My earliest memories of cars and racing in particular go all the way back to the early 50s visiting Brownies Garage outside Pittsburg to watch my dad and Uncle Jimmy help Brownie prepare his Hudson Hornet for the coming weekend’s activities. After our visit my dad and Jim would tear home pitting Jimmy’s MGTD against my dad’s Nash with an aluminum head slant six.
After that we moved to Germany I was introduced to Porsches, Mercedes, NSUs, Messerschmitts, Volkswagens and Opels. A young officer in my dad’s command was driving a new Porsche and dating a German model. That relationship got me a paid gig as a child model on a shoot for Der Spiegel. My favorite item about German cars at the time was their turn signals, that were irreverently referred to as ‘macht nichts sticks’. The reason, obviously, was you could not trust which way the car was going in spite of what may have been indicated.
Returning to the states and living in Virginia the papers were full of nothing but NASCAR. My dad was still a big Nash Rambler fan while everyone else was fighting over Ford versus Chevy (steel wheels, painted white with baby moons and cherry bomb mufflers).
Our next move took us to Turkey where I fell in love with motorcycles. Dad was still driving a new Nash/American Motors Rambler Cross Country station wagon.
We returned to the states in 1963 and settled in Colorado. Everything there was all about the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb and the ‘Old Man of the Mountain’, Louie Unser. I learned to drive in a Corvair Spyder Monza; a graduation present for my friend Chuck. We used to go out to the airport perimeter road on weekends and drag race on a section of road marked off at a quarter mile with paint. I also used to accompany Chuck on some trips to what came to be known as the Continental Divide Raceway. The turbo charged Corvair did fairly well but my driving experience only got me an admonishment when I went for my driving test. “Too aggressive. Come back in a couple weeks.”
High school driving consisted of washing and waxing the Rambler so I could use it on weekends for a date. My cruising down Nevada Avenue was largely in a 1965 Volkswagen bug that belonged to my buddy Bruce.
I started college at CU, Boulder, with no more than my Schwinn Paramont bicycle. Although I did win a ’52 Desoto in a card game, versus a $25 raise. It took at least a quart of oil every tank full and it cost me almost $25 for a new battery. My buddy Bill had a pretty cool looking Studebaker that looked a lot like a twin engine Cessna from the front and had a front seat about the size of a living room. For real important events I was able to borrow my roommate Chip’s Porsche 356; that was amazing!
At the time, in spite of the War, college seemed like a waste of time. So, I headed off to California to see my Uncle Jim and landed a job working for MGM. I was still only riding my Schwinn but I had access to Jim’s Ford F150, his friend’s ’66 Mustang convertible and on very special occasions Jim’s 1953 Mercedes 300 Cabriolet. That was, and still is, a very special car. I can not remember today what he paid for a custom forest green paint job, but it had fish scales in it. I loved washing and waxing the car as it was so special and it earned me the privilege to drive it once in a while.
Next thing you know, while I was working as a cook in Alta, Utah. Uncle Sam caught up with me and I ended up in boot camp in San Diego, California. However, that allowed me to seriously pursue my love affair with motorcycles. Unfortunately a frantic first father ran a red light and center-punched my BSA Thunderbolt. That accident resulted in my purchasing a Volvo 544. Great little car; would have liked to have hot rodded it up. You know crazy screaming yellow paint, mag wheels, Weber carb, nice exhaust system. Never happened though. I was still driving the Volvo when my obligation was over but I ended up trading the car in for a newer Volkswagen bug which took me across the country to Bar Harbor, out to Steamboat Springs for a season skiing and back to Maine again to finish college.
The G.I. Bill and a couple jobs kept me pretty flush throughout my university studies. Traded the VW in on a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, green and black, auto, it went well and so did the tranny and rear-end eventually. That became a Fiat 128 wagon of all things; but by then I was married and it seemed to make sense. The little Fiat had a 4 speed, disc brakes, independent suspension and a Weber carb which was pretty high-tech back then. One Sunday I went by the Maine Mall and met some of the most important people of my life; the guys and gals that raced in the Cumberland Motor Club. Well of course I took off the Fiat’s hub caps, pulled the spare, inflated the tires and went racing. Didn’t do that bad either.
My years with the CMC were some of the best years I can remember; not two dimes to rub together, but still managed to keep racing(slaloms, rallying and Loudon/New Hampshire Raceway). Those years included racing Porsches, a Lotus Elan, Formula V and too many others to mention. The club terrorized amateur racing back then. We could show up anywhere in New England and walk away with more first place trophies than we cared for.
One of the real highlights of that period was when I decided that I was going to race at Sebring. I contacted a shop in Tampa and arranged to rent one of their race cars with a crew for local support. They informed me that they had a very fast VW Rabbit all ready to go so I made arrangements to register for a two race weekend. Just before I was to leave they informed me that a fellow racer, who was in the points hunt for the regional championship, broke his car and they wanted to know if I would give up my rental so the guy could finish the season. They assured me that I was not to worry as they had an old warhorse of a VW Scirocco that should keep me happy. So I went down there and raced the older car and by the time the weekend was over I had won my class and placed higher than the class winner ahead of me. Guess the Scirocco was not that tired after all.
I gave track racing one more shot and my son Colin and I built a Mazda RX7 for racing at NHIS. That was a lot of fun for a season but decided that in 2001, at 53 years of age, it was a young man’s game.
Now I buy or sell a sports car, for the road, about every year and keep a cool older pickup truck for dump runs and concentrate on my motorcycles.