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I'd heard about the untimely passing of my friend, longtime VSCDA supporter, board-member and track-announcer Henry Adamson (he also handled PA duties at Millers at Milwaukee) on the way back from Watkins Glen. But I was able to make the memorial service at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, IL (where Henry was a member of a weekly "Old Dogs" discussion group of incredibly varied and often cerebral topics) the Wednesday before the big VSCDA race meeting at Road America. I like to think Henry would have been pleased with the huge turnout of his vintage-racing and collector-car friends, and Reverend Sarah Odderstol gave a sensitive, accurate and upbeat eulogy that I believe he would have approved of as well.
I worked the PA booth with Henry many times, and the depth and breadth of his knowledge was absolutely stunning. He had a voracious appetite for books, history and learning, and his recall was both instantaneous and dead-nuts accurate on all manner of interesting machinery, motorsports events and characters, obscure mechanical specifications and related anecdotes.
And yet Henry always presented his extensive smorgasbord of smarts with a bemused, almost impish little smile. Like he wasn't so much tellingyou something as reminding you of something he was quite sure you (and, in fact, just about everybody) already knew.

In that respect, he gave us too much credit.

As many of you know, Henry suffered through some serious health issues over the last many years (most particularly ambulatory difficulties and loss of mosty of his vision), but he never allowed those irritants to dampen his spirits or interfere with the meetings/events he wished to attend or places he wanted to be. In that regard, his vintage-racing and collector-car friends helped out greatly by providing transportation after Henry could no longer drive himself in his beloved Porsche 911.
After the service, a large group of friends and family gathered in an adjoining community room to share memories and anecdotes about Henry. And I was happy to share a "Henry story" that I'd been carrying around with me for something like twenty years:
After THE LAST OPEN ROAD came out in 1994, I gave Henry a copy to look over and perhaps review. He was, quite typically, involved with the Caxton Club (a longstanding part of the "serious book scene" in Chicago) among his many other interests and involvements. And I was also eager to hear his thoughts on the book that had taken me 8 years to finally finish.
Henry allowed as how it was a pretty decent piece of writing, enjoyable to read and surprisingly accurate both historically and mechanically. And then came the pause that always seems to come before the other shoe drops. "Except," he added almost apologetically, "for a few 'clinkers.'"
"CLINKERS????" I could feel the hairs snapping to attention on the back of my neck.
Henry nodded.
My eyes narrowed. "Such as?"

That impish little 'Henry' smile flashed across his face. "You have the Creighton Pendleton III character arriving at Bridgehampton in 1952 towing his Ferrari racecar behind a chauffeured Rolls Royce Phantom IV limousine."

"So that never could have happened."
My eyes narrowed even more. "Look, Henry, I've researched this stuff pretty thoroughly, and I'm absolutely sure that Rolls Royce built Phantom IV Limousines in 1952."
"Of course they did," he quickly agreed. "Rolls built Phantom IVs from 1950 through 1956, and they produced exactly 18 of them during that time."
"So what's the problem?"
Once again, Henry looked at me like he was simply giving me a friendly reminder about something he was quite sure I already knew: "Because...." his impish smile beamed up even brighter than usual, "....Rolls Phantom IVs were only made available to heads of state and royalty...."
Leave it to Henry to know something like that.
From memory.
We'll all miss him.
As my (and Henry's) good friend Lou Natenshon put it: "It's like a library burned down...."

Here's one I forgot: At Lime Rock I met a nice young Canadian gent named Al Playter, who just happens to be a professor of Automotive and Motorcycle Programs at Centennial College in Toronto. Turns out he likes my books (and particularly the mechanical details & wounded-car conundrums that Buddy faces at the Sinclair) and he shared with me the somewhat startling photo below of how one of his rookie college car-fixers decided to deal with a fractured lower control arm on some cheap econobox's McPherson-Strut front suspension:

Hey, when you've got a fracture, you use a splint, right?
Looks like an "A" for ingenuity and a "D" on execution to me.
Reminds me of how we used to do things back at Mellow Motors.....



I always look forward to the VSCDA's race at Road America because it's a great and well-supported club event and always includes a lot of special features. Like a police-escorted racecar tour of the old street course, a nifty Saturday-night concours at one of the Elkhart Lake resorts with marvelous 30's and 40's big-band music by my friend William Severin Thompson's SwingTime Big Band out of Appleton, WI (they are EXCELLENT!) plus a chance to drive one of the best, most challenging, most beautiful and most historic and true world-class racetracks in North America. On a weekend when, if nature and the weather gods cooperate, the sun shines, the temps are comfortable and the trees are just starting to turn their beautiful fall colors. All in all, it's a lovely place to be.

Thanks to the SCCA Runoffs, the VSCDA's September date at Road America was in direct conflict with the SVRA's also-not-to-be-missed Watkins Glen meeting for the past several years. But this year, The Runoffs moved on, the schedule was finally shifted back and, if you had the T&M (Time & Money, not to mention a hardy racecar) you could do Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, Road America and HSR Mid-Ohio back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Which I did.
Better yet, I had two good rides lined up for Road America. There was the thrilling, invigorating and mildly terrifying Sunday-morning run in Ron Keck's 650+HP Cro-Sal Cheetah clone described in my last e-blast (re-pictured below on account of I just flat love how I look in that car) and from which I am still getting occasional goosebumples.

Scary fun for sure!

Also had a Friday-afternoon Enduro ride lined up thanks to my car-mogul friend Richard Fisher (his Evanston, IL. "AUTOBARN" dealerships will happily sell you all the Mazdas, Nissans, VWs and now Fiats you can use, and take care of them after the sale as well). Transplanted Brit Richard's been racing and fooling around in the car business for a long, long time (and he's damn good at both) and he not too long ago purchased the truly exceptional Datsun Bluebird sedan shown below with me in it.

For those of you out of your comfortable depth on the subject, the "Bluebird" was the somewhat sleeker and sexier, Japanese home-market (and therefore right-hand drive) version of the popular & much-raced Datsun 510 that did so well in American sedan racing and copped back-to-back pro titles in the SCCA's Under-2.5 Liter Trans-Am series in the hands of my friend and longtime hero John Morton back in 1971-72.

I'd seen this particular car run several times in the hands of its original owner, Jim Froula, and so I knew going in that it was fast, well-sorted and generally reliable. So I was really looking forward to it. Plus it represented a great opportunity for a little--ahem--"further research" on the magazine feature on SCCA and IMSA racing sedans that I've been promising people I'm going to finish for the last five or six years. Particularly Brian Walsh, who is more-or-less the main sparkplug of the Small Sedan bunch on the vintage scene and whose Pinto I beat the living crap out of at VIR. Or at least until he blew it up anyway.




Hey, at least it wasn't me in the damn car when it happened. And don't worry, Brian. I'll get that story done--really I will--but not until after the Cheetah story is finished (which goes back even further, if you can believe it!) and the new, Pt. II STEAMROLLER book is safely off to the printer.

But back to the Datsun Bluebird. Richard had a business meeting Fridaymorning back in Evanston, so he sent the car up with truly amazing prep artist/at-track hand-holder Bart Tchorzewski of BTRacing, and told me to just show up and drive it in first practice to get a feel for it.
Wotta guy!
Well, the car was effing immaculate and Bart was incredibly thorough, knowledgeable, precise, neat, technically sharp and totally on-the-ball regarding anything and everything to do with fast cars and racing. His BTRacing shop in Evanston is small, but it's well-equipped and you could eat off the blessed floor (click HERE to visit the BTRacing website). I'm convinced that can do just about anything you'd like to improve, hop-up or track-prepare your production-based car. Nice guy, too. And you should see his wife. WOW!
Turns out the Bluebird was not only impeccable, but also pretty damn incredible to drive. Simply put, it was one of the best-prepared and dialed-in production-based racecars I've ever driven (right up there with the Group 44 TR6 and National Champ Dave Headley's MGB, which is high praise indeed). But Richard did warn me that the gate on the transmission was quite narrow and to beware of grabbing 2nd instead of 4th on an upshift, as that would likely scatter little oily fragments of engine innards all over the asphalt.

The test session went pretty well all things considered. I was reasonably quick without actually being fast (2:49 and small change) and Richard was absolutely right about the shift gate. But I caught it both times I accidentally selected 2nd instead of 4th on an upshift and didn't let the clutch out. Whew. I also managed to grab 5th instead of 3rd a couple times on a downshift from 4th. Remember that. Beyond that, I can't tell you how much fun that little buzz-bomb was to drive. Like all great racecars, it was simple, and while lots of folks set up their cars really stiff (and that makes them handle great on smooth, flat racetracks), I more and more like something a little softer, better dampened and more compliant, particular for your more "organic" and flowing racetracks. And the Bluebird was every bit of that. Plus it was straightforward and honest to drive, and with a really strong motor for just 1770cc. So I was really looking forward to our Enduro. Only then it clouded over. And started to rain. And it got colder, too. Lots colder. And then it rained some more. We didn't have any "real" rain tires in the trailer (Hoosier Dirt-Track skins are a popular & effective choice) and none of the Tire Guys on hand had anything that would fit. But Richard had some mounted, full-tread-depth Toyos, and that would just have to suffice. We had a brief team meeting where I outlined (through generally chattering teeth) the Top-Secret Enduro Strategy that has served me well over the years. Including back-to-back season championships in the old HSR Rolex Vintage Endurance Series co-driving with my late friend David Whiteside in his flyweight but feisty Lotus 17.


The basic premise of this strategy is that any team that completes their mandatory, timed 5-minute pit stop under a full-course yellow (should there be such a thing, and there usually is) will invariably finish ahead of faster--even
MUCH faster--cars that perform their pit stops under green-flag conditions. So you leave the starting driver in the car as long as necessary to take advantage of any full-course yellows that may occur. If there's an incident that prompts an early full-course yellow, the second driver winds up with the bulk of the seat time. If there's no full-course yellow, the first driver takes it all the way to the last fifteen minutes in hopes of catching one. So, in that scenario, the second driver gets screwed out of seat time. But I'm utterly convinced it's the right way to play it and, with the wet, cold, lousy conditions (see below) I kinda figured somebody'd do something stupid (or ill-advised) and we'd get at least one full-course yellow. Only we didn't....

I must say Richard did a heckuva job (especially considering that he hadn't had a single lap of practice) and was he running just ahead of Rob Davenport's Alfa, contesting about 6th or 7th overall plus a class win. Meanwhile Bart and I stood around in pit lane under a bleak, cold, drooling sky, looking about as happy as those caged, sad-eyed dogs you see in the Pet-Adoption commercials on TV.
Still no yellow....
So we waited until the Last Possible Moment, fifteen minutes from the end, and brought Richard in for fuel and a driver change. And Rob Davenport in the Alfa came in right behind us (like five or six seconds). We performed our pit stop perfectly (if I do say so myself) and I headed back on track EXACTLY five minutes after Richard had brought the car in. So imagine our surprise to find that Rob's Alfa had left pit lane the better part of a minute before....
Now the pit marshals are supposed to keep track of such things (Lord knows they do at Le Mans) but there weren't too many cars running by that point and it was cold and miserable and, hey, the prize money's the same for everybody, right?
In the meantime, I was busy just trying to keep it on the damn island. I hadn't been out in the wet during practice and ours were hardly the best option as far as rain tires go, and the last thing I wanted to do was wad the car up.
So I ran a handful of mostly lonely, wet, workmanlike laps--it was actually kind of fun--and brought the car home without incident.
Later on, we picked up a copy of the Official Results and were somewhat surprised to see ourselves listed in 7th overall and 1st in class. Only we should have been in the same bloody class with the Alfa (which they had finishing ahead of us, but in a different class) and we should have finished ahead of the Alfa on account of the somewhat optimistic timing of their 5-minute pit stop. They also had my pal Dave "Dr. J" Jahamiak's Devin-Chev finishing ahead of us even though he never made it to the checker on account of he parked the Devin in the Turn 7 guardrail a lap and a half from the end. And they had Lisa Hansen's always-fast 911 finishing second, even though it looked from our perspective in the pits like she ran away from everybody and smoked the entire field from green-to-checker.
Go figure.
But we didn't really care since it was a "fun" race with no championship points or prize money involved. And besides, everybody on both sides of the fences was cold and wet and miserable and sorely in need of a hot shower and a nice glass of something warming to drink. Not to mention that Richard and Bart and I know we finished 5th overall and won our class, and that's enough for us.

But there's more to the story.

Richard and the Bluebird came from the back of the grid to win the 2.5 Trans-Am sedan feature in beautiful weather on Saturday (after a pretty spectacular dice for the lead with another Datsun and a couple of Alfas) and he also got fastest 0.147 seconds! Hell of a drive!

And then he kindly decided, since I didn't get much seat time at all during the Enduro, that I should drive the Bluebird in the Sheldon Cup race on Sunday. What you need to know here is that these special VSCDA "cup" races are run like bracket racing at the drags. The "breakout" lap time for the Sheldon Cup was 2:45 (go faster than that and you get penalized), and I knew for sure that the Bluebird could do that. In fact, I was pretty damn sure it could go faster than that. Maybe even with me at the wheel. So I asked Bart to put a stopwatch where I could see and reach it on the steering wheel, thinking that I could check my lap times coming out of the last corner and pedal out of it if need be to keep over the breakout lap-time.
There was a better than decent grid of some 35 cars and I figured I was in with a pretty good shot because we were gridded in the top ten and the breakout time was right in the Bluebird's wheelhouse. But I was also new to the Datsun and desperately wanted to bring it home in one piece, and I knew the guys at the sharp end had been racing each other hard all weekend. In fact, most were the same bunch Richard had been up against in the U-2.5 Trans-Am race on Saturday.

Well, my brilliant race got off to a pretty shabby start as I got a good jump and sliced between a couple cars on the run down to Turn One, then found myself about to wind up in the trunk of an extremely slow-moving Austin-Healey that had somehow wound up on the front row of the grid. Go figure. Well, I had no choice but to pedal out of it and let cars whiz past on both sides. Like when you pick the wrong lane on the freeway, y'know?
But I got around the Healey on the run down to 3 and, as things sorted themselves out, I was at the tail-end of a lead bunch of 7 cars, and even though it was just the first lap, you could see that they were going at it hammer-and-tongs. To be perfectly honest, I didn't really have the confidence or comfort level yet to go mixing it up with those folks. Besides, they were going like stink.

Well, I screwed up my in-car stopwatch timing on about half the laps, but the ones I did get told me my pace was right where it should be. The Gang of Six up ahead had moved away, and all I really needed to worry about was George Balbach Jr. (a.k.a. "George Light") in his familiar and fast, Mark Eskuche-prepared #01 bathtub Porsche.


As the laps unfolded I could see him there behind me--sometimes a little closer, sometimes a little further away--but never really close enough to try a pass, and I was gaining confidence that I could hold him off to the end. I was also starting to think that those six folks up ahead had maybe, just maybe, gone a little too fast for their own good....
So it was a nice drive on a beautiful day on a great racetrack and the car was absolutely, positively lovely. But twice I grabbed 5th instead of 3rd on a downshift for a corner and had to kind of scramble to get things sorted out before George caught me and pounced. Eventually the starter on the bridge showed the well-known extended finger (no, not that one!) indicating one lap to go, and I must say I was feeling pretty damn good about how things were going. And it's precisely at moments like that when you are the likeliest to screw up.
Sure enough, that's precisely what happened! Braking into Canada Corner with something like a quarter-of-a-lap left to go, I managed to downshift from 4th to 5th instead of 3rd again. And this time, instead of waiting to get through the corner to put things right, I guess I got a little impatient (or lazy, or sloppy, or stupid...take your pick) and tried to grab the right gear on the fly. In the middle of the corner. In mid-drift. And when I put the clutch in and interrupted the drive to the rear wheels, the car snapped around backwards so fast I couldn't believe it.
And I have to credit George Jr. here for not collecting me. I saw him coming right at me (through the side window, actually) with his brakes locked up solid and tiresmoke boiling off the right-front tire. But he eased off his brakes just enough so he could steer around me and made it past without putting so much as scuffing the wax job of either car.
But it was close....
Well, I did manage to keep it running and rolling and also managed not to get mired hub-deep in the gravel trap, but there was no hope of catching George again, and he beat me to the finish line fair and square. My fault. Damn. But we were well clear of the rest of the field, so I did finish behind him.
And then the results came out. And the other shoe dropped. As I'd surmised, those six cars up ahead had ALL broken out time-wise (one of them by more than five seconds!) and so they were all duly penalized and dropped to the back of the finishing order. So George and I had actually been battling for first overall!
And I handed it to him on a silver platter!
Double Damn!
But he did manage not to hit me when I spun it like an idiot right in front of him just three blessed corners from the checkered flag, and so I guess he deserved the win. Not to mention that neither he nor his dad smirked or laughed at me when I came over to say "nice drive...and thanks for not t-boning me."
But I would like to point out (just for the record, of course) that my fastest lap was a completely legal and within-the-regs 2:45.361 (how about that!)while George Jr. was credited with a slightly faster (but definitely NOTwithin the regulations!) 2:44.733.
Not that I'm complaining or anything.
I'm just sayin'....
So all in all, it was a pretty damn great weekend.
Sure hope Richard will let me co-drive again after he reads this.
I did tell you to shop at his dealerships, didn't I?
(a little more Willie Nelson music, please....)

The Wednesday after Road America was Senior Prom Night at the nearby convalescent center where my older brother Maury spends most of his time. And I really need to credit the people who run the place for the amazing care they provide, often in difficult circumstances, and the extra effort they continually put forth to treat the folks in there like INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE and to bring a little sunshine into their lives. Carol or I go over there just about every day when we're not traveling, and we've gotten to know a lot of the people and staff pretty well. We attended their blowout4th of July Party earlier this year (it was FUN!) and Prom Night was maybe even better. It's not a high-end, fancy place, but they somehow got prom clothes for everybody and got them dressed and then there was music and dancing and, well, just look for yourself:






It was an amazingly good time. And you should have seen me dancing with the 95-year-old black lady with the walker. She showed me somemoves! 


Gotta admit that I was pretty wiped out by the time I herded the trusty Freestar east again at 5:50am on Friday morning, heading for Ohio. I had hopes of scoring an enduro drive and maybe selling a few books at the HSR's first-ever Mid-Ohio meeting on my way to hawking books at the Stan Hywet Concours in Akron on Sunday. But the turnout was on the sparse side at Mid-Ohio, the ride I thought I might get never showed up (car not ready) and I struck out everywhere else. At least the weather was nice and I sold a few books. And also enjoyed a really great dinner at a nearby Amish restaurant (Der Dutchman on Highway 97 in Bellville) in company of some of my favorite vintage-racing insiders (Carl Jensen, Jack Woehrle, Chip Wright, etc.) and I could tell you what we talked about, but then I'd have to kill you.
Drove up to Akron Saturday evening and the weather outlook for Sunday'sconcours was bleak indeed. And sure enough, as I drove my way over at6am Sunday morning, it was under a cold, opaque, grayish-black sky, the wind was up and a mean-spirited rain was spitting down.

Only it got a little nicer while I set my tent and book-stand up at the edge of the show filed--watching all the cool cars and motorcycles trickling onto the grass the whole time--and damn if it didn't clear completely by the time the show officially opened at 10am. The wind was still a bother, but the sun was shining on the fabulous grounds and gardens (the Tudor Revival-style Stan Hywet estate was originally built by the founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, F.A. Seiberling, in 1912-15, and it is just gorgeous) and there was a wonderful and eclectic selection of great machines on display. Here are a few pix:

Bctter yet, concours director David Schultz made the incredibly cool choice of playing Django Reinhardt's wonderful jazz music over the PA system. Wow!

If you're not familiar with Django Reinhardt, his tragic and tumultuous life and his incredible, incredible music, let me just say you really need to check it out!



I was pleased to discover that I'm not the only sick old black-and-white monster-movie geek out there, as we got a few correct, complete, timely and therefore ten-buck-prize-winning answers to last e-blast's question. To wit: what actor played main sidekick to the titular characters of (arguably) the two most seminal horror movies of all time? Well, the movies in question were fairly obviously

which both issued forth from the old Universal Pictures lot in 1931.DRACULA came first (in February of 1931), and starred ominously-accented Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi (real name Bela Blasko, but he hailed from Lugos, Hungary in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire). Lugosi had come to the United States by way of the Weimar Republic in Germany (where he acted in a few silent films) and had played the famous vampire on stage on Broadway.

The good count's sidekick, if you recall, was a timid, mild-mannered British real-estate agent named Renfield, who travels to Transylvania at the very beginning of the movie to sew up the details of a deal for the count to purchase the creepy and abandoned Carfax Abbey in Whitby, England. But of course Renfield gets bitten and more-or-less enslaved by the count during his brief stay at Castle Dracula, and winds up as the lone survivor on the horrific death ship that brings Dracula, his vampire wives and their coffins across the channel to England. Renfield is a raving lunatic by then, and winds up incarcerated in the Seward Sanitarium (conveniently just down the road from Carfax Abbey) where the rest of the story takes place. You surely remember Renfield:

Later that same year (released in November of 1931) came Universal Studio's 
FRANKENSTEIN. An interesting trivia note is that the role of the monster was supposedly offered to Bela Lugosi first, but he turned it down because "it wasn't a speaking part." And so the opportunity fell to a transplanted British film actor named William Henry Pratt, who had by then adopted the now-iconic stage name of Boris Karloff.

In any case, the same actor who played Renfield did an unnervingly magnificent job playing Dr. Henry Frankenstein's eerie, sadistic, dim-witted and hunchbacked lab assistant, "Fritz" (shown below):

That actor's name was Dwight Frye, and thanks to those creepy monster-movie roles at Universal, he became known as "the man with the thousand-watt stare." He played lots of roles in a lot of movies (including "the gunsel" in the original, 1931 version of THE MALTESE FALCON,which came out ten full years before the iconic Humphrey Bogart/Mary Astor/Peter Lorre/Sydney Greenstreet John Huston-directed  remake that became a film-noir classic).


This one's a 2-part photo quiz. And it should be fairly simple. First off, identify the two celebs and the not-nearly-so-famous car in PICTURE 1 below:

Then tell me who the two gents are in PICTURE 2 below:

Easy enough, right?
As before, all complete and correct answers received within 24 hours of the first correct answer coming in will receive ten bucks off on anything their little hearts desire from FINZIO'S STORE on the website. Including the new Steamroller book when it becomes available.

Speaking of FINZIO'S STORE, we're going to have a HOLIDAY E-BLAST going out shortly to shamelessly tout all the fine gifts and great deals we have on tap for holiday giving. But here's something that might not wait: 7"x10" (folds to 7"x5") FINZIO'S SINCLAIR CHRISTMAS CARDS to send to all of your gearhead friends and relatives. They're nice quality coated card stock printed with the truly wonderful "Christmas Finzio" artwork by my late and sorely missed friend/collaborator Art Eastman. Nice sentiment inside, too.


A pack of 25 is only 25 bucks, and they come complete with top-quality Holiday Red envelopes. Call the office at (708) 383-7203 or CLICK HEREto order.

I'll be out on the road twice more this year (the rest of the time I'll hopefully be flogging away on the new book) but do drop by and say "hi" if you're at either:

Nov. 1-2 at THE HILTON HEAD CONCOURS D'ELEGANCE. I'll be there hopefully signing a lot of books at both the big "club day" on Saturday and the concours on Sunday with my friends Amy and Frank at their People Kars booth.

Nov. 13-16 at THE HSR's DAYTONA CLASSIC and first-ever CLASSSIC 24-HOUR at Daytona International Speedway. This is going to be an incredible event with the usual gamut of regular HSR entries joined by many North American and overseas teams with truly iconic and historic endurance cars competing in five race groups FOR 24 SOLID HOURS on the famous bankings and infield of the DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY.
Click HERE for the HSR website and more information.
I'll be covering the event for VINTAGE MOTORSPORT, trying my best to mooch a few rides and also signing books with Frank and Amy again in the People Kars tent in the vendor area. Do drop by!

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: