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thanks to the legal types at NBC,
who apparently think we're
trying to get away with something.
We're trying to figure out what?

Well, it's Christmas Time again (OK, so make that "Holiday Time" so we don't offend/outrage/insult a bunch of people who truly deserve to be offended, insulted and outraged).
I mean, what's so bad about "Peace on Earth/Goodwill Towards Men?" Except that, in this be-careful-what-you-say day and age, it would probably have to be "Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Men AND Women (and not necessarily in that order) along with members of any other proffered, preferred or predestined sexual orientation not covered by those listed above."
Which will make it awfully hard to make the next line rhyme...

I yearn for a purer, simpler time, and sometimes even believe it once existed. Sure seems like it did. But maybe we were just younger and didn't see or understand so much.

But one thing the Christmas season has always been great for is MERCHANDISING and  COMMERCE! And if you've never heard the great Stan Freberg's imaginative and hilarious "Green Christmas," please click the link below:

In that regard and likewise in the cash register-conscious spirit of the season, I'd like to remind you of all the fine, fun stuff we have on offer at Finzio's Store on the website at for enlightened and enjoyable holiday giving. Starting off with the books.

I worked almost as hard as old St. Nick writing the damn things (first one took me eight years, but that's mostly on account of I didn't know what I was doing), and surely you know someone who could use a fun, funny and historically and mechanically accurate motor-head trip through the fifties with Buddy, Julie, Big Ed and the gang from Finzio's Sinclair. Ask anyone who's read it. And let me remind you that there is still time to have personalized gift copies sent to people who might enjoy them. To refresh your memory:

Yeah, this is the one that got it all started some 25 years ago. Doesn't seem that long, does it? Still a fun read and a wild ride through that simpler time mentioned above.

Book Two: More of the same with the same cast of characters (plus some entertaining new ones). This picks up right where The Last Open Road leaves off. Includes a crazy ride through Mexico with a crazy Mexican at the wheel of a V12 Ferrari during the 1952 Carrera Panamericana, a New Years Eve party in Greenwich Village, the 1953 Sebring 12 Hours, and much, much more. Benjamin Franklin "Book of the Year" award winner (and, yeah, Ferrari threatened to sue us over the logo...hey, it's just chili peppers, right?)

Book three in the series (picks right up where Montezuma's ends). Buddy builds a racing special out of Big Ed's wrecks, a trip to Le Mans, an art gallery opening and the very first race at Road America.

Book 4. A little deeper and darker. But that's what happens as we get older, n'est ce pas? Cal goes to race in Europe and winds up on the Ferrari factory team, Buddy learns the retail car business and the responsibilities of a family.

The road we've traveled takes off in a new direction in the Steamroller books. New characters and new situations, but the old gang is still around. The sixties. Blues. Drugs. Country and Western plus an assault on Le Mans. One more to go...

The funniest of all? Short stories from the shop floor and behind the wheel, a little poetry and a chicken recipe. If you don't laugh out loud, you get your money back!

You also might want to browse through our The Last Open Road logo apparel (our Embarcadero pullovers are just plain fabulous for chilly weather!), you can get your name (or anybody else's name) on our Finzio's Sinclair jackets, plus Elkhart Lake and Siebkens track caps, TLOR Tee and denim shirts, license plate frames, decals, Finzio's Sinclair and Siebkens "Last Open Bar" prints, etc. Just click below to get to Finzio's Store on the website or, if you'd like a little personal attention, want some sort of special handling or a personalized dedication or inscription or want to haggle price on a whole bunch of stuff (hey, I come from a long line of Holiday Hagglers) please call (708) 383-7203 and speak to one of the elves. If you get voicemail, leave a number and we'll get back to you. Otherwise, click below and peruse the publications and product line:  
So don't be shy. Take a look. Hey, we've got a new book and a monster audiobook project in the works. We need the money!

And now, our blog:

OK, so California and me go back quite a ways. When I was a wee kid building AMT Deuce Coupe and '40 Ford hot-rod models (complete with unsightly glue-blobs on all the shiny "chrome" bits and court-admissible, perfect-specimen fingerprints in the candy-apple red, blue or purple paintwork on account of I'd get impatient and pick them up for a look-see before they were fully dry) I knew from every blessed magazine on the corner newsstand that California was the ah-ooo-gah Horn of Plenty where car craziness of all kinds was concerned. If it wasn't Isky Cams and Big Daddy Roth, it was "TV Tommy" Ivo, Ed "Kookie" Burns, flame jobs and flying eyeballs. 

Later on, my tastes matured (or so I thought, anyway) as I contracted a debilitating case of the Europhile Teabagger Sportycar disease thanks to my black-sheep bachelor uncle Howard. Now Howard drove a slightly sinister, sneaky-black Porsche 1600 Normal coupe (he said the "Super" was just 500rpm you really didn't need--at a dollar each!--at the wrong end of the rev range) and went out with all sorts of tall, slinky women. Even shiksas. And Lord only knew what he did with them...
And then there was my big brother Maury's terminally cool best friend Jay Porter, who rode around on a powder-blue Vespa motor scooter, wore sunglasses even at night, listened to jazz music, introduced me to Road & Track magazine and sniffed down his nose that hot rods were for street-corner Neanderthals with packs of Camels rolled up in their sleeves.
To be honest, I wasn't so sure...
But who was I to argue with a guy that cool, confident, cocksure and cosmopolitan?

Only then the high-concept, home-brewed and hot rodder-infected Reventlow Scarabs came thundering out of California--by far the most beautiful, most all-American sports cars ever seen!--and blew all those highfalootin' furrin' cars in the weeds. One of them won the very first sportycar race I ever saw out at the long-defunct Meadowdale track near Dundee, Illinois. It made an indelible, everlasting impression.

That's me above in the very car that won that race--#003 of the three real ones built--doing some hot laps at Roebling Road Raceway near Savannah thanks to Miles Collier, Scott George and the rest of the fine folks at the Revs Institute in Naples, FL. If you've never been, it's a thoroughly amazing place and most surely worth a visit. Put it on your bucket and CLICK HERE for info, directions and details.

In any case, the Scarabs proved beyond question that SoCal was right up there with Stuttgart, Modena, Maranello, Cambridge, Cheshunt and Coventry when it came to building cutting-edge sports/racing cars. And then failed chicken farmer Carroll Shelby's lean, light Cobra hybrids came snorting and stomping out of the same damn garage in Venice, CA, and, well, the rest is history, isn't it?

But I digress (so what's new?). We were discussing my long-running love affair with California. Which actually became reality for awhile back around 1969 (the years grow foggy of late...but as I recall they were even foggier back then) when I sojourned WEST--as if "west" was a destination rather than merely a direction--and wound up in the Berkely/San Francisco area working in at a cannabis fueled-and-inspired hippie leather-clothing commune on the second floor of a rundown factory building overlooking the scenic slums of Oakland. If you can call standing out on the fire escape "overlooking," at any rate. The company was named "Oquasa" (don't ask, but do look it up) and there were something like 20 partners and 10 THERE's an organizational chart to reckon with! They didn't have money to pay traditional wages, but the grunt line workers got to live in the company house, eat the company food, smoke the company dope, watch the fuzzy company TV and enjoy the elevated and enlightened sense of well-being that poverty, lots of pot and a total lack purpose can provide.
Believe it or not (you may as's true) I was elevated to the heady position of foreman on my very first day on the job on account of one of Oquasa's precious, rented sewing machines broke down and I was able to noodle out how to fix it. They were thrilled. As foreman, I was still receiving no cash or check remuneration, still sleeping on the company floor and still eating the company food and watching the company TV...only now I was getting flowers and tops instead of sticks and stems!

Time has passed, of course (and thank goodness for it!), and over the years I have come to the conclusion--for me, anyway--that pot (and drugs in general) are a colossal waste of time. Plus it can have debilitating effects on your mind and memory...
What was I talking about???
Oh, yes...

Long-suffering wife/love-of-my-life Carol and I spend a fair amount of time in SoCal these days, what with son Adam and can-do spouse Tara involved in the television world (he's a writer and she's a casting director, and be sure to check out her new show, The Kominsky Method, on's gotten great reviews), so it's become more-or-less our second home. We're out there a couple times each year and, in spite of all the strange folks, oddball behavior, fringe ideas, fires, mudslides, earthquakes, shark attacks, obscenities and civil and cultural outrages that are part of everyday life out in La-La land, we've come to love the place. Especially being with our kids out there. Not to mention the disgustingly & relentlessly agreeable climate, all the crazy car stuff going on all the time all over the place and the food! Oh, the food...

We were out there again end-Oct./early Nov., and, as per usual, it was a memorable trip. Day after landing I drove out to Willow Springs as guest of my good friend/famous racing driver/ad-hoc driving instructor John Morton for a KryderRacing track day on The Streets of Willow. Now the Willow Springs complex sits in the hardscrabble high desert country more-or-less right under the flight path of Edwards Air Force Base (where the military  has historically tested a bunch of top-secret planes) just outside of Rosamond, CA. I still recall my first-ever visit to Willow Springs--lo, these many years ago--when I was invited to co-drive some transplanted Brit's Sunbeam Tiger under the thoroughly transparent pretext of writing a magazine story about it.

That's my co-driver (a writer from Hot Rod magazine who was thankfully not quite as quick--or perhaps that should that be "more slow"?--than me) shown above. As you can see, Willow Springs exists in a rather barren, arid, windy, dusty, forlorn and borderline inhospitable part of the world. As they say: "It's not the end of the earth, but you can see it from there..."

I wrote at the time that the landscape was reminiscent of one of those cheesy old black-and-white science fiction movies from the mid-1950s, and you half-expect a giant, radioactive ant to come clambering over the next hill:

Trivia on-the-fly: Many of you will know the name of the movie shown above (if not, you're probably reading the wrong car blog), but who is the actress? And, more importantly, who are some of the soon-to-be Famous Name actors who also appeared in the same film? Do your web research (you'll be amazed!) and send your answers to and we'll be sure to let you know what you didn't win.

Anyhow, it was a fun day out at the track (aren't they all?) and I got to flog a few neat cars around. Including daughter Tara's quite willing Mazda 6 (see below), which I not only borrowed to drive out to Willow Springs that day but pressed into service as a learn-the-track "trainer."

Hell, she never uses the sidewalls on those tires anyway...

Didn't flog it too hard and didn't hit anything but, as you can see above, there wasn't much to hit. Surely the highlight of the morning was when this guy appeared wearing a full-dress priest's cassock and driving a new-gen Mini with a California license plate that read "LST RTS" (see pic below).

At first I started thinking: "say, Halloween is just a couple days away," but it turned out the whole thing was legit. This was Father Fryar, who besides being a genuine priest and a bit of an ecumenical entrepreneur (he's part of a group that bought, refurbished and now run St. Vitus Catholic church in San Fernando, where you can still hear a genuine Latin mass if you like). He's also a very cool, very hip and a genuine Car Guy. Like he drives his Mini on track days when he can (as you can imagine, Sundays are pretty much out) and built his own, all-electric old-style Mini just for the, umm, you know..."heck" of it.
I am not making any of this up!
We took some hot laps together in his Mini and I gave him a book (see above) and John Morton observed that when the crucifix hanging from the good Father's rear-view mirror swung out to a full 45 degrees, that would amount to precisely 1 full G of cornering force!
None of us quite got there, but by God we tried...

Took advantage of the sunshine and comfortable temps to bike over to my very favorite bookstore on Saturday morning (Autobooks/Aerobooks in Burbank...CLICK HERE for info), and as per usual on a Saturday they had coffee and doughnuts, far too many books and magazines I dream of owning, all sorts of interesting cars at curbside and a few car-guy celebs traipsing through. Friend/fellow-scribe Matt Stone was there signing copies of his new hot-rod bios of California camshaft guru Ed Iskenderian and Hot Rod Magazine founder/godfather of the whole blessed hot-rod phenomenon Robert Petersen. Good stuff. As is treasured friend/fellow author Sylvia Wilkinson's new book, "50/50" about the fascinating, challenging and ultimately inspiring life of gifted racer John Paul Jr., which was introduced at Autobooks/Aerobooks a few weeks later. JPjr. had an incredible driving career interrupted by a jail term thanks to his notorious, racer/drug-smuggler father (read the book), all of it colored by a lifelong battle with Huntington's disease (the title "50/50" refers to his odds for survival). Book-signing pic below of, L to R, JPjr's life partner/caregiver Darlene Gray, some TV guy you may recognize, JPjr and Sylvia.

Typical of my friend Sylvia, all the proceeds go to John Paul Jr. That's just the kind of person she is. Buy a copy.

Did get to visit Jay Leno's garage while we were out there (he's always got some interesting car projects percolating) and a fascinating car-design show at the Art Center campus in Pasadena where, among other neat cars and car-creators, I finally met the general-consensus creator of the the dune buggy phenomenon, Bruce Meyers. See his watershed, trend-setting Meyers Manx and Manx SR creations below:

There were all sorts of other cars there designed by ArtCenter graduates, and I have to admit that the new  Hyundai Genesis show car (below) is pretty damn stunning.

But the highlight of the whole trip had to be a visit to the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. It's where the US space program turns from dreams and ideas into reality.

Our friends Sharon & Jeff Powell fortunately know someone who works there, and we had to go through a bunch of security clearance stuff weeks beforehand in order to get visitor credentials. But it was worth it. Imagine walking into a live science-fiction movie! Only it's REAL. The crystalline, sculpture-like thing below, which sits in the lobby of one of the buildings, is actually a visible segment of the "wiring" through which all satellite and deep-space mission communications flow. When you see light streams running up those wires, it's really data from space! WOW! 

The campus at JPL is enormous--the size of a college campus--and laid out way up in the Pasadena hills. And there's a sense of patient, expectant excitement and quiet dedication and mission in the air. Plus it's wonderful to see so many bright, talented people working together on a bunch of huge, long-term projects where each individual is just one small cell of the greater whole. Especially when many of them may not live to see their work take off. Let alone land.
It's humbling.
And invigorating, too!
Below is Mission Control, and it's better than any Star Wars set because, hey, it's REAL!

Here's the quasi-extraterrestrial landscape where they test out the moon rovers and such:

Doesn't look like much. But neither does Mars, I guess. And, speaking of Mars, here's the enormous, air-lock-entry Clean Room where the next Mars Rover is taking shape. Amazing!

There's also a superb museum that tells & illustrates the story of all of our space projects & missions from the very beginning. The whole thing made an indelible impression on all four of us. Quite a contrast to the depressing, soul-sapping, anti-affirmative crap you see and hear on The News every day! No matter what channel you watch...

Come Friday evening I biked over to the very first Big Boy restaurant on the planet (it's in Burbank) for their weekly Cruise-In. I try to hit it at least once every visit and it's a lot of the same stuff each week, but you get to see a nice cross-section of the grassroots LA car culture:

'Nuff said.
Come Sunday I took my last little Car Guy side tour and biked my way over to the once-a-year "French and Italian" car show/conclave in Van Nuys. 10 miles each way, BTW. As SoCal is surely the ancestral home of the oddball car and oddball car people (and as French and Italian cars do indeed fit in the category) it was worth the pedaling. Lotsa Alfas, which of course warmed  the cockles of my old Alfisti heart.

Plus Fiats, a few swell Lancias

 and Ferraris, Lambos, Maseratis, an ATS and an absolutely gorgeous red Iso Grifo:

And then you had the French stuff, from a stately, slinky, gangster-ish Citroen Traction Avant:

to a couple REAL Renault R5 Turbos (the Homologation Specials with the turbocharged, midship motor)  

a Citroen-Maserati SM:

and some of those other, somewhat less elegant French efforts apparently styled by Quasimodo:

It was a nice way to wrap up the "California Car" part of the trip, but surely the best of it all was just hanging with the kids, eating some excellent takeout, playing a little Jeopardy on TV, watching movies, walking their loveable and adorable but intrinsically insolent little rescue dog, spending a little time with friends, etc.
Well, that's about it for now (I've got more, but I got a magazine story, a book and an audiobook project to finish) but I do want to give you a wee update. The upcoming, 1950's radio-play-style, audiobook version of The Last Open Road has turned into an all-consuming and incredibly complicated and ambitious project. And don't even ask about the damn budget!
We're over halfway through and I'm REALLY pleased with the results (wait'll you hear it!). And the co-operation, effort and support from our professional voice actors and our Mystery Celebrity Guest Voices has been phenomenal. But it's taking a lot longer and costing a lot more than I ever envisioned, and has of course pushed back the final book in The Last Open Roadseries (Steamroller III: Assault on Four O'Clock) by at least half a year. Current, re-adjusted & brought-back-to-reality scheduling forecast will have the audiobook debuting at Road America in July rather than Amelia Island and Sebring in March. Sorry about that. And that is going to push the last book out towards next Christmas. Sorry about that, too. But I've bit off more than I can chew for a change, and there are just so many minutes in the day and so many days in each week. Good news is that I think you'll really love the finished project(s).
In the meantime, we've just done necessary reprints of two of my titles (Montezuma's Ferrari and A Potside Companion) plus there are reprints coming up for The Last Open Road (a special, 25th-anniversary edition...more on that later) and The Fabulous Trashwagon. So money is a little tight. Especially with the audiobook project sucking it up like an industrial vacuum. We'll be making another of our shameless crowd-funding pitches in the not-too-distant future (hell, we were doing crowd-funding before there even was such a thing!) but, in the meantime and if you have the disposable, discretionary, who-needs-this-stuff-anyway doughski on tap, please consider becoming a sponsor. There's info on the website. And thanks so much to those who have already pitched in! 

In the meantime:
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidaze to all!

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: