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First Off, Before Anything Else:

Wishing all the very best to all the family, friends,
The Last Open Road readers & Finzio's Sinclair fans who have
supported us and encouraged us along the way!
There is no way to thank you enough.


OK, so as many of you know, I turned the big SEVEN-OH! a couple weeks back, and I can't say as I feel much different than I ever did (except for my knees and my back when I get up every morning) and I guess I've pretty much resigned myself to the idea that nobody beats Old Father Time at anything. Not ever. But you can sneer and kick and scream and scratch and stamp your feet in defiance every step of the way if you want to. And sing old favorite Mowtown, Stones, Beatles, Buddy Holly, Van Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Junior Wells or whomever songs to yourself while you're at it.

Anyhow, to celebrate this august occasion (which happened first week December, BTW) we headed out to Californy to spend The Big Day with our kids. Not to mention Thanksgiving the week before. And there was much grand cooking and eating--I did the Thanksgiving turkey with my usual, top-secret papaya juice/garlic & jalepeno slivers recipe and made some pretty decent salmon with a dusting of cinnamon and ginger another night, while Carol countered with her most excellent chicken-in-a-pot and a truly superb marinated flank steak for my birthday!--and there was also plenty of ordering out takeout food and sitting around doing not much of anything except taking a few walks and binge-watching football games and old Seinfeld episodes (SO funny!) plus some new shows that the kids seem to like but that I don't get at all! Then again, they're both in the business, and I think that does tend to open your mind. Not to mention lowering your standards quite a bit....

Poor Carol caught a really bad head/chest cold on the way out (don't you just hate the endlessly reprocessed & recycled air inside an airliner fuselage?) and so spent most of her days recuperating. But she did find the time to cook a bit as mentioned above (mmmmmm!) and clean the kids' apartment over and over again like Marie Romano in Everybody Loves Raymond! Adam kept telling her that he really didn't need his undershorts and socks ironed, but, well, you know how it goes with moms....

Did find time to log some welcome, sunshine biking miles (over 150!) while we were out there, including a 20-miler down the Pacific coastline from El Segundo to Redondo Beach with my friend, racing hero & fellow biking enthusiast John Morton (see pic below). I'm surely going to miss all that warmth and California sunshine when I get back to Chicago and the wind has frost inside of it and icicles are hanging off our front-porch roof like dragon's teeth....

Afterwards we went out to a nice dinner with John's longtime partner/love interest/biographer/best pal/friend to all of God's 4-footed, fuzzy & furry little critters (not to mention fellow writer/novelist) Sylvia Wilkinson. Good fun & good conversation. Plus I got a wee tour of all the onetime major race shops in and around El Segundo ("That was Electramotive. That's where Tilton Engineering got started. That was Clayton Cunningham's shop. The BRE guys used to take their lunches over there....").

Also took a bike ride out to Jay Leno's garage once again for a looksee at what's new or progressing inside and to congratulate Jay on his new, car-guy (and gal) TV show. He was busy with a tour-bus-full of people from Apple (they all looked like they were barely out of high school!) but I saw a lot of neat stuff and was once again captivated by a strange and wonderful "racecar that never was" on Jay's floor. I'll hopefully be doing a pictorial story on it for Vintage Motorsport, so I don't want to give too much away, but suffice to say it was created out of thin air right there in the LA area back in 1952-'53, and it is one of the most amazing, ingenious and advanced vehicles of that era I have ever seen. No, really. Like how about a spaceframe chassis, a cleverly-located, fully articulated DeDion rear suspension, 4 wheel disc brakes (aircraft, I think, and inboard at the rear!), a Cad/Lasalle-based rear transaxle (!!!) and a big ole Cadillac V8 sporting no less than EIGHT Dellorto motorcycle carbs working off a common float bowl! Plus impeccably machined, knurled-nut valve-cover hold-downs that double as crankcase breathers. Wow!

There's more, too. Pretty damn incredible for a 1953 "homebuilt," even if it never turned a wheel in anger. Watch for the story.


Got back from Cal via a VERY bumpy plane ride the Monday after my birthday, spent Tues. and Wed. at the office signing & shipping the living shit out of my books (thank you thank you thank you, and I PROMISE your Christmas order is on the way!) and then hopped on another plane ride to Savannah to attend one of my very favorite events: The VDCA ("Vintage Drivers' Club of America") always-fabulous "Pig Pickin' and Oyster Roast" weekend at Roebling Road Raceway! I last attended this thing back in 2013 and loved it so much (even though it's not a particularly large event or draws much in the way of iconic, mega-dollar racecars) that I wrote a report on it for the magazine. And what do you know? That report won the AARWBA (American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Assn) award for Best Magazine Event Story of 2013 (see below). And that's up against entries from EVERY type, breed, class and phylum of American racing. See suitable-for-framing certificate below:

Not that I'm bragging or anything....

Now you need to understand here that the VDCA was the brain-and-heart child of my great friend/amazing, live-each-day-like-it-may-be-your-last character/superb racer/inveterate Scotsman & all-purpose southern-fried Carolina gentleman Alex Quattlebaum the Second, who was also one of the initial founders of the now-Big League & omnipresent SVRA (which was back then the relatively small and clubby Southeastern Vintage Racing Association and later evolved, through a soap-opera succession of owners, co-owners and ego-stew partnerships into the huge, hardly recognizable and now-monarchical mega-organization it has become today).

In any case, the VDCA was Alex II's attempt to re-create the simple, relaxed, basic, "y'all come on down now, y'heah? And bring y'all's cars! And let's play hard, but let's play nice. And enjoy some good food and each others' company along the way...." ethos and ambiance of the original SVRA.

Only it didn't take Alex II long to realize--once again--that while he wanted to be IN on the party, he really didn't want to organize or manage it. Or have to listen to all the effing questions and suggestions and lame excuses from drivers who had somehow succumbed to the Red Mist and accidentally scythed a few corners off some poor Innocent Bystander's ex-Hap Sharp Lotus 18.
None of that was really in Alex II's wheelhouse. Except for the party hosting part. He had the Good Times and Food Ordering down to an art form. Which is how the VDCA's "Pig Pickin' and Oyster Roast" season finale really started. And it continues, with vigor and enthusiasm but without any phony, hallowed or reverential status, to this very day. And it's wonderful.
Only downside is that the VDCA--like most vintage clubs--is mostly aging greybeards and silverbacks these days, and the VDCA board of directors meets once every year (usually for about 15 minutes) to take the pulse of their bank account and worry a little, as we all do, about the future. My great racer friend Mike Jackson (who wasn't smart enough to run like hell in the opposite direction when Alex II essentially handed-off the entire VDCA operation to him several years back and thereby accepted what appears to be a life sentence as president) told me the board of directors has ruminated long and hard over the future of the club (sometimes as long as the entire 15 minutes of their annual board meeting) but ultimately came to a conclusion. If not necessarily a solution. As Mike puts it through his usual, wry grin: "You ever see the ending of Thelma and Louise?"

In any case, this turned out to be a wonderful event, and for a change the early-December Savannah weather cooperated in spades, what with warm temps, lots of sunshine and some lovely sunsets, too. And you have to love the Roebling Road racetrack. It's a club-level facility--think Blackhawk Farms or Hallett if you've never been--and it's pretty much flat. But it sits in a lovely pine forest so there's plenty of shade plus this plush, "padded-carpet" layering of long pine needles underfoot. And it's fast for a club-level track--we were averaging well over 90mph in our class--with two really quick, check-your-ball-size corners, some tricky, braking-while-turning, decreasing-radius segments and a magnificent flow and rhythm like some kind of monster downhill ski run.

But the best part was that my longtime Morgan friend and sometime Ride Mooch-Enabler "Super Dave" Bondon offered me the use of his excellent Sports 2000 Royale RP 42 (which is for sale, BTW) for the weekend as kind of a 70th birthday present. See pic below:

I'd co-driven it with Dave once before at the HSR Mitty this past April at Road Atlanta, and people who actually read all the way through these missives may recall that we took a lucky (but nonetheless honorably-earned) 1st in class in the well-subscribed Historic Enduro at The Mitty mostly thanks to a perfectly-timed, full-course-yellow pit stop.
Anyhow, Super Dave has decided that he's really more of a Morgan kind of guy (most of us already knew that) and brought his newly purchased, ex-Dave Draper/Bob Shaw Morgan 4/4 (see below) for its first-ever track shakedown run in his hands.

Also on hand were (L to R below) ad-hoc crew guy, great friend and serial past Ride Mooch Enabler Gordon King, longtime friend and Dave's regular right-hand-man George Wolf, Dave hisself and his wonderful PhD/High School Principal (and HELL of a damn race driver!) daughter Dr. Stacey Schepens (nee Bondon).

There were four S2000s entered in our group (our Royale and three Swifts) plus Larry Wilson's very nice Brabham FAtlantic and a representative assortment of Formula Fords, and the weekend got off to a pretty good start in the very first practice session when we discovered: a) The S2000s were among the quickest cars on hand (as they should be) b) With the exception of longtime friend/Sasco owner Dave Handy and his Swift (which had us all pretty much covered) the rest of us were right in the mix with something like a half-second covering all three cars. Also as it should be. Now I need to mention here that I put Dave Handy in that highly exalted pantheon (actually, it's more the size of a large sports arena...say, the Rose Bowl) of drivers I know are better than me. Besides his undeniable skill and raw talent, Dave's been at this a long time as a driver, car preparer and tire purveyor and has a hell of a lot more experience than I when it comes to both chassis setup and how to best hustle one of these projectiles around a damn racetrack. He and late longtime friend & Sasco partner, the ever-smiling but flinty-eyed Charlie Gibson (a past SCCA National Champ, not to mention a champion when it came to attitude, behavior, sportsmanship, fair play & integrity) used to race the living shit out of each other in matched pairs of Sasco-liveried, white-with-orange-trim Lola Mk. 1s and Lotus 23s and Formula Atlantics and there was even a wingless, early McLaren CanAm car that they both drove like it was a damn Bugeye Sprite. Sadly Charlie is no longer with us following a tragic trailer-unloading incident several years back (he would have been the first to call it "dumb and stupid") but Dave has persevered through that and other adversities and remains the smiling, friendly, guile-less and generous guy he has always been. Which has helped make him a go-to guy (and Sasco a go-to place) on the vintage scene when it comes to both tires and car prep. I've known both he and critter-loving wife Robyn what seems like forever (and it probably is closing in on that long!) and I think I've said enough nice things and made enough freaking excuses that you can understand why he was 2 seconds or more quicker than me all weekend. And the bastid never put an effing wheel wrong, either. But it's not like I didn't have anybody to play with, seeing as how longtime Morgan racer/new friend Greg Miller's Swift (which, to be fair, was pretty much a new car to him at Savannah) was right thereall weekend, as shown in the pix below from Saturday's feature race.

We had one hell of a scrap! But I discovered during practice that the Royale was a little stronger on the top end (although Greg was eating me alive going into the decreasing-radius buttonhook of Turn 5 shown above). He was running a ducktail spoiler on the back of his car that might account for both those things, but the bottom line was that he couldn't get close enough to dive-bomb me into Roebling's Turn One, and that's really the only textbook overtaking spot (at least in equal cars) on the circuit. So all I had to do was play cork-in-the-bottle the rest of the way around and not screw up. Which I somehow managed to accomplish. And felt pretty damn happy about it afterwards!

Saturday night brought the aforementioned Pig Pickin' and Oyster Roast (see pix below)

and it was much fun with many old & new racing friends as Super Dave and I entertained & enlightened a small group of folks with tales, lore and memories from the old, week-long, hangover-spiked and hell-on-your-liver Bahamas Vintage Grand Prix extravaganzas in the mid-1980s. One wonders how we all survived it, as the organization was haphazard, the crowd-control iffy, the street-circuit track was hazardous in the extreme and the nightly parties--at a different venue every evening--were even moreso.

Anyhow, we managed to avoid over-serving ourselves at the Pig & Oyster party (which comes under the heading of "Self-Preservation" once you reach a certain age) and we capped the weekend off with Sunday morning's one-hour enduro. Super Dave and Stacey elected not to run the new Morgan as there were some issues with the handling (which I'm confident Dave and his guys George & Mitch will sort out), so it was just me in the Royale gridded up 3rd in a 40-car field (see below) and we had a pretty damn good race of it.

Dave Handy in the #59 car and Larry Wilson in the Brabham open-wheeler pretty much disappeared into the distance (as expected) but I once again had Greg Miller in the #4 Swift all over me. I'd get a break in lapped traffic and couldn't even see him in my mirrors anymore, and then traffic would break the other way and he'd be right there again. Damn. But we made a killer, instant-decision pit stop on a full-course yellow (see below, with Stacey counting off the seconds until our release):

and, come the end, we wound up a very satisfying 2nd overall (see result sheet below and, yes, I'm bragging):

much to the delight of our entire crew, including perhaps one of the ugliest team cheerleaders you will ever see:

So that was a pretty damn nice birthday present and a hell of a nice way to end the season. Sold some books down there, too. And, speaking of books, it's time to get back to Steamroller III. I meanright now (or after the Holidaze, anyway). And I think I have some good news for a lot of you: thanks to a Friday-evening-at-the-racetrack restaurant dinner with Super Dave and George, I suddenly realized/figured out how to bring Buddy back as something more than a peripheral character in the new book. I can say no more but, if you like Buddy, I think you're really going to enjoy it....


Well, the first reviews of the latest book are starting to trickle in, and so far, so good. In fact, this one by Wally Nesbitt for the Canadian motorsports magazine INSIDE TRACK (click to visit their website) is so damn positive I'm wondering if I didn't pay him off?

Thanks, Wally!!!!!!!



As several of you (led by regular trivia players/participants Steve & Regina Allen and I-don't-believe-related English trivia nutcase Bob Allen) recognized, the car below is the one-off Tec-Mec F415 145 at the equally one-off USGP at Sebring in 1959. To give you some idea of the somewhat pedantic-but-always informative completeness  of Bob Allen's amazing answers (hey, this was not supposed to be an essay question!) I will give you his reply in all of its weighty entirety below the picture. So go ahead...learn something!

Bob Allen's answer: 
What is it? The Tec Mec-Maserati F415 to give it its full name, but more usually referred to as the Tec Mec, Tec-Mec or occasionally TecMec
What did it start out as? One of the most beautiful F1 cars of all, a Maserati 250F
Where is it? Sebring
When? December 12, 1959
Who's driving? Fritz d'Orey
How'd it do? Not very well, really: it retired after only 6 of the total 42 laps
To put a bit more flesh on the bone (as I usually do), when Maserati folded its racing department in 1958, chassis/transmission designer Valerio Colotti left the company and set up his own design bureau, Studio Tecnica Meccanica (hence Tec Mec) with Giorgio Scarlatti, and some funding from Lucky Casner. Scarlatti had suggested the idea of an ultimate 250F and Colotti designed the Tec Mec-Maserati F415 (or F/415) based on the Maserati (the original 6-cyl., not the later V12) intending it to be a much lighter version. He replaced the De Dion rear end with a lighter transverse leaf plus wishbone location mounted on a new lightweight spaceframe, replaced the drums with Girling discs and Scarlatti contributed the ex-works, ex-Jo Bonnier engine (no 2523). The car was built by ex-works mechanic Consoli in the living room of his modest home near Modena; when a proper workshop was later provided, the car was wheeled out through his French windows.
In the meantime Swiss journalist Hans Tanner had become involved, enlisted backing from Floridian enthusiast, Gordon Pennington and Scarlatti sold him his interest in the TecMec F1 project. Under  Pennington-Tanner, Studio Tecnica Meccanica was changed to Tec-Mec Automobili and it was under this name that the car was tested at Modena by Bob Said, Piero Drogo, Bonnier and Scarlatti. Unfortunately the whole programme ran out of time as the rear-engined Coopers had signalled F1's future. It was out-classed but, as 1959's first title-qualifying U.S.G.P. at Sebring was virtually in Pennington's back yard, the Tec-Mec was entered, to be driven by Brazilian amateur Fritz d'Orey. He qualified 17th out of the 19 starters but was forced to retire on the 7th lap with engine failure. After repair, the car was taken to Daytona for a record attempt but Fritz d'Orey was injured in an accident in another car, Pennington lost interest and the project was halted. Colotti, meanwhile, had sold his share of Tec Mec in 1959 and went on to become more famous designing and building gearboxes (transmissions) in partnership Alf Francis, while the Tec Mec name itself re-emerged later on some Formula Junior cars.
Since then, the 415 it has been owned by the late Tom Wheatcroft's Donnington Collection, restored and driven by engineer/restorer Tony Merrick in VSCC events and bought by its recent owner for 10 years who has raced it regularly; we've seen it race a number of times, particularly at the Goodwood Revival, where it was damaged last year. It was repaired by Rob & Rick Hall and is now back in rude health, in which condition it has just been sold.

And may I add: "Whew!"


OK, Racin' and ride moochin' fans, alls y'gotta do is tell me what the hell I've just strapped myself into at the "old" Road Atlanta (and which is shortly gonna scare the living whee out of me going over the crest into The Dip when the front end gets so damn light it feels like the steering wheel's not connected to anything!)?
Bonus Question: Who's the guy to my left telling me to simply shut my eyes and keep my foot down when that happens?


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: