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Well, we're getting down to the last laps on the new book. Honest we are. I should be wrapping up Chapter 20 of what I truly believe will be 23 (or maybe 24?) this very day. That would be the good news. The bad news is that I still have to go through the editing and production process (plus we're still getting ads and sponsorships in for the color section...if you haven't sent me any money, you surely should!!!) and then I've got to get the damn thing printed. But I have another one of my sneaky, end-run-around-reality schemes percolating, so don't rule out seeing a possible "Preview Edition" debut [as so often promised] at the big Hawk vintage extravaganza at Road America July 7-19

Stay tuned....

In the meantime, I must admit that I've again been distracted by Important Things to Do/Vital Events to Attend that are just too blessed interesting (or too intriguing, or too damn much fun) to miss. I mean--hey, life is short--and I believe it's our sacred duty as upright, sentient, opposed-thumb human beings to cram as much of it as possible into every freaking day.

Thank goodness wife Carol is around to temper my appetites, curiosities and boundless self-indulgence with a little think-of-other-folks-now-and-then Golden Rule-ism.

If I ever make it into heaven, it'll surely be on her coat-tails.

Ask anybody....

In any case, I've strayed from my computer to do some really fun stuff (I mean, "attend some important functions") since the last e-blast, and first on the list was my friends Lou and Abby's yearly open house, which attracts all manner of motorheads and lots of interesting machinery to a hoary old house that is part museum, part Elephant Graveyard for old toys, dolls and relics and, well, part trash attic.

It starts with the cars parked on the street outside, with run from a classic Rolls-Royce and a highly unusual Duesenberg to all manner of sports cars, fifties American classics and a drag racing Rambler (see pix below):

Then you go inside. And, well, you simply cannot believe all the stuff Lou and Abby have accumulated (okay, make that "collected") over the years. I present just a few representative pix below:

Lou's taste in cars is similarly off the wall. Like the Ford flathead-powered 1930s "junk formula" Indycar in the photo above the Turkish bath house diorama above. That's the car that almost killed me (and my friend/bike-class instructor Corrine) when I took her out for a few moderately fast laps at the Milwaukee Mile and the blessed steering arm broke!

I know I've told that story before, but I think it's important to keep re-circulating it every chance I get so Lou will know I'm thinking of him. That's the two of us below getting ready for a few hot laps below, and as you can see I'm trusting Lou to handle the loud pedal and the steering wheel. But at least it's connected to something this time....

Anyhow, Lou and Abby's open house is a truly magical gathering, and some of the guests are almost as interesting as the autos, artifacts, geegaws and gimcracks. And Lou's garage is always full of interesting stuff (it's really more like an orphanage than a garage, if you want the truth of it). Like his recently added and sexy/quirky in the extreme Citroen SM. If ever a car had an accurate name, it was the SM (only it really shoulda been "S&M").

In any case, the SM is even now adding little pools of hydraulic fluid to the concrete floor already receiving leakage from his pre-war Invicta, his Cunningham of clouded ancestry, his Jag 120, the bright yellow Iso Grifo that tried to kill him once and the Armstrong-Siddeley (look it up) that he really wishes you would purchase and remove from the premises.

Needless to say, an exceptionally good time was had by all at Lou & Abby's party. As always.


On the ride-mooching front, the Tuesday and Wednesday after Lou & Abby's party found me once again enjoying the delights of the MAMA (Midwest Automotive Media Association) once-a-year "Spring Rallye" in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This is an event where various car manufacturers do their very best to interest, inform, inveigle, woo and spin-doctor the so-called "motoring press" by putting us up (for free!) at a very fine local resort hotel (The Osthoff), feeding us copious amounts of excellent food thrice daily (like until we're ready to burst!) and turning us loose on the local roads--and also on the four fast, magnificent miles of Road America--in some of their latest and brightest offerings. See pix below.

Is this a great gig or what?

It all started off with a fine, Subaru-sponsored breakfast (see above) where one of their marketing types gave an unbelievably frank and honest (not to mention entertaining) presentation about the importance of emotional content and themes (rather than plain old product information and features) in their advertising. Sure, we all know that's the way it's done these days (although how many times do you recall a great commercial but can't remember what they were trying to sell?) but it was unusual to have it laid out in plain, cold, this-is-our-agenda language.
Then there was a brief safety talk and they turned us loose on the cars....

I was of course more interested in the "wot'll she do?" aspect of things rather than the GPS & infotainment systems/fuel economy/luggage and seating capacity qualities of the sensible mid-price sedans on hand (although it was kind of cool to go touring around the marvelous local back roads in the svelte Jaguar XJL, the stylish and oh-so-sexy Maserati Quattroporte and the new, "out of our way, peasants" Mercedes-Maybach 5600). Good fun.
But the track stuff was even better. Although what probably struck me most was how damn good ALL the cars are these days. Even upper-level econoboxes can get around a racetrack with amazing aplomb, and the way they can keep taking that sort of ham-fisted punishment all day long is utterly amazing. Then again, they have to be that good to survive in today's marketplace, since people simply will not tolerate the kind of performance, service, quality and reliability issues that used to be an accepted part of the car-owning experience. Why, if you'd turned a herd of yahoo journalists loose on a racetrack in a bunch of the latest foreign and domestic automobiles of, oh, say, 1955 (or even 1975?), there would have undoubtedly been meltdowns, breakdowns and consequences of a serious nature. At least for as long as the damn things kept running, anyway....

So in spite of the fact that I dearly love the character, quirks, history, romance, interaction and warm-blooded essence of classic cars (and hate some of the nanny-state "improvements," space-shot electronics and idiot-saving "driver aids" of modern vehicles) you have to admit that cars are amazingly good these days. All of them. And durable, too (in spite of their oft-bewildering complexity).

So what did I like?

FCA (that's Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and you'd better get used to calling it that) is offering a virtual cornucopia of cars and brands these days thanks to all the diverse badges, bloodlines and mechanical and marketing DNA brought together under their tent via corporate marriages of desperation and/or convenience. But they're making it work. The 500 Abarth shown below is not particularly fast in an absolute sense, but it has a willing, sporty feel, a charming character, some wonderful TV advertising, is genuinely fun to drive and I know the dealers are happy because the customers seem to love them. And, as noted above, that elusive, feel-good "emotional quotient" is a lot more important than zero-to-sixty times or quickest run through a bunch of slalom cones.

I've believed for quite some time that VW's Golf GTI and Golf R are the best (and best performing) pocket-rocket hot hatches on the market, and this feeling was reinforced once again at Road America. The Golfs are so incredibly solid, refined, well-thought-out, well-engineered, well-dampened, well-behaved...I could go on, but suffice to say the GTI was a blast (and thoroughly unruffled) on the racetrack and the Golf R took top honors in both autocross sessions...with two different drivers! That said, the Golfs are quite expensive (you can drive a 500 Abarth out the dealer's door for around 20 grand, while the GTI starts at $26,500 and you can run a full-zoot Golf R up to 40 grand if you put your mind to it). Plus the kids at the local drive-in (or your next-door neighbors, come to that) are not likely to be impressed by your new VeeDub.
Their loss, as (IMHO) these are exceptional cars.

But back to FCA, where the mind-boggling brand-and-model lineup runs from the Fiat above to all manner of Jeep models for the rough-riders (or at least wanting to LOOK like a rough riders) among us, the Alfa-based Dodge Dart compact, the highly successful 200, some big, fast, powerful full-sized sedans in the classic, RWD American mode, a much more refined and civilized (but still unbelievably fast) Dodge Viper and the new, sexy and just a bit strange Alfa 4C sports model (see below).

Now I'm a card-carrying Alfisti (more on that later) and dearly want the brand to return and succeed in this country. But I still think a proper "sports car" should be available with a stick shift if you want one (rather than the "you-can't-get-it-any-other-way" clutchless paddle shifters on the 4C). But the car is indeed a delight (and involving!) to drive and handles twisty roads and racetracks a lot like the Lotus Elise/Exige range. Which is to say wonderfully. But the overall experience is decidedly Italian. From the snarl and crackle of the exhaust note to the sexy, unmistakably Italian shape that everybody stares at to the passenger seat just begging for an aspiring supermodel, it's nothing less than a pocket-size version of the Ferrari 458 (also from Fiat these days, although you can probably take the "aspiring" modifier off the supermodel in the Ferrari edition). They also had a Spider (convertible) version on display, as the 2-seater Alfa experience has always made provisions for top-down motoring. Whether the 4C will sell enough units to make it worthwhile in a business sense is pretty much a moot point, since they're not bringing many in. And they should find buyers waiting, since they're an awful lot of fun to drive. And to listen to. And to be seen in...let's not forget that part!
Up at the nuclear-warhead end of the FCA lineup are their delightfully retro interpretations of the mouth-breathing sixties ponycar phenomenon represented by the 485hp Dodge Challenger 392 Hemi Scat Pack (see below)

and the even more absurd Hellcat model with a 707hp (you read that correctly), supercharged V8 under the hood. I think every 16-year-old should have one. It'd keep them from texting while they drive...
In any case, the folks at FCA had the confidence and faith (or lack of imagination) to turn a bunch of leadfoot writer-types loose in these monsters on a racetrack with some serious braking zones, highly challenging corners and long, long straightaways. But they turned out to be competent brakers and handlers in spite of their drag-strip DNA, and also a genuine bargain in the adrenaline-generator market.
That said, these all-engine monsters are not really my cup of tea, and I was far more impressed by the evolved and yet evocative IRS Ford Mustang GT 5.0. What a fun machine to throw around a racetrack! It reminded me so much of the original Shelby GT350s, only tamed and refined and brought thoroughly up to date without losing its basic character. If you like hanging the tail out and steering with the throttle--in perfect serenity, mind you--the 5.0 is ready and willing to accommodate you. And yet it's a car you can live with every day so long as you can accept its obvious rear seat, luggage space and icy pavement limitations.

Well done, men [okay, and women] of Dearborn!

Speaking of pleasant surprises, the new Caddy ATS-V coupe and sedan are great to drive both on- and off-track and are very nicely done. Don't know how much of a dent they'll make in BMW 3-series sales (somebody with an advanced case of BMW Blindness is just not about to put a Cadillac in his or her garage) but I think they'll grab a goodly share of the upscale sporty sedan market. And that's what they really want.

I also drove the latest generation of the Mazda 6 (which is the current iteration of the car both my beloved wife and my equally beloved daughter-in-law use as daily drivers) and it just shows what an enthusiast-oriented company like Mazda can do when they set out to build a competent, convenient, road-and-user-friendly/fun-to-drive/ticks-off-all-the-boxes everyday sedan. Great handling, decent power, tremendous quality & value at the price and I'd recommend them all over again.

But my two favorite track cars of the day had to be the Z-51 Corvette (which I've driven and greatly enjoyed before, even if the styling remains a bit too Star-Wars Showy for my personal taste) and the new Mercedes AMG GT-S coupe shown below.

Make no mistake: M-B is going after Porsche 911-segment customers here. And Porsche is a pretty tough nut to crack. Especially when it comes to brand allegiance (which is a good notch-and-a-half up from plain old "brand loyalty").
But this new, twin turbo, 505hp M-B coupe is the business. It's got all the latest techno-whizbang stuff folded neatly and unobtrusively inside a really gorgeous body shape and weighs in at a fairly reasonable 3600lbs. It's just plain beautiful inside and out. And it feels a lot handier and lighter on its feet than the soon-to-be-phased-out old SLS Gullwing model, which, while blindingly fast, was kind of a tank. And had a tiny trunk. And cost 40 grand more.
By contrast, the new AMG GT-S is just flat marvelous to drive. With the driver-aid program set in Sport Whatever and the worst of the nanny stuff switched off, it was probably the most enjoyable and responsive car of the day. Not to mention bloody FAST! We were running the 2nd-gear chicane instead of the infamous, high-speed Road America Kink at Station 11a, but even so I was seeing 140+ by the time we got to the braking zone for Canada Corner! The only other car close to that was the Corvette Z51 (with the Viper just a scant few mph behind). And the new coupe's handling was, well, let's just say you didn't even have to think about it. You tell the car what you want it to do and that's what it does. Smoothly. Elegantly. Effortlessly. And very, very quickly. And I was very pleased when the Mercedes-provided pro driver in the passenger seat gave me a congratulatory high-five and said "best run of the day" as we re-entered pit lane. Made me feel pretty damn good, I'll tell you. Or maybe he was just glad it was over. Can't imagine what they pay him for that kind of duty, but I'm sure he has a few stories....
So would I buy a GT-S if I ever landed that elusive movie deal for "The Last Open Road?"
Probably not.
It's just not my kind of car.
Oh, I love fast, capable cars on a racetrack, but they mostly seem to get me in trouble on public highways. And how the hell am I gonna haul my books around? Plus I'm not the type who likes driving around in something that advertises to the rest of the world that I can afford a $130,000 play toy.
But get me that movie deal and ask me again.
I really LIKED that new Mercedes....

Besides the on-track action and back-road drives, we had late-afternoon go-karting (sponsored by BMW) with yrs. trly. consistently up at or near the top of the time sheets in every session I ran. Much to the consternation (ahem) of some young-pup "motoring journos" who seem to think they know how to drive....

Then there was a bit of clean-up time before drinks and a big, delicious buffet dinner at The Osthoff (prime rib? shrimp & scallop raviolis? baked chicken? sliced turkey?) sponsored by Dodge, who unveiled--literally--their new, street-legal (but watch that front splitter pulling into your driveway!) 2016 Viper ACR "track car" during the cocktail hour. It's the fastest street-legal Viper ever (see below).

Dinner was followed by a "social hour" across the street at Siebkens famous racing tavern, which was literally and completely taken over by motoring scribes and manufacturer PR types--not to mention a live band and an open bar, I kid you not--and I'm proud to say that I acted somewhere close to my age and experience, retired fairly early (some did not) and was therefore able to avoid the table shown below at the Fiat breakfast the next morning:

The second day brought some fun off-roading sponsored and organized by Land Rover in a varied assortment of 4WD SUVs and trucks of greatly varying capabilities (see below)

followed by a small-car autocross on a slightly altered configuration of the go-kart track (yrs. trly. was again amongst the fastest, but I never got a chance in the overdog Golf R  that copped FTD in both sessions). And, to be honest, I probably still woulda got my ears pinned back, since there were some really good autocross 'shoes on hand and cone-munching has never been my forte.

Overall, I think you'd have to say the MAMA event was a pretty swell way to spend a midweek Tuesday and Wednesday while most of the rest of the working world is either shuffling papers in their offices or shoveling shit someplace else. This "motoring journalist" gig doesn't offer much in the way of eye-opening W-2 forms, but there are some amazing compensations nonetheless....



Had to skip SVRA Road America to attend an engagement party for the son of our longtime friends Bill and Corky Siegfriedt. Bill does the "historical accuracy" proofing and editing on all my books and their son is marrying a real doll (who is also a rocket scientist...really!) and it was a genuinely good time since we were seated at the "Car Guy & Spouses" table. Plus I really needed the weekend home to work on the new book. Got a lot done, too.

But Monday brought instructing duties at the Lotus Corps track day at Blackhawk Farms, and that was a lot of fun.

I had two good students and one really exceptional student, and the best part was that the really exceptional one had never been on a racetrack before. You could really see and feel him getting the bug, and judging by the huge grin and the starry look in his eyes, he'll probably jump into motorsports with both feet and subsequently wind up stone broke and living in a cardboard box under a railroad overpass in a couple of years.
And I can take credit for getting him started!
There was also a pretty terrifying, Lotus 7-like but 6.2-liter, Chevy LS3 crate-engined device on hand (pictured below) which ran pretty good but scared me more every time I walked by.

And of course there was humor (something that all Lotus owners need to possess). Read the silver lettering:

Come the Memorial Day weekend there was an article to finish for the magazine and more work to do on the book, but Saturday afternoon and evening brought my friend, nearby neighbor and fellow Alfisti Steve Crowley's annual Spam-and-Alfa fest (see pix below).

Steve's own personal Duetto is absolutely gorgeous (see mirror-finish black paintwork below)

and he's also a bit of a culinary oddity in that his yearly Alfa gathering eats not the usual burgers and hot dogs and such but...Spam! Yep, we had grilled Spam and Spam-square appetizers impaled on pretzel sticks and Hawaiian Pineapple Rice Spam and Spam Tetrazzini with spaghetti noodles and...well, you get the idea.
There was also good company and camaraderie and plenty of good beer and wine to go with it. Plus an incredibly original, low-mileage BMW 2002 in the driveway and an interloper Morgan Plus4 squirreled away in the garage next door.
Conversation pieces, don't you know?

Come Sunday, Carol and I got up at quarter-to-five (I am not making this up) and headed downtown to do Bike the Drive, which is where they close down Chicago's scenic outer drive literally from one end to the other and an incredible number of bicyclists (many thousands, in fact) in all sorts of shapes, speeds, equipment and attitudes go for a bit of a pedal. I've done BtD several times before, but this was Carol's first attempt, and she came through with flying colors. It drizzled a bit early on, but we gutted it out, passed far more people than passed us (I'd say we were in the top 15-20% speed-wise) and finished the full, 30-mile loop from Grant Park south to the Museum of Science and Industry, then a U-turn and all the way north to where the Outer Drive ends at Hollywood & Sheridan, then another U-turn and south again back to Grant Park. That's us at the end below, and I couldn't be prouder of Carol!

There are some really cute BtD pictures available from the Chicago Tribune. Just CLICK HERE to see them.

Of course the above meant that we missed the live telecast of the Monaco Grand Prix, but we watched it later on DVR (and the so-called "race strategist" who brought Hamilton in for a late-race/under-the-yellow tire stop should be taken quietly out behind the pits and shot). But I did watch the Indy 500 out of one eye while working at the old computer, and all I can say is WOTTA FINISH!!!!
It just don't get no better'n that!

Looked like the crowd was back up again this year, too.


As you can imagine, I'll be spending most of my time right here at the old keyboard pounding out those last few chapters for the next several weeks. But I will be getting up now and then to eat, sleep and pee, plus a few scant Speechifying, Instructing and Book Signing gigs as follows:

Thursday 5/28: phone interview with Dave Stall for his radio show on KCBQ 1170AM in San Diego. Don't know when it will air, but if you have a bunch of time on your hands and want to hear me mouth off, try the two-parter on Mark Green's most excellent "Cars, Yeah" interview site (also available as podcasts from iTunes).
Just for Part 1 and CLICK HERE for part two. And while you're at it, check out all the other super interviews (over 200 of them!) that Mark has done with all sorts of motoring, motorsports  and motor industry players, characters and heavyweights.
Definitely worth a listen!

Sunday, June 7th: Book signing at the Chicago Tribune's annual Printers Row Literary Fest. This is an absolutely huge event and it's not exactly our typical sort of market, but I'm trying very hard to get the word on my books out to non-gearhead (or semi-gearhead) readers who have never even heard of them. So we're giving it a shot. I'll be at the Society of Midland Authors table from noon to 4pm,Sunday only. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, June 12-Sunday, June 14: SVRA Brickyard Vintage Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I'll be signing books with my friends at PeopleKars in the vendor area on the plaza and covering the event for Vintage Motorsport magazine. Also hope to be doing a little driving (as I did at the inaugural last year). Huge event that runs on both the road course AND the oval. New car show added on the golf course this year (should be fabulous). Sat. nite live entertainment by Blood, Sweat & Tears, etc. 

Friday 6/19-Sunday 6/21: The Vintage Motorsports Festival at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Thompson, Connecticut: I'll be up in front of a bunch of tired, hungry and most likely half-drunk racers as theSaturday night dinner guest speaker. Should be fun. I'll also be signing books there & at the track and (take note, all you car owners!), I WILL be bringing my helmet & flameproof undies....

Friday, June 26-Sunday June 28: SVRA Mid Ohio (VERY TENTATIVE. Depends on how the new book is coming). If I go, I'll be doing books someplace and co-driving somebody else's car if I can find a sucker. 

Thursday, July 2nd: I'll be instructing again at the combined Alfa Club/Austin-Healey Club track-day event at Blackhawk Farms Raceway. Hope the track has ordered up some extra 50lb. bags of Oil-Dri for that one....

Friday, July 10-Saturday July 11th. MILLERS at MILWAUKEE. Not to be missed.

July 17-19: THE HAWK AT ROAD AMERICA! Will the new book be done? Who knows? But I'll be back on it again in about fifteen minutes....
This one came thanks to my friend Nick England (hey, what do you expect from a guy who likes old Fiats?) but, surprisingly, and particularly considering the generally depraved and debauched character of many of you who receive these missives, we had very few answers on this one. And even fewer right answers. But my famous, regularly outrageous  & now-bionic friend (plus longtime crusader against motoring dullness and automotive banality) TOLY ARUTUNOFF had the correct answer in just a few, quick heartbeats after the e-blast hit your collective mailboxes.
If you don't know Toly, you'll find his picture in the dictionary next to "eccentric." And again next to "iconoclast." And once more next to "incurable motorhead." Toly has done far too much to list here (and the statute of limitations probably hasn't run out on some of it) but suffice to say he owns all sorts of odd and unusual automobiles, built and owned the Hallett racetrack near Tulsa, raced quite effectively for many years in some extremely strange cars (he ran a Studebaker Lark at Sebring one year and won two National Championships in a Morgan (the first of which was taken away in post-race tech inspection in what Toly now calls "the year of shame") and he showed up at the awards banquet the year he actually did win dressed in a T-shirt with a formal tuxedo silkscreened on the front. And there's more. Oh, boy is there more....

But back to the trivia answer. The el cheapo, in poor taste, highly degrading to women motorsports sexploitation film in question was titled "STACEY" (see below), released in 1973.

Now you need to know that this flick is indeed a piece of crap. It's poorly written, poorly acted, poorly edited and in the worst possible taste. But there is some real Can-Am racing footage and you do get to see Lothar Motschenbacher storming around Riverside in his McLaren during the opening titles. If you really want to, you can actually CLICK HERE, FILM BUFF to watch it on YouTube. But I wouldn't go past the first two minutes if I were you, since that will be more than enough to get the gist of it and it all goes steeply downhill after that on every level imaginable (although there is a bit more of Lothar and his McLaren at around the 50 minute mark).
Like I said, I got this one from a friend.
Speaking of friends, TOLY knew all about this movie and even knew and was friendly with the producer/director, the late Andy Sidaris, who Toly credits with inventing the cheerleader "Honey Shot" in network telecasts of college football games....
I am not making any of this up.

BTW, this Toly is definitely NOT the aristocratic dilettante titular "Toly" character from my fourth novel (actually patterned after a jumbled-up amalgam of Wolfgang vonTrips and Fon Portago). But this Toly did serve as the inspiration for the name. So I borrowed it. And my racer friend Toly never even threatened to sue me over it. For which I'm grateful.


OK, this is pretty simple. Just give me:
What track is this?
What year?
What the heck is that thing in the lead (on a damp track, no less) and who the heck is driving it?
Who is running second and in what kind of car?
Ditto for 3rd place.

I expect your answers shortly.


(wait, make that three!)

Please keep those ads & sponsorships rolling in, folks, as we're getting real close to crunch time on the new book!

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: