Saturday, December 30, 2006

California's Best newest driver

Hello everyone and here's wishing all of you a HAPPY NEW YEAR. And don't forget, this is the year we run the La Carrera Panamericana. How do you like my new helmet? Well, the truth is, this is my Grandpa's new helmet that my Uncle Will got him for Christmas. But hey... It looks like a pretty good fit on me wouldn't you say?

Isn't it funny that usually it's the father that gets a helmet for the kids and says, "Now be careful." but in this family it's the kids that say, "Here's your helmet dad, now go like hell!"

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Today was huge considering Lucky is finally at IMPACT ENGINEERING for the roll cage install. Now things will start to begin to take shape into a REAL race car. As it was rolled into the shop it was parked between some good company, right between two of the Car and Driver team race cars being prepared to run in next years Grand-Am Cup series.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Always be prepared

One thing I have learned about these long term race car builds is that you must find time to relax and enjoy yourself. So today I decided to bring along a "back-up" car in the event something should happen to the GT350. Notice we have spared no expense.

Wild Imagination a Must

Today I had time to take a seat in the car to "reflect" for a few minutes as to how I would hope the car would feel and act. Keep in mind I have an over-active imagination. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Hurry up and wait

If what they say about "Good things take time" then this car is going to be awesome. The body shop took a little longer than planed but with some prodding finally the car is back in my hands. This week it will be hauled to Anthony Vanni's shop for the beginning of the full roll-cage installation. In the spirit of Christmas and little boys I am able to recall exactly how it felt when I used to have a hard time waiting for "THAT DAY" to hurry up and get here and waiting for each phase of completion on this project is no different. If all goes to plan, by this time next year Jon, Will and I will be excitedly recalling what an awesome adventure we all took part in down in Mexico. The only difference between us and the Christmas's we have experienced in the past is the fact that the toys are bigger now than they used to be and we don't have to make pretend motor sounds to get excited.

Merry Christmas to one and all and Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Priorities and having them straight

Being a successful race car driver begins with family because without family to back and support you you have nothing. Sure racing is in our blood and it's our love of racing that keeps us young, healthy and always striving to obtain new goals. It is this striving to obtain new goals that transcends over into our daily lives whether it be work or our family lives. In the same breath we learn how much we value live and our families as well. In my opinion race car drivers for obvious reasons tend to appreciate each moment more so than others who tend to take precious moments for granted. Does this mean we are any better off than others? Of course not, we just tend to push ourselves past what some consider "comfortable" or "acceptable" zones.

I have been blessed to have such a family that has always accepted my love of cars and racing. That same acceptance has been carried over to include everyone in my family not to mention my employees as well. I have found over the years that this love and respect of racing and all things automotive helps even my employees feel more like family than just someone who punches a time-clock. Employees who become involved in team events seem to have a much higher self esteem and pride than those who do not and it shows around the workplace and at the track. Having my family involved with racing over the years had brought us closer together and it has been something that we can share on the same level. Both of my children have equally found it rewarding to learn how to become self reliant with their ability to learn their own limits and find ways to dominate fellow competitors. Both have sought not only to set higher goals for themselves but have also learned when their goals are not realistic. All in all, the rewards of having a supportive family who shares equally in the ups and downs of racing has been far more rewarding than any trophy or position on any podium.

This brings me to another category of those involved with my racing... my friends. Like any other venture or hobby, we all have friends... Those we can count on and those we can not. And then there are those whom we respect and those whom don't deserve it. This brings me to one of my friends whom has been on my mind all week. Some racers are so addicted to racing that they tend to find excuses for the need to be at the track. Quite often some such excuses help a driver make a fool out of himself. Over the last year one of my best friends and fellow teammates expressed his desire to race in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and he did everything in his power to reach that opportunity. There were many reasons behind his desire to run this race but understand it was paramount and his emotions were high. A few weeks ago he was taken on by a team to be co-driver in that very race and all the arrangements were made. Needless to say, he was stoked and I was just as excited as him since he is an awesome racer and fierce competitor and more than deserving of such an opportunity.

There are men and there are men but some men think with their brains or what little they have while other's think with their heart knowing full well right from wrong. This individual proved he was the later. On Friday morning when my friend was leaving for the track with duffle bag in hand he stopped to kiss his wife and baby goodbye for what they knew would be a long weekend but then the phone rang. Little did he know when that phone rang just how long that weekend was going to be. The phone call was not a welcome one at all as it carried some bad news regarding my friend's mother in law. Now in my opinion this is where he showed his true colors. I have known men who at this very instance would have began asking themselves, "How will we handle this? Who should I call? After all I will only be gone a couple days and besides all the arrangements have been made. I have to go." But none of these thoughts even entered his mind and he knew there was no decision to be made whatsoever. He was staying at home and there wasn't even anything to consider. Within a few moments he had called my son to take his place in the 25 Hours Of Thunderhill and simply said, "Make me proud."

I couldn't be more proud to call this individual my friend and judging by the example he sets and the standards he adheres to both as a family man, an individual and a friend I can honestly say I made the perfect selection. This man in Jon Emerson, my friend and navigator and co-driver in next years La Carrera Panamericana. I tip my hat to you Jon and my family and I send our prayers and thought to both your wife and mother in law and you.

Getting a head start

Well Folks, I decided why wait so I picked up one of Gramp's books called Drive To Win by Carroll Smith. In no time at all I should be up to speed.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Chicks dig me


My name is Tyler Gene and I am my grandpa's favorite grandson and all the chicks dig me. Oh sure, I'm his only grandson so far but I'll always be the first, that's because I'm just like him... FAST. If Grandpa would let me drive I am sure I could make his new car go real fast and besides, who ever heard of a fast grandpa? I weigh a lot less than he does and everyone knows the lighter the car the faster it will go. Check out my racing helmet I found in Gramp's den. Joe Montana gave it to him but I'm sure if I take good care of it he won't mind.

Speaking of first, I just had my first birth (with a little help from my mommy) and then my first Thanksgiving and soon my first Christmas. I also went on my first trip to Oregon to see my Great Granny and boy was she great! She thought I was all that and she was pretty hip too for that matter. I love both my great grandma and my Grandma too so I plan on giving them lots to talk about. Maybe I'll have my first tooth soon. Just wait until my mommy sees what I can do with that! Gramps sure is gonna laugh.

Grandpa wants to paint the new car white with blue racing strips but if I had my way I would paint it the color of my favorite toy car... bright red with white racing stripes. One of these days my daddy is going to build me a fast mustang too and then I can teach both of them how to drive. I better say goodnight for now and I better start reading that driver's handbook.... Oh crap, I just remembered... I can't read yet! I can't even say La Carrera Pana... Pana... Panemer.... aye carumba!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Phase one is almost complete

The floor pans have been installed and most of the rear frame-rail installation is completed as well as some minor rear quarter panel repair. As soon as it is completed the car will be put on a trailer and delivered to Anthony Vanni's shop for the roll-cage installation which will include a six point cage and Nascar bars on both drivers and passenger's doors for more protection of both driver and navigator. There will also be roll bar protection out thru the firewall and into the trunk which will protect the fuel-cell. Anthony Vanni is without a doubt the best roll-cage builder on the west coast and the only one I would even consider after watching videos of recent crashes from this year's La Carrera Panamericana. Anthony called last night to let me know he is ready and waiting for Lucky.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Status report

All the new floorpans are now installed and the rear frames and trunk are now being replaced.

We don't need no stinkin road...

During this years 2006 La Carrera Panamericana drivers were told there was a "bad spot" to be on the lookout for on a certain section of road. To many driver's surprise what they found wasn't actually a "bad spot" but more like no spot at all. In this photo you can clearly see half the road had washed away the night before. Just imagine how many drivers and navigators needed spare underwear after coming around this corner at full speed. Most race tracks have a safety margin or runoff when things get a little hairy but all you get here is... Well, you get nothing if you screw up.

In reality, this is simply one more obstacle to be aware of when racing in Mexico and it can only help make the race more interesting and adventuresome.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

So much to be thankful for.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and boy do I have lots to be thankful about. Besides all the great things in life that I sincerely appreciate, those being my family, health, work, and church there is our new (and first) grandson which we will be taking to visit his great grandmother. I don't know who is more excited, me or my mother?

By this time next year we will have returned back to the United States from having competed in the La Carrera Panamericana, a dream come true and an adventure all of us are looking forward too. So much history, tradition and FUN! I am so thankful that my son will be coming along to share the adventure with his old man, hopefully one he will remember many years after I'm long gone and one he can share with his children. I am also grateful to have such a good friend who has been such a support in this entire endeavor. Jon's support and equal excitement has been more than any friend could ask for.

In the meantime the car is coming along amazingly well during it's reincarnation. I asked my body man to remove the entire trunk floor to get a better look at the frame rails and it's a good thing we did. They "may" have been alright for the average Joe but this car is not going places where average Joes go. For that matter no average Joe has the kind of horsepower this GT350 is going to have. The new frame rails will be here early next week and the last floor pan will be finished and then it will be off to the shop to have an new full roll cage installed.

On another note, I just got off the phone a little while ago with La Carrera Panamericana North American Director Gerie Beldso and had a great time listening to him share all that went on over the last few weeks done in Mexico. One of the biggest upsets in the last 19 years of this race is the fact that a FORD in a lower class ended up beating the high dollar race cars. For years it has been extremely well set up Studebaker's complete with Winston Cup engines with excess of 850 horsepower and elaborate suspension systems that have dominated this race. They have clearly been the favorites to win but this year the little Ford with a smaller engine became somewhat of a folk hero when people began asking, "Could this little car really beat those big boys with the rich toys?" And now it's in the record books and it's all very exciting. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the La Carrera Panamericana since it has began running again and we are hoping to make that anniversary proud with another winner powered by FORD. Just possibly we will have even more to be thankful for next year.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ya picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel...

One huge difference in the La Carrera Panamericana and most other races is the simple fact that on race courses you don't see trees, phone poles, bridges with no guard rails let alone cliffs, rock walls and donkeys. The La Carrera Panamericana has this and a lot more. This is just part of the challenge we look forward to and in fact welcome. Nothing can be more rewarding to a driver when it comes to overcoming a challenge and some obstacles. Yesterday I was reading about a racer in La Carrera Panamericana who came around a corner at high speed only to find half the road washed out from the night before! That reminds me of exactly such an event when I went to Mexico in 1970 as I came hauling over a rise only to find no road on the other side. A missing road is no problem but those 50 foot drops can be a real downer. (literaly)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

We're gonna need a bigger roll cage

Click on the empty sguare below for another blog with some great photos.

I was actually glad to hear him laughing about it and the way he dealt with the situation. Fire really effects many men differently and I have seen it first hand. Several times over the years I have seen men react in explosively as they panicked in ways that I personally found unbelievable and I am talking about men I had worked around and thought them to be rational thinking individuals that is until they saw even the smallest fire. Now that I think about it, none of them were race car drivers. I wonder is methodical, calm, rational thinking is simply part of a driver's persona?There sure does seem to be a lot of adventure and excitement in this year's La Carrera Panamericana. Jon and I sure are missing out on all the racing or should I say, "Off road racing." LOL. Jon asked me tonight, "You are having a damn good roll cage built aren't you?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Oh Oh Ohhhh (Tool man grunt)

The floors will be done soon as will the quarter panels and other required body repairs. It is really exciting to see every step of a labor of love come together as each step meets it's schedule on our time-line planning. I suppose my primeval inner being is surfacing since I seem to get excited at the mention of fire, tools and metal. (Big tool man grunt.) It's every man's dream to see some fantastic race car rise from a bucket of rust. It's going to be beautiful. Look out Mexico... here we come!

Friday, November 10, 2006

What's under the hood or Where's the beef?

Tomorrow I go up to the north bay to visit my engine builder REBELLO RACING so we can discuss specifics for the new engine for the car. There are many features about this engine that need to have specific needs and attention to detail. Besides the limits of the rules the main reason is simply because of the high altitude. Many teams and drivers have built expensive high performance engines for this trip only to find out they didn't perform worth a damn at these high altitudes. Not only is it important to have an understanding of the difference between racing at sea level versus high altitude but it's very important to have an engine builder who in fact has a wealth of knowledge and personal experience with such engines and details. This is were things begin to get really exciting for Team California's Best.

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Tom who used to design and build engines for Carol Shelby himself on the exact engine we will be running. After discussing the needs of the engine I listened and took detailed notes for almost 1 hour and ten minutes as he broke down what was needed one part at a time. Then I called my engine builder and without telling him who I had spoken to I began suggesting to him what I wanted for an engine. It wasn't long before he asked, "This is incredible stuff. Where did you get this information?" When I asked why he said, "I have been building almost this exact engine specs for a customer who races in South America on a track at high altitude and it is an amazing combination. Wherever you got this information from they really knew what they were doing." I can't express how happy this made me to hear he had an exact understanding and personal knowledge of exactly what I was looking for and that it was not an experiment but in fact something already tried and perfected.

Tomorrow morning we will be plugging all the specific information into an awesome computer program he uses to see exactly what we will be producing with regard to horsepower and torque and so on. His computer program has been very accurate in recent build and has turned out engines that after completed were dynoed to within 2 percent of what the computer said they would be. He has already projected this high performance 289 should be in the neighborhood of 480 horsepower!!! not to mention extremely reliable and strong.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's not all highway racing

One of the exciting things about the La Carrera Panamericana is that some of the racing is done on some of the major race tracks in Mexico tying it all together with other famous racing events. Even this is huge in Mexico and since we will be driving on the same days as the Champ Car World Series CART race there will be thousands of spectators. Now there's something you don't see every day back in the states.

Here is an announcement from this years race....

August 16, 2006

Autodromo Mexico City • La Carrera will race for the fans before the CART race!

As posted here in the day 3 pre-run notes, we will be racing Mexico City Autodromo Hnos. Rodriguez before the CART race. This is NOT a parade lap, folks! We are RACING! Nice velocity section! Here is the official announcement:

August 1, 2006, Mexico City – The Champ Car World Series will arrive to Mexico City next November 10, 11 y 12 to celebrate it’s season finale at the Autodromo Hnos. Rodriguez, but this time they will be sharing the track with one of the most important historic races of the world : La Carrera Panamericana.

The new edition of the famous race of the 50´s started in 1988 and since then a long tradition of new winners and exciting competition from drivers and cars from all around the world race from south to north in the highways of Mexico reaching speeds over 200 mph.

“During the course of the years we have worked really hard to innovate and bring a better show to the fans in our race, the Carrera Panamericana is the first of the surprises we have prepared for this year” said Federico Alaman, promoter of the Gran Premio de Mexico. “In the past the Autodromo Hnos. Rodriguez has held races of the best series like F-1, Champ Car, NASCAR Busch, Grand Am, Prototypes, Superbike and Trans Am among many others. We are very happy that the organization of the Carrera Panamericana accepted our invitation, this will be a great show along with Champ Car for the fans, and we will contribute to the rich history and tradition of the race”.

A total of 100 cars will start the Carrera Panamericana Friday November 10th in Oaxaca and they will arrive to Mexico City two days later. The promoters have arranged a speed stage around 9:00 am the 12th, CART race day (time to be confirmed). After their participation on the Gran Premio de Mexico, the caravan will continue it’s journey until they reach Monterrey on November 16th.

“This is great news for all the participants of the Carrera Panamericana, in the past our event has raced in other racetracks of the country, but this will be our first time at the Autodromo Hnos. Rodriguez, it’s a great opportunity and we are very thankful to OCESA for the invitation, we will contribute to make the Gran Premio de Mexico the biggest motorsport event in Mexico in 2006” said Eduardo Leon, promoter of the Carrera Panamericana.

The Hardest Test

Original writing by James K. Lamona AUTO SPORT Review, United States, March of 1953.

The 3114 km mexican road that stretches south to north from Tuxla to Juárez is, according to Alfred Neubauer, a combination of Tripoli's Grand Prix. the italian "Mille Miglia", the german "Nurburgring" and the Le-Mans 24 hrs. Herr Neubauer should know, for it was under his leadership as the Competition Director of Mercedes Benz German Teams that they defeated the most formidable english, italian and french participants in europe for the last 25 years.

Exactly, what makes The Mexican Road Race so tough? It is a combination of several things. The race begins on a tropical climate, where the temperature is high and humid and continues along a road that goes from sea level to a suffocating 3 thousands meters altitude! Temperature variations go from 34 celsius degrees to almost 2 degrees before freezing all in just 72 hours.

Even the most careful motor tuning, carburetion tests and spark plug selection need alterations every 160 km approximately. Motors that ran miraculously at 1000 mts sounded almost dead at 3000, and drivers that refused to change cooler spark plugs, soon realized after Durango the importance of this.

The Mexican Race was very though for the drivers as well as for the equipment. The road is paved with a mixture of volcanic ash and this substance that is highly abrasive will turn a perfectly new passenger car tier to a worn out one in a 1000 km distance.

Friday, November 03, 2006

"Did I ever tell ya about the bump in the road?"

I have waited all week to post a picture of my rearend but all day Jon kept telling me he didn't think that was a very good idea. So today as we journeyed for 6 and a half hours to Shingle Springs California to pick up a hard to find Lincoln Versailles rear end for the car Jon and I began swapping stories and one of Jon's stories began, "Did I ever tell you about the bump in the road?" As I drove along between traffic jambs and radar traps not to mention what Jon called "Stealth Mode" highway patrol and maniac jerks with a license the story began. But when Jon was finished I had to "one up" him with my "Bump in the road" story about a trip I took to Mexico back in 1970, as a matter of fact to where we are headed with the new race car. The difference between Jon's version and mine... I had pictures. LOL.

When we arrived in the "country" where the wrecking yard was I swear we could hear Dueling Banjos in the distance. As we turned off road in what appeared to be a driveway (at one time or another) we found our self amongst "critters" which should have set off red flags. "Hey Jon, there's some wild turkeys! Gobble Gobble. Hey Jon, there's some deer!" Jon ask, "I wonder where them fellers are headed with the canoe?" Then it happened, we drove out of the woods (and piles of wooden pallets) and as far as the eye could see was a field of wrecked and obsolete motor homes. Then over on that thar hill was the makins of what used to be trucks, cars, I think I saw an old bathtub, a shed with steering columns tied on the outside, but nothing that anyone would want to steal. Then Jon pointed out a sign that said, "ABSOLUTELY NO PICTURE TAKING!" As Jon and I began laughing I said to him, "Daddy!?" And he said, "EVIS.. IS THAT YOU? WE KNEW YOU'D COME HOME!"

"So, you must be the city slickers who have come ta fetch the rear end. Foller me on down behind that thar shed. As we drive down the holler to the shed down the hill he says, "Hey fellers, looky here what these city slickers brought. What say we take it fer a spin in the mud?"

As we were leaving Jon says, "Hey, isn't that Burt Reynolds behind the counter?" But we made it home and lived to talk about it and that's all good. And if we are to make a successful run on this demanding and grueling endurance race we may just need what is considered to be the best designed rear end ever made for a race car. Oh... and if you're good I'll post a photo of my rear end when Jon's not looking.

Days like to day may seem to prove race car drivers have breathed in far to much exhaust over the years but the truth is, it was an awesome day shared by two friends who took an ordinary day and had a blast with it. Thanks Jon. PS: Why did you ask Bubba for his phone number?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No more dirt floor

Today the floor panels and fender sections arrived so they were delivered to the body shop where they will be installed.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Broken bones and great songs

The car we will be racing in Mexico was actualy the original design of Carroll Shebly who just 11 years before entered the Carrera Pan Americana Mexico in November of 1954. At the 175-kilometer marker north of Oaxaca, he hit a large rock and flipped his Austin-Healey four times. Indians found him and offered him strong drinks to ease the pain. He sustained cuts, contusions, and a shattered elbow. March of 1955 saw Carroll still undergoing operations to recover from his racing accident. He continued to race, but, with his arm in a specially made fiberglass cast and his hand taped to the steering wheel. At Sebring, Shelby co-drove a Monza Ferrari with Phil Hill.

In an interview with Carol Connors she explains how Carol Shelby influenced her to write the famous song, "Hey Little Cobra."

Yeah, as you know, I wrote 'Hey Little Cobra' with my brother. Actually, he didn't write very much of it - I wrote most of it. It's considered probably the most important hot rod song ever written because of what it did for the Ford Motor Company. Lee Iacocca was head of racing for Ford at the time when Carroll Shelby came up with the concept. It was the forerunner of the GT40 which went on to win Le Mans - which I went to, by the way. I wrote it because Carroll Shelby asked me to write it. I'd smashed my ex-boyfriend's car in the front - it was a Bristol - he wanted to see if they could put a Cobra front on a Bristol back, as they were basically the same design, but they couldn't do that. And Carroll said, 'If you write a song about my car and it goes to #1, we'll work something out, you'll go to Le Mans.' It did, and the rest is history. I had a Cobra. Actually I had three of them. My car today would be worth over half a million dollars, but I don't own it anymore.

Road of the Diablo

Today I ordered a custom built fuel cell which should be here in less than two weeks. Having the new fuel cell will help me design the cut outs for the trunk area not to mention the location of the 6 point roll cage since the cage is also going to contain the fuel cell like the race-cars of Nascar have. Having the fuel cell will also be needed to help aid in locating where the panhard bar will attach so there is no interference.

A lot of research and decisions had to be made regarding the particular design I am building. Due to lax rule enforcement in Mexico on some issues it is easy to find ones self cutting corners to save money. But then it dawned on me this race is unlike any other race in the world. God forbid... should there be a racing incident along a windy mountain road on some cliff there will be no fire truck, no safety crew let alone an ambulance waiting only seconds away. As a matter of fact they could be hours away. Keeping this in mind it is important to realize the only people my co-driver/navigator and myself can expect help from is in-fact ourselves. The last thing we need is to be upside down, possibly unconscious and have gas pouring on us. Broken limbs heal, a man don't need both eyes, and you can even live a pretty exciting life in a wheelchair these days but fire to a race car driver in totally unacceptable thought. Crashing in Mexico is always a reality we can live with but burning in Hell is not.

The brand of fuel cell we will be using is being made exclusivly for us by the world's leading fuel cell manufacture "FUEL SAFE" which coincidently is in my home state of Oregon which is where Lucky is from.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Do ya feel lucky? Well do ya punk?

Today we rolled "Lucky" over to the body shop where they had begun stripping everything down to bare metal and then whatever body panels have rust will be cut out entirely.

One thing that's special about this car is the excitement it seems to generate. Everyone that has had anything to do with the car is completely aware of the adventure it is about to embark upon. I enjoy seeing everyone taking such pride in his or her involvement in helping to create what is sure to be an awesome car and adventure. Every winning car that I have ever had great success with began just like this one meaning every nut and bolt was installed with lots of planing, preparation, skill and love with only two basic rules in mind... It must be Reliable... and it must be a Winner.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What did the monkey say?

Today was HUGE. Having been off the project for a few days as a result of a battle with the flu I was unable to get anything constructive accomplished. Today I met with the body shop foreman and began discussing not only my time-line but inspecting all the metal body work to see what needs attention. After the inspection and meeting what appeared to be bleak looking wasn't as bad as we first thought. Then I placed an order for the required sheet metal panels and parts so that the body panels can be cut away and replaced.

What did the monkey say when his tail got cut off?

It won't be long now!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What got us here... the stars?

This weekend was a bummer since I was stuck at home with the flu. As I laid around drinking fluids all I could think about was thank God I'm getting it over with before the race. I was feeling so crummy in fact that I didn't even find time to anything with regards to the car except dream. I began reminiscing about my life with cars and what it has taken to lead me to this endeavor... as a matter of fact what has led both Jon and myself to this endeavor. It seems Jon and I have nothing in common and yet everything. What else is there when you both have wives and children you love and then the love of racing which we all share in?

As a boy I grew up on the rural highways of Oregon learning how to get maximum power and speed on everything from bikes, go-carts, tractors, and cars. One of the first cars I ever bought was my 1968 Shelby GT500, a one of a kind with a 427 Nascar engine and if that car could talk.... but that's why I'm here.

After moving to California at the age of 17 to race cars I found myself working in Palo Alto and taking classes at Stanford all of which was an amazing time considering it all took place in the early 70's. During this trying time in many young people's lives they had basically two choices... there were fast drugs or fast cars. I chose the later and have never looked back. They said speed kills but not the kind I chose, in fact it helped me live life to the fullest.

My Shelby opened many doors for me that otherwise may never have come to be too many to tell about but during all those years I have been lucky to have remained personal friends with Carol Shelby himself which makes my fascination with the Shelby racing heritage all the more interesting and one that Carol shares with my family as well. Here is a photo of Carol with my son Will and myself.

In this photo a filming crew is shooting my car for a documentary for Carol Shelby while we spent the day together at Laguna Seca all the while listening to Carol tell me about some of his best racing days spent on that very track.

Over the years I have never forgotten my roots or where I came from... albeit a lengthy adventure from a place I love but a place I am extremely proud to be from. I can't begin to imagine how many times I tore up the highway between California and Oregon on the tight, twisty, coastal highways on my way to and from my parent's ranch many of which where in my Shelby GT500. I have driven a few other "toys" over the years one of which was my 1997 Dodge Viper shown below at one of the original gas stations that I used to go to with my parents when I was a boy.

As I continued reminiscing I couldn't help but ponder all the coincidences that brought Jon and I together to build, race and share the adventure of a lifetime. Ironic almost that be both came from far away places, wound up in Palo Alto as young wild and crazy guys, managed to grow up without killing ourselves, found two of the most beautiful women in the world that we wanted to share our lives with, had families and all the time loved cars and found a way to get involved racing them... and all this without having ever met each other, not once in our lives until a few short years ago. Since then it has been the start of a rewarding friendship even after this race has taken it course I am proud to know we will always have the luxury of sitting on the front porch and saying, "By God do you remember the look on that donkey's eyes when we can sliding around that corner?" LOL. Great friends like Jon only happen a few times in a man's life and what a reward it is. Racing cars in Mexico is nothing new for me and neither is winning for that matter. I keep telling Jon what a great place Mexico is to race since the crowds are massive and truly love racing and they take excited fans to a whole new level but the best thing of all after a race like this or any other for that matter is coming home and sharing it with the wives, families and friends we love so much.

One of the more famous cars that ran La Carrera Panamericana

Actor James Dean's new Porsche 550 Spyder sports-racing car resembled a sleek silver bullet as it streaked toward a flat, deserted intersection on Highway 46 in a desolute Central California spot called Cholame, near Pasos Robles, on Sept. 30, 1955.

"He's got to see us!" were the 24-year-old Dean's last words, apparently because he couldn't believe the driver of a vehicle that entered the intersection hadn't seen him. But a low sun was blinding the vehicle's driver, Donald Turnipseed, who thus didn't see the Porsche speeding toward him.

Dean was instantly killed when the two vehicles collided violently, leaving the Porsche's left side demolished by the front of the other vehicle. The California Highway Patrol held no one responsible for the accident and listed road conditions and visibility as good.

Dean had just completed filming the blockbuster movie "Giant," in which he starred. His famous "Rebel Without A Cause" movie hadn't been released yet. He was en route to Salinas to enter a race with the 550 Spyder.

Dean's German mechanic, Rolf Wutherich, who was in the Porsche's passenger seat, and Turnipseed somehow escaped injury.

Dean and Wutherich were en route to Salinas from Los Angeles to enter a race in which Dean was to compete with the Porsche.

Dean's wrecked car seemed jinxed. Hollywood auto customizer George Barris, who painted a racing stripe on the car three days before the crash, bought the wrecked car to resell its parts. One of his employees was unloading the car at Barris' headquarters when the car fell on him, breaking his legs. Its engine was put in a Porsche that hit a tree and killed its driver in the first race in which it had been used since Dean's crash. Soon after, a sports car driver bought the tires from Dean's car through Barris, both front tires blew out simultaneously, causing the car to swerve off the road. No defect could be found in them after that incident.

Dean's car was put on a tour to make an impression on teenage drivers, but it soon was scorched in a fire that destroyed a California Highway Patrol garage. It then fell off display mountings and broke a teenager's hip. Later, a driver of a truck transporting the Porsche to a Salinas display was killed when thrown from the truck and struck by the Porsche as it fell off the truck. The car was involved in other mishaps before vanishing forever in 1960 when being shipped by train from Florida to Barris.

Dean's first car after making his first movie, "East of Eden," in 1954 was a used MG TD, a popular sports car. But Dean decided in early 1955, before making his second film, "Rebel Without A Cause," to buy a Porsche Super Speedster from Los Angeles foreign car dealer Johnny von Neumann's Competition Motors. Dean's celebrity status helped him get the Speedster because it was in short supply.

Unlike the 550 Spyder, which was virtually a pure race car that could be driven on the street, the Speedster was a road car, although its quickness and nimbleness helped it win many races.

Dean soon put 1,000 miles on the Speedster while learning to drive it fast on Los Angeles area roads such as the winding Mulholland Drive. That March, Dean won the first sports car race he entered at Palm Springs with the Speedster, ending remarks of racers that he was just another movie star playboy. He won another race in Bakersfield with the Porsche the following month.

Wanting a faster car, Dean traded in the Speedster for the 550 Spyder at von Neumann's well-known dealership following a Memorial Day race at Santa Barbara, where engine failure took his Speedster from the event.

The sensational 550 Spyder had won its class in famous European races, including the Mille Miglia in Italy and the Le Mans 24-hour race in France, competing against top sports-racing cars. It also got a class win in the Carrera Panamericana race that ran the length of Mexico on appalling roads in extremes of temperature.

The decision to use the name "Spyder" was made at the request of Max Hoffman, who was Porsche's influential U.S. importer. He knew that name would be more marketable than a number such as "550/ 1500RS," which was what Porsche planned to call the car. In Europe, "Spyder" long had been the description for an extremely light two- seat body for a competition sports car.

Dean's celebrity status again helped him buy a rare Porsche. Only a handful of 550 Spyders had been sent to America, and many racers wanted one. Porsche hadn't implemented its long-pending plan to make a small number of 550 Spyders available until late 1954. Only two were built in 1954 and just 63 were made in 1955, with the last 13 produced in early 1956.

The 550 Spyder typically cost $6,800 in America, when a Cadillac convertible was $4,448. But the only way to beat a 550 Spyder in its racing class was to buy another one and drive it better.

The 550 Spyder had a potent four-cylinder engine, tubular frame and small aluminum body. The rugged car weighed just 1,350 pounds, which helped it go like the wind.

The two-seater could be had with a small racing screen for the driver or a full-width low racing screen with a single wiper on the driver's side. There were no frills to add weight and slow the car.

Road & Track said the 550 Spyder's "performance literally forces you back in the seat" and that "corners can be taken at astonishingly high speeds." The brakes were "absolutely sensational."

The car Dean is closely associated with is the Barris-modified 1949 Mercury he drove in "Rebel Without A Cause." He must have been elated with the 550 Spyder before reaching that fateful intersection at Cholame. One can assume that he was quite happy, until the very last moment of his short life.

This Fletcher Aviation 550 Spyder driven by Hans Hermann won the 1500cc class and placed third overall at the 1954 Carrera Panamericana race.

(Credit; Chicago Sun-Times, Jun 26, 2005 by Dan Jedlicka)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

La Carrera Panamericana trivia

May 5 1950

Bill France and Curtis Turner of NASCAR fame enter in the Carrera Panamericana race, a 2,172 mile race from Mexico to Guatemala. They crash out of the race.

I guess Bill figured he was safer building tracks in the U.S. where they could only do 200 miles per hour in a circle. Now before anyone starts sending me hate mail, I'm just kidding. (Not about Bill and Curtis, they really did enter and they really did crash.)

Meet The Flintstones

Today my wife found out how much this project is costing me so with the help from Jon's wife the two of them began showing us ways to cut cost. First they started in with the usual "I have had to learn to cut cost in the home for years so now it's time you did the same." They began with showing us how to improvise and followed it up with their new improved brake setup. "Hey, if it's good enough for Fred Flintstone it's good enough or you."

All kidding aside, today the body shop experts began going over their plan of attack and discussion as to what stays and what goes. Then a time line was agreed upon so certain projects can be addressed such as when does it go to the shop for the installation of the roll cage and then back to the body shop for painting, etc. Don't let the rusty floorpan and a few other spots fool you, on the whole scheme of things this is looking to be an awesome car.

On this day in 1895 a Portland Oregon an inventor tested a gasoline engine for propelling vehicles:

"It is intended that the propelling machinery, to be placed under a carriage, shall weigh about 100 pounds and deliver four horsepower. This machine as designed will be the last feather to crack the spine of the horse, whose ultimate destination has already been made the slaughter house by the electric railroad...when a lot of sporty fellows get out on the riverside road in buggies propelled by gasoline and some of them inhale too much benzene, the results are apt to make thrilling reading."

If he thought four horsepower was thrilling it's too bad he isn't around to get a ride in this buggy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Original Fastback add

Some interesting stats;

1965 Shelby Total: 562
GT350 Fastback 525
GT350 Fastback/Racing 37 (One going to La Carrera Panamericana)
1966 Shelby
Total: 2,380
GT350 Fastback 1,175
GT350 Fastback/Hertz 936
GT350 Convertible 6
1967 Shelby
Total: 3,225
GT350 Fastback 2,050
GT350 Convertible 1,170
1968 Shelby
Total: 4,450
GT350 Fastback 1,253
GT350 Convertible 404
GT500 Fastback 1,140 (Only one with factory installed 427 Nascar side oiler)
GT500 Convertible 402
GT500KR Fastback 933
GT500KR Convertible318
1969-1970 Shelby
Total: 3,153
GT350 Sportsroof 1,085
GT350 Convertible 194
GT500 Sportsroof 1,536
GT500 Convertible 335

Nitrus the wonder dog

Here is my best buddy in the world. Nitrus came along to bring Lucky home and as soon as he jumped out of his truck to see the car he blessed Lucky's tires. If that's any kind of omen I can see why Nirtus wanted to get back in the tow truck.

Intimidating as hell

Hell, I'd pull over too if I looked up and saw this in my rearview mirror.

From dirt to pavement

This is all anyone we pass is ever going to see... just little red taillights fading off into the distance. (Hopefully not over a cliff.)

Nude photos of Lucky

This is about as light-weight a car as you will ever see. Hold on to your hats cause I'm ready to fire it up. Can you believe that in the not too distant future this bad-boy will not only be capable of doing 160 miles per hour but it will be running in one of the most prestigious races in the world, The La Carrera Panamericana!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Prince and the Pauper

Remember the Mark Twain novel, "The Prince and the Pauper", a story about two lookalike boys, one a poor street kid and the other a prince, exchange places to see what the other's life is like. Well, that's exactly how the story of "Lucky" the 1965 Shelby GT350R model is beginning to look. This poor little car looks as if it's been to hell and back but I plan on getting him all cleaned up, placing him in a new environment, a lot of refining, a little polishing and with a lot of hard work to details he will become the prince he once was and deserves to be.

Today my trusty dog Nitrus and I went on an 8 hour journey to Fresno California to pick up the Pauper GT350 and now he is safe at his new home at California's Best where the task at hand will begin. Most guys like to name their rides and many give them a girls name as if they were a ship or something but I have decided I am going to name the car "Lucky." Welcome home Lucky.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

All I want for Christmas is my....

I remember as a boy when I was impatient and kept asking my father, "What time is it now?" or "How much longer will it be?" as we were on a long trip or waiting for something like Christmas so I could rip into the presents. My father would begin the lecture... "Just wait and see... One of these days when you grow up you will ask yourself where the time went and what you have to do to slow it down."

This week I am going to pick up the Shelby body at my friend's shop in Fresno which is about a three hour drive. I guess I never really grew up because after all these years I find myself with the same emotions that I had the night before Christmas and I can't go to sleep. Where's Dad when I need him? I'm sure he would have something supportive to say like.... "Go to sleep you dumb ass." Since he loved all things automotive himself and had numerous old cars in his collections over the years I'm sure he knew the same anxiety which makes for such fun and anticipation.

What's that old saying about one man's junk is another man's treasure? I used to laugh driving down some highway whenever I saw signs along the highway that read, "We buy junk. Antiques for sale." My new Shelby isn't an antique but to the untrained eye it sure does look like a piece of junk. But to me it's a work of art, something that I will take and massage and work back into the work of art it once was and more. Not at all unlike the Greek Phoenix, which according to legend was a great bird which consumed itself by fire and then rose alive from the ashes to live another period. Once again I will bring life back to what some see as an old car but what I see isn't old at all but instead something to bring life back to a couple of old racers and we too may rise about the ashes and soar not unlike some old legend.

Is it time to go yet? Are we almost there?

Friday, October 13, 2006

In good company

Man, have I ever been busy researching the new race car. It seems that a race car would be a pretty simple thing to build since I have done so many. I can't help but believe there is some special reason that I'm not aware of that I am called on to do this race and I really have a desire to do well. I suppose part of it is due to the fact so many racers from all over the world will be there and I feel as is I need to represent not only America but Team California's Best reputation as well. Then again it is a race of a lifetime, it has danger, intrigue, fast cars, travel, friends, family, adventure and racing not to mention a great racing heritage and tradition all of which I want to be a part of. I wasn't aware until yesterday this is the 20th anniversary of the second time the race was brought back and so there is really a lot of competition of European teams fighting to sign up for it.

In a way it reminds me of my skeet shooting days when all I found time to do was eat, sleep and talk skeet night and day. Just like it was back in my Olympic days I was so devoted and obsessed with obtaining or achieving certain goals that I had set for myself if you didn't share one of those then you got left behind. While it all sounds rude I assure it was never met to be and it's hard to explain how dedicated world-class athletes can become during their quest to something all athletes attempt to find.... perfection. I remember the very first time I sat at a table listening to 6 or seven Olympic athletes as we had lunch. I remember as if it was yesterday as they talked back and forth about how great they were. At first I thought to myself, "How conceited. I have never heard anyone in my life talk with such arrogance or conceit. I would NEVER want to be like these people." Little did I understand that for someone to become world -class he or she must not only believe in themselves but they must know positively beyond a shadow of a doubt that THEY are the BEST in the world and it just becomes a way of life. I realized later in years that they were not boasting or bragging, if anything they were convincing themselves and their own sub-conscious that they where that good.

Now, once again I find myself setting goals and wanting to be the best there is. It's no different than an alcoholic desiring the next drink or a smoker wanting the next cigarette or even a drug addict needing the next fix. I wonder what gas will do if I shoot some up or possibly take a swig since it may be hard to light up?

Some of the best satisfaction I get from racing is sharing all the excitement with friends and family and it doesn't always have to be done in a car. And speaking of great athletes, not too long ago I took one of my favorite nephews with me to a race. It was in a favorite town where I had spent many a summer as a boy and a town where I had many a dream of someday owning or driving a fast car. As we sat in the seats of the grandstands watching the races all evening I couldn't help but think how ironic it was that I had lived across the street from the track long ago before the track was even built and now here I sat with a fine young man who possibly has the same dreams I did at his age. As the cars raced around the track I watched as he kept track of every lap they made never minding the dirt in the eyes as we both cheered for our favorites. During the very last race as the announcer mentioned the names of the drivers he said, "Hey... that's a friend of mine. We played football together. GO CODY!" It made the race even better and it was a good one too with the last two laps making it even more thrilling as the driver's own father was catching him on the track and almost pulled it off. People where screaming, fans cheering, cars crashing, beer that had bugs in it... what else could anyone ask for except to have such a fine young man along to share in all the fun? One of these days I hope to have him along for a race weekend so he can take a bigger part in the excitement and share in the adventure. Good things happen to good people. You may ask what this all has to do with La Carrera Panamericana. It's young people who have the dreams that and desires that send them onto the journeys that lead them to challanges that we accepting or mastering. Without the dreams the adventure means nothing.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Being left behind

A few weeks ago Jon and I went to Sears Point (Infineon) to race in a 3 hour enduro and while there I was supposed to meet up with Gerie Bledso (The North American La Carrera Panamericana director) and meet some drivers and see their cars that had or are going to drive the La Carrera Panamericana. But when we got there on Sunday I found only one race car there and Gerie since the cars that ran the day before had some bad luck or problems and they had all left.

This weekend there was another race and some more La Carrera Panamericana cars and drivers were supposed to attend so I was really excited about meeting them. Jon and I had originally made plans to attend on Saturday but some things came up so we went on Sunday only to find the exact same chain of events happened again. Bummer!

I feel like a little boy that was left behind as the men went to war and now it looks as if I won't get to see any of these cars or meet the drivers for months since they will all be leaving in a few days to run this years La Carrera Panamericana and after that as is the norm, nobody will be attending any races for some time since they will be burned out from a long year of preparation not to mention the thousands of miles of driving and racing involved in this grueling race. But that's ok, because I have more than enough to keep me busy getting my own car ready even though I would have loved to see some of the tricks on their cars and pick their brains for ideas.

On the other hand, no day at the race track is a bad day and Jon and I had a great time and a podium finish as well so not all was lost. I also went for a ride on the track with a friend's car and even took my new pick up out on the track for a few laps (parade laps) to make it an official racing truck since it will be used to tow the car to Mexico next year.

There are many reasons why different guys with different life-styles enjoy racing and Jon and I enjoy cars as much as the next guy and possibly even more however one of the reasons I enjoy his company so much is because when we are in between races or on the drives to the tracks we find ourselves talking about days gone by and experiences we have had along the way and eventually we find ourselves talking about what we love more than anything in the world... Our wives and family. Racing is great but priorities are more important and Jon has them in the proper order.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Precious Metals

OK, so not everything we find here in California is gold but it's close. When my buddy in Fresno California said, "Just wait until you see what I have got for you." and I first laid my eyes on the empty little tub of a car I realized it was love at first site. What I saw was a shell of a 1965 Shelby GT350 that was literally stripped of everything. Besides the doors laying on the ground next to it and the missing front end, hood, trunk lid, ALL the interior, pedals, transmission, engine hood and everything else you can think of (including the paint) I began to look closer at the photos he sent and realized... This car doesn't even have a friggin piece of wire in it! When I began to price out all of the goodies, fasteners, wiring, switches, trim parts, light assembly's and everything else it started becoming apparent this was going to be cost prohibitive. Now it was time to begin looking for a donor car; a car that possibly was wrecked or in need of lots of love so I could pick it up for a song and then use the needed parts as I needed them.

After a few days of searching around the Internet it became clear that even a wrecked 1965 Mustang was not going to be cheap and it was all becoming a bit of a bummer as I continued to find myself making phone calls farther and farther out of my area code. But on a whim today I called my office manager and asked for the phone number of a wrecking yard we use from time to time. My thinking was that since he specializes primarily in Japanese cars he would surely not have a Mustang however he may just know of someone who has one. It was just before closing time and I was surprised that he even answered so late on a Saturday evening but I was even more surprised when he said, "Sure I have a 1965 Mustang and if you hurry I will hang around so you can come and check it out."

I didn't waste any time getting there and when I saw the poor little car and looked it over he began telling me, "Believe it or not it runs great and I think the 289 has just been rebuilt. My son was going to fix it up and drive it around but he just never got around to it. This car was a match made in Heaven for what I want it for and it has almost everything I need so we shook hands on it and it will be towed to my shop next week.

Virtual Reality and Horsepower

I just got off the phone with my engine builder who has built many awesome engines that have won me numerous championships not to mention major races for Team California's Best. Over the years I have had major involvement with small block Fords which is the engine of choice in this car and more specifically this race. Knowing a lot about these engines having built many of them over the years is definitely a plus but in this race there are several major differences that will throw a lot of my experience out the window. The major difference is the high altitude we will be racing in that being anywhere from 4000 to 10,000 feet above sea-level. The high altitude causes multiple problems with loss of compression, power out of the hole, heating and even some braking concerns. This is where having a expert engine builder comes into play. I give them all the information and known facts and they use not only their memory backs and professional experience but they also have some major technological tools and equipment to help formulate the optimum engine for the task at hand.

One such tool is a computer dyno where all of the known information (i.e., compression ratio, carburetor flow, cam angles, head chamber design and flow and more) and a computerized dyno run is performed which enables us to see exactly how well our "Notes on a napkin" will perform in reality. In speaking with my engine builder he tells me his past experiences with this method has resulted in finished products that where within 3 percent of what they had in the computer. That's not bad at all and what a savings it is versus building an engine only to find out on a dyno run that something wasn't quite perfect.

He is leaving this coming week for the SCCA National Championships and in a week when he returns we will begin plugging info into the computer.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who said there's no more gold in California?

Striking gold!

One thing I have been looking for is a rear end out of a 1975 Lincoln Versailles. This rear end is a large Ford 9 inch rear end with the largest bearings available from Ford and it has factory installed brake calipers. With only a few small modifications it will bolt right in the GT350R. This enables me to have four wheel disc brakes which are a major requirement for the rugged La Carrera Panamericana Race and is far better than using aftermarket rear brake caliper systems which tend to cause brake failures. (Something we don't need.)

Well, the great news today is I struck gold and not only did I find one but in fact it's located in Sacramento California which is only a couple hours drive away and makes for an easy pickup.

How Jon and I ran into each other

Tomorrow Jon and I will be up bright an early and on our way for a day of racing at Sear's Point. (That would Infineon for those of you who don't speak "corporate rule.") Sears Point holds lot of special memories for both Jon and myself...Since I was a teenager I have watched many of the greatest of all time drivers work their magic at this track. Little did I know that this was destine to be one of my home tracks where I would end up spending more than my fair share of track time. Now that I think about it, this is the first place I ran into Jon... Literally. We where racing in the "California's Best Pro Sedan Series" during a championship race. At full speed coming thru the fastest section of the track Jon made a daring outside pass at the entrance of turn 9. On a good day it would have been no problem but I guess Jon forgot it was wet that day and we tapped ever so gently which caused me to begin an extremely good looking slide down the middle of the track. The end result was I backed into the tire wall in turn 10 but I was able to keep it far enough out of the wall that there was no damage and I was still able to keep my position in the race. As soon as I pulled into my paddock spot Jon was there to greet me and apologize, asking me if I was ok and to see how my car was. I remember that same smile Jon had that day and it's the same one he wears today. It's a racer's smile... the kind that can be very hard to get mad at or the same one that is warning you you're about to receive a can of "whoop-ass." Lucky for Jon it was the prior. LOL. That was my introduction to Jon and one I was lucky to enjoy.

Now this weekend Jon and I are going to Sears Point not only to race bit to meet some of the guys that are bringing cars that have ran in the La Carrera Panamericana. I am looking forward not only to meeting them and seeing their cars but also to talk to them and pick their brains for information not to mention see how their cars are set up and hear some of their stories.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Why a Shelby GT350 R-Model?

Some interesting trivia about why I chose the Shelby GT350R.

The newest model year car that can run in the La Carrera Panamericana is a 1965 so that narrowed the field down as to what my choices would be. In the Historica "C" Class that we will run in much of the car is required to be original. Again part of my choice is simply because much of the 1965 GT350 R-Model car was in fact lightweight making it an obvious choice and don't forget the fact these cars dominated the race tracks and highways for years.

The GT350R Model Shelbys were unique in that they represented the first time an American manufacture offered a strictly-for-racing competition model which could be purchased from a dealer and which would require nothing after delivery. Essentially it was "Race -Ready". In 1965 or 1966 you could walk into any Shelby dealership, purchase a full-specification GT350 R-Model and take it (by trailer because these cars were never intended to be driven on the street) directly to the race track and race it.

There are many exciting features that where available in these machines that were as exciting to a racer as the car. One description of this car was the mention in an advertisement as having "Fire-proof Interior." This was because all of the stock Mustang upholstery and insulation were deleted. On introduction, Shelby gave notice to all Corvette racers that, "The only time a Corvette would see Victory Lane is if a Shelby GT350 didn't show up."

Another special feature of the 1965 GT350 R-Model was a 20 pound weight saving was gained by using a Plexiglas rear window. It was unique with a 1-inch space at the top which acted as a duct to remove air accumulating inside the car and introducing it as a layer of air over the rear window at speeds. This created what is known as a "Laminar flow" a principal that added an extra 5 horsepower to the car's top speed.

There are many other reasons for choosing this car besides these few items and based on past personal experience with many muscle and race cars alike including the Shelby I still own and I am positive this is the best choice for the La Carrera Panamericana and us. It is going to fit more like a glove than a car.... racing glove that is.

Time is running out

I can't believe it, I haven't even picked up the car yet and already there is less than 12 months to build the car and prepare everything for the race. There is so much research to do yet, parts to locate let alone work to be done... Oh yeah, and a life to live, family to raise and a business to run. I am a big fan of putting itineraries down on paper not only to help with a visual reference to see how realistic things look but also as a check off sheet and as items get checked off sometimes it helps me find other items that may need attention. So as I was putting a time line together things looked good but from experience I also know all too often time limes fall behind schedule. My goal is to stay as close to the time line as possible which will help me sleep nights.

Monday, October 02, 2006

How do you know if you're lucky?

Someone asked me today how I really felt about luck and race cars. Here are a few favorite quotes that pretty much sum it up for me...

"I am a strong believer in luck and I find the harder I work the more I have of it." -
-- Benjamin Franklin

"Fortune has rarely condescended to be the companion of genius." - -- Isaac Disraeli

Luck Favors the Prepared Mind

He worked by dayand toiled by nightHe gave up playand some delightDry books he readnew things to learnand forged aheadsuccess to earnHe plodded onwith faith and pluckand when he wonthey called it luck
"Men live at the mercy of forces they cannot control. Belief in fortune and luck, good and evil, is one of the most widespread and persistent of human beliefs." - John Dewey

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" - Seneca, Roman Dramatist

"Fortes fortuna adiuvat" (Fortune favors the brave) - Latin proverb

"You make your own luck"

"Luck is the residue of design" - Branch Rickey

The bottom line is, from experience having won many long endurance races, I can tell you sure there were some lucky moments, but at the same time in retrospect I know most of them were a result of "What if" preparation. Success breeds success and luck is simply it's off-spring. A man can count on too much luck but he can never be too prepared.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Lucky is with us

When I was a young man I lost a good friend at much too early of an age. I will always remember him as a fine gentleman that had such a mature nature but at the same time he had a wild side that demanded respect from everyone in his presence. His name was Lucky Siewell and he was someone that everyone enjoyed calling their best friend. Lucky had one of those smiles that melted the gals and put all the guys at rest. Lucky drove one of the most beautiful Fords I have ever seen to this day. It was a red and white Ford Sunliner with the retractable hardtop that folded into the trunk and it had custom red and white tuck and roll interior. What a car and Lucky knew how to make that bad boy lit up the highway.

I was blessed to have had him and his wife Rosie as my friends like so many others. I have never forgotten Lucky and many times over the last 40 years he has stood out in my memories as being one of those guys that I wished was still around and I miss him. For that reason I would like to save a spot on this car to place Lucky's name so he can tag along in spirit as we raise some hell in Mexico. I can't think of anyone more fitting to have ridding along with us than him. Hang on Lucky, we're going to Guatemala, flipping a U-turn and coming home

Going to the Jon

While doing my research in preparation for this race I realized one major difference is that to do well in this race one needs the help of a good navigator. Now the first thought I had was how terrible it is having a navigator telling me what to do... "SLOW DOWN!... TURN, TURN, TURN!... Go left!. Go Right! NO, I SAID RIGHT!..... YOU MISSED THE TURN!!!! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!" But that's enough about my wife.

My decision as to who I wanted to be my navigator and co-driver on this race was a simple one. I chose Jon Emerson because first of all he's already a member of California's Best Racing Team but also because he's the kind of driver I trust and trust is the common denominator when it comes to having a voice in your helmet telling you, "STEP ON IT... YOU CAN MAKE IT!" Over the years Jon and I have fought hard against each other when we competed and in every case each of us knew that regardless of how fast we were going, we could trust each other door to door as we took corners at breath-taking speeds. Later on in our racing we gelled to become teammates and I have learned several things about Jon... First and foremost is he knows and understands the word "TEAM". But equally as important is he wants to win. There is always the possibility that I may have a bad day for whatever reason and having a teammate like Jon is an important decision since he needs to be supportive and will probably share in some of the driving.

But Jon has even more than just those few attributes. He brings a lot more to the table. Jon is a wiz when it comes to all things electronic and more and it is also due to his work related field that we have made some contacts with the movie production field and some doors have been opened.

As events happen there will be plenty more to hear about Jon and our friendship and this journey we are taking together. It's also very important to both of us how supportive our wives and families have been with regards to this adventure and they are equally major in this as well. The botton line is... going to the Jon isn't always a bad thing.
Here's a taste of the La Carrera from 2005 - Enjoy!
(It's in French...but still enjoyable)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Racing is Passion

The smell of burning rubber, tires spinning on the tarmac, the purr of the car engine – all of these can turn into the biggest adrenaline push for the spectator. It continues. The sight of cars roaring past in a blur is heart-stopping. As the frantic mechanics desperately try to keep their machines working in top gear and the drivers race past to touch the checkered flag, we are forced to believe that there is no sport quite as exciting as motor racing.

Everyone who has prepared for a major world class race knows the sleepless nights that accompany the dreams. What can I do to better prepare? What can I expect? What can I not expect? What I do know is to not expect luck. Luck is only a bonus for winners and winners never count on luck, they orchestrate it. Not at all unlike a Conductor of a philharmonic orchestra, we must give command and direction to every single instrument so that the flow and energy of all that takes place with every single breath and movement will in the end find it's way into some special nerve we call gratification, fulfillment and achievement. Regarding command, Hemingway wrote, "There are people who love command and in their eagerness to assume it they are impatient at the formalities of taking over from someone else. I love command since it is the ideal welding of freedom and slavery. You can be happy with your freedom and when it becomes too dangerous you take refuge in your duty. I was bored with this since I knew myself and my defects and strengths too well and they permitted me little freedom and much duty." Any racer worth his salt understands damn good and well what Hemingway meant.

This is a real adventure, the kind of adventure young boys dream of... the kind of adventure men have that remind them of how to be a young boy again. Just realizing how many famous drivers have set off on the very same adventure before us is overwhelming and to even consider the thought of being amongst their names is trophy enough. The thought of actually winning is.... There are no words that can describe how a racer's mind and heart feels. Not even a romantic can describe what love feels like let alone the love affair between a driver, the pedals, and the steering wheel. Racing is our mistress.

From the time I sat behind the wheel of a performance race car at the age of 8 years I knew what it was I needed to do to make me happy and now it's a matter of feeling complete.

Like my navigator, Jon, said it best... "It’s got foreign travel, fast cars, racing, lots of rich boys and their outrageous toys, what’s not to like?" In reality it's so much more. You have to have the dream; a dream that takes years to understand and want. You have to have the desire to live life on the edge for this is what makes you alive. You have to have years of undying love and respect for all things automotive and mechanical before you can even consider building a machine that will even begin to take you on such an adventure. You have to be afraid because without fear, there is no satisfaction of any accomplishment. If there where, we would simply go to Safeway, purchase a cheap bottle of bubbly and stand in our back yard and spray each other while the wives took photos. I would rather sit on some park bench and feed dead pigeons. Possibly Shakespeare said it best;

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
omitted, all the voyage of their life
is bound in shallows and in miseries;
or lose our ventures.

Preparing for this race is not like any other race. Most of the time when we think about competing in a race, all we really have to do is start preparing whatever car we intend to run. However, in this case there is no car to start off with. So I had to consider so many things... what kind of car, what kind of engine, and there are so many details to consider and the list of them is often overwhelming. Many types of racing make it much easier because you can simply look around for a good deal on a decent race car that is already set up and has most of the trick items required of that series. When building a car from the ground up you need every single component and in this case there is really no blue-print for the basics as the rules are very lax to say the least and often open to interpretation. And there can be no compromise for quality and safety.

Other considerations that need to be taken into account are the facts that this race is being run at much higher altitudes than most races with heights of anywhere from 4,000 feet to 10,000. The basic rule of thumb is that whatever engine you build at those altitudes will lose one third of it's horsepower. And if that's not enough to deal with the high altitude also creates other issues to deal with such as running hot, lack of acceleration and even some brake issues just to name a few. Speaking of lack of acceleration... the Historic class is only allowed to run a 500cfm two barrel carburetor. This means that regardless of how much horsepower I can squeeze out of the small-block engine we have to learn not only how to make the best uses of fuel management but also how to drive accordingly. Once again, this is an issue that is not the norm for most racers and just a few that makes the La Carrera Panamericana so difficult and demanding on mechanics and drivers alike.

In this race I have choen to build and drive a 1965 Shelby GT 350 clone. The reason I chose this car is simple... First of all the newest car that can be entered is 1965. The next reason is my love affair and life long personal involvement with both Carol Shelby and Shelbys. History itself has proven time and time again how agile and dominating one of them can be. Carol Shelby himself has raced in this race and even broke his arms doing it but still speaks of it as one of the most demanding and respected races in the world and racing history.

While I intend to maximize the horsepower from my engine I have raced in enough endurance races to know that horsepower is not the key but rather a well prepared and strong engine has far more benefits than raw high horsepower. That is not to say we will have both but some sacrifices will be made to ensure being there for the long haul.

Certain sections of this race will be won by high speed while others will be won by cars that rotate well on the windy, tight cornered roads that run along intimidating cliffs and one never knows what may be in the middle of the road around the next turn. For that same reason, an engine that would normally use a high RPM power band may be better off having a curve that kicks in at a lower range for better acceleration off corners. Now we need to do a lot of research to decide which carb jets to use and when will we change them... where will we test this before going to Mexico and so on. Other considerations to deal with are which rear-end gears will we use? Will we change them between different events along the way or do we get the much needed sleep at night that will be needed? Other tings to consider are every time you work on something there is the possibility that something might be missed, break or God knows what. Sometimes we learn to just keep it simple and "DRIVE THE DAMN CAR."

In the next couple weeks I hope to pick up the car. It is in a wrecking yard over in the Central Valley and to most it is a terrible site. But to me it is a jewel and if it was not love at first sight I don't know what is. It has holes in it, no motor, transmission... Hell what am I saying... it hasn't got ANYTHING! This little jewel is from my home state of Oregon and that makes it sentimental from the get-go. Besides, it sure makes it a lot easier to remove everything for the sand-blasting appointment already set up. Then the rusty body panels will be replaced and then to our good friend and master cage builder Anthony Vanni for a full on roll-cage complete with Nascar door bars on both doors since Jon will be navigating as well. From there the car will be taken to a body shop for a complete inside/outside/under paint job. After that it should be back at California's Best to begin preparation for a history making event.

The research for this race and car not to mention Jon and myself have found me living, eating and sleeping La Carrera Panamericana. And did I mention there is a good possibility this entire adventure may be documented for a major TV show from start to finish? More on that later.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The quest begins....

In the next 14 months you we will take you through our journey to the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana. Stay's going to be one wild ride!