Sunday, September 30, 2007

Race cars that dance to the music

It's Sunday morning, the sun is up and I am completely and totally relaxed. Over a year ago when Jon and I spoke about the possibilities of running the La Carrera Panamericana he asked me for a time-line which I tediously wrote up in great detail and in retrospect I am extremely satisfied with how well that time-line has served us especially considering how far behind the original body shop fell off that schedule before I was forced to take Lucky away from them. One of the last paragraphs in capital letters on that time-line was,


Yes, there are still a few minor items Jon and I need to attend to on Lucky but with more than two weeks before we leave I can with all confidence honestly say, "Lucky if ready for the La Carrera Panamericana." I find those words so full of self satisfaction, personal achievement, content, peace of mind and reward but equally as important is the unselfish sacrifices made by family and friends that has allowed us all this personal glory and gloating to come to be.

I am sure the next two weeks will go by at a blistering speed but I intend to enjoy my family before leaving with only two relaxing weekends left. Any good driver will tell you that a good race car has many similarities to a doctors scalpel or even a musician's instrument. Owning a piano will not make the musician play like Billy Joel. Having a scalpel in one's hands will not help you perform a delicate surgery. Anyone can build a great race car to run a rally race but knowing exactly how to control, and make one perform much the same way that a Flamenco dancer and guitarist work together is quite another reality. Sure I am relaxed today but my mind still dreams of dancing thru the twisting mountain roads of Mexico while Jon uses the log book to strum out the musical notes we call speed.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Open your eyes dummy!

A popular game that children have played for centuries is that of closing their eyes and pretending to be blind as they attempt to walk thru the house or an obstacle course without hitting their shins. Speaking from experience I can tell you no matter how hard they try they will never truly know what it's like to really comprehend the true meaning of total darkness. No matter how hard they close their eyes or how tight they pull the blindfold in the back of their subconscious they know they will be able to open their eyes and see again. Due to a freak accident when I was young, I knew that terrible emptiness of opening my eyes but seeing nothing. But thanks to God, my parents unwillingness to give up and the miracles of modern medical science and blessed with the power of positive thinking here I am today ready to go race in a 2000 mile race in Mexico.

Why talk about being blind you ask? In the majority of racing that I have been involved with over the last 45 years for the most part I could practice on the track to become familiar with it. That isn't going to happen in this years La Carrera Panamericana. Oh sure we will have a book that tells us every single turn, straight, hill and how fast and so forth but taking a corner flat out without hesitation because your team mate sitting beside you is telling you the book tells you that's the way it's done.... Well, you surely get my point. Try closing your eyes real tight and then try running thru the house..... Strike that... Try running thru someone else's house at full speed while someone tells you, "Turn right.... Go straight... Left, watch out for that coffee table. Oh crap, that's going to leave a mark."

The majority of competitors running this years Historica C class have run these very roads several times before not to mention some are professional rally drivers. The truth of the matter is this is their house and we are the invited guest. Remember what the spider said to the fly?

The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt (1799-1888)

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly;

“‘Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.

The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,

And I have many curious things to show when you are there.”

“Oh no, no,” said the little fly; “to ask me is in vain,

For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

Jon and I do not intend to end up on the spider's dinner table. Does this make me feel less likely to do well? Not at all. In fact one thing Jon and I have learned over years of successful endurance driving is that winning isn't all about speed. It's about consistency. In every sport known to man consistency is the key to success. And if there is one thing I can guarantee it is that there is the "luck" and the "over confident" factor both of which will take out a few teams.

Today I learned that there are several teams in our class that are coming with some of the best team support known to racing. Does that bother me? Of course not because I am confident we fall into that very category. Furthermore Jon and I are the type of competitors that feel if we win we want to do it against the very best their is or else why even race. We know any true competitor we run against will feel the same way.

This evening I watched a very well done video that I found over at FLATOVERCREAST.COM where follows Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino to New Zealand for the 2007 Hella International Rally of Whangarei. Ken takes us through the recce and pacenote process, and talks about pushing the limits. Produced and filmed by Formula Photographic for

During this interview Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino talk about how it is impossible for even a professional rally driver to compete with those who have been able to run it countless times before them. Ken Block goes on to explain how he and his co-driver are allowed to pre dive the course and then create their own notes and the doubts they sometimes have. Even though they are unhappy with their DNF but being the true competitors that they are they turn right around and talk about how much they learned at this course what a good thing it is for the next time they return. The bottom line is real competitors are always planing ahead and they know in their mind they are eventually going to be on the podium.

Enjoy the video...

A Boy Scout is always prepared

But a Boy Scout with with a Dodge Viper GTS is even better prepared. As we all know there are numerous requirements for any race car but how many times do you ever hear of some of the following items being required... Spare tire and jack, tool kit. 2 red waring flags, first aid kit and don't forget 2 cervical neck collars, you know, the kind the paramedics place on you when you've done something bad. Well, these are just a few of the things on the "requirement list" that are mandatory in order to compete in the La Carrera Panamericana. It's important to remember many times we will be hours away from any sort of medical attention and that's if they find you down in some canyon right away. There may be times when the old saying, "Every man for himself" may apply so being prepared is important.

Speaking of spare tire and jack, I wanted something compact, light and easy to use so when I saw the jack and handle in my Dodge Viper complete with leather case I knew exactly what I was going to use. Today I tried it out just to make sure it raised the car high enough and it worked perfectly. And why wouldn't it? After all, the Shelby and the Viper are kissing cousins.

While Jon worked on some of the navigation and communication systems today I installed the fire extinguisher. Jon insisted it be near his seat right between his legs and I couldn't help but wonder why. Hmm.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How it all began

Someone asked me today, "How did you get started in racing?" In retrospect I suppose I owe it all to my father. I grew up on a large ranch in Southwestern Oregon and we lived about 10 miles from town so if you wanted to go to town and be home before dinner you had better find a way to be fast. Actually it all began long before I was driving cars. I enjoyed my first encounter with horsepower when I had my first hose at the age of 5 months. Even though I we lived on a ranch horses where ok and even though I really enjoyed riding my bikes it was the speed of go-carts that really got me hooked on speed. Since the paved road on our ranch was a few miles long with hills, corners and long straight a ways not to mention lined with trees and barbed wire fences not to mention a few cliffs it was really invigorating to say the least.

Some of my first go-carts didn't have clutches so they had to be push started to get them going. My best friend would come over and he would push me down the short hill which was our driveway. As soon as the engine began to pop and catch he would jump on the rear of the cart and hang on for all he was worth. I used to love doing a four wheel drift onto the flat pavement of the main road and then really let her open up. One day he jumped on as I pushed the throttle but I guess I gave it a little too much. As I looked back to see what felt so different all I saw was his ass and arms flying across the road like a rock skipping on the water. As I looked backwards in fear thinking he would be injured for life I didn't realize where I was heading and it didn't take long to feel the steering wheel slam into my rib-cage as I crashed into a ditch along the road. As I ran back towards where he laid in the road I thought I could see and hear him crying in pain. When I finally reached him and saw him holding his bloody hand I realized he was crying... He was laughing his ass off. When he finally stopped laughing enough so he could talk he said, "If only you could have seen the look on your face just before you ran off the road. And then after you disappeared out of sight and crashed your wheel came flying out of the ditch! Boy were those the days.

My father who was in the lumber business was a workaholic and even though we had a beautiful workshop with every possible tool you could think of he was typically too busy to get involved in my hang ups with making everything go faster than it was safe to go. But there were a few times that stand out in my memory like the times he came over and found me working on my go-carts and said, "Hey, there's a race on TV and I thought you might enjoy watching it with me." Considering this was back in the 60's when auto races where almost unheard of that was just about the coolest words that could ever come out of a father's mouth to a young boy. Road racing was made out to be such a glamorous affair, one that was primarily for the jet-set Playboy way of life. I can remember watching as I sat only a few feet from the television set and hearing my father get almost as excited as I was.

It was those evenings while attempting to finish my homework that the daydreams began to occur. Visions of me in a green Lotus ripping off the gears passing everything at breakneck speeds in front of large crowds of spectators. Then I could almost feel the G-forces pressing me back and to one side of the cockpit and then the other while corners to almost pass by before I ever got to them in the first place.

There came a day when my father asked me what I was doing to my car and then asked if he could show me a thing or two. As if it were only this afternoon I remember handing him a screwdriver and then stood back as he dialed in the carb adjustments and how amazed I was that my car sounded so different with what seemed like such a simple adjustment. As he stood up and handed me the screwdriver he said, "Let's take'er out now and she what she'll do." As I eased down the road he eventually said, "I thought we were going to see how fast this damn thing was."

There was another day that truly is prominent in my mind. I had made the ten hour drive from California to go visit my parents in Oregon and when I got to the ranch my mother greeted me at the door with her usual open arms and she said, "It's so good to see you and your father will be so glad to know you're here." When I asked where he was she told me he was helping out one of the other rancher's with his tractor and would be home soon. Then she said something I will never forget... "You father just loves to tell everyone how amazing you are with race cars." I must tell you I was shocked... "Dad talks about me and cars? But it's dad who is the ace mechanic and he's the one who always knew it all." Then my mother told me, "Just the other day he was talking to one of his friends and he told them that in all his years he had never seen anyone that knew more about cars or that could tear apart an engine, transmission or whatever and put it back together faster than you. Then he told him that he had seen you take the carburetors off your car, fix them up and put them back on the car and they would be better than anyone could ever come close too. He even told them how you used to come home after school, change your transmission or clutch in less than an hour before you went back to town to pick up your date. Gary, he's just so proud of you."

My father was a man of so few words and for that reason alone I cherished hearing those things from him and my mother more so than one could ever imagine. I hadn't even realized he was aware what I had been doing to my car all those times. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to have him here with me now let alone be able to take him to Mexico with us on this adventure. Some months ago I wrote how I had carried one of his pocket knives with me while I was on safari in Africa and how I might want to have something of his with me while in Mexico. I have already set aside some of the very hand tools that where his in a special place. In fact they would be the very same wrenches that I used from his tools when I was working on my cars those so many years ago. I know Jon will be sitting in the navigator's seat next to me but I know I will still occasionally hear his voice saying, "Come on, let's see what this baby will do." It was that voice that had a lot to do with how I got started racing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rolling stone gathers no moss

Tomorrow it will be just 21 days until we leave for Mexico. Boy, when things start to happen all hell breaks loose. Like everyone else I too have far too many times have for one reason or another lost track of friends. Some move away, some get married, some take on new jobs and a million other reasons but the end result is one day we wake up and ask ourselves, "I wonder where Marc and Kathy are?" Well, that is exactly what happened to one of my best friends Roger Dauffenbach whom I used to spend lots of time with back in my Stanford University days. We both loved performance cars and water skiing. Roger primarily spent hours building custom 4X4's that he used to make famous four-wheel runs like the famous RUBICON TRAIL. Trust me, if you don't know anything about the Rubicon you don't know what REAL 4-wheeling is all about. Roger and I used to have a blast and like I mentioned.. one day Roger was gone.

Some 25 years later, it was just a little over a year ago while I was talking to a performance warehouse in Reno Nevada regarding some research on building this years car for the La Carrera Panamericana. The owner told me he had another customer who had a La Carrera Panamericana car and as exciting as that was to hear I damn near fell off my chair when he told me the guy's name... Roger Dauffenbach! It was such a great day when we got back in touch on the phone after all those years and we have been trying to find time ever since to get together and relive old times.

But today I got an awesome e-mail. It was none other than... You guessed it, Roger! Roger told me he will be crewing for La Carrera Panamericana team of Bruce Redding from the U.S.A and his navigator Ronald McRae from Mexico driving their Subaru STI in the Exhibicion Class. Roger, Bruce and Ronald ran in the 2007 Expresso de Chihuahua which was a prelim to this years La Carrera Panmericana held in Northern Mexico. How darn cool is THAT! Boy will we have lots to talk about let alone sharing an amazing adventure together after all these years. What are the odds? Without a doubt Roger is one of those guys who can make a room light up by just walking past the door and I am betting it's going to get just a little bit wilder in Mexico if that's even possible. I can't wait for my team and myself to see him and meet his team. This just keeps getting better and better.

True to form with Roger, I have to laugh after reading an interview I found in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza News when they wrote an article about his racing. "When Incline resident Roger Dauffenbach was growing up in the small farm town of Colusa, Calif. he enjoyed stealing cars.

Now the 54-year-old Dauffenbach is taking his love for adrenaline rushes to the speedway. In fact, last Sunday he took his equipped-for-racing 1998 white Mustang Cobra and his navigator, Stephen Bramlitt, to the Silver State Classic Challenge Inc. in Lund, Nev. where they placed eighth in the 125 mph category.

"I was a kid growing up in a farm town and that's what you did," he said. "You stole a car and went for a ride." But he admits he did get in trouble for his actions."
I guess I better keep an eye on Roger or he may just steal some cars in Mexico. LOL.

Lucky is GF350

I still laugh... Some years ago my mother in law drove a Ferrari and her license plate frame said, "My other car is a broom." I was fortunate to have bought an original Shelby GT500 off the show room floor back in in 1968 and still have that car to this day. Needless to say, it has been a great adventure unto itself. Believe it or not it's amazing but I can recall there were days when people didn't even know who or what a Shelby was. But all that is just another page in the annals of the Shelby legend. During that time there has been a few owners of Shelbys who get all worked up over people building what they call "Wanna-Be" Shelbys or as their better known "Clones." I am also very lucky to have known Carroll Shelby personally since the early 70's and have enjoyed a long lasting friendship with him. He knows of my build and has been very supportive of it right from the start. After all, he's a car guy and he also ran the La Carrera Panamericana and he didn't even drive a Shelby. Who knows. if he had maybe he wouldn't have crashed and broken his arm.

Over the years I have been displeased when I hear owners of real Shelbys or Shelby club members get upset and make such a big deal out of someone building a clone for their personal satisfaction. As long as they don't try to pass it off as a real one on some unsuspecting investor I see nothing wrong with it whatsoever. Excuse me but what really pisses me off is those times when someone is proudly showing off their clone that they have worked so hard on when some idiot makes it a point to say out loud, "That's not a REAL Shelby." as if they are "Mr Expert". Imitation may indeed be the highest form of flattery but jealousy is in fact the lowest form of self esteem I can think of.

Anyone that knows me knows my love of everything automotive and how many years I have enjoyed all forms of working in the automotive field on both stock and performance endeavors. With regards to performance there is nothing lacking on Lucky that can be found on any "real" Shelby and I would welcome anyone willing to go as many laps door to door on any road course as they would like to compare those claims. Since I built Lucky with my own two hands and out of respect to the awesome machines that Carroll built not to mention all those great drivers and teams that raced them into the history books I have decided to call Lucky a "GF350" and for those who have a problem with someone building or owning a clone, they can kiss my royal butt. PS: My other car is REAL Shelby. LOL.

I would like to thank Anthony my son in law for the excellent job he did installing the side stripes.

The documentary cometh!

You may have noticed that we had a little interview with Gary in our last post. Well, that was a little hint of what we're finally able to announce publicly. We've secured the deal on the production of the documentary of our La Carrera Adventure. Strange Media, in association with Siris Media Productions and Access Video will be documenting the entire La Carrera event from within the Team California's Best camp.

The finished documentary will chronicle the entire process of building and running Lucky the Shelby in one of the worlds truly legendary races. We'll have an embedded camera crew with us during the entire event, filming everything in HD! That ought to bring it all to life. We're grateful to everyone involved for pulling this together, and look forward to the finished product. If you're interested in getting your own copy, let us know! We'll be happy to put you on the list and notify you when it's available.

We also have a major sponsorship announcement to make, but are working through some of the final details before we do that. We should have something more on that before the week is out.

In the meantime, enjoy a little taste of the in-car video we shot at Sears Point last weekend. Keep in mind that we were there to make sure everything ran right and nothing rubbed, fell off, leaked, etc. We never even came close to pushing what the car has to offer. Hang's gonna be a wild ride!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lucky... A huge success!!!

After the usual mandatory stop at Starbucks for Jon it was early morning when we left for the track. The sky was black, it was cold and raining and we knew we would be out on a slippery track with a whole slew of rookies. When we arrived at the track it didn't look like it was going to get any better. While I went to the driver's meeting Jon and Will finished checking out some driver/navigation equipment to make sure our helmet mics and ear buds were working.
It seemed like time passed by in a heartbeat and before we knew what was happening we had already been on grid and were pulling out onto the traffic along with about 40 other cars about mid pack. We knew the purpose was to just shake the car down, nothing special, drive smooth, stay away from rookies and keep the shinny side up. After two laps behind the pace car we could begin to see somewhat of a line taking shape on the track as we felt the car out.

Here's the official first track run for Lucky as captured on video (this is a very rough, unedited clip from our documentary footage - which we will be giving you more information about very soon)

Some good news was early coming as soon as Jon began talking over the keyless communication system and it was as if you were listening to the pilot of a 747 talking over a multi-million dollar PA system. During the rest of the day that system worked flawlessly even over the noise of many race cars.

It was only about 5 laps into the session before we could see that a decent line had made itself present on the wet track and it wasn't long before we found ourselves out in front of the entire pack and we still hadn't opened it up. The main thing I wanted to accomplish during today was to basically drive around the track making sure every thing was working well, no rubbing, strange noises, smells, leaks and so on. Once I felt all was good with those priorities then we might do some testing and push it a little. But the longer we went the better the handling felt and getting the rear end happy was just as controlled as any driver could ever ask for. Let me tell you... Lucky can hold a line and when he plants himself you really know. I couldn't have been more pleased. As a matter of fact everything went so well we only ran a few sessions and packed up early and came home.

Here's a short clip of the interview we taped for our documentary during the test session-

Today is the first day I have honestly relaxed in 6 months and it was as if I had arrived home after a long trip. I have no idea how long it has been since I have spent the day truly doing what I love with my wife, son and best friend Jon but it was long over due and coming home with all four tires intact makes it that much better. By the way, the in-car camera with sound is nothing short of state of the art! Way to go Jon buddy!

We still have a couple big surprises to announce that I am not at liberty to discuss at this time but there are a few things that I can. I was pleased to meet one of the drivers of another team that will be running in this year's La Carrera Panamericana in the Exhibition Class. He is Colin Herrick who will be driving a BMW Mini Cooper S while his father navigates and is sponsored by Mini Mania. We had a chance to talk for a brief while before I had to go on track and I was looking forward to talking more and getting some photos of his very cool ride but he had some tech problems that didn't allow him to run. The good news is we will have plenty of time when we are in Mexico. Good luck with your tech issues Colin.

Parked near us in the paddock was a very special car or should I say it was very unique to me. Yes it was a mustang and if you saw it parked on the street you may not have even thought twice to look at it however my son told me I really needed to take a closer look. It was faded and could use a new paint job but the truth is that would probably ruin what made it so special. Standing close up you could easily make out the original paint on the door that said "SALINAS VALLEY FORD". Also on the rear fenders it said, "CAN AM ROUND 4" and "OFFICIAL PACE CAR, LAGUNA SECA 10/16/1966" Present at that very race were some of the biggest racing legends of all time. Just to name a few... Phil Hill, Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, George Follmer, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Eppie Wietzes, Sam Posey, Mark Donohue, Doug Revson, Al Unser. If that's not some impressive names then wait until you hear what cars they drove... Ford GT40, McLaren, Lola, Chaparral, 1966 McKee Olds Mk6 Can Am and the list goes on forever. The bottom line is this mustang has been in some awesome company in it's day. A few years after that event I was lucky to not only watch many of them on the same track but in fact spent the entire weekend with them in the pits while being a pit boy for none other than Dick Smothers. By the way, did I tell you how much this Mustang excited me?

The next time you hear someone complain about how much they pay for a gallon of gas show them the photo above of how much it cost me to top off my tank this morning. 15.3 gallons cost $98.93 and that was for low test. That is, low test considering I only used 112 octane as opposed to 114 and 116 respectfully.

There were a lot of great cars today and as usual there were more than a fair share of whale-tail Porsche's present but one of my favorites was there today as well. Check out the black and white. It seems everywhere Lucky goes the black and whites follow.

What a great ego boost it was to have so many compliments paid to Lucky from friends and racing fans alike and isn't that really what enjoying racing is all about... The love of great cars, friendship, laughter, excitement and even the sounds and smell. There was some great moments today besides the awesome results that Lucky put forth and there was one time when I laughed so hard that... well, that's one of those things I can't talk about so you'll just have to wait.

Before I close, I would like to mention my son in law. Without Anthony, this never would have come to be. He runs my business, deals with all my problems, stress and life as it is which makes this all a reality. While I am out testing and racing many times he stays behind to run things at home and business. He is a big part of TEAM CALIFORNIA'S BEST racing as well as the corporation. Even though he is a huge part of the team and has been at so many successful podium victories during these past years it saddens me to know he will not be accompanying us on this adventure due to his willingness and dedication to tend to business. I am so lucky to have such an wonderful family including my wife, daughter Charmagne, sons Will and Anthony who pick up all the pieces and even better that they have dedicated their lives to what it is we all love... racing.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Actually that's not really a lion sleeping. It's just Jon showing some of the guys how he expects to end up tomorrow after riding around a wet track with me driving. While he was there he thought it might be a good time to finish wiring up some of the camera and communication gear. We will finish the Terratrip at a later date.

Well, Ok so Lucky's a Cobra but the fact is he is resting on his trailer in my front yard anxiously awaiting tomorrow morning when we head out for Infineon International Raceway. I am more than familiar with Infineon (Still and always will be Sears Point to me) but Lucky has never seen it or any other track for that matter. My fingers are crossed that the shakedown will prove to be a good one that will result in finding what if any bugs that need addressing.

The weather has increased from 60 percent to 60 percent and windy. The good news is Infineon is one of the funnest tracks to run on when raining. The problem with that is, that slick tracks make it hard to drive hard and hear noises or feel things out so hopefully we will get a little of both. The bad news is it has some of the most unforgiving walls to be found. I had to laugh, one day Ron Cortez, owner of AIM TIRES that is headquartered at Infineon, and I were standing at turn 10 watching the American Lemans run. A Ponaz crashed into the big tire wall and it was messed up beyond repair. Another racer standing next to us said, "I didn't realize a tire wall could do so much damage." Ron began laughing and said, "Are you kidding me? The next time you have a chance walk out there and fell one of those tires. Those tires have been out there since the 60's. If you have a choice you are better off hitting the concrete walls than those tires."

So wish TEAM CALIFORNIA'S BEST as Jon and I take a ride around the track and hopefully like the song says, "The Lion Roars Tonight."

Is it right? Of course not.

There have been some last minute changes with regards to entries in this years La Carrera Panamericana in class Historic C which is the class we are competing in and the largest class in this years La Carrera Panamericana. Over a year we have built a car that had to meet specific requirements with respect to the rules set forth. One rule in particular was that no car newer than a 1965 would be allowed unless it was a car that didn't have any major changes from the previous year. For example, a 1966 GT350 was the same as a 1965. Like many others, there were many reasons I chose the specific car that I did but had I known that later model cars would have been legal I may very well have done some things different. For example, one of my favorite cars is my 1968 GT500 and it has factory adjustable lower control arms which the 65 does not just to name one advantage. But now, with less than 30 days until race day several cars that would NOT have been legal just a few weeks ago have been approved to run in this years race. Is it fair? Hey, it's their race. Is it right? Of course not. Should those who choose to be part of it feel good about it? I think it would be about as cool as being allowed to run a 79 Chevy Monte Carlo in the Monterey Historics. What happened to all the talk about TRADITION? I don't have a problem with rule changes but any responsible organization knows if rules are going to be changed you don't do them in the middle of a season let alone this late in the year. It is my opinion those cars should have been required to run in the Exhibition class and leave the time honored tradition rules untainted.

Well, that's enough controversy for now and besides it's all in fun, right? Riiight. On another note, how ironic that tomorrows test day is scheduled to be a wet one with 60 percent chance of rain. It seems fitting however considering Lucky came from my home state of Oregon and I'm sure he will feel just fine on the black and slippery.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sit down, buckle up and hold on tight

Today was a great day. I got the clutch issues all sorted out and now the clutch is PERFECT! There is a small glitch with the transmission but at this point I have decided to take it to the track and see what happens. It may simply be some sort of burr so either it will blow to hell in a hand basket or be just fine. At any rate I will have time to deal with in over the next two weeks. I prefer not to have to pull it but I would rather do it here than along side the road in Mexico.

Today I got the navigator's seat installed, made some changes in the fuel routing system, emptied the fuel cell so I could correctly adjust the fuel gauge and rerouted the vent hose for the fuel cell. This evening while I finished puting on nylon ties on the roll bar padding Jon worked on the video cameras and radio equipment. With a few more small things to take care of tomorrow, we will put Lucky on his trailer so we can leave early to test at the track.

The pressure is on

Yesterday the roll bar padding and window nets were installed and we made some adjustments to the clutch linkage. The padding and window nets look great but I am not happy with the way the clutch is operating at all and I only have today and tomorrow to get it sorted out or else we will not be able to test this weekend.

And by the way, Happy Birthday To Me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I never wanted to be President

Yesterday Lucky went back to IMPACT ENGINEERING to get his roll bar padding installed except this time he didn't go on a trailer. I actually drove the car about 15 miles one way in rush hour traffic while some heads turned wondering what all the noise was and others just wanted to see the car. While I was there I did some work on the clutch rods and adjusted the head lights and then naturally after the lights were adjusted I had to go for a test drive to make sure they were adjusted correctly.

When I was a boy I remember many times it was a common question to be asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" A very common response was "I want to be a fireman." Or "I want to be President." To tell the truth I never wanted to be either one but I did always dream of racing cars. As a young boy who grew up in the late 50's and early 60's I used to watch many of the great drivers who's names are still as famous to day as they were back then. And don't forget some of the most exciting series ever ran were popular then. There was the Can Am and the Trans Am series and the Grand Prix series, the World Championships, 24 Hours of Lemans. On a side note, it's important to remember all those great teams and drivers from that era accomplished all these amazing endeavors on tires that by todays standards wouldn't even be safe on the family sedan.

Like all other boys I enjoyed watching various type of racing. There was the drags, Baja and Dakar desert racing, NASCAR and even for a while the sport of "Bog" racing in the Florida Everglade swamps was a popular sport sponsored by TIMEX Corporation. But the racing that really got me excited was most forms of road racing. Road racing has so much that interested me and not just the drivers. Besides the drivers you have to admit the cars are nothing short of spectacular and don't forget some of the most popular tracks like Laguna Seca, Sebring, Lemans, Monaco, Watkins Glen, Nurburg Ring. These weren't just race tracks but instead they were so much more. They were works of art that carved thru hills, trees and canyons that were challenges built to test men's fears, abilities, endurance, stamina and more. In fact it's every racer's mistress.

It was not until in my later years that I became aware of three of the most famous races in the world. It's funny but I tell my friends that three of the most famous races in the world are three of the races that few Americans are even aware of. They are The Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles)was an open-road endurance race which took place in Italy twenty-four times from 1927 to 1957. Then there is the Targa Newfoundland which is the first event of its kind to be held in North America. It is an annual event and forms a 2200 km long, high quality automotive adventure. It is held over a seven-day period in September of each year on the paved roads of the eastern and central parts of the island of Newfoundland. Last but not least is The Carrera Panamericana which is a sports car racing event on open roads in Mexico, similar to the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio in Italy. It runs from the southern Mexican west-coast city towards Texas, and back in 1950 to 1955 it even counted towards the World Sportscar Championships. It is widely held by contemporaries to be the most dangerous race of any type in the world even to this day.

As I drove Lucky yesterday I began to realize that after several years of learning all I could about this race, God willing, it is soon to become a reality. It's equally satisfying to know that others share the same anticipation for this adventure as myself. My two sons, Will and Anthony, and navigator and friend Jon and I are all chomping at the bit not one of us ever wanted to be President.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Clutch putt

I don't mind telling you I feel like I'm trying to make a clutch putt to win the big golf tournament and my hands are tied. There is so little time between today and this weekend's test date and there are still several very important issues that need to be dealt with. Oh sure, if I don't make it this weekend I can always sneak out onto some of the best test tracks ever built.... California freeways! But I would prefer to get out on Infineon International Raceway which I consider to be one of my favorite home tracks, Laguna Seca and THunderhill being the others.

I am not satisfied with the way the clutch feels. Sure it's strong as hell and it's definitely feels like a racing clutch but I know something isn't right and I want it to be 100 percent. I also know there is something weird fuel delivery wise and there is a gremlin I will need to search out and destroy. The problem is, it's inconsistent making it difficult to know where to start looking and for what.

Besides those two issues, today was a major milestone day. One of the first major parts of this build was to research, design and install the total suspension package specifically set up for this very race. After all these months finally today the suspension was fine tuned, corner-weighted and aligned by non other than the best racing suspension shop in California, ROGER KRAUS RACING I don't mind telling you how happy they made me when they told me they were impressed with how well set up the car was and how straight everything was prior to their changes and adjustments. Anyone in Northern California wanting the best service you can possibly get with regards to dialing in suspension not to mention knowing what they are talking about this is the place. For what it's worth not only did they get the job finished in half the time they said they would but they also charged me considerably less than I had previously agreed to. Just good old honest gentleman.

Notice in the photos the before and after difference in the fender height. They did exactly as I requested by not setting the car as low as we would normally have it for the tracks here. We intentionally set it an inch and a half higher to help with the speed bump and whatever else runs across the road. Also there is a before and after photo of the trailer after Anthony got it looking much better. Thanks Anthony!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Speaking of rain coats

Yesterday I wrote our theory regarding whether or not to take a rain coat and what happens if you don't. Naturally it will rain. Thanks to Francisco Ortiz site these are the first photos I have found of the Jag that crashed last year that really shows how serious that crash was. It also caused the La Carrera Panamericana officials to begin enforcing stricter roll cage rules thus resulting in something positive. It's simply amazing that nobody was killed in this crash and I am glad to report the young man that was injured is reported to have made as a full recovery. It's no wonder one of the team was injured once you look at the windshield on the passenger's side.

On another note; Yesterday I got a very cool phone call from Michael Emery, another driver who has run in the La Carrera Panamericana as Team Lucha Libre Racing. Michael showed what real gentleman drivers are all about. Not only did he have some very nice things to say with respect to our blog and Lucky but he also offered to be of any assistance he could offer and told me all I had to do was ask. Thanks Michael and Team California's Best tips our hat to you. This is part of what I love about racing... camaraderie, sportsmanship and none of this, my (explicative) is bigger than yours way of thinking. Be sure to click on their name and check out their site as well as a great read.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Things to do list is getting smaller

While it may not sound like much today my sons, Jon and I accomplished a lot and what a relieve it was I might add. Jon began his assault on the communications setup which is simply nothing short of awesome. Besides the Terratrip which by the way has a remote, there is the driver/navigator communications set-up. Not only can we talk to each other but our crew can listen to everything being said from the crew truck. All of the above is recorded live on the in car solid state camera equipment complete with sounds of the engine and driver/navigator communications. During the transit sections we have headsets which not only allow us to quietly communicate amongst team and crew but it is also wired up to I-pod selections as well as telecommunications that enable us to use our cell phones. Jon might as well install a microwave so we can have fresh popcorn. That is unless he hasn't already thought of it. I will say Jon has a good amount of the work done and all he has left if a few parts to install after he gets some of the power coated parts back.

I got the job of installing the antenna in the top of the car. Do you have any idea what a horrifying feeling it is to drill a one inch hole in the middle of the top of a car after you have gone to this much trouble to make it look good? While Jon worked on Lucky Will and I spent some time on the flatbed trailer installing new taillights and cleaning up the wiring under the trailer. After talking to many who have experienced this adventure before we are taking their advise and leaving my enclosed trailer at home. Besides the fact the small flatbed is much lighter than the enclosed trailer which will be a lot easier to maneuver on the twisted roads of Mexico but it will also be a huge help in saving fuel and some of the narrow streets that racing fans line up along make it difficult to maneuver an enclosed trailer as well. I am also told that enclosed trailers are much more difficult to get accross the border and can cause long delays. Compaired to the enclosed trailer pulling the little flatbed is almost like not having a trailer at all but I must say I will miss having all those back up parts and equipment at my fingertips but sacrafices must be made.

Finally it was my turn to get some things done. I managed to finish installing the second timing control for the dual pickup ignition system which I had been waiting for. Then I finished installing the knock sensor which will help me know when to adjust timing from inside the car as well as help protect the engine from detonation should we get some bad gas or gain altitude. (Whoever hasn't heard of getting bad gas in Mexico hasn't eaten at the border taco stands?) I also installed the new shift light. Last but not least I installed the safety tabs to hold in the front windshield. The theory is, it's like deciding whether or not you should take a coat with you to the races or not. If you don't it will surely rain but if you bring it you're guaranteed it will not rain. After all was said and done I decided to go around the block and see if Officer Pruette was lurking anywhere. I was very pleased to find out everything that I had installed was working perfectly.

Tomorrow some of the crew will come in early to sand the trailer and paint it before I put Lucky on the trailer to deliver him to get the suspension tweaked, corner weighted, springs lowered a little and aligned on Monday morning.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Let me tell you about Officer Pruette...

Officer Pruette is about 6'6", about 250 pounds, and packs a big gun. But before I say anymore that may incriminate me, let me tell you a little about downtown Mountain View which is a couple blocks from my office where I work on Lucky.

Downtown Mountain View is one of those quaint main streets bustling with cafes, restaurants, book stores, shops, bars with live music and lots more. Just as it begins to get dark there are lots of couples and people walking from the homes with the big trees lining the quite streets surrounding the down town area. You can hear laughter and live music under the stars especially on Friday and Saturday evenings. Many times people will wander into my shop to check out some of the nice rides we are working on on their way downtown. Needless to say, it's pretty laid back and very Californian lifestyle.

Now, back to Officer Pruette... Today I put the rear end back in the car but never really had any time to go "test" things out. When I finally got ready to go I was turning the car around and then something bad happened. The clutch pedal assembly had something wrong and I was NOT a happy camper especially due to the fact I could only blame myself since I was the only one who worked on it. All I needed was something that was short of perfect not to mention right after last nights rear end travisty. Now frustration was beginning to set in only because crunch time is upon me.

So this evening I stayed late and removed the entire clutch pedal assembly and made sure it was nothing but perfection. On a separate note I found a ground wire problem that was affecting my fuel pressure gauge and that made me happy as hell. I would like to say I'm glad it happened at least if it did while I was still near my shop but the truth is... It sucks big time knowing it wasn't perfect the first time.

Once everything was finished my right foot kept begging me... "Please, let me step ON something. PLEASSSSE!" Well, not being one to want to hurt my foot's feelings I decided to go for a small cruise a few blocks thru down town Mountain View and over to Jon's house to surprise him. Unfortunately as I hit the strip of Mountain View the only person that was surprised was me when a few bright red lights began flashing in my rear view mirror. Not one for being disrespectful to law enforcement I immediately pulled over in front of an Irish pub which turned out not to be the right place to pull over with a car like Lucky. As soon as Officer Pruette walked up to my window there was a crowd of on-lookers all holding mugs of ale. Being of Irish decent myself I must say I began feeling at home as the on-lookers began taunting Officer Pruette ad even offering him a brew. Things were fine until someone asked since he couldn't have some ale, maybe he would like a donut. That's when Officer Pruette decided to call for back-up for crowd control. Crowd control? Yep, by now there was a pretty big gathering from the restaurants, bars, and every other out for a good time rascal.

Enter two more squad cars, red lights and hooting and cheering for the guy in the white Mustang. After I was able to explain what I was doing in a car like Lucky and why I didn't have proof of insurance or registration papers in the car Officer Pruette sounded like he was going to let me go. I believe what cinched it was when the lady officer who was working the crowd said to Officer Pruette, "You must be kidding. If you write this guy a ticket you will be here all night looking up code for all the infractions." When I asked if he would mind if I drove a few more blocks over to Jon's house Officer Pruette said, "See this night stick? Want to see what I can do to you and your car? Now take this thing back to your shop." Then I got a three car escort back to the shop where they waited while I took the hood off so they could check out the engine. In the end they were are a lot of fun and they advised me that it might be better if I waited until day light so that the elderly wouldn't have to hide under their beds due to the rumbling of the earth when Lucky drives by.

(EDIT) Today Jon asked me to walk to the back of the car with him. Then he said, "Now let's take a look. Now waht do you see? Full roll cage, fuel cell, sitting low to the ground, loud exhaust and so on. Don't you think that any police officer pulling up behind you is going to say, 'Hmmm, what do we have here?'".

Some good news and some bad news

Yes, we had a little excitement today and the truth is, there is no bad news. However, there was a chain of events that led to the realization that Lucky has an awesome amount of power. So much in fact that nothing can be overlooked or assumed to be strong enough.

It all started when the drive shaft came on this mornings UPS delivery and it didn't take long to get it installed. Then I was able to start up the car and back it out and actually feel Lucky move under his own power and what a treat it was.

After that we began installing the JBA exhaust, the same that came on the original GT350s that exits out the side of the car right in front of the rear wheels. I have to admit, even though it's much quieter that it was with open headers but it's a sweet sound that even Steve McQueen would recognise with his eyes closed.

Then I decided to take a slow drive around the block just to feel Lucky move under his own power. This is when things got interesting. Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a drive in this car without giving it just "little" gas? OK, so maybe I gave it just a little more than "little." When I banged off 2nd gear something didn't feel right so I put it back on the lift to take a look. It seems Lucky has so much torque that he twisted the perches right off the casing of the rear-end!!! I mean WOW!

Needless to say I wasn't a happy camper however, this is what testing is all about and had I not found out now I would have wasted an entire trip to the track next weekend. So Will, my son and I removed the rear end and took it to IMPACT ENGINEERING and had the perches boxed in the same way they are and dragsters. Believe me, they will not twist off again. We brought the rear-end back and set it in place on the leaf springs and I will finish installing it in the morning. But the good news is... I drove Lucky around the block.

In the mean time stay tuned... Team California's Best will be making not one but two announcements during the next few days both of which we are very excited about.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lucky has nuts

As crazy as this sounds today I finally got the lug nuts I have been waiting for. Is that nuts or what? (no pun intended) At ant rate now Lucky has nuts.

A few minor items that I managed to get done today are finishing installing the fuel cell hold down straps and then I rerouted the fuel cell vent hose and filter so there would be no chance of fuel fumes getting inside the car. We also painted and installed the new skid bar and made some clearance adjustments.

Last but not least I installed the fan that I finally chose to keep Lucky cool with the least amount of problems. After months of research, phone calls and discussions I have finally ruled out an electric fan and have decided to go with a metal, belt driven fan. As a matter of fact it was the tech department at Spal themselves that advised me to go this way. Due to clearance reasons many car builders often utilize a thin electric fan that will fit between their engine/water pump and the radiator. Using thin fan may seem OK but they do not have large enough windings in the motors to run the fan at the required speeds for the high altitudes of the La Carrera Panamericana. Then there are those who for years have ran the most popular fan of choice which is the classic electric Ford Taurus fan. What I managed to learn is the Taurus fan uses a large amount of amperage and one thing I have learned over the last year is not just a few but a WHOLE BUNCH of competitors experienced electrical and charging system problems over the last few years. Is it possible they never put two and two together? I don't know but I am not taking any chances. The six bladed steel fan I chose is the very same one used by the majority of race teams who have campaigned Shelbys in both high altitude and hot weather racing. One thing I have learned about being successful at winning races is... Simple basic is good.

I hope like all get out that the drive shaft I ordered will be here tomorrow so that I can actually drive the car. If so I will try to get the car out to my front end expert ROGER KRAUS RACING who is one of the best known susspension experts in California.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never too busy to remember 911

TEAM CALIFORNIA'S BEST would like to take a moment to remember those who are missed by many and for their families as well as those men and women who acted as heroes on that terrible day.

Today was huge! A lot got done today and actually it all started yesterday since it is now 4:00 am in the morning and I just got home. First of all the panard bar was welded in place and the rest was installed and adjusted. From there we welded in some of the power steering brackets that always need some strengthening and then we built the skid bar from hell! It is specifically built with the speed bumps in Mexico in mind in an effort to help protect the oil pan, headers, power steering hoses and so on. Then we installed the seat belts but before we did we welded in plates with threaded nuts in them instead of simply drilling holes in the floor and using washers. Another very cool job was using the fender well roller. Not only did it roll the fenders to eliminate the sharp edges of the fenders away from the tires but it flared the fenders substantially which makes for much better tire clearance.

Like I said, a lot was accomplished today and we even had some time to start spending some time on the trailer we will be using on this trip.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Welcome letter from the governor of Oaxaca

When my wife told me I had a letter from the Governor all I could think was, "I sure hope it's that stay of execution I've been waiting for. I must admit getting a letter from the Governor of Oaxaca was just as cool. (Click on the letter to enlarge)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I can see clearly now

Well, just like the Anne Murray lyrics, Lucky now has a brand new windshield and wipers and he too can see clearly now. Coincidentally the lyrics of what has been one of my favorite tunes since the early 70's reminds me of the upcoming adventure.

Anne Murray - I Can See Clearly Now

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way (Donkies, race cars, missing parts of road...)
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind (Blown engines from other race cars)
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)Sun-Shiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone (Worring about getting Lucky ready)
All of the bad feelings have disappeared (Montezuma's Revenge)
Here is the rainbow I've been prayin' for (Podium finish)
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)Sun-Shiny day.

Look all around, there's nothin' but blue skies (Wishful thinking)
Look straight ahead, nothin' but blue skies

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)Sun-Shiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)Sun-Shiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)Sun-Shiny day.

Step into my office

Early this morning I did some minor wiring for the spark knock control and finished hooking up the horn button. WHAT! A horn on a race car? LOL. From watching hours of video of previous La Carrera Panamericana events it will be well used. Then I prepped the car for my glass guy to install the front windshield which he will do today along with the chrome mouldings. Then I installed the driver's seat and climbed in and pretended to be going 217 miles per hour. I found out that when you pretend the gas mileage is much better.

13 days left

There are only 13 days left until I can hopefully have Lucky ready to take a few runs at Infineon Raceway. I have priorities of items that are a must, some that I would really like to have ready while some can be taken care of after the test day. Naturally my main concerns are to break the car in, check for leaks, rubs, noises, or any issues that need attention. Every time I build a car that comes out perfect I have to keep asking myself, "How long before the winning streak is broken?" After all, that's exactly what testing is all about... That and anything that can get us onto the track in a race car.

Other than a few nice lines, there is nothing mild mannered about Lucky whatsoever. He should ride like a truck, sound like an explosion, be more than able to deal out G-forces that would kill a Hamster, all the things that any fast well prepared race car can do. It's like Maxwell Smart used to tell Agent 99... "And loving it."

Friday, September 07, 2007


Lucky finally has power steering and it hasn't been easy at least to make sure it's done the way I want it. When I originally began designing Lucky I did not have any plans to use power steering. Then after a few discussions with National auto cross champion Mike Maier of Maier Racing I was thoroughly convinced that power steering was in Lucky's future. Having owned, driven and raced Mustangs & Shelbys since 1964 I canm honestly say I have a fair understanding of their strong features as well as their weak features and the design of early Mustang power steering is certainly the later of the two. Since I had decided to use power steering I decided to build a better mouse trap so to speak. One of the big concerns with Mustang power steering is how low the hoses are and the fact they hang down so far. Get them up too high and they rub on something.

Using my knowledge of their weakness's I was able to build what I feel will be the ultimate power steering system for this application. I was sure to use the highest quality braided/Teflon hose and then had the ends custom made for clearance and flex issues. This was an all day job today and the end result was almost perfect. Clearance was good, movement was perfect, and no leaks. The only issue with the power steering that still needs attention is that In want it to give a little more assist than it does. This is a simple cure because the racing pump I bought utilizes different restrictors which will allow me to raise or lower the amount of assist I want. It's important to remember the more assist you get the less "feel" you will have at high speed so this will be something we will want to check out at the track in the next couple weeks.

This evening I took care of a few other small details like adjusting the fuel sender so that I will know how much fuel is "usable" when it reads quarter tank. This is a detail all endurance racers live for. And hey... even though I don't have a drive shaft I hooked up the speedometer actually watched the speedometer work. Speaking of the drive shaft, I was told the custom built aluminum drive shaft should be here Tuesday or Wednesday. Think about it... Lucky could actually move under his own power after who knows how many years of sitting in some field in Oregon.