scofflaws. But recently, amongst them was a young man in a Ford Model T. But it was unlike any that I had ever seen. Gone were the fenders and splash guards. The top was real low, like a giant had stood upon it a spell. The wheels were tall and spindly, and by gosh, it was noisy! It had a clattering and banging that sounded like it was ready to explode!
He attracted the attention really. Yassir. He would just roll up to the curb and park right near me. He always bought a paper and would tell me about his T. Why it was so loud and all. But what I loved was why he was there.
We had this depression on, you know? I was not educated about that word, but I knew that living was hard and this stranger in his old car made my end of month routine so much more enjoyable.
Let’s see, right, okay. So Clem was his name and he was a mechanic of sorts. He rented a space and did tune ups and lube jobs as his job. From Thursday night til the early light of Sunday he was a race car driver. Midgets and sprints mostly he told me. But his real money came when he would race the Jack.
As the evening was nigh and my pile of papers was down to a few, here he would come, and boy, I tell you, that flivver would growl! He’d pull up, toss me a coin and smile and say, “What do ya think, kid, V8? Lincoln? Buick tonight?”
And I would watch. High collared men would show up in their cars. Gosh, I tell you! Lincolns, Cadillacs, One time a real Duesie!
I would watch. A handshake. Then the exhaust plumes as they would drive out of sight.
Clem always came back with a grin.
Rent money was his and he would disappear into the city then reappear at the end of the month.
In these times, well, life is hard. But it sure feels great having a busted knuckled hero in a Model T as a hero.
– inspired by Mr. Model T’s Gow Job –
The car that inspired this short story, pictured here has been built and built again in 2006-2008 and 2011-2012. Some cool stuff: 1918 Cadillac type 57 headlights, 1912 Cadillac 30 frame horns. 1922 Nash ignition switch. 1932 Sun-Aero Tach. 1913 Waltham 8-day clock. 1924 Willys-Knight steering gear. 1915 Locomobile Headlight forks. 1927 Hupmobile 19” Split-rim Wire Wheels. It’s been all over the US, mostly under its own power. Been to California twice. Was on the Jay Leno Show. Been to TROG, twice and made the 1,700 mile round trip to Bonneville under its own power across 4 states. The mods/specs required to build the engine and drive train is extensive. Maybe a “Car of the Month Feature” should be in the future?
With the turn of the New Year, two women have achieved new roles of substantial power in the motorsports industry. Both will impact the discussion of women in racing as we know it.
The first big announcement was by the FIA. Also known as the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, they are the governing body that oversees the racing aspect of Formula 1 and sub divisions among many channels of international motorsports. In December, they appointed a Spaniard by the name of Carmen Jorda to the FIA Women’s Commission.
A ‘test driver’ for the Lotus Formula 1 team, Jorda’s racing resume is not the most impressive. More of a spokesperson, shots of Jorda posing in a driving suit or standing in front of an car holding her helmet are plentiful, but actual driving stats are scarce. In her frustration with the challenges she has faced being a woman in racing, Jorda has decided that the industry is rigged. Her opinion is that her gender will never have a decent opportunity in professional racing and therefore a separate, women’s only series should be created. In an interview with the sanctioning body back in 2015, she stated: “Nowadays you see women competing in their own championships: football, tennis, skiing – you name it – and in none of these championships are men and women competing against each other. So the question is: why not have a F1 world championship for women?”
Former CEO of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone not only agreed with this thought, but openly contested the role of women in motorsports in general. He has even gone as far as to say that women “should not be taken seriously” in F1 and that “they physically cannot drive a car as fast.” Though in 2000 Eccelstone went as far to share his vision with Autosport racing magazine, saying that if a woman did make it in Formula 1, “What I would really like to see happen is to find the right girl, perhaps a black girl with super looks, preferably Jewish or Muslim, who speaks Spanish.” Clearly as Ecclestone saw it, women in this industry are merely present for visual appeal and to be used as a marketing tool.
This segregation that Jorda speaks of only further feeds the divide. Not only would pulling in sponsors be an issue for a separate female series, but it eliminates one of the biggest appeals of motor racing- equality. When competing for the Champion of the World, all drivers should have the chance to Just be drivers. A women’s only series limits the winner to be the champion only amongst women. This takes a step backwards from the groundwork that predecessors have fought every inch for.
Possibly, unbeknownst to Jorda, she is the Achilles heel to her own cause. By posing for photo shoots she has turned herself into a marketing ploy. Yes, it has gained her access to one of the biggest boy’s clubs in the sporting world, but at the cost of being taken seriously as a competitor. In her new role on the Women’s Commission, it is her responsibility to now uphold the reputation of her gender in the most historically scrutinized form of racing. Here lies the concern.
Jorda’s appointment sparked outrage across social media platforms, particularly from women in the industry. One of the hardest-hitting tweet responses was from an engineer by the name of Leena Gade:
“I chose to compete in a man’s world, like so many other women in countless motorsport roles. WE want to be the best against males & females. Can’t do that? Play another game.”
In early January, Schmidt Peterson racing announced Gade as the first female head engineer in Indy Car series history. This appointment goes in the opposite direction from Jorda’s.
Leena Grade’s race engineering resume is a perfect example that women can share the podium with men. Biggest accomplishments to date include her three 24- hour Le Mans wins, one of which she was subsequently awarded the FIA World Endurance Championship ‘Man of the Year’ award. Gade is quick to say that she is also on the FIA Women’s Commission and hopes to negate the thought of a separate women’s division in racing.
The tides are changing in the motorsports world. This is a topic that is very personal to me as a young woman stepping into this industry. The days of these sexist ideals are on the way out. Liberty Media announced in early February that Grid Girls in Formula 1 are going the way of the dodo as well. This removal, I believe, is a positive one. I agree with Carmen Jorda that women have not have not had a fair shake in racing. I also believe, however, that this fight is also an uphill battle to reprogram societal norms. It is not easy – but retreating to a separate series takes away just how big of an accomplishment an appointment like Leena Gade’s is.
Drivers like Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Lella Lombardi, Maria Teresa de Filippis, the Force sisters, Simona de Silvestro, Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Katherine Legge, Pippa Mann and dozens of others serve as reference material, a testament that women have and will have a place in the top tier of motorsports. As Ecclestone once stated: “women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances.” If you truly believe that Mr. Ecclestone, then it is high-time for us clean house.
Every winter in December there is a Charity Car show/cruse-in at Benny’s Rod & Custom Pizza Café in Vancouver Washington. Some years it’s raining, some not and still other times it’s freezing cold, but none of that seems to dampen the spirits of the die-hard car people that bring their unwrapped toys and food donations along with the cars, out for little gathering.
The attendees are always different cars you don’t usually see. It is put on by the Road Masters Car Club and held at Benny’s, who creates a one day only breakfast menu that’s terrific and very reasonably priced.
It’s worth attending even if only for Benny’s great food and hot rod atmosphere and it’s all for charity.
The Albany Indoor Swap Meet has proven to be a terrific swap meet year after year. One of the best parts is that it’s indoors as the title says. Even though it’s in November, in Oregon, you don’t need to spend much time out in the rain, slopping around in mud. It’s inside at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center in Albany Oregon.
I’ve been attending this meet for many years and I always find things I can’t live without. This year it’s probably good I didn’t have at lot of discretionary income because I found several cars for sale that I’d very likely own if I did have that extra money. I did buy a couple of things for my project I’m working on but the best deal I got was a GM distributor hold down that Bob White from Graffiti Alley in Eugene gave me when I picked it up and asked how much. Thanks Bob.
My buddy found several pieces he was looking for at great prices for his projects. There isn’t usually much to choose from for the car hobbyist during the winter here in the Northwest, but this swap meet needs to be on your list for next fall for sure.