Saturday, August 29, 2009

R Models From Hell

Found this cool item on Ebay today. Gotta love it! It's a Shelby Amercian Automobile Club SAAC Postcard from a few years back.

Friday, August 28, 2009

He Left His Heart In Mexico... Literally

For years we read and hear stories of great drivers and races and we stand in awe. One of the most celebrated automotive race wins of all time was when Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1953 La Carrera Panamericana. Anyone who races knows that regardless of every possible facet involved in winning a race there will always be some element of luck involved. Like any fan or student of La Carerra Panamericana I have known for years about the fact that Fangio won the 1953 La Carrera Panamericana without winning a single stage but until today I was not aware of some other interesting facts that led me to realize there was a whole lot of luck involved in Fangios win. Had it not been for a whole chain of events Fangio would never have won that race. It can also be said that you should never give up regardless of the adversity you may be faced with, and obvciouisly Fangio did not in this case. Nonetheless it's interesting to learn Fangio was not the shining star during this particular race that so many thought to him to be.

During the 1953 Carrera Panamericana one of the greatest Italian road racers, Felice Bonetto, was driving for the Scuderia Lancia team. Lancia had entered an incredible team of five cars for Felice Bonetto, Juan Manuel Fangio and Piero Taruffi, winner of the 1951 edition of the race, in three 3.3-litre D24 cars, and Giovanni Bracco and Eugenio Castellotti with two 3-litre models, with a crew of about 30 mechanics and engineer, with one service truck and with Gianni Lancia in person as team-manager, following the 6,000 kms race in a private airplane. Their best competitors were Umberto Maglioli - Pasquale Cassani, Mario Ricci - Forese Salviati and Luigi Chinetti - Fon de Portago in three 4,5-litre Ferrari 375MM, and other private Ferraris driven by Antonio Stagnoli - Giuseppe Scotuzzi, Guido Mancini - Fabrizio Serena and a couple of young American drivers, Phil Hill - Richie Ginther and Louis Rosier who raced alone his Talbot Lago.

Felice Bonetto making good time.

On the second day of the 1953 La Carrera Panamericana, Felice Bonetto led the race on aggregate, retaining an advantage of 41sec. Fangio had sustained an accident and his car’s axle was broken but the Lancia mechanics were able to repair it before the start of the next stage. By now Fangio seemed out of the race with a gap of about seven minutes behind Bonetto.

Felice Bonetto enjoying a smoke while taking a a well deserved break.

As they were headed towards Queretaro Felice Bonetto and Piero Taruffi where racing hard when Taruffi tried too hard and ran off the road. Luckily the car wasn’t damaged and he got back on the road again with the help of some spectators. In the meantime Bonetto didn’t slow down, perhaps because he did'nt realize Taruffi was out of the race and he kept on pushing. As a result and ironicaly Bonetto crashed in the very spot where he had painted blue danger signals prior to the race and he was supposed to slow down to 60mph but instead he was doing over 125mph when his Lancia suddenly swerved and crashed against the balcony of a house and was killed.

After Bonetto's death, team owner Gianni Lancia wanted to withdraw, but Fangio, Bracco, Taruffi and Castellotti decided to keep on racing, in honor of their team mate. Eventually after the remaining cars had some problems Juan Manuel Fangio went on to win the race without ever winning a single stage.

Fangio takes the checkered flag.

Felice Bonetto was survived by wife Liliana and 15-years-old son Roberto. Some years later Roberto Bonetto became a well known motorsport journalist in Italy. During his honeymoon in the 1970s he went to Mexico to visit the place of his father’s death. In the village of Silao he found two memorials for Felice Bonetto, a plaque on the wall of the house, where the fatal balcony had been demolished, and a monument with a bronze bust in Silao cemetery. There was a legend about this monument, inside which it seems Bonetto’s heart is preserved; the day after Bonetto's fatal accident, the Mexican doctor who made the postmortem examination decided that such a strong heart like Bonetto’s must remain in territory of Mexico!

Felice Bonetto is buried at the Italian section of Mexico City's Dolores Cemetery.

A Cool Hershel McGriff Video Compilation

This video combines televised segments shot and aired during Hershel's most recent Nascar races. What I like most about them is seeing how much fun Hershel is having and how he tells it the way he sees it.

A New La Carerra Panamericana Coffee Table Book

Sam Gezari, photographer & author of "La Carrera Panamericana", dropped me a note regarding his new creation...

My Fellow Panamericans!

I have some very exciting news. After many months and a few speed bumps, "La Carrera Panamericana" photography book and magnificent large format prints are now available at

This beautiful, handmade book is 275 pages and filled with thrilling color photographs of the race the cars and the landscape that makes the experience of La Carrera Panamericana 2008 live again!

This is a Limited Edition book, with only 100 copies in print. I urge you to go to and place your order while supplies of these soon-to-be collector's items last.

In addition to the book, we are offering a small quantity of never before seen large format fine art photographs, available in 2 sizes and limited to total of 30 per edition. These photographs are unmatched in their beauty, quality, and heart-pounding excitement, and are the perfect gifts for any race enthusiast, participant, or collector.

Please visit and order your very own books and prints before they run out!

Thanks for your overwhelming support, and see you down the road!

Sam Gezari

Photographer & Author






Thursday, August 27, 2009


I have always known deep down inside La Carrera Panamericana - Rebirth Of A Legend, was going to be exciting. What I didn't know was what an overnight success it was going to be! Steffan, the producer has been working overtime and staying up late getting orders filled and sent. Team California's Best and Steffan at Strange Media would like to thank all of you who have picked up your copies and to those who have sent such awesome kudos. In the mean time, those of you waiting for your copy, get buckled up and ready because you are in for a thrill. I can't wait to do it all over again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Visiting Coops Jungle

Our friend Coop told me that he has added his color film from 2008 to his flicker account after it was processed and scanned. Coop has one of the best eyes in the business and unlike many of the rest of us, he doesn't just take a picture of the elephant so to speak. Cook takes the time to get the shot that takes you right into the jungle where the elephant lives Granted I didn't see any elephants while in San Miguel de Allende with Coop last year but as you look at these photos you will grasp what I'm talking about.

Anyone who has spent time with the Coyote Convoy in San Miguel de Allende will tell you that Coop really does catch the true essence of what this place is all about. Since my wife and I spent several days walking around San Miguel de Allende prior to the arrival of the Coyote Convoy we had lots of time not only to site see but to go inside many of these unique shops and restaurants. It was an amazing week and I really enjoyed lots of stories from Hershel about his involvement in the first LCP. Like so many others, I never tire of seeing photos from any place along the La Carrera Panamericana route. Thanks Coop!

This first photo reminded me of the scene in Mel Brooks Young Frankenstien when Dr Frankenstien said, "What knockers!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How La Carrera Panamericana Helped Make Phil Hill Famous

A few days ago a good friend sent me a link to a Fuller Brush magazine which focused on Phil Hill's racing career. Not only did the full page color photos show Phil with many of his cars but it was also a time line of sorts as to how he got his start and went on to be the legend he is. I also enjoyed how they took time to show Phil away from the track enjoying his hobbies, wife, family and more while at home or traveling. But what stood out most of all was realizing how La Carrera Panamericana set down the foundation as it had for Hershel McGriff in that it opened so many doors of opportunity. One can't help but wonder had it not been for their involvment in La Carrera Panamericana would the names Hill and McGriff be what they are today or would destiny taken them down other paths?

I have several well written books all signed by Phil in person all of which tell stories about various races he won and so on but I found this simple little cover style magazine most intriguing and when you stop and realize it was published in the late 50's the quality of the pictures are quite impressive indeed. To see the entire display of photos CLICK HERE.

Here is the cover of the Phil Hill Fuller Brush Special Edition

Phil Hill & Richie Ginther in a Ferrari owned by Allen Guiberson driving past Mount Popocatépetl.

This is photo was taken thru Lucky's rear view mirror by Co-Piloto Jon Emerson while driving by Mount Popocatépetl in Lucky during the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana. Not only is Mount Popocatépetl a still active volcano but in fact it erupted a few days after we passed causing some evacuations.

Denise McCluggage, sports columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, who wrote this feature article had a most descriptive way of writing which really added flavor and color. I had to hold back a belly roll when I read... "The Mexican Road Race is the world's longest race. It stretches for five days and 2000 miles the length of Mexico from the tropical town of Tuxtla Gutierrez on the Guatemalan border over the snaking mountain passes the with of a wagon road through the high, cool capital of Mexico City, on across the hot dusty flatlands of Ciudad Juarez the struggling, dirty border town across the Rio Grande from El Paso."

It really amazed me to learn was this was Phil's very first International race and he finished sixth. But even more interesting was that when Phil tried again the following year he was so nervous about the race that the only thing he could eat was baby food, possibly because of his narrow escape after he plunged off a cliff on a bling curve in the mountains.

Here is the actual car driven by Phil Hill and Richie Ginther at last years Monterey Historics.

Phil Hill and Richie Ginther try again in 1954 this time finishing second in the 1953Ferrari 375 he drove to second place in the fifth Carrera Pan Americana.

This time Phil was driving the #20 and Ferrari prepared ride called the 4.5 Mille Miglia. Phil finished an amazing second right behind Italian Maglioli who drove a newer Ferrari but with a bigger engine. On the last leg Phil averaged over 140 miles per hour but much more importantly, because of his success it was during this race when he realized that racing was what he wanted and then he began to dream of driving for a factory team in Europe. And as they say... the rest is history.

Here is the #20 Ferrari today.

Having been blessed to have known Phil Hill personally is something I will be eternally grateful for but one of my favorite memories of him was the day this photo of Phil and I was taken. My son asked Phil, "Of all the races and records you've set not to mention all the world championships is it possible for you to pick one that stands out more than any other?" Without any hesitation whatsoever Phil's eyes lit up as he looked at Will and replied, "Absolutely... During my entire racing career not a single race was ever more exciting than the La Carrera Panamericana."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Latest On The DVD

We are happy to announce the completion of the documentary -

Rebirth of a Legend
The Story of the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana

Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the modern incarnation, with the men & women who take on the challenge of La Carrera Panamericana. Join California's Best Racing Team, along with 1950 Carrera Winner Hershell McGriff and Lincoln Sponsor Frank Ruppert, Jr., as they look back at the original rally.

"....To say you've competed, and completed La Carrera Panamericana is a significant achievement. This documentary is an unprecedented peek at the legendary race, and a contemporary look at one of its participants."
Bob Bondurant

"...To watch the exploits of my good friend Gary Faules and his team as they tackle the race with mind, body and soul, is nothing short of exhilarating."
C. Van Tune - Former Editor in Chief, Motor Trend & ESPN TV Personality

Available Now on Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

La Carrera Panamericana Video

Our good friend Lars Stugemo sent this video today and wrote, "A short clip of when Mats & Co changed the engine out on the gravel roads in Chihuahua. That´s the spirit of that team!"

THANKS LARS!!! PS: I kept the video of you guys in the Ford Galaxie at The Nürburgring for my private stash.

Lucky's Day At The Winery

A lot of what I love about traveling is learning about places as well as their history and Heaven knows there is a lot to learn about so many of the places along the route during La Carrera Panamericana. The problem is... While driving at break-neck speeds you simply don't have time to take in any of the sites and even during those long transit stages the last thing on your mind is taking in the sites. (Note; if you are able to take in any sites you don't belong at this event.)

Taking all of the above into consideration I was really surprised to learn about one of the places along the 2007 LCP route where we had a service stop. Not too far from Queretaro is Cavas Freixenet de Mexico one of Mexico's premier winery's. How ironic that a couple of guys from California who spend the majority of their time racing at Infineon Raceway located smack dab in the middle of one of the premier vineyards in California didn't even realize this was a winery.

Cavas Freixenet de Mexico

I must admit when I found out I was really surprised even though I didn't realize there was anything significant about the place. What I do recall is that it was a much welcome rest stop and I was able to wander around inside the walls of the compound and enjoy a nice fountain. It was here that Jon and I bought three tacos and a drink for less than two dollars. When a gentleman walked up and offered me a newspaper I assumed he was trying to sell it to me so I said no thank you until he pointed out we were on the front page. It was a great moment for me and I didn't even care if I couldn't read a newspaper printed in Spanish. The memory of this place has lasted three years and just now learning this makes me want to go back.

Gary and Mark "Techno Viking" Williams hamming it up.

Lucky parked out front all serviced and ready to go.

Today I learned another very interesting fact about Cavas Freixenet de Mexico. Like any other respectable, well know winery, they also have a nice wine cellar. In fact this is one of the largest in all of Mexico and as far as I know none of the teams had a clue that we were walking around above them the whole time we were there.

What a beautiful back-ground the rock formation land-mark located behind Cavas Freixenet de Mexico during a local fireworks celebration.

There's one more very significant memory that stands out for myself and Jon with respect to Cavas Freixenet de Mexico... No sooner than we left the gates of Cavas Freixenet de Mexico we were at the next starting point for the next speed stage. All rested up and raring to go Jon, Lucky and I were ready to kick some ass and take names and numbers. When the green flag lifted Lucky's tires did a burn out that left no doubt we were in a big hurry. As soon as we came up to the first corner Jon was quick to call out, "Right. One." As we came around the corner Lucky's tires griped the road perfectly and had used up all of the road which took us to the far left oncoming lane. It was just as Jon called out "Left, Zero." that Jon began to yell out some rather interesting explicative's that I don't dare write here. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, square in front of us was some old beat up cattle truck (similar to the one in the photo below) dead center in the middle of our lane and it was headed straight for us!

Luckily a quick snap of Lucky's wheel was all it took to narrowly miss being driven to market ourselves. I have to say that when you are in the frame of mind that believes there will not be any other traffic let alone coming directly at you during a race stage it's a bit overwhelming. The next thing out of Jon's mouth was something to the tune of, "Where in the hell did that son of a bitch come from?" and them some grumbling about making a note in the log book but then he calmly said, "No foul. OK, let's go like hell Baby."