Vancouver Gas Swap Meet Aug 2020

For a second year, the PNW was luckily enough to have a gas bash thrown at the Toedtli Ranch, here in Vancouver Washington called the Vancouver Gas Swap meet.

I can hear some of you right now.  Gas Swap Meet?  Like swapping gas?

C’Mon man, we are talking about oil cans, signs, maps and other memoribilia!  The mastermind behind this was none other than
Tyler Toedtli hisself.  As a young ‘un he is well educated in the hobby and because of his Dad, Todd, well, has had a very good teacher.

Last year there were 30 different vendors and over 200 attendees!!

Well, with a successful second year, there will be a third this year!!

The third annual Vancouver Gas will be August 20-21 of this year. We were happy to host over 30 vendors last year, and look forward to another great event. Additional area will be opened to provide even more room for vendors.
Vendor setup begins on Friday, August 20. Early bird entry will also be available this day. General entry begins at 8 AM on Saturday, August 21.

For some of the vendors, and a select few early birds of the Friday before the show is a pre swap meet!!
Vendor spaces are available and so is onsite camping for a select few.

This show takes place at the Toedtli Ranch, located at 6010 NE 241st Court, Vancouver WA.
Contact Tyler Toedtli for show details. Reachable at (360) 619-2055 or TylerToedtli@gmail.com.
$20 for unlimited vendor space or an early bird pass. $8 public admission. I will see you there!!!

Out of the Blue

It was early June on that Pacific beach; the marine layer was heavier than normal on that day.  The western skies had grown dark and the tide was awash in foam as the ocean raced to the sandy shores.   But Clinton stood watch, for he knew that he would witness the return of the spectre driving that ’32 Ford roadster.

Locals will tell the stories over ice cold cans of Olympia or Rainier that just after sunrise a hopped up old roadster will come from out of the blue and if you are lucky, you watch it pass by.  But, you see, the setting have to be just so.  According to legend, an adventurous member of the Road Runners car club had ventured North to seek a new place where to have possible speed trial runs ran on a hard packed beach.

Long Beach, Washington is just such a place and the adventurous member reached out to local hot rodders to see if there would be interest in such an event and he soon had about 20 guys signed on.

Safety was the concern.

On a cool and stormy June morning the driver gathered everyone to witness his run, to prove a point.  That hard packed sands were as good as the dry lakes of SoCal.  Those in attendance still remember the car, but the driver’s name has faded into history.

Oh that car.  She was a crisp ’32 Ford roadster wearing her Cornflower blue lacquer.  The factory spoked wheels had been replaced with ’38 Ford V8 60 wheels up front and wider Merc wheels out back, painted in bright red with ’40 Ford center caps.

He never lifted the hood much to the chagrin of the locals, but, man that Ford sounded good!

And he set off.  He had  a Zephyr tranny and a Columbia twin butt rear axle too!!  The locals watched as he gave her the gow and was soon speeding across the hard packed beach.   Everyone watched as he made speed, that slick ’32 sailing across the sand.  His head was down as that stripped down rod chased the horizon.  The flattie mill sang a song that resounded across the seaside.  Then in a flash, the roadster’s right front wheel sank in a soft spot in the sand and the hot rod was cart wheeling.

It was over so fast.  The deuce was a mass of destruction and when the first responders came upon the scene, the driver was nowhere to be seen.  Legend has it the body was never recovered.

Clinton stood on the beach and watched as the clouds rolled in.  The horizon was dark as sin and the Pacific lashed at the beach, begging for more.    It was 7 A.M. on that June morning when from out of the blue, a white flash, and that Cornflower blue Deuce flashed on by.

The phantom driver was hard pressed his head against the dash, hands white knuckled , full throttle. Clinton watched in awe and shrieked!  The driver raised a hand in victory and that beautiful roadster just vanished.

Clinton stood on the shore as the storm opened up and a driving rain enveloped the beach.  He walked to wear the ’32 had vanished and to his amazement, saw a set of tire tracks in the sand that appeared and then were gone.    The tide and rain washed away the tracks, but the memory of that phantom driver and roadster stuck with Clinton.  He smiled, and began to walk away.  Hoping to again witness it again one day.   Mark Karol-Chik 5/13/2021  Inspired by the artwork by Tom Fritz https://www.fritzart.com

The Mirage Catcher

Call it fate, but on the day that Kirk Alston set his record at El Mirage, he disappeared. I kind of know what happened. Even though a lot of people witnessed it, they still refuse to believe.
But I do.

My name is Andy “Pops” Gilbert. I am part of the Safety Crew for the SCTA. I’ve been a member since ’39 and have driven the ambulance since ’53. Although I’m in my upper seventies, I’m still pretty sharp. No sight loss, hearings a little off (due to a lot of years working on uncapped engines), a bit overweight but I am agile and my mind is alert, so I know my story holds weight. It all began the Sunday prior to the opening of racing season.

Kirk was an interesting kid and he had a lot going or him. He kind of reminded me of a cross between Vic Edelbrock, Sr. and Barney Navarro, a real master of wringing horsepower out of anything. Nowadays, kids tend to play with Camaros and Mustangs for V-8 thrills, or worse yet, Japanese crap boxes with thundering stereos. Kirk leaned more toward the older engines: Flathead Fords, Hudson sixes, old Hemis, Rocket Olds engines and so fourth. Hell, he even had a literature collection that would make the archives at Peterson Publishing jealous!

Kirk always wore a fresh flattop haircut a T-shirt with jeans or a set of old coveralls. A nice kid really, anyway….

He was really working hard on his roadster, preparing the 296 inch Flathead for the spring meet. I didn’t see the boy much during this time. Most of his preparations he did himself and he rarely called except to give me a hard time about Dale Jarrett losing a race.

Things are hectic the night before racing season takes off and sometimes-peculiar things happen. Well, I had just finished watching NASCAR Tonight when the phone rang. Somehow, I knew it would be Kirk. Jarrett had taken third behind a smarmy Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin had won, so I did not expect to have Kirk give me to hard of a time. “Hello?” I said, and then Kirk was there, as if speaking from far away it seemed. “Pops? This is Kirk, Can…Can ya come by my place?” I spoke, “Sure son, what’s the—” But he cut me off in mid-sentence, “Just come by.” He then hung up on me.

My mind raced. He surely didn’t need mechanical help. Hell, even the guys who’d been around for awhile went to him for odd questions. So, nothing mechanical, so maybe it was his family? That had always been a mystery to me. His mother had died while giving birth and his father had fallen into the bottle shortly after. He bounced from Uncle to Aunt and then finally ended up in foster care till he was 18. Then he set out on his own, living off of a trust fund his grandparents had set aside for him when he was just born, thus, money wasn’t a worry for him. I felt bad for the kid, really. He did not associate that much with kids his age, so us older guys invited him to shows and such to give him a social life of some kind at least.

As I drove toward his house, I thought about how much of a whiz he was with an engine. A natural, really. A strong confident fellow and that is why the call bothered me. He did not sound sure of himself.

I pulled up his driveway, things looked normal. There sat his ’49 Olds 88, a ’34 Ford truck cab sat waiting the finishing touches on the chop he had started and a set of Deuce rails were leaned up against side of the garage. A light spilled out of the crack beneath the garage door and bled across the concrete.

He called for me to come into the garage. As I entered I saw his ’27 “T” Lakester on jack stands. He was sitting on the workbench against the far side of the garage, looking like the cat that had just caught the canary.

“Pops, how ya doing old man?” His voice was sprite and mischievous. I remember Stu Hilborn talking to me the same way on the day he unveiled his fuel injection set up way back when. Cautiously I prodded Kirk, “What, you discover a speed secret to top them all, Kirk boy?” His eyes narrowed and his grin broadened. “That’s only the surface, Pops.” He scooted off of the bench and motioned to me to follow him to the engine stand that sat at the front of his Lakester.

The mill itself was under a grease stained canvas tarp. Kirk smiled and whipped the tarp off of the engine. The engine was obviously the 59 L block I had given him awhile back, but the heads were something else. They looked like a set of Ardun’s, but had an exotic look like that of anything running at Le Mans today. Closer examination answered one question, but raised many more.

The heads were a dual overhead cam design and the induction system was similar to Hilborn’s idea, except this was a reverse firing engine and had electronics involved! A dual coil ignition setup was evident and there were two plugs per cylinder. Amazing and very impressive. Then I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks. Pop riveted to the back of one of the immense valve covers was a brass SCTA timing plaque, which read as follows:
This certifies that Kirk “Allspeed” Alston went 207.156 MPH at El Mirage Dry Lake, April 17th, 1953.

I read the plaque again and again trying to figure it out. Then I stepped back and let my eyes take in the engine that was before me. It was a bastard really. A mixture of old and new. It was so scary to look at that I kept rubbing the green engine to assure me that it was real. I looked at Kirk and I could tell by his facial expression that the novelty of his phantom engine had worn off and he was looking for real answers. Answers that I knew I could not provide.

I spoke, “How can it be?” He cleared his throat. He had been staring at the engine but then tore his eyes from the thing and looked me straight in the eye, then spoke; “Since the beginning of last week, I have been having some pretty realistic dreams. I have been living another life in my sleep, building this engine with the likes of Duntov, Bill Kenz, Stuart Hilborn, Vic Senior and others.

We’ve tested and combined ideas from today’s technology and yesterdays. And, well, this is the final product. Dean Moon wanted me to run it in his ’32 Sedan, but I told him I wanted it for my “T”. So, last night they all gave me that plaque as a gift of sorts to put onto the engine and they told me Kenny Howard would have a surprise painted for me on the nose of the “T”. Sure enough, this morning I went out and across the front of the car was this.”

I walked up and saw with my own eyes, a pinstriped and lettered nosepiece by the master himself, Von Dutch. It read The Mirage Catcher. I looked at the bright red striping and lettering on the steel blue colored lakester. It looked sharp, really sharp! It was probably the cleanest machine I have seen since the Pierson brothers unveiled their ’34 coupe years ago.

He was trembling, and again looked at me for answers. So, I spoke. “Ya know, Kirk, there are a might bit of strange things that happen in this world, and a lot of others, like yourself, look for answers that cannot be found. I say this, if it feels right then why worry. There’s a plan for you and this here creation you have here. Godspeed, Kirk. And no worries.”

He smiled back at me. I nodded and made for the door. It was late and I didn’t want to get in his way as he lowered the engine into his roadster. He again thanked me and went to work. He worked best alone he had always told me. So I walked out to my pick up and headed home. As I drove home, I thought about that phantom engine again. Could it be true? Did all of my friends from long ago reach across time and help a lonely hot rodder in building something that was both new and old? A cool chill ran up my spine. Maybe so……

Next day at the lakes was dry and hot. The sky was a steel blue color with no clouds at all. I sat at my post and watched the cars all run. It was smooth sailing all day long with no incidents at all. As I watched I smiled to myself and thought how wonderful this all was. The teamwork, the camaraderie, the cars. Being here beneath a sunny sky and watching guys who have put their souls into a piece of tin, attempt a personal glory: nothing has changed.

Be it a Riley four port or a computerized Rat big block motor, the same drive to obtain higher speeds with a given design has always been there. I closed my eyes and listened as a “B” class roadster blazed passed. I then determined that when I would die, that here, right here in the high desert of California, I would have my ashes strewn.

This is all about hot rods you see. I love them. Always have, always will. At about 1:05 it was Kirk’s turn. My radio popped to life and a voice squawked “Hey Andy, this is your boy, ain’t it?” I smiled and hit the button. “Just close your eyes and let your senses tell you what is going on.” was my reply.

The Lakester began to wind up as he took it through the gears. The strange hybrid motor growled and sang. It seemed to hypnotize everyone present as it resonated throughout the valley. Kirk entered the traps kicking up a huge rooster tale of silt as he sent his car sailing.

Inside the timing booth a buzz was growing into a roar. The kid was going to set an incredible record! Across my two-way radio I listened as excited voices shot back and forth. He really was going to do it!

Then I saw it. A mirage began to spread across the desert floor. It was almost alive as it seemed to spread like a cloud’s shadow across the desert floor. Wavering and silver in appearance, it seemed to coil like a snake waiting for its prey. The whole valley was nothing but sound now. Radios, the distant murmur of the spectators and the roar of that amazing engine.

The mirage then leapt off of the desert floor and wavered in front of Kirk. A person could see into it, actually. It was clearer. The sky seemed bluer. The haze of today’s modern California sky, one has grown accustomed to was not there.

The mirage was fast too. I watched with horrendous fascination as It raced alongside of Kirk’s Lakester and open even wider. Without slowing Kirk entered the mirage. Full bore. Then Kirk, the car and its amazing engine disappeared.

As the rooster tail dissipated, the seriousness of the situation became clear.   Where were the driver and the car?

Now the radio was alive. Everyone; barking and yelling trying to get the most information on what had happened.  As a safety crew member I have seen it all. Bloody, bruised, ugh, even death. This was beyond any of that. For there was nothing. No traces of the car or Kirk. Most of the folks out there that day claim that Kirk left. He drove off of the course and just flat out left town. I knew the truth. You see, he had caught a mirage. Simple as that.

That evening, on a whim I looked through my old magazine collection. I grabbed a stack of 1953 Hop Up’s and out of the stack, one fell and hit the floor. I stooped to pick it up and froze as I stared at the cover.

There on the cover was Kirk with his Mirage Catcher. Across the top of the picture was the caption- Mysterious Kirk “Allspeed” Alston and his amazing Mirage Catcher” I stared at the magazine for a long time before putting it away. I did not want to read it.

Around me time was changing. I knew that I would not sleep that night. As I finish writing this, I can hear traffic growing with the rush of the oncoming sunrise and I wonder what things will be like today at El Mirage.

—Written by Mark Karol-Chik September, 1996

Veteran’s Day

It is a day of remembrance, honor, and thanks. Albeit, the clamor from the big box stores to come out and get a drill for a special price, and all of the major stores offering special prices on mattresses, I ask you to pause and reflect. Veteran’s day should be a day to pause and to honor those who have served or have fallen. With that in mind, I wrote this story about 7 years ago. I was inspired by a 1969 Mustang Mach I.
Beyond our soldiers, I wanted to remember those who serve behind the front lines.

The life savers.  Those who sweat and toil to save lives and sometimes give their own.

With that, I give you this story. Enjoy. It’s for Her.

“Look over there, Across the street, There’s a car made just for me!”
The lyrics of the great Eddie Cochran resonated through my mind as I saw it. I was just about a block away, but I know a desirable car when I see one. I loaded the customers paint in his car and walked to the intersection to try and get a better look. Sure enough, it was a white 1969 Mustang Mach 1. Being though it is summer, I hurried back inside to check and see if there were orders needed to be tended to. But, that car was on my mind.

I did a quick check and sure enough we were caught up for the time being, so I ventured across MLK Jr Blvd and into the Office Depot parking lot. The car looked like a genuine low mileage survivor. Sure, it had the wrong wheels, but it was a bare bones Mach 1. I walked to it and noticed it had some moss actually growing around the side scoops, so I knew right there it was a native vehicle. Funny how these things happen in Portland. So mentally I started a check list.

Hood pins? Check. Proper hood striping for a ’69 351, Check. Dual exhaust tips per each side? Check.

But this car had no window louvers or a four speed or spoiler. It was a genny bare bones ’69 Mach I! My pulse was racing. Truthfully? It is not at the top of cars of choice, but a low mileage survivor is always something to savor. I snapped a quick picture with my phone from about 20 feet away. I had to go in for a closer look. I glanced into the driver’s side and noticed it was an automatic car with the low-end gauge cluster with a blue interior.

And it hit me.

The driver’s seat was the only place clear in the car. I shook my head, snapped a picture with my phone again and looked closer. Grocery sacks both plastic and paper were everywhere in the car. I walked to the back of the car and took another picture. Sure enough, the backlight was filled with debris. Aghast, I walked to The passenger side and did not even bother to look but took a picture instead. It too was packed to the headliner. Full!

I stepped back and walked away. Thanks to our thirst as a society for reality shows, I am quite aware of the hoarder syndrome. Hell, a few Summer’s back, I had helped a dear friend of mine go through her Grandfather’s estate and that was an experience. But to see it on four wheels in a desirable muscle car? This blew me away. I forwarded the pics to my closest of friends.

And the replies started to come back. WTF? LOL? Really? Seriously? But Deke sent me a message that hit home. It read, this needs to be rescued, did you get the license plate? I stopped in my tracks. By that time, I was back in the store and was showing the pics I snapped to my co-workers. Did I get a pic of a license plate? I clicked and scanned and of the four shots, there it was. A shot of the rear of the Mustang, back window filled up, split exhaust tips visible and an original blue and gold Oregon tag. I tapped it and sent it to Deke. And waited.

The day waned on and as it is in the house paint industry in the Summer, I left the store sore and tired. I had a long trek ahead and the cold beer waiting seemed like it was beyond the 30 miles I had to drive home.

The Mustang was a cold fire burning in my mind. If, when, I could…As a car guy, these thoughts singe your thinking process. Electricity could be shut off and you are drinking water from the Columbia, but if you have that Hemi ‘Cuda or Boss Mustang, life is fine.

Why was it filled with trash? Why did it have the wishbone 14″ Mustang GT wheels instead? Who would treat a car like this as such?

It was the next afternoon when the message was received. And it hit hard. I have an address. It burned into my memory. Deke is amazing. He is a soft-spoken person. Always there when you need him. We became good friends after he had rescued my ass in my ’63 Econoline pick up for the 100th time it seemed. Actually, it was three, but as much trouble as that vehicle was, the debts for a fellow car lover seemed to be adding up.
But this is what he does. Flat hauling a stalled project. Brake job? He is there. Mounting and balancing that set of tired bias ply tires? No question. And always with a fridge full of ‘Stones. I stared at my phone. We had an address and Deke was ready with a trailer and spoke of halving the cost of buying the forlorn Mach 1. I balked and texted him, do we really try to buy the car? His response was this person has no idea what they have. This could be a great opportunity to own a piece of muscle car era pony car, and besides, I would buy your half because Beth would look cute in this. I smiled. Beth was his misses and put up with our car shenanigans always. I messaged him back, Deal.

The day was set. Early, on a cold grey November, Saturday, Deke arrived at my place. His duallie was freshly fueled and the trailer was willing and ready. I climbed in and Deke said, “Let’s rescue a Mach 1!” We rolled out of St Helens and talked of cars we always wanted. The lost Nomad. The ’60 Edsel Ranger Starliner I almost got. Where a ’46 Ford coupe with a fullhouse flattie sat near his house (not telling you!) and so forth.

We ventured into Northwest Portland and weaved between streets, ‘til his GPS led us to a humble bungalow at the end of a dead-end street. It was a quiet pleasant house. Neatly manicured yard. And there it was. Parked in the driveway next to a nearly new Land Rover.
“You kidding me?,” I almost shouted. There it sat. Wimbledon White 1969 Mustang Mach 1, out in the elements. I was mixed emotionally. Rage. Humor. Disgust.

I was out before Deke could grab my arm. The whole plan was to buy this car from a recluse. A confused person. Someone who was lost. I knocked on the door. And waited.

Someone who is lost—that thought stayed with me as the door to the house opened.

The gentleman was as tall as me. His eyes were hazel and seemed to search the horizon. Innocent. Wondering. His hair was very white and styled in a clean cut from decades ago. He smiled at me and extended his hand. I did not even have a chance to speak when he asked, “Is she home?”

I looked at him, shifted my stance and asked, “My name is David. Who is she?”

He cleared his throat and responded. “My wife.” He shook his head, cleared his throat. His eyes were welling up with tears. It was a scene I had heard about from articles on OPB or The Nation magazine, but to see it in real life. Whew…I am still saddened by it.

He continued, “Niko is a nurse. She told me she should be home in January of 1969. I bought her that Mustang you know. “His smile trailed off to the ol’ girl parked in the driveway. I looked over Deke’s shoulder at Mach 1. Deke’s face changed. His gaze hit the ground as the story began to unfurl.

“Yeah. We married in 1965. She and I were med students. Going to save the world. But I had an issue with my eyesight you know? Not someone who would serve the military so well, but Niko, she was always the healthy one. She went and served. We wrote letters you know? HA! You kids today. Letters…anyway, she told me it was January 1969 when she would come home. So, I asked her, what do you want as a present? Her response was, “A new car and things that will remind me of the freedom we have in our country.” The man paused.

My intentions of purchase long since vanished. Hell, I almost felt ashamed.

But he continued. “You know, some say freedom is not free. I stood by that mantra for years. But Niko, she said to me, “Freedom is free…it is WAR that costs us in treasure and lives.”

At this point I looked to the man in front of me. His body was starting to shudder. Shake. I dared to look into his eyes. It was 2013. 1969 was a lifetime ago. I saw the hurt. Tears. I tore my gaze away. He grabbed my hands. His voice was like a knife.  “IT’S FOR HER.”

My vision was blurred. Tears of pain spilled from my eyes. My breath was held in my throat in long drawn out hiccups. Deke had walked down the driveway ahead of me. The strong duallie was fired up and waiting. I went to leave, but he grabbed my arm again and looked at me.

“It’s for her you know. I like to buy her things to please her, presents. I put them in that Mustang. She will come home someday, and the car and all its treasures will spill the laughter out of her I so long to hear.”
I looked him in the eyes. Smiled. Shook his hand and said,
“As many have served and have been forgotten. I am glad to have known and met you. So that I can pass her memory to others, so she is not forgotten. She will come home sir.  Just wait.”

In Honor of our Veterans. Female. Male. Combat or Nursing. Thank you.

The Tuskegee Warbird

Wallace Eugene Lincoln,Sr  (Wally to his friends), was fearless.  As a young boy he discovered the thrill of how melted wax applied to the bottom of a toboggan would propel it down the snow-covered hills surrounding his home in Central City, Colorado, faster than any of the other youngsters.

As winter rolled into spring, he made a go cart and would race down the hilly streets and back roads around the old mining town always trying to go faster, he was hooked. As he grew older, he learned how to ride motorcycles, got his driver’s license when he turned 14 and when he helped an old prospector clear his property was given a 1915 Model T Runabout.  It was not running but, Wally had a curious mind and was determined to make it fast. And he did.

As he grew older, Wally was hired by a local garage and his curiosity and love of the internal combustion engine really took off.  He was a natural.  He would read and absorb everything that the owner of the garage showed him.  When Wally turned 17, he gathered up his tools and moved to Denver.

As a young man of color, he was determined to show the world he had the skills, determination and knowledge to rebuild engines and tackle most mechanical issues and was hired by Kenz and Leslie V8 Service.  Bill and Roy took to Wally and helped him polish his talents.  He had a good job and the future only looked brighter, but the universe had other plans for the young mechanic.

December 7th, 1941. As America entered into the world conflict, Wally wanted nothing more than to serve his country.  Kenz and Leslie agreed and assured him that when he returned, he would have a job waiting for him.  Wally enlisted but as a Black man, found that he was shoved to the side only to be sent to Alabama to join a regiment that would become The Tuskegee Airmen.

Wally was a self-educated man.  He knew the laws of that land and as his train ride took him farther from his home in the west, the road south made it clear he was not welcomed.  But he knew, that if he lowered his head and did as asked, he may just live to tell stories to his children.

After boot camp, Wally began to show his prowess with his mechanical skills. On a whim, a pilot who trained those who showed interest took him on a flight and there was that rush he felt as a child so long ago on that cold frozen hill.  The pilot swung that Wildcat into a dive and the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engine sang her song and Wally felt the G force as the fighter plane screamed across the wild blue yonder.  The pilot brought them in and landed and as he did, he was peppered with questions from Wally.  Wally’s love of speed and adventure had finally come to fruition. He wanted to be a fighter pilot.

The Defense Department originally was skeptical about the abilities of “people of color” because they were deemed not efficient as their white counterparts.  Wally had heard whispers of this in the barracks and the attitude ramped up.  The Tuskegee Airmen would prove all of those who rallied against them wrong.  Wally served valiantly, he became a pilot for the 332d and piloted everything from the Bell P-39 Airacobra and towards the end was flying the mighty P-51 Mustang.  In July of 1945 Wally earned a Flying Cross for his efforts in the Pacific theatre piloting a bright silver with red tail Flying Tiger.

After he came home, all Wally could think about was getting back to K & L and building engines.  Maybe even a race car for himself.   His talents were not wasted; his skills learned in the hangars overseas helped Kenz and Leslie to modernize their racing garage.

In 1957 Wally made a purchase that would launch a new chapter for his quest of speed.   Fresh from Bob Jones Ford, there he ordered a stripped down 1957 Ford Custom business sedan.  The car was delivered without any amenities, no heater and hard rubber floors.  The ’57 was silver as the main color and red above the moulding and upper rear of the car including the decklid and taillight bezels. Which was similar to his P-51 he flew in the Pacific theatre.  Beneath the hood was a super charged 312 Y Block backed by a 3 speed over drive.

Wally had a few years showing the taillights to many of competitors on the strips in the Rocky Mountain area tracks.  His prowess with chassis set up and fine-tuning racing engines, even after he stepped out of the seat of his mighty ’57, helped racers in the Mile-High City. He kept on working for K&L during the weekdays and on the weekends, he was racing.  Within 6 years he had purchased a then new ’62 Galaxie 406 engine with a 4 speed, a front axle set up out of a ’48 F-1 pickup, he radiused the rear wheel wells and a local painter added on the rear quarters THE TUSKEGEE WARBIRD.  The ’57 again was a contender and Wally continued his pursuit of speed.

Then, one night as he was fine tuning a dragster at the shop at 1255 Delaware, a pre-ignition fired off and Wally lost his sight.  He felt his days were done working on hot rods, race cars, but it had only begun.  Wallace had learned a trick from an old friend that if you close your eyes and by placing a thick wooden dowel upon an engine block as it ran, one could determine which cylinder was not firing or where an engine needed more work.  Now blind, he learned to tune an engine by using his other senses, hearing, smell and touch.

His ’57 Ford was parked in his garage, covered by tarps and remained untouched. A memory to his competitors and forgotten by the driver himself.  Wally worked on and off for a few more years before hanging up his tools and quietly slipped into a bittersweet retirement.

However, Wally’s grandson had other ideas. The ’57 had sat unloved for years and ever since Wallace the 3rd laid eyes on the dust covered beauty, he was determined to bring her back. Working in secret, the old quarter mile warrior was being given a complete running gear restoration.  The body had aged very well as had the original paint and trim on the old Ford.  The 406 was rebuilt and had some updates internally to make it more competitive.

On the eve of his grandfather’s birthday, Wallace Eugene Lincoln III, turned the key and the ’57 Ford Custom fired to life. He closed his eyes and listened as the mighty FE sang her new song.  He only hoped it would sing the same song to his grandfather’s ears.

On October 7th, Wally Sr.’s home was alive with activity.  He sat in his rocker and heard the sounds of family arriving, laughter, conversations, and love in nearly all of the rooms in his old home.  From the kitchen Wally Jr. was busy prepping a turkey, and all of the fixin’s as requested by his Dad.  Outside, Wally the 3rd carefully rolled the ’57 off of the trailer and rolled it into the garage where it had sat untouched for so many years. It was almost time.

Wally Sr. reveled in the gifts, good food and what a great time that his family provided to celebrate his birthday and it was right as the evening was winding down that his grandson spoke up.

“Say pops, I have one more surprise for you.”  Wallace Sr turned his head and reached out his hand to his grandson, “Well, let’s have a look,.or a feel in my case!”  He laughed and the family joined in.  Senior had accepted his blindness years ago and by making light of his situation, he always put those around him at ease.  Wally got up and with the help of his grandson, followed by the rest of the family; they made their way out to the garage.

The garage door was already open and as he entered, Wally Sr smiled.  The memories always came to him as he smelled the interior of his garage.  He was led to the 57 and as he was expecting to lay his hands on a covered up fender, realized the car was uncovered, even felt freshly polished.

“Son, what have you been up to?” Wally Sr asked.  Wally the 3rd walked around the front of the Tuskegee Warbird, climbed in and hit the key.

RR-RRRR-VAHROOM!  – the 406 caught and fired.  The garage was filled with a deafening mechanical choir as 8 cylinders did their dance and made music of a different kind.  Those around Wally Sr. covered their ears but all he did was smile and nod his head.  His grandson turned the old race car off and walked to his grandfather’s side. “You did good my boy, you did really good.  Play that again for these old ears.”   Wally the 3rd did, and his grandfather rested his hands on the fender and felt as the engine performed as it should.

Senior would live for a few more years and got to feel the Tuskegee Warbird take him down the quarter mile and again satisfy his quest for speed.  Wally the 3rd still races the car to this day and has the urn with his grandfather’s ashes in the trunk, you know, cause it is a fitting place for an old racer to travel fast at times, even after his death.

Father’s Day

Maurice Falco woke to the smell of bacon and eggs cooking. Still in bed he nodded approval before actually getting up. He could hear the mower outside and knew one of his 4 sons was mowing his yard. He heard laughter and voices from the driveway and the sound of running water. He nodded for he knew his new Silverado was being washed and detailed.

Falco rose and made his way to the dining room. Peaches was busy preparing breakfast for her man and her boys.  He walked up behind, her kissed her neck then took his chair. He grabbed his I-Phone, clicked on the TV and scanned the channels for the race. His youngest came racing in, “Dad, the Lowe’s truck is here!” Falco stood up to see the truck backing in and the driver exited, opened the back door and began to unload his Father’s Day gift from Peaches and the boys.

“Is it what I think it is?” he asked, even though he had seen the transaction on his bank statement. It was his money that purchased it, but it was what he wanted. Falco walked out his front door and watched as the delivery drivers haul his Fire Magic Echelon Diamond Propane Gas Grill.
“Wow that is something else!” It was his neighbor Kenny Windsor from next door. Falco glanced over and noticed Kenny was out in his driveway detailing his old wagon.

“14 large, Windsor. One of the best ever made. I’ll be firing it up later today to feed my troops and Peaches, you and yours can drop by later if ya want.” Falco paused.  “What is the year of that wagon of yours again?”
“’it’s a ’66 Fairlane Country Squire. I was amazed to find it in Eastern Washington last fall.  It —“

Kenny was cut short as Falco said over him, “I don’t get what you see in those old relics. My Silverado is a sure bet, gets killer mileage and hauls the mail when need be.”

Kenny shrugged, smiled and then said, “Sometimes it’s the little things ya know?” Falco shook his head and turned his attention to his new grill.
Falco was making room on his back porch for his Rolls-Royce of grilles when he heard a splash in his pool followed by a second one. He glanced up to see his twin sons start to battle only to realize they had been bickering and had thrown each other’s I-Pads into the drink. As Falco went to breaking up their fighting he also did a calculation of the cost or replacing the now submerged bits of expensive Apple technology.

“Aye yai, yai yai” he sighed, As Falco lectured his sons he ventured a glance across the fence and saw that Kenny was setting up his bright red Weber grille.  Charcoal? He is still using charcoal? He watched as Kenny fussed with his Weber and noticed Kenny’s sons were both helping their Dad by weeding and mowing.

“Say Windsor, a Weber? Really?” Falco chided his neighbor, Kenny shrugged and called out a reply- “Sometimes it’s the simple things ya know?” Falco shook his head and turned his attention to the circus that was his bunch.

Peaches brought out trays of meats and veggies to be cooked. He cracked a Natural Lite and began to prep the food for everyone. His sons taunted and fought as brothers do. Peaches did her best to control her sons only to infuriate their oldest. And the afternoon took its course. Falco and Peaches got into an argument, his sons acted up and one Natural Lite slid into 5 and his day winded down into one frustration.

He stole a glance over his fence and noticed that Kenny and his sons had quietly had their meal and he was in the sandbox with his sons. Blurry eyed Falco watched as the trio had an open case of Hot Wheels and were busy creating roads. Setting up a garage for some of the cars and just enjoying each other’s time being a family.

He paused and it hit him, it really is about the little things.

Springtime, Remission and the 47C Roadster

His buddies called him Soupbone. Primarily, because of his size, 6’4’’ a tall gentle giant. For the past year and a half, he had been wrestling the unwanted visitor known as Cancer. No one knows how they will respond if or when they have the diagnosis, but when the dark secret is revealed, you either fall or fly.

For two years he wrestled the beast. Through back pain so debilitating it had him bed ridden, the times where he could not walk. Sleepless nights beside his beloved wife that would make the normal person shelve one’s sights of living, but his tiny wife would squeeze his hand in the middle of the night and assure him he had years to live.

Before his condition had been revealed Soupbone had been toiling over his restoration of his old race car. A ’29 Model A Roadster powered by a Y Block V8 he had massaged into a contender at the tracks in his youth. Time, that enemy of youth had drained the  miles and years one ¼ mile at a time and had torn away the zip of the once powerful roadster, but Soupbone had it in his mind that he still had a winning combination and was on the rebuild when his diagnosis read red across the board.

Cancer. Malicious. The silent killer.

One night, after he was into his chemo program, he walked out to his shop and took it all in. 47c had been partially disassembled and was scattered across his work benches, the floor and upon his long stalled ’63 Galaxie project. He wondered how the hell he could ever put it back together. Time and his notion for a heavy left foot had taken a toll on his old hot rod. His lower back was starting to ache again when the door to his shop opened and his tiny wife was there.
“Bear, I know you better than anyone alive. I feel that with the cancer that is raging inside you, well, you feel hopeless.” She paused. Her brown eyes shimmered under the shop lights. A tear rolled down her left cheek. “But, you have to know, you have been through worse. You are a survivor. A fixer. You put life into things that many have abandoned. I think that if you channel that strength, that gift of reviving things many have left for dead into yourself, you will succeed.”

His lovely tiny misses walked up to him and they embraced. He tried with all of his might to hold it together, but eventually melted down in her embrace. She always had her way of giving him strength, drive to conquer what he feared.

Bear kept that a memory locked into his mind. He even wrote his wife’s words down and would look at them as he went through all of his treatments and as he would toil over 47c in his shop.

Bear lost his hair, he shed body mass and at times felt that he was not too far from cashing it all in. But even as his body battled the demon C, he would walk out to his shop every night and attempt to accomplish one more thing on the checklist. As the results began to show in his favor, so did the progress on his roadster.  Bear felt, at times, he and 47c were kindred spirits, both just battling to stay alive, one helping the other to make it another day.

Bear’s numbers dropped and with his drive to end his suffering and drive to kick cancer’s ass, he did. It was not easy. But he had the passion and yearning to live just one more day. To see the moon, stars, see that amazing sunrise. To kiss his tiny wife, hear his grandchildren laugh and another thing, to drive his roadster.
April 27th the news arrived that he was cured. The cancer was gone, and he was given a good bill of health.

Dawn cracked the skies with cherry blossoms and daffodils. Honeybees were hunting for pollen and as the sun climbed the skies, the hills surrounding Buena Vista awoke and reached for the warmth. Bear walked out to his shop, climbed into 47c and strapped in. He bowed his head and smirked. It was a routine he had done since he built the old Ford decades ago and here he was as an old man doing the same routine. Cinched the belts, glanced in the rearview mirror, a few stabs of the throttle, flick of the wrist and –whirr-whirr-Whirr-VAROOM! 47c fired up and the garage was alive with the rapport of the Y Block sending her music through the short headers. A quick stab of the throttle, clutch engaged, and Bear was off.

She watched as he drove out of the garage and headed into the hills, smiling all the while.

She watched her survivor, fighter, partner drive his old roadster and as they raced out of sight, she knew he was cured.

—Dedicated to every cancer patient out there.
You can do it. Fight. Be Strong. Cancer sucks. Long live the survivors. If you love the artwork reach out to Gary Campesi.

LOVE IS FUN IN ‘61

“Joni.”
She sat up in bed and looked around. Outside, a slight gust of wind kissed the side of her home and waltzed down the valley. Jo Ann shook her head. She knew she’d heard her name. It had been nothing more than a whisper. It was probably her imagination, but then, there is was again, “Joni.”

Jo Ann rose, donned her robe and walked to her window. It was a cold Valentines Day morning. The showed it was 3am; frost glistened on the roof of the garage and on the lawn down below. Through the window of the garage there was a light which at first, was a concern to her but then, very faintly, she heard… music?

I Love, I Love, I Love my calendar girl
Yeah, sweet calendar girl.
I Love, I Love, I love my calendar girl
Each and every day of the year.
January, you start the year of fine
February, You’re my little valentine

She hurried down the stairs, across the foyer, and into the garage. Her daily driver Tahoe was bathed in the glow of headlights from the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air parked in the rear of the garage. From the original radio, Neil Sedaka sang away.

Yeah, yeah, my hearts in a whirl

The 57…

She looked at the Bel Air and remembered their first date. Romance isn’t forced, but like some beautiful creation, it is grown. Hot summer days as a newly married couple, they would chase the moon to the coast, then wander back inland and watch as the sun rose above the Cascades. She smiled as she remembered her oldest son as a toddler standing up in the front seat.

“Joni… It’s been a while my love.”

She cocked her head and sitting in the driver’s seat, she saw Con as a young man, smiling at her. Jo Ann hurried to the passenger side, opened the door and sat down. As she closed the door, she caught a glimpse of her own reflection in the side mirror and, to her amazement, she was young again! The song on the radio changed and Buddy Holly began to sing “Everyday.”

Suddenly, the outside world was bright and sunny. Con and she were chasing a back road through the Washington countryside. He nodded toward her and she scooted close to him. He put his arm around her, and she held his hand with hers. And so, it went as they rode along. No words; just being close and in the moment. Con smiled at her and pulled the ’57 to the side of the road.

“Joni, as beautiful as this Chevrolet is and has been to me, you’re still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had in my life.” Happy Valentines Day, my love.” Con smiled at her, leaned in to get closer and was gone.
Jo Ann was alone in the Bel Air. On the radio, Johnny Ace sang…

Forever may darling our love will be true
Always and forever, I’ll love only you
Just promise me darling, your love in return
May this fire in my soul dear, forever burn

I love you too, Con. Happy Valentines Day.” She whispered. She switched of the radio, turned out the lights and exited the bright red ’57. Closing the door gently, she allowed her fingers to run gently across the side panel, her hand coming to rest on the rear fin for a moment. She closed her eyes and sighed before walking to the door of the garage. She turned off the lights in the garage and hoped for a ride again next year.

—Dedicated to Connie and Jo Ann Toedtli

Midnight Blue Christmas

December 1945
Word arrived by telegram to our home, and Ma burst into the living room shaking the letter and screamed, “EB IS COMING HOME!  HE WILL BE HERE FOR CHRISTMAS!!”
I was drawing in the workbook I carried with me everywhere I went, and my little sister Stella was playing with her doll.  Outside the wind gusted, and we could feel the icy wind reach to us through the walls.  Pa was at work down at the rail yards.  He was a mechanic and helped keep the locomotives running on time.   My older brother Ebenezer had enlisted shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.  He was an all star athlete in high school and the president of a car club; he was one of those guys that others wanted to be like. Eb was five years older than me.
When he left to serve, he told me to take the reins and take care of Ma, Pa, and Stella.  Gape mouthed, I looked at him; this was a whole new world for me. Eb dropped his head, shook it slowly from side to side with a hint of that grin that melted all of the girls in school.  “Come on, Zeke, you make it sound like I’ll never come home.”
Again, the whole world shifted for me.  The thought of Ebenezer never coming home grounded me.  I nervously laughed and nodded.  “Yeah, I know.  Just me being a clown, you know?”
We both paused.  In my mind, I saw the photos of the carnage at Pearl Harbor.
Smoke.  Fire. Lives lost.
Eb broke the silence.  “Okay, so while I am away…“ and he left me instructions on maintenance for the furnace that he tended to because Pa had a bad back and stooping in the crawl space was hard on him. He reminded me of Ma’s medication and to keep watch on Stella and to be stern on her studies and piano practice.   But he also asked me to start his roadster up every week so the engine would not go south while he was away.   In those four long years, I took on the tasks of being more than a son in our household.

Monday December 24th
My bedroom was on the ground floor of our Queen Anne styled home; my folks and Stella each had their rooms upstairs.  Eb’s room was just down from mine.  As I had done since my brother had left, I slept lightly; listening to the furnace to make sure it was still performing its duties, listening for sounds that would indicate a prowler or something amiss.
When there was a light tap on my window, I sat straight up and looked at the window, cocking my head to the side when it happened again.  I leapt out of my bed and grabbed my Louisville slugger.  Fear ran its icy finger down my spine as I crossed the room to open the curtains and see what, or who, was the source of the tapping noise.
It was snowing, and standing there in his dress uniform was my brother Eb.  He saw me getting ready to shout but moved his finger over his lips in a hush gesture.  I nodded, and he motioned for me to get dressed and be quiet.    I grabbed a sweater, my dungarees and wool socks, boots, jacket, hat, and gloves.  Quietly, I opened my door, then made my way across the dark living room before going outside.
Eb had placed his duffle bag on the front porch and was waiting near the garage.  “You’ve grown, little brother!” he whispered.  I nodded, and he quietly chuckled.
“Why are we not waking the folks?” I asked in a whisper.
Ebenezer motioned at our home.  “Welp, I had every intention of doing just that, but then I saw the dark living room and no Christmas tree. What’s going on? Ma has always had a tree.”
“We haven’t had a tree since you’ve been gone, Ebenezer.  Ma and Pa just scuttled the idea, and Stella and I made do.”
My reply hit my brother hard.  He nodded, then pressed a gloved hand to his eyes.  He pursed his lips, sniffed, and I had to look away.
“Well, let’s change that,” he said.
With that, as quietly as we could, we pushed his roadster out of the garage and onto the street.  Carefully, we placed the chains on the back tires, loaded up an ax and some twine, and then we were off.
It was around 2 AM as we made our way toward the outskirts of town.  The roadster’s mill cackled softly and resonated off the buildings as we drove.  There were wreaths and lights hanging from the lamp posts.  We came up to a stop sign, and I leapt out and raced to a lamp post that was at the intersection. Quickly, I removed the wreath and attached it to the roadster’s grille.  Eb laughed, and we were on our way again.
Snow began to fall creating a wonderland, and the tire chains had a rhythmic bell-like ringing. As if on cue, Eb began to sing Jingle Bells.  I joined in, and it was all I could have wished for.   Eb loudly sang “Oh what fun it is to ride in a hopped up 32 Ford!”
We were about four miles out of town when Eb pulled off.   We got out and eyed a few trees before we found one that was just right.  We cut it down, strapped it to the back of the ’32, and headed back home. “Brother, that wreath looks mighty keen on my car.” Eb said.  I just beamed.
About a quarter mile from home, Eb killed the engine, and the little Ford rolled softly to a stop in front of our home.  We carefully removed the tree from the roadster and carried it inside.  Eb steadied the evergreen, and I swiftly ran back to the garage and found the tree stand and some decorations.  The clock was showing 5 a.m. when we felt our work was done.  I sat down on the sofa looking at the beautiful sight.  I had forgotten how wonderful a Christmas tree was in our home.  Eb stepped back and began to sing.
“Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright.”
His voice boomed and filled the house. Upstairs, I heard footsteps, rustling, and doors banged open.
Ma raced down the stairs followed by Pa.  Stella was soon close behind.  Ma turned to Pa, his hand on her back.  She clasped her hands together in glee.  Stella squeezed between our parents and rushed Ebenezer.  He lifted her up and hugged her.  My folks slowly made their way to Eb, and we all hugged each other.  Again, as a family.

That was Christmas 1945.
To this day, it resonates as one of the greatest Christmases, and I share it every year to my grandchildren.
As a bonus, their Great Uncle Eb takes them for a ride in that great old ’32 Ford .
-Written by Mark “Spooky” Karol-Chik  11/9/2019
Inspired by the incredible art work done by Tom Fritz visit his work at  https://www.fritzart.com

Take Care of It While I Am Away

On the eve of May 21st, 1951 my older brother grabbed my arm and asked me to come with him. I was just 13 and lived in the shadows of my older brother.  Harper could do no wrong. He was known for his athletic abilities, he was not only Class President, but was also the Prom King. Girls wanted to date him, guys wanted to be him. To me, he was just my older brother. I knew him for how he and Dad would knock heads how he hated yard work. That his fears of spiders lead to pranks I’d do on him. With all of his accolades the one thing I really felt in awe was the ’31 Model A sedan he had.  Harp had drug it out of the hills and Dad was so angry he had done so.  Soon after there was a ’32 Ford frame, then running gear from a wrecked ’42 Mercury. As the sedan was chopped, then placed upon the frame and the front and rear axles bolted in place, a set of big ‘n little’s on Ford steelies were bolted in place too. The clincher came when Harp learned of a near new Cadillac had been wrecked badly and he had made a deal and drug home a 331 OHV mill. His senior year was a blur of school activities, his job and building that sedan.  He did them all. Not only did he drive the sedan to his graduation, but he graduated with honors and a scholarship. Then there was me. 13 years old and not one interested in sports at all, a band student and a writer too.  Cars fascinated me, but I did not have the same keen abilities that my older brother did. I was a shadow in everything Harper would do, but I loved him so much.  He always made time for me and would brag about my stories, how I excelled in band class.

So here we were, out in the garage standing beside that hot rod he had built. He walked me around to the passenger’s side front and I could tell something was amiss. He was nervous and kind of shifted his weight from side to side. He closed his eyes and then set a hand on my shoulder and one on the cowl of the sedan.  “Look Benji, I need you to do something for me. See, I signed up and will be leaving within a week to Korea. “His words hit me like a brick. I gasped. He shook his head, “Now come on man, I will be a part of the US Army. We just saved the world from those nasty Nazis, so, how hard can it be for us to defeat those commies?”  I nodded and bit the insides of my cheeks. No way was I going to shed tears in front of my brother. I just nodded and stared at the engine in the sedan. “Now, take care of it while I am away.” Then we sprung into action. We jacked the sedan up and carefully placed cinder blocks under the drive train front and rear. We drained the antifreeze, popped the plugs and squirted oil into the cylinder holes. The gas tank was bone dry so we then pulled out some old tarpaulins and covered the sedan.  And there she sat.  Looking like some crazy canvas ghost in the garage. We headed for the door and again, Harper turned to me and said, “Take care of it while I am away.”

He left the very next week. Harper was everything and more the Army could have hoped for. He was a skilled marksman, had leadership qualities and no fear.  Then in August, he was gone. In WWII in our home town, we were always informed of anything that our boys were fighting for. But, when our soldiers were sent to Korea, silence. We never heard anything about Harper and that became the end of my parents. Mother shut down and would spend her days in silence. Father, well, he quit his job and became an over the road truck driver. He spent days away from us. I grew up now out of the shadows Harper cast.  I wrote, played drums and watched over the sedan.

Why? Well, Harper wanted me too.

 PRESENT DAY

I became the owner of the home I grew up in. My folks passed but I carried on. Bess and I married and we kept the old home up and always in the garage, under those heavy canvas tarps, Harper’s sedan sat waiting. My nightly routine would involve myself sitting in my studio out in the garage and practicing on my kit. Slow rolls, poly rhythms. Anything to challenge my mind. It was toward the end of October one night when Bess came out to may space, excited! The door opened and there she was, lovely as always standing in the door way. She was just beaming. “Ben, I just saw on a report from the BBC that a cache of bones from lost American soldiers has been discovered! Dog Tags too!” I set my sticks down and then, before I could respond, the tarps that had sat covering the Model A fell to the floor. The car my brother had built and had asked me to watch over and I had, vanished.
Bess and I looked at each other. Then, outside, we heard the loud crackle of pipes.

I raced across the garage and threw open the doors.  With Bess at my side we looked out into the darkness and beneath the street lights, there was the sedan with Harper behind the wheel. He blipped the throttle and that Caddy mill cackled into the night, fire shot from the straight pipes.

I had walked in a daze from the garage and was within an arm’s reach of the old Model A hot rod, I saw Harper.  Young. Alive. That crazy grin of his. We locked eyes and I lost it.  Tears washed across my gaze. “You took care of it while I was away! Thanks Benji!”
Harper nailed the throttle and the ‘31 powered by that Cadillac V8 and my brother raced away.

Bess sauntered up to me. She wrapped an arm around me. My shoulders shook as tears washed away memories of Harper and his Model A.

I kept my word and safe guarded my brother’s hot rod because somehow, I knew, he would return.

Thanks to Gary Campesi and his amazing artwork.