This link is currently down
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?

Book Reviews of The Last Open Road

Many books have been written about automobile racing. The vast majority have as much to do with reality as the Saturday morning cartoons. Come to think of it, the authors probably had the exact same audience in mind. Burt Levy's The Last Open Road is a welcome and wonderful exception to the norm. This is a novel that is at once fast-pace, funny, and moreover utterly faithful to its subject matter and time period, complete with historically accurate descriptions of the cars, races, and venues of the era.

In other words, a true car enthusiast can read and enjoy this book without having to wince at inaccuracies, mistakes, flights of fancy, or superhuman feats of derring-do.

As a teenager in the fifties, I found many of Levy's characters the same people I remember meeting during my own self-induced ensnarement into the automobile scene. They of course had different names, but they were exactly the same people-a rich tapestry ranging from Hero to Zero. I was there, and so obviously was Burt Levy. In fact, the author has personally experienced the inner sanctum of the car scene as a mechanic, shopowner, car salesman, and also as a highly-regarded amateur racing driver and repected automotive journalist. As such, he has seen - and lived - the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of motorsports firsthand, and The Last Open Road reflects his hard-won knowledge of the sports car, be it lying beneath one having your skinned knuckles bathed in hot oil or those rare pure, magical moments of wheel-in-hand, everything's-running-perfect motoring with a fine open road beckoning just ahead.

Along with Levy's excellent descriptions of the cars and wonderfully diverse cast of characters, there are the races themselves - Bridgehampton, Elkhart Lake, and Watkins Glen - all held on closed-off public roads in the early fifties. Levy paints a clear and accurate picture of those halcyon days, capturing the carefree sense of fun, innocence, and excitement of the time.

And also the danger.

Today, the act of just sitting in a monstrous V8-powered Allard J2 would be considered a dangerous activity, let alone actually racing one at top speed over narrow, high-crowned country roads and through village streets lined with throngs of spectators who may or may not have the protection of a flimsy stretch of wooden snow fencing. Younger readers will find this scenario hard to imagine, but Levy's description is actually the way it was. And the fact that Burt has actually driven those roads and raced (or at least tested at high speed) most of the cars mentioned in The Last Open Road lends an aura of reality and authenticity to this unusually accurate work of fiction.

So sit back and enjoy following young mechanic Buddy Palumbo as he is sucked through the front door of Old Man Finzio's Sinclair station and tumbles headlong into the black hole of sportscar racing in the early 1950s. You'll find it a relaxing, entertaining, and comfortable journey.

You already know most of the people.

Art Eastman, Editor
Vintage Motorsport magazine