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Vintage Motorsport Magazine

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"BS" in every issue!)

Cars, Yeah

(great audio interviews with the movers, shakers, makers and miscreants of motoring history)

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select size finzios/books2010

select size finzios/books2010

Yeah, it's been a long time between e-blasts. Three-and-a-half months, in fact. But we been busy, see?And a lot has happened. So we'll do this in a trio of shorter, bump-stop, rapid-fire, serial-offender e-pistles just so's you don't nod off to sleep ("doesn't this guy ever stop rambling on about stuff?") or give up in disgust from the sheer length, pith and weight of it or simply run out of available data space on your hard drive.

Not to mention that this will give me THREE golden opportunities during the current, pre-holiday gift-pitching season to remind you about all the fine (and, okay, not-so-fine) books, logo merchandise and stocking-stuffer geegaws we have available for holiday giving. And getting.

IMPORTANT COMMERCIAL NOTICE!!!

Carol and I will be skedaddling out of town to spend the holidaze with our kids in (hopefully) warm and sunny Southern Californy, and that means, since this is a small, cheaply budgeted, sorely under-staffed, we-do-most-everything-ourselves sort of business, that there will be nobody around to ship last-minute orders for those who procrastinate, prevaricate or fail to plan ahead when it comes to holiday gift-giving.
Or, in other words, people like me...

Enuf said, eh?

Now the above may sound crass commercialism, but this is, after all, a nation with a fine, revered and well-entrenched free-enterprise system (and thank God for it!) and I am of course descended from a well-documented mercantile tribe. Mind you, I love doing this stuff, but there is no cash drawer on a laptop computer, and if you don't find a way to put a few bills or a little loose change in your pocket at the end of the day, you wind up driving for Uber.

Enuf said once again.

And now comes the expected litany of excuses:

As you can see from the graphic above, we've been kinda busy. Long-suffering and endlessly game wife Carol and I have been schlepping all over the freakin' map for the past several months, setting up our book pushcart, schmoozing the heck out of anybody and everybody within earshot (usual opening line: "are you familiar with my books?")and doing our best to inveigle, beg, cajole, hoodwink or browbeat passers-by into buying that first book... 

(above): "...And we'll throw in a complete set of Ginsu knives and a Popiel Pocket Fisherman..."

(below): Carol somehow manages a smile while I pontificate (so what's new?) and Buddy lacks only a nice scrap of leftover sirloin for complete contentment...

I like to think we're out there spreading "the garage gospel according to Buddy." Plus trying to make a few bucks. Only then we have to tear it all down again and pack it back into the van while all the fancy cars are being loaded up and their trailers start trundling out of the paddock...

Not sure this is what Carol had in mind the day we got married (Valentines Day, 1974, which was also her birthday, BTW) but you've got to give her max points for gumption, grace, good humor in the face of difficulties and disappointments and Alamo-grade commitment.

So we been kinda preoccupied all summer and fall with travel and book-signings and a bit of racing and instructing whenever the opportunity presents itself plus writing columns, feature stories and race reports for the magazine (VINTAGE MOTORSPORT) click for a subscription if you want the best damn vintage racing & motorsports history magazine on the planet) plus working on the new book and the geez-this-is-more-complicated-than-I-ever-imagined audiobook project and (insert dramatic drum roll-and-brass-section-fanfare, please):

THE BIG MOVE!!!
After thirty-six years in our beloved Oak Park offices, with nicely landscaped, leafy-green, lousy-with-squirrels Austin Gardens park just next door, Frank Lloyd Wright houses (including his own) right up the street and surrounded by great places to eat & get coffee, my publishing & packaging biz partner Karen and I came to a difficult but unavoidable conclusion. Thanks to the marvels, magic and occasional blind-side miseries of cyberspace, we could do 99.9% of everything we needed to do in both businesses from a cell phone, a computer, a lunch counter, an occasional desk, a PO box and a UPS account. Plus our lease was coming up for renewal, they've built all these impressive but also overpowering & intrusive new high-rises nearby (as if traffic on Lake Street wasn't bad enough!) and neither of us was getting any younger...

Bottom line is that, following a very long and dreary final moving day this past Monday, we have officially transferred our flag(s). Thanks to wife Carol's class and taste, I already had a far-nicer-than-you-would-believe writing office at home. To that we have added a nicely appointed (or at least it will be once I get it all my crap squared away), heated-and-insulated storage and shipping department in what used to be the garage. Plus a brand-new shed on the back of it for our bikes and Carol's gardening stuff and whatever else doesn't belong in a shipping department.
It looks like it's gonna work out fine.
Or at least it will once I sort and organize 36 years worth of accumulated files, news clippings, magazines ("Hey, don't throw that out! I had a story in that one..."), voluminous steno pads of research notes, even more voluminous stacks of pictures, slides and graphics, marvelous wall art I have no walls for, notes on never-finished story ideas, press proofs and computer discs for all the book printings since the very beginning (remember when floppies and then Zip discs were all the rage?), old editing manuscripts with my own, barely legible red-ink scribbling all over the margins (including a couple unfinished non-car novels that never saw the light of day...yet) etc. etc. and etc. The plan is to have it all neatly and logically filed away so's I can put my finger on anything I want whenever the mind or mood strikes. Right...
What I should do is put it all on ebay and sell it by the pound.
 
Anyhow, here's the pertinent new contact into:

Burt "BS" Levy
Think Fast Ink
PO Box 7488
Westchester, IL.
60154
Think Fast Ink phone & e-mail stay the same:

Wish us luck. Especially Carol, who will now have me underfoot as pretty much a full-time proposition. And that means she will have to somehow resist the urge to punch me in the nose, stab me with a carving knife or crush my skull with a fry pan whenever I get too loud, pushy, impatient, insensitive, bullying, bombastic, careless, self-involved (I do that one a lot!), messy (ditto) or thoughtlessly demeaning.
And I'm sure I've left a few out... 

We pause for a brief yet highly self-serving commercial message:

Well friends, fall is here and winter is coming, and that means it's time to pack away the shorts and tee shirts and look for season-appropriate clothing. And what could be better than our INCREDIBLY WARM yet INCREDIBLY COOL, ribbed fleece Embarcadero pullovers. Available in black or olive in all sizes. Beautiful, comfortable (!!!) and durable, and a genuine bargain at fifty bucks each. CLICK HERE or call (708) 383-7203 to order.

Also consider one of these:

Classy, stylish, high-quality Finzio's Sinclair track jackets. Warm enough for chilly weather yet lightweight enough to be comfortable while driving (don't you just hate feeling like a stuffed sausage when you're out on the road?). Longer sleeves with velcro cuff gathers so they fit everybody from an orangutan to Yosemite Sam. A hunnert bucks on the website. CLICK HERE to order or call 708-383-7203.

Comes with "The Last Open Road" logo on the front as shown above, or you can have your own name (or any name you'd like...we don't really care) in the same position for $15 more. But call for that option, OK?

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program:

OK, Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for the third week of July, 2017...

So Carol & I headed up to Road America for the amazing, amusing, entertaining, occasionally overpowering & generally hectic & frenetic Weathertech International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK vintage extravaganza (you're excused if you need to take a breath somewhere in the middle of the event's somewhat cumbersome title). But it really is spectacular and it's sometimes hard to absorb what a huge thing this has become and how the track and facilities at Road America hve evolved and improved over the years. I was covering it for the magazine, of course (look for my report in the new issue) so I'll refrain from double-dipping it all here, but I've watched and participated in this thing since almost the very beginning, and it really stirs up a lot of memories and magic for me.

Late Chicago "Como Inn" Italian-restaurant impresario, Ferrari trader, racing enthusiast and speed-festival promoter par excellence Joe Marchetti started the whole thing back in 1981 as basically a track weekend at Road America for his car-guy friends and customers. It was strictly a low-key deal with maybe 50 entrants, but it quickly grew (along with the entire North American vintage racing phenomenon) and I managed to get myself involved a few years later writing some pieces for Joe's race programs. Ever the trader, Joe reciprocated by giving me a car to drive for the weekend. That first year it was a very trick but troublesome, bright green Porsche 356 with 911 "bananas" and lots of other neat stuff underneath. But it kept breaking, so he put me in a "street" Ferrari 275 GTB with an unnerving high-speed wobble in the steering and crap brakes.
I was in heaven nonetheless.
At the time, Joe had more cars to show off than he had drivers he trusted to put in them, and as I'd been racing with a bit of success and no major disasters on the local amateur circuit, he decided to turn me loose in a really nice early 250 Short-Wheelbase Berlinetta (translation: hot little coupe) Ferrari comp car at Road Atlanta the following spring:

The piece I wrote about that experience(see above, from AutoWeek) was my first-ever "ride mooch" story. So I owe Joe a lot. And then, the following July, he brought this delectable, rare (think they only made 32 of them), desirable & highly collectible Ferrari 250LM to his own event at Road America.

Now the 250LM is a fabulous car with a fantastic story behind it. Seems old man Enzo Ferrari had seen the writing on the wall regarding how Carroll Shelby's crude but powerful (not to mention Ford-backed) 5-liter Cobras were threatening to make life difficult for his gorgeous, quasi-road car, homologation-special, 3-liter GTOs in international GT racing. But he was already on the FIA's (the international sanctioning body) shit list for only making thirtysomething GTOs when he was really supposed to have made 100 to qualify as a legit "GT" car. So when he built the 250LM (which was basically an all-out, state-of-the-art mid-engined racing car with turn signals and a horn), the gentlemen from the FIA said "fool us once, shame on you, etc." and demanded to see 100 actual cars before they'd approve it for GT racing. As a result, the 250LM wound up in a kind of racecar limbo (you'll be reading all about it in the new book...it's quite a story!) but nonetheless one of them managed to score a famous, unexpected and totally unlikely win at Le Mans in 1965 after all the much-faster and highly favored Big Guns from Ford and Ferrari had essentially raced each other into dead-car-park oblivion.
At any rate, Joe had one of them up at Road America and, seeing as how it was hot as blazes and seeing as how he'd already driven about a half-dozen cars and was pretty much out of gas come mid-afternoon (as I recall, he was the same color as the car at that point) so I asked if he could maybe use a co-driver in the upcoming enduro. I can hear his weary, worn-out answer echoing through my ears even now:
"Maybe you'd better suit up..."
I swear my sneakers left burnout streaks on the grass as I ran to get my gear. Mind you, I'd never even sat in the thing before! But I wasn't about to pass up an opportunity like that! So I got in at the pit stop (see below)

and although I was probably a bit less than Sheer, Flowing Brilliance behind the wheel, I managed not to stuff it into the scenery, break it or embarrass myself.

Fact is, that was the neatest, nicest, easiest-to-drive racing car I'd ever been in, and the story of that experience became my very first "ride-mooch" piece for Vintage Motorsport magazine. You could call it a genuine milestone in my journalistic ride-mooching career. Or, as wife Carol says: "You call this a career?"

But the point is that it all kind of started with Joe and his wonderful July vintage race at Road America. He was a hell of a showman, and although there was an ugly falling out between Joe and the track once they'd built it up together into one of the major events on the calendar, his legacy is still there. Like the racecar concours in town on Friday night. It's not to be missed. Although it's gotten perhaps a bit too popular. I happily serve as a judge on the racecar night, and we have to do the majority of our clipboard work before the cars even leave the track (under police escort, of course) because you can't see the blessed cars for the torsos and elbows once they get into town. And the Saturday-night "street car" concours has turned into a little bit too much of a used-car-lot for exotics. I don't judge in that one anymore. They gave me Porsches one year, and I came to realize that I'm just not anal enough for that kind of duty...

Still, it's really special, and the fact that there was a light sprinkle Friday night just made it even more colorful with the umbrellas and all (see pic below from the Judges' Stand...the crowd and cars go off maybe three or four times as far in the opposite direction):

I guess we all get stodgy and sentimental as we get older (and let's not even think about what happens to our digestive systems), and sure I miss the pukka Ferraris and Maseratis and Porsche RSKs and Aston Martins and Lotus Elevens and Lister Jags and Formula Juniors and such that used to fill up the grids and paddock. And I likewise fret over how today's "vintage" cars (well, the FAST ONES,
anyway...) are all prepped, pumped-up and "prodified" well beyond what they ever were back in the day.
But that's progress. That's evolution. That's the way things are. Racing is competitive by nature, and once that old technological toothpaste starts squeezing out of the tube, it's hell's own job getting it back in again...

Last thing from Elkhart Lake was the rather amazing result of Sunday'sat-the-track final playoff for the concours class winners (see pic below).

I'm not much of a wheel-brush-and-waxer type, but I was gobsmacked when I heard the OVERALL "Best Street Sports Car" award (and we're talking against Jags and Astons and Porsches and Ferraris and such) went to my friend John Dohmen's rather unassuming and plebeian--but damn near perfect!--Triumph TR3A.

Hang loose until the next installment and I'll tell you about how John (who knows what sports cars are for!) and I wailed the living tar out of that damn-near-perfect TR3A (and his almost-as-nice TR4) a few weeks later on some lovely Wisconsin back roads!

More great pix on Bill Nesius's site, BTW 

There's lots more (hey, we not even outta freakin' July yet!) but I'll save that for the next one (coming soon, I promise). So all we have left here is a little housekeeping, another unseemly commercial pitch and the results of our last TRIVIA CONTEST plus a new one for you to worry over. So read on...
UPCOMING BURT SIGHTINGS
& ATTENDANT BOOK SIGNINGS:
Planning to be with my HSR friends at their Daytona Classic 24 November 8-12 (look for me in the Vintage Motorsport tent in THE FAN ZONE unless I'm doing an interview for the story or out flogging the crap out of somebody's car) and also at their "Pistons and Props" Classic 12 Hour shiow at Sebring Nov. 30-Dec. 3. Look me up.

UNSEEMLY COMMECIAL MESSAGE #2:

Yeah, it's me again. Trying to get you to buy stuff. But it's GOOD stuff. Things that'll have your lucky gift recipients smiling, laughing and thanking you. Really.
Like howsabout one of our one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted, personalized, you-can't-get-them-nowhere-else RACING OR RESTORATION PROJECT PIGGY BANKS!!!
Let me tell you a little story. A good friend who is a highly skilled and experienced racer and instructor had a wee and totally uncharacteristic brush with the concrete walls lining Road America's infamous "Kink." Not too much damage was done, but some of the body panels on his Porsche were a bit crumpled and his Racing Psyche (and his bank account) had surely taken a hit as well. I mean, he'd been racing and instructing at Road America for some 26 years...

In any case, a good friend of his wanted to cheer him up. So he sent me a pic of the car (post incident, of course) and talented character artist Carolyn Johnson and I took it from there. The results are pictured below:

Needless to say, it cheered him up!
Give us an idea and we can make an appropriate piggy bank for damn near any sort of occasion, cause or project. PERFECT for that unexpected and never-to-be-forgotten holiday gifet. Takes two to three weeks. Give us a call at 708-383-7203 to discuss your idea(s).

NEW WEARABLES!:
The success of our "Vintage Racing...nothing goes faster than the money" Tee shirts (now available in soft new rustic brown material with cream lettering and an outright steal at twenty bucks) has led us to a new, more inclusive, all-types-of-motorsport version of the same idea:

Also twenty bucks. Will be up at FINZIO'S STORE on the website at www.lastopenroad.com in a day or two.

Last but not least, the stocking stuffer to beat all stocking stuffers: our justly famous THE LAST OPEN ROAD decals. Rumored to be worth a full second at any racetrack in North America.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOURS TODAY!

TRIVIA TIME!

If you recall (and, yes, it has been a long time), the first part of our last trivia quiz asked all you so-called "experts to identify this particular hot rod:

A lot of people knew this one, but Dale Moreau of Salem, Oregon correctly identified the builder as Norm Grabowski and also copped low-E.T. by getting his answer in at 12:43pm on July 15th. He said it was the first "T-Bucket" roadster in California (don't know if that's true or not). Ray Heynis correctly fleshed the answer out a few hours later by pointing out it was, in fact, the flamed T-Bucket Ed "Kookie" Byrnes drove in the hit TV show "77 Sunset Strip."

But of course it was our thoroughly insufferable, know-it-all British pal Bob Allen who once again answered a simple, short-answer question with a blessed PhD Thesis. You can read it below in its entirety if you've really got nothing better to do:

Regarding the T-bucket (to use the parlance of those that think motor racing shouldn't involve going round corners), I looked at the photo for quite a while and then it suddenly popped into my head - it's the Kookie Kar, the hot rod driven by Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III in the 1958-64 TV series 77 Sunset Strip. And yes, I am old enough to remember when it was current on television - just! Kookie was played by Edd Byrnes (not to be confused with Irish comedian Ed Byrne) and was the kind of comic relief in this detective series, being far too hip for his own good. He would constantly spout a kind of Kerouac-esque jive, which sounds wonderfully comical today, and was frequently seen combing his hair which led on to Byrnes releasing a record, "Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb". A duet with established star Connie Stevens, this rather silly song actually became the first hit record for Warner Brothers' new label and featured on a full album released by Byrnes, launching his attempted new career as a singer (and featuring him on the cover wearing the obligatory Harrington and getting into a "Squarebird", which probably also featured in the TV show). As an aside, a few years ago I got a spoof version of the song recorded by the great Spike Jones, titled "Spooky, Spooky, Lend Me Your Tomb", in which he parodies it in the sort of cliché Bella Lugosi/Vincent Price horror film voice that was popular in the '60s (e.g. Monster Mash).
But I digress. Who built it?, you ask. That would be Norm Grabowski, born Norman Grabouski and nicknamed Woo Woo, who appears in the photo. Norm built the car in 1952 based on a '32 V8 (Model A), replacing the body with the front of a '22 T and the rear of a Model A pick-up and inserting a '52 332 c.i. Cadillac V8 which was reputedly taken from his parents' car. Clearly it pre-dates the TV series by a significant number of years so was obviously not purpose-built for that role. It was originally fitted with a borrowed blower (with two huge butterfly intakes in one photo I've seen) but over the years underwent a number of changes including reverting to natural aspiration, as can be seen in the picture. The car was hugely influential in hot-rodding circles and is considered by many to be the original T-bucket. It must have made quite an impact because it appeared in a 1957 issue of Life Magazine - rare for such a car in a non-motoring publication - and had already featured in films prior to its most well-known TV role.
After 77 Sunset Strip, the car continued to be modified to the extent that, although it still exists, it is considered to be beyond returning to its former self. Reno Rods of Oklahoma City completed an authentic replica  in  2009 and there are probably others out there. Meanwhile, the TV and film exposure led to Grabowski himself embarking on another career (besides hot-rod building and woodworking) as an actor himself and he appeared in quite a number of well-known shows and movies, e.g. (Adam West) Batman and Towering Inferno. In fact, his acting career can be said to have been considerably more successful than that of Edd Byrnes' in singing!

 
As to Trivia Question 2, "Anybody die in that wreck?" Bob Allen once again gave his usual, voluminous, extra-points answer, but he was beaten to the punch (not to mention all the pertinent details) by my longtime friend, fellow author, Aston Martin expert extraordinaire, onetime Facellia owner (ah, the innocence of youth), and also onetime ride-mooch enabler (he let me co-drive his bright-red Aston Martin DB4 in an enduro at Watkins Glen) Nick Candee. Nick got it all done in just a few decisive sentences, while Bob's answer made one suspect he was being paid by the word...
Nick's answer is below:

Q2. Anybody die in this wreck? Yes, it was French absurdist philosopher Albert Camus along with his friend and publisher Michel Gallimard who was driving at the time. The car is the latter's Facel Vega HK500 which, with its big Chrysler V8 was generally reckoned to be a triumph of horsepower over handling. It happened in, or near, the small town of Villeblevin in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of central France on 4th January 1960. Tragically, Camus had an unused train ticket with him at the time of the crash as he had planned to travel home to Paris by rail with his family from Provence where they'd spent Christmas. Instead, for some reason, he accepted Gallimard's offer of a drive home with disastrous consequences as the latter lost control in icy conditions and the car was almost completely destroyed against a tree. Camus died at the scene and Gallimard five days later. To be honest it's doubtful anybody could have survived judging by the photo, which probably says more about the lack of safety in cars of the day than the speed they must have been travelling at. In something of a contrast to Rubirosa, one subject of the last quiz, this a rather sadder accident in that I think Camus comes over as probably quite a good bloke, especially in the way he spoke out against France's colonialization of North Africa and its treatment of the region's indigenous population.

Part 1: how many ignition wires are coming out of the distributor cap on this car?
Part 2 (essay): How does she heel-and-toe downshift in those shoes?

Question Two (this is a hard one!)

a) who are these guys?
b) what movie are they in?
c) what kind of car are they in?
d) who is one of them supposed to be married to?

All for now, folks...

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:

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