Every January the NWDRA holds a swap meet at the Clark County Event Center and I go every year. It’s a one-day event and usually I end up finding something I must have. You notice, I didn’t say “something I need.” Sometimes it something as simple as valve covers or as large as a differential, or some wheels.
The club, the Northwest Drag Racing Association of course draws vendors with a focus on drag racing but that’s not all you’ll find, not only racing stuff. A couple years ago I found an 8” Ford rear end that a friend of mine needed for one of his builds. It turned out to be a great buy and it was in new condition. This year that same friend was with me and he found a valve cover for a six (6) cylinder that he needed to replace the one he had that was no longer usable. Add this swap meet to your next year’s list, it’s a good one.
Today ”junk yards” or “wrecking yards” are referred to as “auto recyclers.” This change wasn’t made to be politically correct. “Recycler” better describes what the proprietors of these businesses do. I also believe that calling the parts and pieces that fill these establishments “recyclables” acknowledges that they have value. We know as car guys that this stuff isn’t “junk” just because it was scavenged from a wrecked vehicle.
I love wrecking yards and I always have. To me they are magical places filled with history as well as possibilities for the future. I have a very early memory of visiting my uncle Gene when he worked for Schnitzer Steel. From an elevated office I remember watching the crane with the enormous magnet pick up scrap and drop it in the gigantic compactor. You know, the one that transforms the assorted bits into a perfect cube? Wow! How cool was that? I was perhaps four or five years old and I will take that memory to the grave!
In high school I quit my job bussing tables to work for a wrecking yard in San Jose, CA called VW Used Parts Center. I spent my days completely dismantling Beetles with another kid named “Gary”. We learned how to use air tools like impacts and chisels but the cutting torch was by far our tool of choice. (It was supposed to be our last resort but we were always making excuses for using it.) We were two teenagers virtually unsupervised, being paid a couple bucks an hour to PLAY WITH FIRE! Gawd, it was fun! Once we got to assemble an engine and start it on the garage floor. It ran…but not for long. Working for the wrecking yard was all fun and games until I got a mouthful of gasoline while learning how to siphon. Seriously, I’m surprised that neither Gary nor I were ever injured… I guess when you’re a teenager you don’t think about it. I caught the pant leg of my overalls on fire once. Suddenly I felt the heat on my calf! I simply patted it out and kept on cutting.
My senior year in college I bought a ’51 Studebaker Champion. It was a complete running car with cosmetic needs so it was back to the wrecking yards. My girlfriend and I spent weekends seeking replacement parts in any yard where someone had made a “Bullet-nose” sighting. Sometimes the cars ended up being Fords of the same vintage but usually we’d sniff out a Stude. And typically the donor car had something I wanted; an unblemished emblem or a taillight lens. The treasure hunt aspect of the journey made it great fun for my girlfriend and I. Though I was a little older by this time, I was still pretty fearless (reckless?) when I think about it. Eventually the Stude became my daily driver. I drove it all over the bay area without a worry about breakdown and it never did leave us stranded anywhere.
These days my sister is restoring an early edition ’55 Chevy Pickup and her quest for parts and pieces has taken her to all those familiar places. She discovered a wonderful wrecking yard just east of Eugene, OR called: Springfield Auto Recyclers. The place was established in 1949 and specializes in 1930’s to 1970’s vintage car and truck parts. Most of their business is conducted online via an eBay store.
Exploring the grounds (which owner “Chuck” made us feel welcome to do) immediately took me back to my roots. If you are a fan of American Pickers (Rock the Rust!), the sights at this venue will transport you to a lost episode – Magically you will find yourself trudging along behind Mike and Frank!
In addition to multiple acres of donor cars and trucks, the building which houses the parts counter is loaded with automobilia. Sadly these items (excepting the old manuals) are for display only. Chuck explained that like the vehicles themselves, much of the inventory which clutters the office was donated.
“I don’t remember where it came from,” he admits with a shrug. “People didn’t give it to me to sell. They would be disappointed if they came back in and it wasn’t here.” Okay, so it’s like viewing somebody’s collection or going to a museum. Either way, it is a worthwhile visit- it certainly made me feel nostalgic.
It made me want to pull on my overalls and tear into one of those old hulks lounging in the yard…
“Gary! Get the torch!’
At press time we have just entered into the New Year and the CES Show is rolling out their latest in technology with an emphasis on new. But first we must mention a name that should be familiar to many of you Northwest Street Rodders, Mitch Kim could use your thoughts. He has fought his way through a few maladies recently and is now locked in battle with liver cancer.
Now everyone hold your breath. Then let out with a loud, collective, hip hip hooray! Early believers are now receiving shipment of their new Tesla Model 3. As we have previously mentioned, Elon Musk has been experiencing his fair share of problems concerning getting his latest planet saving autocar shipped out to the prepaid buyers. Yay for him.
Now how about this, what if you could get a Tesla station wagon? For those who waited, maybe they can plop down their dollars on one. It seems that Qwest has completed the first working prototype.
Now, most of us know that Elon Musk has been getting his fingers into all kinds of different projects ranging from under the Earth to the furthest limits of outer space. Now, here is one that should make your collective mouths water, GearHeads: Drive Ins. Yes Homer, you heard that right. Now we don’t know if he is talking about the kind with the big screen and teenagers making out in the front seats of cars. But we do know that it involves roller skates. Watch for the first one to pop up down in Southern California somewhere.
How about this, can we talk about something that actually burns good ole gas? Super sly shutterbugs have been releasing camera spy shots of the new C8 Corvette which they are now saying is due to be released in 2020. Of course the shots are all camoed out. But it sure looks like the mid-engined monster that everyone has been talking about. Word has it that it will be powered by the latest LS design with dual turbos. Horsepower numbers? Who knows but up there for sure.
Now wouldn’t it be rad to pull up to one of those Tesla Drive Ins in one of these bad boys? Speaking of bad boys I would like to call your attention to the #BaddazzPortlandCarz list of the baddest Portland area cars featured at GearHeadsWorld. Just go to YouTube and punch into the search bar – Blown ’67 Chevelle Outlaw Street Racer to find the very first feature we ever did. And there are a number of badd Vettes in the list as well.
Okay now let’s get back to the truly important news of our future. That would, of course be what the tech Geeks have in store for all of us. No place better to find out about that, than the CES Show. We are hearing that China has opened an office in Silicon Valley to tout their new future car called Byton. This will be a slick piece featuring what they call an “Intuitive Digital Experience.”
This ride will feature facial recognition sensors that will open your door for you. The first vehicles will be level 3 autonomous, meaning that you will be able to take your hands off the wheel from time to time. They will be capable of connecting to Smart devices such as your phones and watches. Amazon’s Alexa will be integrated into your fine experience. They will be introduced in China in 2019. Expect to see them here in the US of A in 2020.
Then we have Nissan Intelligence Mobility which will leave the Driving Experience to the human brain. Will your brain be ready for that? And with no further adieu we introduce to you this month’s featured wondercar, the Toyota Palette Transport Vehicle a k a Toaster Car.
This fine representation of the future of humanity features the pictured 6-pack shaped vehicle which can be utilized to haul all manner of humans and whatever else. Just pop open the sunroofs in the top and drop the humans down in vertically where they will be stacked side-by-side. Okay… We don’t exactly know how the humans will be loaded into these things.
GearHeads, just make sure you don’t find yourselves in one of these things.
Chuck Fasst GearHeadsWorld@blogspot.com
“I love this show” says Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian, Donald Davidson. “Everyone that you see, aisle after aisle, booth after booth. Everyone that you see is employed in motorsports. You wouldn’t believe how big it is.” Draped in respect from his peers, the humble racing expert cannot walk more than a couple paces without someone recognizing him. They grab his arms, his jacket, a celebrity based on knowledge. Davidson is one of thousands of racing enthusiasts that flock to the downtown convention center in Indianapolis for the Performance Racing Industry, or PRI show. Though Davidson doesn’t merely attend the show, he is an esteemed guest. He was invited to speak about the four A.J. Foyt Indy 500 winning cars on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum booth adjacent to the main thoroughfare. Groups of onlookers gather as the interviewer sets up a professional camera and lights. They listen, eager to hear a tidbit from the Grand Master himself.
Happenings like this occur all over the 3,400-booth showroom floor. Sister event to the SEMA show, the PRI show celebrated its 30th birthday this year. Unlike SEMA, PRI is focused specifically on auto racing. For one weekend in December, this is the center of the racing world.
No one gets into the racing industry by accident. Walking through the aisles, anyone can see that this is a passion-based profession. Booth topics go from shock absorbers to exhaust systems, brake pads, chassis, racing sanctioning bodies and publications. Seminars go on in the morning, hosted by trendsetters and industry leaders. Some are as technical as “Battery, Cranking & Charging System Myths Explained!” While others focus on the human element like “Derek Daly Academy Driver Development Seminar.”
Professionals, team owners, drivers, and engineers are invited. This is not an event open to the public until the last day. In more recent years, both PRI and SEMA have put a larger emphasis on educational development. By investing in college-age students, they are keeping the industry alive and evolving. My personal favorite example of such student/corporate partnership was a virtual reality prototype introduced to me by a student that I happened to meet in the Online Resources booth.
He introduced himself as Taylor, the lead Project Manager for the IU School of Informatics and Computing on the Augmented Reality application presented in front of us. A college student with one of the coolest homework projects I have ever heard of, he pointed to the 1958 Monza 500 winning Indy Roadster and explained. “Me and a team of students worked on this all semester. We made a digital 3D model of the engine.” Holding up an iPad to the Race of Two Worlds Champion, a digital model of the car’s engine appeared on the screen. As you moved left and right, the digital rendering followed, changing perspective. “You can use this technology to create a living dictionary of engines,” he said. With more time and resources, applications like this can be used to peel away components to virtually look into the inner workings of just about anything. Motorsports is just one application of such a program. Students like Taylor are doing research like this all over the world to further development in everything from engineering to biology. This is just the beginning.
As big as the PRI show is, it comes nowhere close to the notoriety that SEMA earns, and I think it should. Though it is not as physically big as SEMA, the PRI show should be a MUST ATTEND for anyone that aspires to work in racing. Simply being there can be educational in every definition of the word. You never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to learn or what connections you can make. The PRI show displays the cutting edge of what is happening now in the racing industry. Mark your calendars for next year. The PRI show returns December 6-8 2018.
This 2018 edition of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction was its 47th year in Scottsdale Arizona. In 1967 Tom Barrett and Russ Jackson held a special car show that also featured some of their antique, vintage and classic vehicles. The event went so well that they decided to hold an auction in December of 1971. The first auction, was basically to sell some of their personal collection of classic automobiles, including two Mercedes-Benz 770K Phaetons, that were part of Hitler’s staff cars. One of them sold for a world record, at the time, $153,000. That first auction sold some other high-end classic vehicles such as Duesenberg, Packard, Rolls Royce etc. That auction started the annual event that has always been in Scottsdale, where it continues today.
Russ Jackson passed away in 1993 and Tom Barrett in 2004. Also in the 1990’s the auction had gotten so big, attracting nearly 100,000 people, that they needed to find a new location. The sprawling WestWorld Equestrian Center in North Scottsdale was that facility and where it continues to this day. Back then WestWorld consisted of a huge grassy polo field, a few horse arenas, a few barns and some smaller buildings and many acres of desert land. The Barrett-Jackson auction was held in a large tent. Today, WestWorld is a world class equestrian and special events facility with multiple barns and arenas. The auction tent has given way to a massive pre-fab building that can house over 5000 people in the auction stadium. For the last several years, there have been over 4000 registered bidders, making Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale one of, if not the largest vehicle auctions in the world. The beautiful grassy polo field is still there and much of that desert land has been converted to well-groomed gravel parking areas for the hundreds of thousands of people that came to WestWorld every year. The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association now holds their opening (March) and season ending (November) events at WestWorld.
In 1997 co-founder Russ Jackson’s son Craig Jackson who had worked in the company since the beginning, was promoted to President/CEO, and in 2004 Steve Davis was named President. Also in 1997 the Speed Channel TV network began airing live coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction. With the TV coverage came more and more innovations, including adding other auction locations. When Speed TV ended, FOX TV took over coverage and in 2015 Discovery Network and Velocity TV have televised the Barrett-Jackson auctions with many hours of live auction coverage. The TV coverage has helped raise attendance in Scottsdale to close to 300,000 people, making it one of the two biggest events each year in Arizona, eclipsed only by the Waist Management Phoenix Open PGA Golf tournament, that’s held right after the auction, just a few miles down the freeway also in Scottsdale.
Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions are well known for their commitment to helping local and national charities. Just since 2006 they have raised over 94 million dollars for charity and the 2018 Scottsdale auction could increase that number to 100 million. If it doesn’t happen at Scottsdale, it will certainly be reached during 2018 with three other auctions on the schedule. Palm Beach FL. April 12-14, Mohegon Sun in Uncasville CT. June 21-23 and Mandelay Bay in Las Vegas September 27-29. www.barrett-jackson.com for more information.
Greetings to a new year GearHeads. We certainly hope you had a set of happy holidays. Now that a New Year is about to be had, what say we get down to the business of the future, which is officially here.
First order of business is the RPM bill. As most of you know, this is the battle in Congress that pits the EPA against the dedicated race car industry. Recently, a 13-9 vote has sent the bill out of the Subcommittee on the Environment. The bill currently resides in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where more debate is taking place.
At some point it will come time for the deal-making on this bill. I for one, hope that all the rest of us who can only afford to drive street cars do not suffer heavy blowback once deals are made that benefit the rich GearHeads who compete in the upper levels of Motorsports.
Now that we are in the future we might as well mention the Switchblade flying car currently being built in a secure location somewhere in Central Oregon. Expect to be seeing the prototype sometime later this spring.
Now we have Jaguar making a big jump into the EV world. They are creating a new racing series: the I-Pace etrophy Series is planned to run in conjunction with the Formula E Series at top tracks around the world, next year. Since that announcement we are hearing that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is the first team to commit to this new series.
How about a little bit of news from Uber, the ones who are poised to unleash a fleet of Tesla autonomous cars upon us. It seems that they were hacked a while back! But they handled it. They took the novel route of buying off the hackers and swearing them to secrecy. They are currently being sued by the Washington Attorneys General. But wait! They are currently being investigated for espionage for hiring former CIA agents to spy on their competition.
Oh, and speaking of Tesla, how about a bit of news from Reuters. It seems that more than 90% of the Tesla Model S and X have defects coming off the production line. Tesla says they have a special place where some of them are sent, called the “yard.” It is a special place where they go to be fixed. However they are saying not to worry, all is good. Perhaps this is just a sign of the times.
But then, we would be remiss if we did not mention the big, gala affair Tesla put on at the Big car show recently. We got to take the first look at their swoopy new 18 wheeler electric truck. And I must say it is a streamlined looking unit. But the old man was holding back the biggest surprise when… out of the back of the truck rolled the Li’l Red Roadster, as I have dubbed it.
“The fastest production car ever made period.” As they have dubbed it. They threw some numbers at us and they are impressive—very impressive! When I hear a quarter mile number that is under 9 flat—they got my ears!
We will leave you with this quote: “The point of this is just to give a hardcore Smackdown to gasoline cars.” Elon Musk
Chuck Fasst GearHeadsWorld.blogspot.com
“There is the right way, the wrong way and the Vollstedt way.”
Rolla Vollstedt, who lived by his own code, died of natural causes October 22nd 2017. He was ninety nine years old.
Several hundred family members and friends gathered at the World of Speed racing museum in Wilsonville, OR in early November to pay their respects and share their memories of a truly unique individual- An icon of auto racing that called the Pacific Northwest his home. Vollstedt was an engineer and innovator that started out in bucket-T roadsters and rose to the pinnacle of motorsports- Indianapolis. He compete at the Brickyard for nearly twenty years beginning in 1964 with a groundbreaking racer he assembled in the basement of his Portland home.
One former crew member told a story about the “monkey see-monkey do” games Vollstedt played with his fellow competitors- fibbing about practice times and installing then removing aerodynamic do-dads just to give their team a psychological edge. Writer Bob Kehoe related an anecdote about Linda Vaughn calling in during a radio interview with Vollstedt. The two (who had known each other for years) played coy for the listeners to the amusement of all. Fellow Portlander and accomplished wheelman Monte Shelton received a ribbing from Vollstedt once at PIR (Portland International Raceway). After no less than three consecutive engine failures in a weekend, Shelton announced he was throwing in the towel. “Humph,” responded Vollstedt, “I guess you’re no racer!”
I didn’t interview Vollstedt until long after he had retired from Indy car. I followed him around his machine shop in Raleigh Hills, notebook in hand, sleeping infant daughter strapped to my back. Vollstedt toiled away, barely making eye contact with me. I think he disapproved of my style but he never uttered a word about it. Twenty years later my daughter Cora (who also writes for Roddin’ and Racin’) met Vollstedt out at PIR. We were among a small group assembled to watch Michael McKinney fire his ’67 Vollstedt Ford. When offered a set of ear plugs, the veteran car owner declined. After feasting on the exquisite song of the four cammer, I believe all present were a little light-headed!
Cora slowly approached Vollstedt’s wheelchair and kneeled beside him, he smiled reassuringly. She told him how honored she was to make his acquaintance and he thanked her. Then he cautiously reached out, lifting her braid off her shoulder, “Oooooo! He exclaimed, “Are there two of these?” “Yes,” she blushed, showing him the other.
To this day, Cora braids her hair on race day. She will forever call them: “Rolla braids”.
I was delighted to share breakfast with Vollstedt at Bill’s Steak House on an occasion or two. Vollstedt would call in his order in advance so that he was served promptly after his arrival- eggs benedict, I believe.
While Vollstedt busily slurped his hollandaise sauce, across the table I lamented about another race night with engine woes. “That Pontiac motor just won’t run,” I related to Corley, “That motor just lies down.”
Without looking up from his plate, Vollstedt interjected: “You don’t have a Pontiac motor.”
“Huh?” I responded. “Excuse me?”
“You don’t have a Pontiac motor,” he repeated putting a forkful of egg in his mouth.
“I don’t?” I said.
“No,” he asserted without looking up. “You have a Pontiac engine, he explained. “Motors have cords.”
Christopher Bell wins the 77th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway
Motorsports is steeped in tradition. Driver lineages, rituals, and yearly challenges are defining landmarks through racing’s past. In racing, prestige comes with age. The Daytona 500? 58 years old, Knoxville Nationals? Also 58. Chili Bowl Nationals? 30 years. Besides Racing’s Greatest Spectacle, the Indianapolis 500- that just checked off 106 years old and 101 runnings last May, the Turkey Night Grand Prix is one of the oldest marquees in motorsports.
For 77 years this race has been a Thanksgiving tradition in the southern tracks of California. The winner list reads like a who’s who of open wheel of racing history. Bill Vukovich, Johnnie Parsons, Tony and Gary Bettenhausen, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Bryan Clauson and Tony Stewart are only some of the familiar names that are engraved into the famous ‘Aggie’ trophy.
Though not the originator of Turkey Night, the late J.C. Agajanian was a big promoter and proponent of the history of the event. Since his passing in 1984, J.C. Agajanian Jr. and family have done their best to keep Turkey Night alive in his father’s honor. “You know I have gone to Turkey Night my entire life,” laughed J.C. Jr., “I started out selling programs… I have only missed a handful in my life. Some of the best drivers in the world have raced here- (tonight) is some of the best talent that we have ever had!”
The inaugural race was held at Gilmore Stadium in 1934 and lived there until 1950. In 1960 Turkey Night was hosted at Agajanian’s famous Ascot Park for the first time. Thirty years later, the 50th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix became the last of more than 5,000 main events held since the track opened. The gates were closed the next day, the track destroyed to make way for a failed development project. The Thanksgiving tradition lived on, bouncing between dirt and pavement tracks alike before landing at Ventura Speedway in 2016.
“We normally get maybe 12- 16 cars for our regular program,” explained a local race fan named Sherry. “This is a big deal for us!”
Shane Golobic from Fremont, CA driving the No. 17w Clauson-Marshall/ Wood car led the field of 52 midgets in practice on Wednesday night before the big show, but reigning Turkey Night champion and Elk Grove, CA native, Kyle Larson, topped out qualifying.
Though Larson has recently reached mainstream recognition for his talents in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series, his roots are in open wheel dirt track racing. “Coming back to dirt is like riding a bike,” says Larson. A daring competitor, he is known for his hair-raising strategy of working the high line around the track. Though he put up a valiant fight, it was Norman, OK native Christopher Bell that took home the trophy at the end of the night.
Though the box score only counts three official lead changes between Larson and Bell, it is not indicative of the battle fought. The two sea- sawed from the very beginning, trading point multiple times within each lap. At one time Larson swept his No. 1 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian- racer around the outside of Bell’s No.21 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian car going down the front straightaway, daring Bell to find a new line. Immediately through turn 1, Bell fired back by impossibly finding grip higher on the groove.
A couple of yellows slowed down the pace and bunched the cars back up. Bell held off Larson on every restart, high low and in between. You could throw a blanket over the two right down to the end of the 98th and final lap. Golobic closed the gap in the last two turns and finished third. Bell crossed the line .193 seconds before Larson.
Bell has had an exceptional 2017 campaign, racing — and winning — in the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck series, and taking home a Golden Digger from the 2017 Chili Bowl Nationals. Turkey Night is just the whip cream on Bell’s already impressive launch into the higher levels of professional racing. At 22 years old, Bell is following the projection of Larson, Jeff Gordon and other open wheel hotshots.
“Did you guys have as much fun as I did?” Bell asked the crowd after getting out of the car. The packed grandstands roared in return. As far as traditions go, this one is well worth pulling up a chair to. It is always a feast of talent.