First off, I'd like to thank all the folks who reached out to wish me a Happy Birthday last Friday via e-mail or facebook (and, to those who didn't, your names have been duly noted in my own, personal version of Willie the Conqueror's Doomsday Book, and you will NOT be written into the will) but I have to admit that Facebook has really got a bit out of hand of late--or maybe I'm just getting old or occupied with other things--and I simply can't keep up with the endless, running commentary on all the lives I've somehow become cyber-intertwined with. And there I go ending a sentence with a preposition again. But I looked yesterday and found I had something like three hundred new "friend" requests (including a few from bosomy young--or maybe not so young?--ladies with lots of luminous eye shadow and lipstick like molten lava whom I'm sure are huge fans of my books) but whilst performing friend-request triage, I bumped into my Facebook-Designated Limit of 5,000 friends, and that means I'd have to unload a few if I want to add any more. And then (at least if you let it get to you) it's like one of those old lifeboat movies where you're the skipper (or maybe the first mate, since the skipper probably went down with the ship with a final glass of good port in his hand as the water rushes in or got crushed by a toppling smokestack as the ship makes its final, belly-up roll) but the point is that now you're in command of this overloaded lifeboat with even more desperate people in the water, clinging to the gunwales (which are all but submerged at this point because of them), and you can see there's a weather front moving in and ominous shark fins circling in anticipation of an easy meal and, besides the tattered command stripes on your shirtsleeve, you've got the only gun...
Got the image?
But the point here is I don't have the time, perspicacity or inclination to make those kinds of cut-them-loose decisions. So, if any of you out there are currently Facebook friends of mine but have somehow fallen out of love with me or my work or don't like my politics (there's a LOT of that going on these days...I'm in the camp who think the current occupant of the White House is a pretty damn awful and deceitful human being*) or have maybe dropped dead so are no longer interested in keeping up with things in my world, please let me know.
Although that may be hard for you dead people...

*Speaking of that taboo subject politics, let me assure you that I am NOT a rabid, doctrinaire, glazed-eye Leftie. I believe in our democratic (small "d") system and the agonized, oft-infuriating, yin-yang legislative struggle that it inevitably engenders. The problem with the Left is that it's full of passionate but fragmented and sometimes even frightening agendas that all seem to think that the world can be made right for everybody and that it's moreover the government's task and duty to make that happen. And if you've ever made an honest comparison between damn near any govenment-run department or burocracy with a well-run (emphasis on "well-run") private business, you can see the problems involved in that line of thinking.
Unfortunately, the other side is just as unsettling. In fact, most of the current ideology on the Right (a disturbing number of whom are second-, third-, fourth- or fifth-generation inheritors rather than industrialists, innovators or entepreneurs) can be boiled down to a heels-dug-in rejection of the sometimes-worthy, sometimes-worrying aspirations of the Left. Accompanied by a simple, ringing rallying cry: "NOT WITH MY EFFING MONEY YOU DON'T!!!!"
Is there anyone I haven't pissed off here?


Like many of you, Carol and I had a strangely quiet and yet quite enjoyable "Thanksgiving for Two" this year. We usually host on Turkey Day, and our rec-room style basement fills up with delicious food (everybody brings their "signature dish"), football on the Big Screen, a little too much alcohol and relatives from several generations and myriad social and economic points of view (see ""politics" . section above). But it seems to work and we have yet to see anything more demonstrative than the occasional, dismissive eye-roll or nostril-flared burp of disgust. I'm the official "Turkey Guy" every year and, with an unseemly lack of modesty, I'll admit to being pretty damn good at it. Then again, it's hard to screw up anything as naturally tasty as a turkey unless you overcook it. I usually get a really big bird and cook it at high temp in a tent of foil a la the instructions in The Settlement Cook Book (which was a staple in my mom's kitchen and ranked right up there with the World Book Encyclopedia as a font of knowledge in our house). You gotta remember to open up the foil and maybe cut the heat down a little for browning near the end, then yank it out and let that bird rest on the sideboard (with a loose piece of foil over it) for a half hour or 45 minutes before attacking it with a cleaver, electric knife, hatchet, chainsaw or whatever to carve it up. This usually starts out fairly neatly but, by the end, it's like the highly disturbing sow-killing scene in Lord of the Flies.
Over the years, I've added a few tweaks. Like brining. And filling the cavities fore and aft with sliced green apples and quartered oranges and a sliced up lemon and fresh-grated ginger and rosemary sprigs. But the real secret is making tiny, tiny slits here and there and sticking a wee sliver of garlic accompanied by a wee sliver of jalepeno into each slit. Then I rub on a mixture of kosher salt, pepper, powdered ginger (lots), garlic powder and smoked paprika, push some softened butter with a light herb mix under the skin on the breast and thighs, let it sit for a couple hours (or even overnight) in the fridge, then slather on a little EVOO and maybe lay a few strips of definitely un-kosher bacon over the top of the bird to help with the basting. Then bring the foil tent together (but leave the ends open) and stick it in a 450 degree oven. Comes out pretty damn good. And don't even get me started on my root vegetable side dish, pecan/apricot dressing or giblet gravy...
Only this year it was just us, and so Debbie (Carol's brother Tony's wife) wasn't bringing her famous sweet potatoes and nobody else was bringing their tasty side dishes or delicious baked stuffed shells (you marry Italian and you discover that EVERY holiday has to include pasta) and don't even get me started about the appetizers, salads and sinfully sweet desserts. Plus Carol is very careful about eating right (or what she THINKS is right, anyway) so we got the smallest damn turkey we could find (7.5 lbs.) and I tried dry-brining it and cooking in the conventional, no-foil-tent fashion at 350 degrees for a little over two hours. And it came out pretty damn good. Delicious, in fact. And lasted us for three solid days of snacks and lunches while we ate, picked over and devoured.

For a side dish, I tried Brussel's sprouts (who the heck was this Brussel guy, anyway?) with baby bella mushrooms and a bunch of other crapola:

Here's our table, and it was pretty nice, too. Fact is, Carol and I have a LOT to be thankful for these days. We both made it through our bouts with COVID without any serious symptoms (although it hit her a lot worse than it his me, as I was pretty much--and most likely undeservedly--asymptomatic) and we've really been getting on very nicely. Lots of long walks in the woods, sometimes with friends, more often just the two of us, and I ordered up a cheap, carry-along Bluetooth speaker so we can listen to music together while we walk. Our tastes are all over the lot, so one day it's mostly-baroque classical (Bach, Mozart, Boccherini, Pachabel, etc.), blues and Motown the next, then maybe some sappy show tunes and yesterday was big-band jazz (Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington with a little Marian McPartland mixed in) etc. Gonna miss it when it gets real cold outside. But we've turned that big, downstairs space where we'd probably still be cleaning turkey scraps and peach cobbler stains off the floor in the wake of a "normal" Thanksgiving into a sort of ersatz home gym. I'll be watching the Sakhir GP down there from atop our new exercise bike in a few hours...
For my Birthday, I worked on my computer for a awhile (note to my proofreaders: as our president would say, "a major dump" of new chapters is on the way), had a nice breakfast, packed some book orders to ship and went for a long (18-mile) and handsome but slightly chilly bike ride. Towards the end, I saw a young buck accompanied by two does (a menage a trois a la venison?) nonchalantly munching away on the grass in a large, open area while walkers/bikers paused to gape and wonder. Me among them. And then it was home for a hot shower and the fine birthday dinner Carol made featuring lobster tail, lobster claw and grilled asparagus. MMmmmmmm.
As I said, I'm making good progress again on the new book, and it appears, at least for now, like I've caught the wind on the far side of the calm and am making significant headway once again. Will try my very best to keep it up. I promise.
On a slightly related note, we've had lots of positive reviews/feedback on the radio-play format audiobook version of The Last Open Road (if you haven't bought/listened to a copy, I truly believe you're missing something pretty special), and I wanted to share this one with you. It appeared in our local, Chicago Region SCCA e-newsletter (a.k.a. "Piston Patter") and this one is important to me not just because it was written by a longtime friend and supporter, Jim Marinangel, but also because of who he is and the sentiments embodied. Jim's a longtime SCCA racer who has not only served as the region's president, but who has also distinguished himself as a driver, including winning an SCCA Spec Racer National Championship (a feat that takes no little doing, as the cars are disgustingly equal, the competition is both fierce and fraught and the field is both wide and deep). It's a hell of an accomplishment. Plus he's a really nice guy.
Anyhow, here it as, just as he wrote it:
The Last Open Road
Audio Book Review
Jim Marinangel

I admit to being a big Burt Levy fan.

When Burt's first book, The Last Open Road, came out it was unique for its storyline following early sports car racing in the U.S. Set back in the early 1950's, it followed the adventures of teenager Buddy Palumbo who through happenstance was introduced to the developing world of sports cars, and a club called (with a wink) the SCMA. Buddy's story is not just about sports cars and racing but also revisits the social customs of the day, including the quaint, (by today's standards), dating practices some of us are old enough to remember. In the book Buddy meets some of the top drivers of the era and has adventures at the first street races and some famous tracks, Road America being one of them.

I bought the book when it first came out and like almost everyone who read it fell in love with the story, losing myself in Buddy's adventures. A few years ago I took the book off of the shelf and reread it. The Last Open Road was still fun but, like the rerun of a favorite movie or a second ice cream cone, it was less an adventure and more of a fond remembrance. When I put the book back on the shelf, I figured that twice-read would be enough.

Fast forward to last summer. At a vintage racing weekend in Elkhart Lake I discovered that David Hobbs and Burt were sharing a table at the far end of the track's souvenir shop. David was promoting his book Hobo and Burt was marketing his Open Road books along with some pretty cool themed items related to the series.

After buying David's book and having him autograph it I learned from Burt that he had turned The Last Open Road into an audio book. Interesting but, I thought to myself, having read it twice meant I probably didn't need to own the audio version. Still, I really admire Burt for his determination in successfully marketing his books, while mooching more race car drives in other people's cars than anyone else, and decided that what-the-heck, I'd buy it anyway.
Not long afterward I had a long drive scheduled, about a 9 hour round trip, and brought the audio book along to keep me company. As I inserted the CD, (the book comes in more technically-oriented media for younger listeners), I expected a pretty amateur production and wondered if I'd enjoy listening to Burt read the book aloud; particularly after I'd already read it twice myself.

Boy, was I surprised!

The audio book is anything but amateurly done. It is slick, professional and uses people from today's racing community to bring the story to life. The book is presented in the style of an old-time radio show that you would have heard back in the 30's, 40's and 50's when adventure and mystery programs drew families around their living room radios, much like TV does today. Most interesting was that listening to the audio book and the come-to-life characters transformed the story into an entirely new experience. It was almost as if it was a new adventure being experienced for the first time. Quite a few voices come from well-known members of today's racing community but one you'll recognize is a stuffy British character humorously played by David Hobbs. He's a funny guy! Much as The Godfather was an outstanding book but the movie was even better, The Last Open Road audio version takes the story of Buddy Palumbo and his adventures to a new level of enjoyment.

The nine-hour drive flew by as I listened to the story, lost in the 1950's, arriving home after having had one of those drives where you reach your destination and wonder how the heck you got there. The time had flown by faster than the 80 mph+ cruising speeds I'd managed on the Wisconsin freeways.

If the Covid-19 shelter-at-home experiences have left you in a state of withdrawal for the lack of SCCA and professional racing, pick up Burt's audio book and settle back in your easy chair. Let the story and your mind's eye take you on a racing-oriented adventure back to a time before seat belts, meaningful crash protection, electronic "driver-assist" systems and when "sex was safe and racing was dangerous". Or, play it on your road trips and turn your highways into the BEST open roads.

In any case, I'm encouraging all of you who haven't bought copies (MP3 files on either USB Flash Drive or CD set formats) to do so. They make great holiday gifts, too. As do all of the other fab items, fantastic trinkets, flotsam and jetsam on our web store at:
So browse. Shop. Buy something already!

One Last Thing Department:

The Midwest Automotive Media Assn. ("MAMA" to you) ran a "Member Spotlight" about me that you might (or might not?) want to peruse. It's mostly the usual, self-serving "BS," but it does include a little seminal ride-mooching history plus a section on my experiences, such as they were, as an ad-hoc, fill-in stunt driver when "THE BLUES BROTHERS" movie was shooting in Chicago. Anyhow, here it is:
Member Spotlight: 7 Questions for Burt Levy
Most of us know Burt Levy as a friend, fellow colleague and, of course, MAMA member. He was even one of the driving instructors for the MAMA Track Driving School, hosted by Dodge. However, many of us weren’t aware that Burt was a stunt driver in the Blues Brothers movie, for example, or that he has penned multiple award-winning books on racing – one of his strongest interests. We sat down (virtually, of course) with Burt to get his full story (though, deep down we know this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface!).
Q1: You were a stunt driver in the Blues Brothers movie. That is incredible! How would you best summarize this experience?
BL: A hoot. Didn’t get the gig by anything but serendipity (and some flinty-eyed bean counters in Hollywood!). The producers had the problem of finding enough experienced, high-speed drivers to put in all those seats. They sure as heck didn’t want to pay union stunt money for that, so they asked around and were steered to local car and racing clubs. I’d been racing pretty successfully and serving as a race-driving instructor for our local amateur clubs and it sounded like fun, so I went to the tryouts at the Dixie Square Shopping Mall, which was used in the movie. The whole idea was you got in one of these wheezy, wobbly old cop cars with one of the stunt coordinators and he told you “do what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it and don’t do anything until I tell you.” And then he’d tell you to aim for the far side of this chunked and broken parking lot and floor it. They were tired & beat up but they did have the big, cop-car engines, so pretty soon you’re motoring along at 80 or so—foot still to the floor and the front end hammering and hunting all over the road (not to mention the tree line on the far edge of the lot starting to loom very large indeed!) but if you kept your foot planted until he said “OK, you can back off now,” you were in!

Q2: You helped out as an instructor at the MAMA Track Driving School. Many MAMA members received instruction from you...what is your top advice for novice track drivers? 

BL:  Calm down, don’t hold the wheel in a death grip and RAISE YOUR EYES! One of my instructors many years ago was the late Jim Fitzgerald, who was Paul Newman’s great friend and teammate. He always said that race is more like dancing than anything else, and he was absolutely right. When you’re doing it right, it all becomes a sort of rhythmic flow—not all jerky—and you see far ahead and everything feels like it’s happening in slow motion. I always tell my students it’s like music: the track is the piece of music you have to play and the car is the instrument you play it with. When you’re “in the zone” and you have a really good racecar under you, the car becomes almost invisible and it’s just you and the track…  

Q3: What race cars have you driven, or even owned?

BL:  I haven’t owned many, but I’ve driven and raced a LOT. Started out in 1971 in a real P.o.S. series of self-wrenched Triumph TR3s. Bought a lot of “trick” parts and go-faster goodies from California and wound up with TR3s that went faster and faster for shorter and shorter periods of time. Rarely finished a race. But, I learned, and when I switched to an Alfa Romeo Spider built out of an insurance total, I started winning races and championships. With some backing from the dealership I worked for at the time and Alfa Romeo in New Jersey, I switched to a different Alfa for SCCA National racing in 1983. We ran eight races, won four of them, set two lap records and qualified for the National Championships at Road Atlanta. By then, I’d realized that I couldn’t really afford to continue.
By then I’d started writing for AutoWeek and On Track magazines, and they’d offered me a gig covering pro races in the Midwest. I told them “no, I’m a RACER, not a writer.” Only I called them back again after the car got rolled into a ball and asked if the correspondent gig was still open? Had no idea how or where I’d ever go racing again. But covering races was a way to stay involved and I made a lot of lifelong racing friends in the pro ranks.
Did some pro racing of my own thanks to a surprise call from PD Cunningham, who offered me a share of the driving in some endurance races for a fledgling team out of Dayton, MPS Motorsports.
Serendipity again: Joe Marchetti (who, along with his brothers, used to own and run the famous Como Inn Italian restaurant in Chicago, and also traded in exotic and racing cars…mostly Ferraris) was running a fledgling vintage racing event at Road America (called then the Chicago Historic Races) and wanted me to write a driver’s-eye-view of Road America for his race program (I’d won a few races there and held a lap record). So, I did. And, in return, he put me in a classic 1960 Ferrari 250 SWB (Short WheelBase) Berlinetta at a race at Road Atlanta. I wrote my first “ride mooch” story about the experience for AutoWeek. That led to drives in other classic racing cars, a gig as a track-driving instructor at the Ferrari National Meet and a series of occasionally award-winning stories and columns about racing and test-driving other people’s wonderful cars…the great majority of which I could never dream of affording!

Q4: How many different tracks have you raced on? Which was your favorite, and why? 

BL: I have raced at almost every road-racing circuit in the United States plus several in Canada and three in the Bahamas. For the sheer joy of driving, I love the flow and elevation changes of the Virginia International Raceway, Road Atlanta and Mount Tremblant in Canada, the scale, sweep and scenery of Road America, Watkins Glen and the fun of Mid-Ohio. If I had to pick a single favorite, it would have to be my home track, Road America, because of its grandeur and presentation, its unique synergy with the surrounding towns and countryside (which I’ve written about in my books) and the way the track management and board keep pouring profits back into the facility to improve and upgrade it. That just isn’t happening anywhere else.

Q5: How did you become a book author? What books have you penned?  

BL:  I’d been writing for the magazines for a while and had this urge to write a novel about racing just because I hated all the fiction about racing that I’d read or seen on the screen. I thought about it for quite some time. I remember I was sitting around the pool one morning with a massive rum hangover during the 1986 Grand Bahama Vintage Grand Prix (where I was driving for Joe Marchetti) and just started hunting and pecking away on my laptop. It took me eight years because I really had no idea how to write a book and I kept giving up or setting it aside when racing season rolled around. It was a coming-of-age story about a 19-year-old New Jersey gas-station mechanic getting sucked into the glamorous, dangerous and occasionally decadent world of open-road sports car racing during the Eisenhower fifties.
I finally finished it and sent The Last Open Road off, unrequested and un-agented, to just about every major fiction publisher in New York. They all turned it down. A few of them liked it, but told me “There’s no market for ‘car’ fiction.” Or, as one particularly rude and arrogant Manhattan publishing executive told me: “THOSE people don’t read…”
But I thought she was wrong. So, my wife and I took out a second mortgage, formed a company, published it ourselves and debuted it at the Road America vintage weekend in July of 1994. It earned wonderful reviews in the motoring (and even some of the mainstream) press here and abroad and garnered tremendous word-of-mouth support on the motorsports and collector-car scenes. That book is now in its 10th hardcover printing, is used in several high school and college-level English classes and is on the recommended reading lists at many libraries and book clubs. It’s also spawned five (soon to be six) sequels: Montezuma’s Ferrari, The Fabulous Trashwagon, Toly’s Ghost, The 200mph Steamroller Book One/Red Reign and The 200mph Steamroller Book Two/The Italian Job plus a short-story collection, A Potside Companion. 

Q6: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? 

BL: Don’t stop me now, I’m on a roll… 

Q7: Any advice for MAMA members who may want to follow a similar path to yours? 

BL:  Follow your dreams and don’t be afraid of falling down.

Many of you instantly recognized the strange device below as the Fageol Twin Porsche special (first across the line was robbin@sixfoottwo bare moments after the email was unleashed) which was a rather unusual and inventive device built for California-based bus-manufacturing magnate/Gold Cup hydroplane racer Lou Fageol. He's worth a half-hour google, believe me! The car below featured one Porsche 356 motor in front (driving the front wheels) and another one in back driving the rear wheels. Although possibly brilliant in concept, it was heavy and complex and the resultant handling was best described as "confused." It never enjoyed much success, but that didn't stop Fageol from building a highly similar Indianapolis car with fore-and-aft rootes-supercharged Offy midget engines (see bottom pic below) which likewise failed to achieve much more than multitudinous blank stares and low, hollow whistles of astonishment...


This one is waaaay too easy. But I love it so. I even got to drive the car shown below on two occasions (really!), once during a test day at Blackhawk and once at Tamiami Park in Florida when there was a vintage event as a curtain-raiser for the PPG IndyCar season finale. I expect nothing less than a full doctoral thesis from Bob Allen. And likely another one from Sam Smith. But better get a move on. The clock is ticking...

And now...back to the new book. Really...
Oh, and PUH-LEEZ buy lots of Holiday stuff from Finzio's Store on the website at

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: