Lyn St. James is a late bloomer in terms of being a professional race car driver. At the age of twenty seven she strapped into her converted street car (a Ford Pinto) for the first time at an obscure road course in south Florida. All was going well until the leader approached to lap her. “It was like someone had jumped out of a dark closet and yelled: Boo!” she recalls in her book. She jumped and lost control, spinning her racer off course and into a swamp. Fortunately she had the presence of mind to bail out… because almost immediately, the Pinto began to take on water. By the time her race had ended, the Pinto had completely disappeared from view.
A rather inauspicious debut. Who would have guessed that in eighteen years, this same woman would make her debut at Indianapolis? When the leaders approached on that day she held her line because by then, she was a seasoned professional. She soldiered on to an eleventh place finish and garnered Rookie of the Year honors. She is the only woman in history to do so.
Most people know Lyn St. James as the second woman to qualify for the Indy 500 but in her life she has accomplished so much more. All tolled she qualified and raced in seven Indy 500’s, finally hanging up her helmet at age fifty four. What most people don’t realize is that she was a winner in world class endurance racing. Teamed with other professionals, St. James won races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road America. Additionally she holds thirty one national and international closed course speed records. What she is most proud of however, is the work she has done to promote other women in motorsports.
Today she is acting as Grand Marshall of the historic car races at Portland International Raceway. She still races on occasion and was supposed to have a ride in the Trans Am class, unfortunately that deal fell apart. This is better for us because now we have her undivided attention. I am here today with my daughter and our friend Ariel Biggs. Both of these twenty year olds are pursuing careers in motorsports; my daughter on the marketing/management side of things, Biggs as a driver and eventual team owner. They are giddy about the prospect of sitting down with a racing legend. Best of all, St. James seems equally enthusiastic about talking with them.
The girls discussed routes to success in what is still a male dominated industry. How to change the existing demographics? St. James suggested that it all begins with parents exposing their daughters to motorsports at a young age; just as readily as they would their sons.
They talked about finding and securing sponsorships. St. James reminded them that it’s not about you and why you need financial backing. It’s about what you’re going to do to promote a sponsor’s product or service.
They talked about the mechanical aspects of the sport. St. James admitted that she isn’t a mechanic but learned enough about race cars to be able to communicate with her crew. You need to speak the same language. The fact that Biggs does her own setups and likes working on the race car, puts her ahead of the curve.
They discussed the importance of staying fit and St. James even demonstrated part of her stretching regiment.
Finally, St. James reminded the girls not to become discouraged. They need to be diligent in pursuit of their goals. If they fall off the horse, they need to climb right back on. Even if their horse ends up in the bottom of a swamp, they can’t give up.
Flashing back to her debut, St. James and her husband had to wait until all of the races had concluded before they could retrieve their Pinto from the swamp. They hauled it home and stayed up all night cleaning and drying. St. James was especially motivated to get her Pinto back on the road. She needed to drive it to work on Monday.
Advertiser Update: GBE Mandrel Bending
Building a better “Mouse Trap” has always been a dream of fabricators, inventors, etc. The old spring loaded mouse trap does its job and serves its purpose alright but the question has always been, “What if I could build a better one?” I think the saying goes “Build a better mouse trap and the world would beat a path to my door…” or something along those lines.
I know that none of you have ever put an exhaust system together on your pride and joy only to have it leak, sag, fall off etc. The old trusty ‘mouse trap,’ ‘er exhaust clamp we’ve all used serves its purpose but it isn’t ideal. The alternative is to weld the exhaust system up to prevent leaks which creates other problems like, what if you need to take it off the car? You end up cutting it apart to remove it and then what? Build a new one, weld it back together?
Have you ever had your brand new headers leak at the collector after only a few days? How about the bolts vibrating loose? How about scraping the collector flange on a speed bump or driveway, fumbled with the bolts, washers, and nuts to get a tri-bolt collector bolted together? No matter which way you turn that collector flange there is always going to be one corner either hanging down or it will be up on top making it difficult to tighten up those three bolts evenly to prevent leaks.
There is also the “ball and socket” type system out there but as the exhaust expands and contracts, it loosens, slips, and leaks like the old guillotine style clamp and they are expensive.
A little research by me revealed some interesting information about the Marman Flange clamping system. We’ve all heard of the Marx Brothers, but what I didn’t know what that Herbert “Zeppo” Marx had a company that made these clamps in the 1930’s. They were used in many different industries where leak proof clamped connections were needed. Currently, the space and aeronautical industries use them extensively, even for fuel line connections.
Steve at Get Bent Mandrel Bending had been dealing with all of the above for some time trying to solve these problems. He has invested a considerable amount of money in research and equipment and it looks as though all that work has paid off. With his New to GBE, rotary end former and special dies he had built for the machine, GBE can now make 3” Marman Flanges, in stainless steel or mild steel, to be used with “V Band” clamps to create a simple secure exhaust clamping system that helps prevent the age old leak problems mentioned above, and it looks cleaner is and more compact too. More new dies will be built in the near future to allow other diameter pipes.
You can buy these flanges w/clamps pre-made, for $64.00 per pair or you can have GBE build and install your new systems at their shop. Call 503-607-0443 with questions or to schedule an appointment.
I Dreamed of Genie
I dreamed of owning the Genie, to be specific. No, I’m not talking about Barbara Eden. I’m talking about a small block powered sports racer, built in 1964 by San Franciscan Joe Huffaker.
There was a time in my life (the late 70’s) when I loved sporty cars so much, I’d drive to Sears Point just to watch club racing. It was during those outings that I became enamored with the nimble little racecar, then owned by a gutsy, talented driver named Terry Herman. Only a handful of unlimited, Can Am-style cars would typically show up for these meets so Herman would have to start scratch in a mixed field of big bore Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs and such. It was always entertaining watching him slice and dice his way to the front. And when someone did turn up with a swoopy, late model McLaren or Lola, Herman could usually whup on them too. He had that circuit dialed and rode that Genie like a spirited thoroughbred. What a cool little racecar.
I didn’t know it at the time but it turned out that I’d seen the Genie race before. When I attended my first race at Laguna Seca in 1966, the car was there. My program lists Huffaker as the entrant and the driver as “Unannounced.” I don’t remember it but I’ve seen a photo from that weekend showing Bob Bondurant at the wheel. This was kind of a big deal as Bondurant was racing Formula One at the time. Unfortunately, they are listed as a nonstarter that weekend so evidently there were issues of some kind or another. Bondurant went on to found one of the first competition driving schools two years later and for that, he is probably best known.
The Genie was then sold to accomplished privateer Merle Brennan of Reno who raced it in the Can Am series exclusively at Laguna through 1970. In gawd awful heat he finished 9th in ’67 (a full twelve laps behind the leader) and was paid $1,100 for the day’s work. In 1968’s driving rain he paddled to 11th, he stayed home in ’69 but returned in ’70 to place 13th earning $900. These may not sound like great numbers but you have to consider the competition. Brennan was competing against the best drivers in the world. Factory teams, corporate sponsors, guys with the best of everything. By 1970 he was driving one of the few small blocks on the grid.
Brennan sold the Genie to Herman when he procured a wrecked formula car he planned to rebuild as a sports racer. For some reason unknown, Herman painted the car pea green and went racing. I described his exploits earlier… finally he repainted the car red for what was likely his last ride. Tossing it around with typical abandon, he lost the right rear wheel. Fortunately damage was minimal but that was the last time I saw the car…
Fast forward about fifteen years. The Can Am thirty year reunion is coming up and I’ve got all my old photos out. Wouldn’t it be cool to dig up that old Genie and take it to the reunion? I’d be willing to sell my elderly sprint car and all my roundy-round stuff to raise the money. How much could they want for the old carcass? I’m thinking six grand, maybe? Possibly ten? I had no idea. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Turns out Herman sold the car to a guy named Tom Hanes who continued to race the Genie into the 1980’s. Hanes was injured in the car while driving it on the street. Complications stemming from those injuries ultimately killed him and his widow sold the Genie to Mike Brown in 1985.
By 1995 vintage road racing is in full bloom. I contacted the Historic Can Am Association and inquired about the car. As luck would have it, not only were they familiar with it, but it was for sale! I called Mike Brown and confirmed that it is the Genie of my dreams. He of course, knows the car’s full history and by now has completely restored it to its original glory. This is bad news to me because I was hoping for a basket case- Maybe I could afford a basket case. The price has now gone up considerably. Nonetheless, I ask him to send me a package…
The photos of the car are stunning. By all indications, it is a first class restoration. Asking price? $70,000.
When I saw the price I literally laughed out loud and not because it was funny. I think it was more like shock. I mean, it’s a cool little racecar but… that’s about it. It has a modest racing history. People have heard of Bondurant perhaps but Brennan? Herman? It’s a rare Genie after all, not a rare Ferrari.
So that was that until about a month ago. Fast forward another twenty years. I open a copy of my new vintage racing magazine and there’s a classified ad for the Genie. It looks exactly as it did in 1966 and again in 1996. It couldn’t be in any better condition… New asking price? $175,000. This time I’m not laughing.
Bits & Pieces
Last month we had a beautiful green ’52 Chevrolet Panel on the cover and we also had a new subscriber, George Leago of Olympia Washington, whose first issue was that June issue with a picture of that Panel. Well, it just so happened that George also owns one of those panels and he mailed in a picture of his beautiful Red Chevrolet Panel saying how please he was with the paper and the article and that he wanted to share this picture of his panel with Dale, the owner of the green one.
Thanks George, we’re pleased to put your picture in this brand new column called “Bits and Pieces.” We plan to include little tidbits that come our way from wherever each month. It might include pictures of readers rides or “?” So if you have something interesting, a picture of your car, a friends’ car, a funny photo from back when you had hair or whatever, that you’d like to share, please send it to us. We can’t guarantee it will make it into any particular issue or any issue at all, and we can’t guarantee we’ll be able to send it back to you, but if we have the space, we’ll do our best to share your material with all of our readers. This could be fun but, keep it clean, after all, this is a family paper. Thanks, Ed.
This came to us as a “What’s It” last month but we really already know what it is. Here is Chuck Cook’s description: It’s a “slightly modified” 1963 Sunbeam Rapier, 2 dr. Hardtop. Little known kin to the Alpine and Tiger.
A rapier was 16th 17th and 18th Century edgeless sword made for thrusting.
The car was rescued from the juniper woods near LaPine, Oregon by my teenage son, who preceded to develop the skills and exercise the ambition necessary to create the machine you see before you, using home built and hand-me-down parts over a 5 year time span.
It is licensed and driven on the streets a lot. It’s powered by a Ford 429/C-6 saved from a 69 Mercury Grand Marquis that was heading to a nearby metal recycling crusher. Chuck Cook, Proud Dad.
Indy 500 at Joy Theater
For two years in a row now we have sponsored the live showing of the Indianapolis 500, on the big screen at the Joy Theater on Pacific Ave. in Tigard. Way back before LIVE sports casting of just about any car race, big races use to be shown at large venues using closed circuit TV broadcasts. Unless you could go to the race at Indy you didn’t get to see it as it happened. Showing the race on the big screen was your way to “almost” be there.
Some of the local car guys and gals and racing enthusiasts thought it would be fun to duplicate, sorta, that closed circuit broadcast. The owners of the Joy Theater jumped on board at the urging of Steve Veltman and his daughter Cora who worked there part time during the summer and graciously said, “sure let’s do it.” They opened their theater on that Sunday in May just for us. You can go watch the race broadcast on the big screen for FREE. Sure you can watch it home too but it’s somehow more exciting and fun on that big screen with a room full of other race fans. And the refreshment stand is open for you to buy those much needed goodies. Hopefully, we can do it again next year. Please come be a part of this free, fun 4 hour function next May.
This year Cora was actually at the race track covering the event, taking pictures and getting info to write an article for publication in another, race oriented publication. I try to take pictures in the theater of the race, off the screen and surprisingly some come out pretty good but this year Cora very kindly gave me some of her pictures from the race and they are presented here. Enjoy!
Oh, the winner of the race? Juan Pablo Montoya. He returned to Indy car racing from several mediocre to poor years in NASCAR. All racing at the top levels is tough to say the least. Though perhaps not the most popular win of the 500, he clearly had the equipment, the talent and the courage to put his car in Winners Circle at the end.
Old Timers Picnic
For about 35 years now the NW Racing Group has held a Reunion and Picnic during the good weather months, recently at Blue Lake Park. Commonly and fondly referred to as “The Old Timers Picnic.” It’s planned for August 2, 2015 this summer and you’re invited to: Bring your Race Car, Custom Car or Project. It’s open to all racing enthusiasts. Their flier says; bring your scrapbooks, photo albums or collectables to share. See The George Veenstra Photo collection, seven 4X8 displays of Vintage Photos. View the Racing Groups 21 Photo albums covering All Forms of Oval Racing. Meet and talk to former drivers, owners and mechanics. It’s a trip down memory lane for some and an education for others.
Here are some pictures from last years’ picnic. Enjoy. Ed.
Here is another entry for the “What’s It” category. Steve Veltman, who contributes great stories every month took a couple pictures of an unusual car on a used car lot in Reno, Nevada. Now these were taken some time in the latter part of the previous century, hence his buddy, Tom Roper’s, haircut and clothing style, so it may be quite difficult to identify this particular creation. The lot was closed that day, so no one to ask, ‘what is that thing’ and of course no name plate was visible. Maybe one of you recognize it, built it, own it now and can tell us what it is and what it’s made of. Email us @ firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a note to Roddin’ & Racin’ NorthWest, 17273 S. Steiner Rd. Beavercreek, OR. 97004.
28th Annual Sunshine Cruz
• Open to cars, trucks & motorcycles
• Park on the grass
• Dash plaques for the first 200 entries
• Trophies & special awards
• Club participation cash award
• Raffle prizes
• Burgers available by the Lions Club
• Music by the KISN Good Guys
For more information:
Karen: (503) 657-5942
cell: (503) 803-2022
Stolen 1957 Chevy
World of Speed Grand Opening
The World of Speed Museum opened April 24th with a ribbon cutting ceremony assisted by “Nanook” a blown “Altered” that raced all over in years gone by. Yep the museum is open to the public and it’s pretty cool.
The displays and cars are diversified with regard to the racing categories. There’s land speed cars, drag race cars, circle track cars all the way from what the hobbyist would race to NASCAR. And there is motorcycle racing history from days of old and a track whose name I remember from my youth, ‘Sidewinders.’ That track was over in Clackamas Oregon. I remember one time some friends and I were out riding and we stopped at the track. It was “closed,” but we got in anyway. We didn’t ride around the track at all but we did walk the track. I have to tell you that the racers that did ride there were extremely brave. This track was on the side of a hill and from the gate to the first turn it funneled down into too small an area for more than a few bikes to get through. I can’t even imagine screaming down that hill with 30 other bikes and riders at speed and trying to get slowed enough to make that first turn and yet still stay ahead of the guys behind, assuming there were guys behind me. In fact, I know I would be last, probably back at the gate shaking in terror, making the excuse that the bike died and wouldn’t restart. LOL.
David and Sally Bany are responsible for the creation of The World of Speed Museum right here in Wilsonville Oregon. The museum has interactive displays, historical artifacts, many restored cars and the deal is they all must run. Some are owned by the Banys, some by the museum and others are owned and on loan by collectors.
The museum is open from 10am to 5pm every day except Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you’re a car buff and even if you’re not, take a few hours to tour the place and learn a lot about the motorsports history of the Northwest and beyond. It’s exciting and informative.