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select size finzios/books2010

SEEMS SOME OF YOU OUT THERE HAVE BEEN
UNABLE TO APPRECIATE THE INCISIVE INSIGHTS,
POETIC PANACHE, SLY HUMOR, SHAMELESS
SELF-PROMOTION AND TOUCHY-FEELY SENSITIVITY
OF THESE SPORADIC E-EPISTLES ON ACCOUNT OF
THEY ARRIVE ON YOUR HOME COMPUTER SCREEN
WITH THE EFFING RIGHT-HAND EDGE CHOPPED OFF.

I'M WAY TOO OLD, DIM AND CANTANKEROUS
("YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!!!") TO FIX IT ON
MY END, BUT I'VE BEEN ADVISED BY SOMEONE
YOUNGER AND SMARTER THAT IF YOU CLICK ON
"VIEW" ON THE BAR THINGIE UP AT THE TOP OF
YOUR SCREEN AND HIT THE 75% BUTTON,
EVERYTHING WORKS LIKE IT'S SUPPOSED TO
(ASSUMING YOU CAN READ THE SMALLER TEXT
WITH YOUR RAPIDLY AGING EYEBALLS OR
HAVE YOUR READING GLASSES HANDY...)

WE NOW RETURN YOU TO OUR USUAL, WIDE-SCREEN
FORMAT AND HOPE YOU CAN TAKE IT ALL IN:
Had a wonderful time at the VSCDA's traditional Blackhawk Classic on Fathers' Day weekend (see my full report in the upcoming issue of VINTAGE MOTORSPORT magazine...click to order a subscription) as I did my first-ever drivers' school at Blackhawk shortly after the left-hand thread was invented and I greatly enjoy both the track and the way the club runs its race weekends. Plus it was extra-special in that it was also this year's Kastner Cup race for Triumph addicts, diehards and aficionados. As a one-time Triumph racer and longtime Triumph loyalist, booster, fanatic & apologist, it did my heart good to see so many of them in attendance and racing the crap out of each other. Or being repaired in the paddock, as that's also part of the TR racing experience. Or pick any other British sports car.

Mind you, in spite of their sales success in the fifties, sixties and seventies (followed by the "thud" heard 'round the entire British automobile manufacturing business) Triumphs are rarely mentioned in the same breath as timeless motoring classics like Ferraris, Mercedes, Bugattis and Renault Dauphines. But they have always been fun, frisky, rugged (not to be confused with "reliable"), straightforward and willing, and moreover attainable by ordinary, lunchbucket types without large inheritances or questionable import businesses. This  made them exceedingly popular.

You could say they're the quintessential "Everyman's Sports Car" from an era when England was hungry for export dollars (most particularly American greenbacks) and happily discovered that they could package up wonky old sedan bits in a rorty, 2-seat roadster body and sell the living crap out of them to American enthusiasts who simply didn't know any better. But they were fun to drive! Sure, the Triumph 4-banger was a wee bit agricultural (it descended directly from a postwar British farm-tractor motor!) but it provided enough urge to top the magic, 100mph "ton" on a particularly long and level stretch of highway (at least without a headwind, and better still on a slight downgrade). Plus you could reach your hand down over those cut-down doors and skitter your fingernails along the pavement! Try THAT in a 250 Europa or Aston DB4GT. And they made a far more evocative noise than a kazoo or a fart in a bathtub (see any Porsche 356).

I loved my first-British-sportscar TR3 (or, more accurately, my dad's first-British-sportscar TR3) in spite of the Druid-issue, sticks-and-animal-skins weather protection, epileptic windshield wipers, the lingering odor of gasoline after every fill-up and the many times I attempted to kill us both in a kind of high-speed/late-night automotive murder-suicide. It also taught me my very first in an overwhelming (and as-yet incomplete) collection of important home-mechanic lessons. Like how it was both easier and cleaner to adjust valve-rocker clearances WITHOUT the engine running...
You should have seen my clothes.
Not to mention the firewall, radiator and inner fenderwells.
Or my dad's driveway...

But I digress. The point is that Blackhawk provided a lot of great racing and brought back a lot of wonderful memories. Old friend Shawn Frank of Continued Legacy (he's a sick Triumph Spitfire/GT6 man, owns several, edits their newsletter, etc.) and new-friend ace photographer Bill Nesius took some wonderful pictures, a few of which are displayed below.

Above: Lining up for the start of the all-Triumph Kastner Cup race. Below: Hard-working Kastner Cup host/volunteer Jason Ostrowski flogging away like mad on his GT6 (busted U-joint) in time to take his hard-earned third spot on the grid. It was in the thick of things until it blew up four laps later. Some days it don't pay t'get outta bed. Shawn Frank photos. 

The whole bunch on display with Kas Kastner himself front and center (is the entire silo full of Oil-Dri?)

Shawn also got the touching shot below:

Driver is Mark Alexander, middle entry in patriarch/Friends of Triumph sparkplug Joe Alexander's THREE generations of Triumph racers (BTW, I was Joe's driving instructor when he first started out in the same TR4 his grandson now races).
Poor Mark has just run shy of brakes (easy to do at Blackhawk, as they get quite a workout) and tapped the tire wall with his dad's extremely rare (think they only made three complete cars), TR3-based Ambro Special. The only damage was a little cracked fiberglass and they were able to get it repaired and back in action, but at this moment he's feeling pretty damn low and daughter Kensington has come over to try and make him feel a little better. It's a lovely picture, and really captures the family aspect of club racing beautifully.
C'mon, all together now: "Aaawwwwwwwww..."  

A few excellent Bill Nesius pix below (you can find lots more on his website at WWW.BILL NESIUS.COM)

Past SCCA National Champ Sam Halaikas in his "bringing an Uzi to a fist-fight," SCCA-prepared & race-winning TR6 (although the Kastner Cup was awarded to longtime friend and fellow hell-raiser Jeff Snook, below)

Here's some more from Bill (non-Triumph types can scroll down until they see something more interesting)

Henry Frye in the infamous, ex-Bill Dentinger "Beady-Eye" TR3

Past Kastner Cup winner/ride-mooch enabler Jerry Barker in his unusual and indecently quick Triumph Herald with "school lunchbox-inspired" styling. I was supposed to drive it on Sunday but ate something with a few too many miles on it Saturday night and took a rare pass. Jerry has promised me a rain check.

Bill also got some fabulous pix of the Group One "Prewar and T-Series MG" antics (most of the cars have aged far more gracefully than the drivers):

Marv Primack having fun in his familiar Lester MG.

Above: Rex Barrett exercising Lou Natenshon's ancient anvil of an Indycar at speed. Below: Rex exercising his sphincter muscle and muttering "WHOOPS! WHOOPS! WHOOPS!" through clenched teeth in the same car at Turn Six:

Below: Friend and fellow health-club bike-class regular Jeff Powell approaching the speed of sound in his MG TC:

Below: Friend, MG stalwart and occasional ride-mooch sucker Mark Brandow assumes the re-entry "recliner position" in his well-traveled MG.

From other groups:

Age & Treachery Racing friend Doug Bruce's Sprite is not really this fast (must be trick photography!)

Mike Besic in Bert Baurle's freshly restored, lovely and locally grown (his father originally built it) LaBoa/Alfa. I really want to drive that one!

Mike Kaske in the very unique, Porsche flat-6-powered Causey Special that I've been lucky enough to co-drive a few times (including a satisfying overall win in the enduro at Grattan and a "we wuz winnin' till we lost" second at Autobahn after we ran out of gas on the last lap...phooey!) 

Norb Breese approaching takeoff speed in his Lotus Europa!

Chuck Ryberg in the same blessed Jag 120 he took through drivers' school (with ME as his instructor) back when dinosaurs roamed the earth...

Pal Scott Fohrman won his group going away in his blue MGB, but also enjoyed a more leisurely white-knuckle experience in his 1932 MG J2. Looks like something some lucky kid might find under his Christmas Tree...

Good fun and a great weekend. Well done all!!!!
SAD NEWS
Along with many others, I was shocked and saddened by the news that my longtime friend and gifted graphic artist Al Ribskis had passed away. Al painted all of my racing helmets ever since I discovered I wasn't much good at it myself (in other words, immediately), and his craftsmanship, enthusiasm and the subtlety of the details he worked in went far beyond my original design concept.

I also knew him from the old-racecar-guy lunches John Welch used to host/instigate in downtown Chicago and from working alongside him at the Vintage Motorsports booth at Road America. Al loved everything about the sport, knew all the history, cars and characters, worked with several racing teams and kept his beloved MGB alive when most would have given up. He was always ready and willing to lend a hand and smiled through it all, no matter what life threw at him.

Al was a brilliant, hands-on, eyeballs-and-fingertips artist during an era when more and more of that work--like many other occupations--was morphing to keyboards and computer programs. Which was sad.
Godspeed, Al...
TIME WITH THE KIDS & TWO TRACK DAYS

Adam & Tara came in from Californy for ten days (with our grand-dog Hank, who has it in for me, Lord only knows why) and I just can't tell you how comfortable and complete it felt having them around. We spent so much time doing mostly nothing (putting meals together, watching old movies, playing penny-ante poker) and yet it was SO much fun! Adam certainly knows how to put the old pin in the occasionally over-inflated balloon of my ego--but in a very funny way!--and Tara isn't far behind. Hank is another matter.

That's Hank on the left as wingman with our own beloved Wire-Haired Fox Terrier "Buddy" on the right (older pic, but a goodie). Anyhow, Hank is a rescue and gets only slightly more attention than the child emperor of China, and he can be sweet and loving and "oh, please, scratch my belly" adorable as can be.
Until I stand up and try to walk into the next room (we don't need to tell you which room that might be, do we?). At that point, Hank erupts into a nasty, accusatory barking barrage, and follows along at my heels, barking all the way, until the door closes behind me. Occasionally, if he's feeling particularly motivated, Hank will leap upwards during my retreat and nip me on the ass.
I'm not kidding.
Now you may think this is cute, but I find it extremely annoying. And the more annoyed I get, the more Hank enjoys it.
What did I ever do to him?
That minor issue aside (hey, you can't please everybody...or every dog) we had a fabulous time with our kids. You family types will know what I'm talking about. Only bad part was taking them to the airport for the flight home.

On Friday the 30th we had the Alfa Club/Healey Club track day at Blackhawk, which was all kinds of fun. I'm writing a column about it, so it would be unseemly to double-dip it here. But my racing friend, really quick driver and local Alfa dealer Richard Fisher (AUTOBARN Alfa in Evanston, IL...free plug) brought a couple of the hot new Alfa sedans (including a 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio!) and a pair of Alfa's fast and wicked little 4C sportscars. Plus sometime pro driver/2007 MX5 Cup Champion Jason Saini (tall guy with the chin fuzz below) and Richard's dealership GM Dan, who had never been on a racetrack before!

What fun Jason and I had taking full loads of students around in the Quadrifoglio (which is a truly poised and polished high-performance sedan and REALLY fast) to, ahem, "show them the proper line."

The car never skipped a beat (and nobody needed an air-sickness bag in the back seat, although it was close once or twice).

The 4C was just a hoot, and it scoots around a racetrack like you wouldn't believe. And then newbie entrant/back-seat Quadrifoglio rider Craig Jesseman offered me a few laps in his very nice and very slightly hotted-up Triumph TR3. You know I'm a Triumph nutcase and I must say I was flattered, excited and frightened in about equal measure. After all, his car didn't have a roll-over bar and had fairly stock suspension, and I'd already watched him get into--and, more importantly, out of--a pretty lurid tank-slapper in Turn One. Plus the last time I got out of a TR3 at Blackhawk Farms, lo, these many years ago, it was upside-down in the weeds.

And yet I couldn't resist. But I took it VERY easy, shifted religiously at the 5,000rpm redline (even though I knew it had a hot cam & wanted to go higher) and genuinely enjoyed the feel of that wonderful old sled even as I marveled at the light-years of revolution, evolution, stick, stonk and technology between it and Alfa's 57-years-more-modern 4C.
The one thing they had in common was that they were both great fun!

A week later it was off to Millers at Milwaukee on Friday and Saturday. This is a fabulous, quiet, low-key event that brings out all sorts of old American Indianapolis and oval-track racecars for a little bench racing and track exercise. My buddy Bill Hall wrote a pretty good piece about it (including a ride with me in Lou Natenshon's old Flathead Ford-powered 2-seater Indycar) for ClassicCars.com, so why don't yopu just click here: MILLERS at MILWAUKEE STORY and read his take on it instead of listening to me ramble on. I'll just supply some pix.

Me in Lou's car (Bill Siegfriedt pic above, a bunch of my own below)

Beautiful stuff, no? And all where you can walk right up, schmooze with the owner/drivers & crews and maybe even get a ride. Pretty special event!

TRIVIA TIME!

Last time, because of the long wait between trivia quizzes, we presented the first-ever commemorative GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER trivia conundrum (Quick bonus Trivia (no web peeking!): which came first, RODAN or GODZILLA?)

We had a lot of one-answer-right replies, and a typically detailed, pedantic and insufferable two-answer-right reply from Brit Bob Allen, who obviously has nothing better to do and should probably take up gardening or badminton or something to take his mind off cars. I present his answer in full since it's too damn long to edit and I'm hoping that SOMEBODY out there can find a flaw in it just so I can go "nyaaaaaaahhhhh!:"

QUESTION ONE
Well, I bet you thought you'd only get answers from your side of the pond on this one but I know what it is: it's the Glass Slipper, built in 1954 by Roy and Ed Cortopassi and Doug Butler of the Capitol Speed Shop of Sacramento. It was a small dragster-cum-salt flats racer, originally powered by "flathead" Ford but later (in 1957) a 302 c.i. Chevy which was not blown, as is usual with dragsters, but was fuel injected (I think this is what you are referring to in the question). I don't know but I'd guess that meant the Rochester "Ramjet" continuous-flow injection introduced on that year's new Corvette, starting the period of "fuelie" heads that so confused Bruce Springsteen; Capitol probably thought the new breathing sufficiently innovative to not require a supercharger.
 
The most striking thing about the Glass Slipper was its beautifully styled closed-cockpit GRP bodywork the shape of which, along with its short wheelbase, gave it the look of something like a cross between a sprint car and a dragster. It is credited with being the first dragster to combine a streamlined body, aluminium (o.k., aluminum if you wish) frame and closed canopy; indeed, its styling and attention to detail was so admired that it earned the prize of "America's Most Beautiful Competition Car" at the 1957 Oakland Roadster Show. And it's clearly still having the same effect today as a T-shirt is available from a company called Kurbside Kustoms with a very period-looking image of the car emblazoned on it.
 
As for performance, in 1955 in flathead salt racer trim it recorded 181 mph at Bonneville. Later in drag trim (now with the small block Chev.) at the invitation of NHRA founder Wally Parks, Ed Cortopassi (1935-2014) recorded a standing kilometre of 271.74 km/h (168.85 mph) FIA International Acceleration Record at the March Air Force Base near Riverside in 1958, earning it the title of world's fastest ¼ mile Chevy. Unfortunately it was subsequently damaged in a fire but was rebuilt in 1960, this time with a GMC blower and Hilborn injection (again, I was only guessing at the Rochester set-up so this may or may not have been new). In this trim it did 8.93 sec./172 mph at the Vaca Valley Raceway, a combined drag-strip, 1.25-mile oval and 2.1-mile road race track in Vacaville, CA (1958-1972).
 
The Glass Slipper wasn't raced after 1961 but was restored in recent years; I know no more about its whereabouts nowadays but there are some nice photos of it at Sacramento in 2009 here:  Link.
 
As to Q2: "ANYBODY DIE IN THAT WRECK?"

Bob's insuffrable answer:
Ah, back to Europe. Clearly it's a Ferrari 250 PF Spyder and to answer your questions in order; yes somebody did die in that wreck, it was Porfirio Rubirosa, it was in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris and it was on 5th July 1965.
 
To add a bit more detail, Porfirio Rubirosa Ariza, to give him his full name, was a Dominican diplomat and associate of the dictator Rafael Trujillo who owned the 1952 Pegaso Z-102 Cupola that you featured in an earlier trivia quiz - I like your interlinking of the two. Rubirosa was an amateur racer as well as a keen polo player, international playboy and something of a lothario (well, quite a lot of one actually). Professionally he'd been a soldier and was later rumoured to be an assassin for Trujillo's regime.
 
Among his four wives were Barbara Hutton (so we have a Scarab connection here) and Doris Duke, two of the richest women in the world who would finance his racing activities. He had affairs with many women (from Judy Garland to Kim Novak), befriended prominent racing drivers of the day and owned a number of Ferraris. He contested Les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans twice, in 1950 with Pierre Leygonie, and 1954 with Innocente Baggio, both DNFs. He also raced at Sebring, and entered the 1955 F1 Grand Prix de Bordeaux in a Ferrari 500 but did not start due to ill health.
 
His number was up in the early hours of 5-Jul-65 when, at the age of 56, while driving through the Bois de Boulogne - a large public park along the western edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris - his silver 250 sideswiped a parked car and smashed head-on into a chestnut tree. He'd been at an all-night celebration at the Paris nightclub "Jimmy's" in honour of winning the polo Coupe de France so I think we can tell it wasn't the fault of the parked car. 'Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
 
Burt's comment: Mr. Rubirosa's amazing story (and his marriages to Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton) are highlighted in sections of my fourth novel, TOLY'S GHOST. He had an incredible reputation as a ladies' man, including an ongoing affair with ZsaZsa Gabo, who reportedly once said: "A night with Rubi is the greatest gift a woman can give herself." Supposedly the waiters at the posh Stork Club and "21" in New York refereed to the tall pepper grinders they used to put seasoning on your salad as "Rubirosas."

But I digress (and this is supposed to be a family show anyway, right?)

Happily (or maybe that's unhappily?) even the great Bob Allen was unable to answer question 3, and we still have no idea what the heck this thing might be:

If you think you know, please share...
NEW TRIVIA:
OK, so we need some new stumpers. Or semi-stumpers, since it's no fun if nobody gets the answers (even YOU, Bob Allen). So here's another two-parter along the same lines:
1) Who drove this?

BONUS:  OK, wiseguy, who BUILT it?

Q2: Anybody die in this wreck? Where? When?

COMING ATTRACTIONS!!!
Carol & I will of course be at Road America for the big July vintage meet next weekend (July 20-23) and it should be a monster with nearly 500 entries and all sorts of fun stuff going on. I'll be hopefully signing oodles and oodles of books from 11am-2pm each day in the amazing new RA Paddock Shop, covering the race for the magazine, judging in the Friday night racecar concours in town and hopefully doing a little driving. We'll have to wait and see on that last one...
See you there?
Plan to also do the IMSA "Road Race Showcase" at Road America August 4-5, but will be judging/hawking books at the Milwaukee Concours on Lake Michigan on Sunday the 6th.
More as I know more, but we're not planning to do the Monterey Meat-Grinder this year as we're going to do The Holidays with our kids in California instead. But we are planning on Lime Rock Labor Day Weekend (always a great event) and my friend John Welch's Ephriam Hillclimb in Door County, WI the weekend after.

As Lieutenant Columbo always says: "One More Thing." Unless you have the skull density of a rhinoceros, you know that we are constantly attempting to "spread the word" about the books (and particularly to racers, petrolheads and car geeks of every kingdom, phylum and species who have never heard of them) and our best advertising has all been thanks to those little "The Last Open Road" decals you see all over the place. Particularly at Midwestern vintage races.

So, if you like the books, PUH-LEEZ help us get them on cars in other series, venues, states, regions, countries and even planets. And particularly if the TV cameras are rolling! The whole idea is to get folks to ask: "what the hell is that?" and you cannot believe how effective they've been.
Conventional wisdom in the publishing world holds that the shelf-life of a novel is 6 months. MAYBE a year. But The Last Open Road will be celebrating its 23rd anniversary at Road America next weekend, and sales are still unbelievably strong. It's currently heading into its 10th hardcover printing with something like 50,000 copies already in print. That's pretty damn good for a self-published "car story."
 
But, like the guys who hot-rod smallblock Chevys, we're nowhere near done and we think there's more still to go. Only we need folks like you to help us spread the word.

In that regard, we're going to have a wee contest (not sure what the grand prize will be, but you can bet it won't be expensive!). We want to see who can take a picture of a The Last Open Road decal on the most unusual vehicle or in the most unusual circumstances. Mind you, we aren't encouraging ANYONE to try and put one on the tail fin of Mr. Elon Musk's booster rocket (or on the dorsal fin of a Great White shark) and if you get caught doing something illegal, unseemly, antisocial, litigation-worthy or naughty in pursuit of this endeavor, you are most definitely ON YOUR OWN.
Capiche?
But if you do get into trouble and need legal help, you might try calling the White House HR department. I think they're running through high-powered lawyers at a pretty brisk clip these days, and you might get a bargain on the hourly rate...

Catch the latest poop & pictures, the Jay Leno interview, Last Open Road swag & highly inappropriate attire from Finzio's Store and the lurid & occasionally embarrassing "ride with Burt" in-car racing videos on the hopefully now fully operational website at:

finzios/books2010 select size select size