It's still hush-hush and the OFFICIAL press release hasn't gone out yet, but a little bird (John Twist a.k.a "Mr. MG") whispered in my ear that I was among those nominated, reviewed, argued over and ultimately selected to be inducted into the BRITISH SPORTS CAR HALL OF FAMEat the Thursday evening participants' party at this summer's big vintage meet at Road America July 13-16. I'll be in good company, too, as one of the other 2023 inductees is longtime friend, longer-time hero, famous international racing champion and TARGA 66 founder/host Brian Redman.

This is quite the freaking honor (think of a Whitworth-edition/right-hand-drive Oscar, Emmy or Grammy), since the nomination and selection processes are overseen by a blue-ribbon panel of die-hard British Sports Car experts, devotees and aficionados who have a deep and abiding love for/allegiance to sporting cars of the Union Jack persuasion. Along with a wary familiarity with the many, shall we say, "uniquely engineered" mechanical details and odd quirks that often come as part of the British Sports Car experience. Like fr'instance the too-clever-by-half and potentially lethal, screw-type ratchet jacks that came as standard car-lifting equipment in the factory tool kit of every blessed Triumph TR2, TR3, TR3A and TR3B that rolled off the humming-and-occasionally-clanking assembly lines in Coventry.

These jacks raise the car up by way of holes on either side of the passenger-compartment floor (I am not making this up) and UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you EVER go crawling around underneath a Triumph TR2, 3, 3A or 3B (like to see if the speedometer angle drive has somehow unscrewed itself, rendered the speedo useless and dribbled a small, fresh puddle of transmission oil on your driveway...or perhaps to see why the bloody Laycock de Normanville overdrive isn't engaging or disengaging like it's supposed to?) whilst the car is suspended precariously above the ground with one of the dubious and occasionally dangerous devices shown below:

By the way and for the non-Brit-centric uninitiated, Laycock de Normanville is NOT the name of the spoiled and sadistic French count in Charles Dickens' immortal A TALE OF TWO CITIES...although the name certainly would have fit. Neither is it the suave and scheming right-hand henchman (Sir Guy of Gisbane, played to a resounding chorus of audience boos and hisses by Basil Rathbone) to wicked usurper Prince John (Claude Rains) in Warner Brothers' wonderfully entertaining & uplifting and unashamedly swashbuckling 1938 release, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, with Erroll Flynn in the title role. I love those rip-roaring, righteous and romantic old movies where you knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were from the very first reel. Made things ever so much simpler for the audience...

But the truth of things is that a rather brilliant British engineer and inventor named Edgar de Normanville designed a truly ingenious, bolt-onto-the-back-of-your-existing-transmission overdrive unit in the mid-1940s and industrial manufacturer Laycock built and sold several kazillion of them (rough estimate) for various British and European automotive applications.
These overdrive units were great for reducing engine rpms, noise and wear-and-tear at highway cruising speeds, and were also employed and fiddled with by many racers--myself included--to turn an ordinary 4-speed Triumph gearbox into essentially an 8-speeder. Five-and-a-half of which were actually useful...

If I ever write that great and highly $ucce$$ful romance novel about the fair Princess Vandenplas and her handsome, dashing and charming Prince Powerslide, you can bet your Uni-Syn carburetor balancer that the evil, conniving bad guy in the piece will be Baron Laycock de Normanville...


I'm pleased to announce that I've been engaged as after-dinner-and-drinks guest speaker for the July 29th ILLINOIS JAGUAR CLUB Concours d'Elegance at St. James Farm in Winfield, Illinois. The concours show is free for spectators, and I've been advised that tickets to the post-councours dinner/reception will be available from the club in case anybody else wants to hear me drone on about how and why I failed to become a great, internationally famous racing champion and wound up pecking away at a damn keyboard instead...
Seriously, I did one of these presentations for a wonderful Jaguar club in the Ozarks last summer, and will try, once again, to concentrate on the oft-fascinating and occasionally ironic/amusing/outrageous details of Jaguar history rather than dwelling on my own somewhat suspect adventures and misadventures driving, maintaining, fixing and racing various Jaguars and Jaguar derivatives.
Shown below are pix of me test driving Tom Mittler's honest-to-goodness D-Type at Moroso, racing (and about to overtake friend and sometime competitor/sometime co-driver Andy Greene in the Aston Martin DB4 referred to around Andy's shop as "James Bondo") in Bud Shafer's real and excellent Jag XKSS at Roebling Road near Savannah (we actually won that race!), battling away against Bob Gett's nimble little Lola at Mt. Tremblant, Canada, in Syd Silverman's well-prepared Lister-Jag and on the grid at Sears Point (hey, it'll ALWAYS be "Sears Point" to me, no matter who's signing the damn "title sponsorship" checks) in Brian Andrews' wonderful XK120. Finished 2nd to Peter Giddings' prewar Alfa Grand Prix car in that one...and we DROVE Brian's XK120 to and from the damn racetrack! Lotsa great memories in there, and only slightly enhanced/embellished by the passage of time...

Carol and I will (finally!) be sojourning to sunny Californy again to see our kids, this coming in the oft-postponed aftermath of our aborted Christmas/New Years' trip when we both came down with the dreaded Covid three effing days before we were supposed to take off. We didn't get real sick (thank goodness), but the little lines in the test kits turned red and we knew we shouldn't travel. Bummer.
But we're headed west for a do-over next week, and in the interests of trying to write at least part of the trip off as a "legitimate business expense," it will include a stop to hawk & sign books, audiobooks, etc. at our very favorite automotive/aeronautical book store in nearby Burbank. Here's the poop, please spread the word & join us if you can:

2900 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505

Even if you have all the books, you can still come in and say "Hi." Or even be first in line to become a Left Coast sponsor in my upcoming book(s) and latch onto a wee, small slice of immortality for yourself or some other deserving soul!
(see utterly shameless pitch below)

Yes, folks, friends & fans, work is proceeding like a runaway locomotive on the new Potside Companion II short-story anthology, "Responsible Jobs & Irresponsible Driving," which will include possibly/partially true tales about working in a drop forge and on a paper plate packaging line, serving as a hod carrier for two redneck, country-western-listening, block-layer brothers from Tennessee (by way of a pool hall they once owned in Paducah, KY), working as a dishwasher, then ad-hoc cook at the Boulderado Hotel in Boulder, CO., my days as a foreman at a hippie-commune (sort-of) leather clothing factory overlooking the then-slums of Oakland, CA, delivering phone books in all sorts of wonderful and sometimes scary neighborhoods in Chicago, fixing and selling cars, the "Uncle Max" who wasn't really my uncle, gave me my first-ever job and became the inspiration for the Big Ed Baumstein character in my novels, running around my folks' new neighborhood with no pants on as a wee toddler, serving as a second-string stunt driver when "THE BLUES BROTHERS" movie was shooting in Chicago and lots more. And lotsa car and motorcycle stuff, too.

But the point is that I'm far enough along to start grabbing passers-by by the sleeve & soliciting sponsorships. It's the usual deal: you fork over two-hundred-and-fifty bucks (hardly enough for a nice meal-for-two-with-wine at even slightly upscale restaurants these days) and, in return, you get your name (or the name of a certain, special someone you wish to surprise, amaze, honor, remember, tout, memorialize, endear yourself to or embarrass) listed in type big enough to actually read on the SPONSOR/ADVERTISER section in every single copy that will ever be printed. And we hope that's a bunch. You'll also get our undying gratitude, since this will allow me to go on writing and publishing my stuff without going flat-bust bankrupt. Don't get me started about the risks, costs, pitfalls and pratfalls of the publishing business. Trust me: you don't want to hear it...
So I wuz watching the rather boring & predictable Effwun Grand Prix of Australia and then the nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Indycar race from that super-fast oval in Texas on the same day a few weeks back, and it really had me scratching my head. There were so blessed many fans that they filled all the grandstands and spilled over onto (and clogged) the track at the end of the [mostly] dull F1 race in Oz, while you coulda chucked a damn hand grenade into many places in the stands and not hurt a soul in Texas. Damn shame as I see it. Sure, I love F1 and am in awe of both the talent and the technology involved--not to mention the mind-boggling, trans-global logistics--but the cars tend to qualify and race like the animals heading onto Noah's ark: two-by-two-by-two according to species. Er, make that "designers and teams." Indycar is much more restricted as to technical innovation (hey, everybody starts with the same basic chassis and there are but two--apparently quite equal--engine choices). End result is that the actual RACING in Indycar is much more competitive, and on any given weekend, you'll have 8-to-a-dozen drivers/teams in serious contention for the win. Better yet, THEY'RE NOT ALWAYS THE SAME BLESSED 8-TO-A-DOZEN CARS AND DRIVERS!
Don't know how you go about improving the audience level and public perception issues with Indycar (Lord knows the NASCAR stock cars pack 'em in and draw a huge following of TV eyes at many of the same blessed venues) but it's a damn shame.

Speaking of NASCAR, I am hoping with fingers and toes crossed that the upcoming, July "street race" here in my hometown of Chicago doesn't turn into a debacle. I foresee a lot of potential problems--particularly in light of recent events in our fair city--regarding interactions between NASCAR fans and certain segments of our local population. Meanwhile, other politically well-connected and influential groups--the park district, the museum, aquarium and planetarium complex at the south end of the downtown lakefront, the folks with boats in the harbor or fish they want to catch out of Lake Michigan, the tourists who flock to Buckingham Fountain and all the walkers, joggers, roller skaters, skateboarders and bicyclists who swarm Chicago's lakefront path every decent weekend--have their noses seriously out-of-joint relative to the adverse effects of the race. Nor can I understand our beloved Art Institute's involvement and hope/plan for drawing large numbers of visiting stock car fans to see a show of Vincent Van Gogh landscapes in their galleries. Would've made more sense, I think, to have a show of the early 20th century, Italy-based, speed-and-machine-influenced art of FUTURISM. See pix below. Or a big car show on site of interesting, watershed automotive and racing car designs...

But nobody asked me for my 2 cents worth. Add in that the track, at least as I see it, is not gonna leave much space or many opportunities for passing. Plus it's gonna cost a LOT of money to make the whole thing happen (and to provide security and take it all down again once the racing is over). As I say, I hope that I'm wrong, as I would love this to blossom into a resounding success for both the sport and--especially--my beloved city.
At least the restaurants, panhandlers, tippling stations and hotels will make out...
You can take my soapbox now, Sonny. I'm done.
May 19-21: Carol & I are planning, once again, to be hawking, schmoozing & signing in the wonderful THE PADDOCK SHOP store at Road America during the SVRA/SPEED TOUR weekend. See you there?


OK, so after the give-away hints, a lot of you remembered (or looked up) that it was actor Craig Stevens as PETER GUNN who drove the 1958 Plymouth Sport Fury ragtop pictured here. Many of you, including Web Beadle, knew (or looked up) that his girlfriend was Edie Hart (played by Lola Albright) and that she was a singer at the jazz club where he hung out, "Mother's," and where they smooched--very sensually for a 1958-61 TV show!--between sets. His engaging cop pal/sometimes foil Lt. Jacoby was played by Herschel Bernardi.
Music was of course that wonderful Peter Gunn theme song by the then-emerging movie/TV/popular music compositional maestro Henry Mancini.
Producer was the brilliant and oft-quirky/on-the-edge Blake Edwards.

Because you did so abysmally (well, not ALL of you) on the trivia questions above, we have some follow-ups:

1) Before he got the Plymouth Sport Fury, what kind of car did Peter Gunn drive?

2) What amazing movie about the movie industry and the characters/escapades involved did Blake Edwards write, produce and direct?

3) Who was the famous female lead in that movie and how was she related to the director?

4) And what did she do in that movie that was totally out-of-character relative to the popular public perception of her?

5) That car from question number 1: what happened to the brand and when, and who sued whom over it?

6) Who played "Mother?"

7) Who was the pool-playing midget?


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: