All posts by Howard Koby

Howard graduated with honors from the Art Center College of Design in California. He has been a photographer and automotive journalist for 35 years out of his Los Angeles studio. He has been published in Hot Rod, AutoWeek, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Jaguar Journal, Forza, Vintage Motorsport, Classic Motorsports, Robb Report, Motor Trend Classic, Hemmings Muscle Machines, and 50 Years of Road & Track (MBI Publishing). He has served on the Advisory Committee of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center College of Design. He is the author of the books Top Fuel Dragsters of the 1970s and Pro Stock Dragsters of the 1970s, both available on amazon.com.

Eye Candy: California Hot Rod Reunion

Photos by Howard Koby

At the inaugural California Hot Rod Reunion, event founder Steve Gibbs announced, “We are only going to do this once.”

Gibbs wasn’t quite correct. The recent Hot Rod Reunion was the 23rd time the early days of drag racing reappeared.

Now a member of the Wally Parks Motorsports Museum that produces the Reunion, Gibbs noted that, “Some 23 years ago, drag racing fans weren’t nostalgic, and now the are. It’s great.”

Wally Parks was the founder of the National Hot Rod Association, which turned unorganized racing born on Southern California’s dry lakes, military runways and, well, yes, on the streets, into a major and organized sport.

The Reunion, now presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California and staged at the legendary Famoso Raceway in McFarland, California (near Bakersfield), offers hot-rodders and racers the chance to reunite with old friends and to reminisce about the good old days while enjoying a weekend full of nitro-fueled competition featuring historic racing machines.

Also included is a huge swap meet offering anything from a rear clip for a ’57 Chevy to a set of used pistons for a Dodge Charger.

“Famoso Grove,” a tree lined pathway behind the grandstands, is the site of a car show displaying everything from a group of colorful ’32 Ford roadster to Willys hot rods and low-rider customs.

The Reunion is a three-day festival of loud nitro-filled smoky burnouts on the quarter-mile drag strip and serves as an opportunity for fans to meet the legends of drag racing. A free honoree reception at the Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield introduced Grand Marshal Mike Dunn along with honorees Bob Brooks, the Cortopassi Brothers and Butler, Hugh Tucker, Dennis Varni, Sid Waterman and the showman himself, “TV” Tommy Ivo.

In the finals, Tony Bartone’s Top Fuel dragster ran a 5.864-seconds sprint at 212.36 miles per hour to beat Rick White, who gave the race away when he jumped the start and brought out the red light.

In the Funny Car finals, Dan Horan, in his striking ’65 Mustang, ran 5.724 at 254.38 to put away John Hale in his ’69 Camaro (5.791 at 247.29).

If you love nitro fumes in the morning bringing tears to your eyes, the ear-rattling music of a 2000-hp blown Hemi engine, and bright nitro-flames lighting the night sky at the Cackle Fest, then the California Hot Rod Reunion is for you.

Eye Candy: Japanese Classic Car Show at the Queen Mary

Photos by Howard Koby

The first cars imported from Japan were economical to drive, but would anyone ever consider them to be classics?

Koji and Terry Yamaguchi grew up in Japan with what was known as the
“kyu-sha” movement, a celebration of vintage and modified cars and motorcycles. They came to the United States in the late 1990s and brought the movement with them. Ten years ago they launched something they called the Japanese Classic Car Show.

The show recently celebrated its 10th anniversary at Harry Bridges Memorial Park in the shadow of the Queen Mary luxury ocean liner in Long Beach Harbor, where some 400 primarily pre-1985 Japanese cars and motorcycles attracted 10,000 people.

“The show is a good way to pass Japanese culture onto the next generation and show youngsters where these car types come from,” said Terry Yamaguchi.

Cars from Japan began trickling into the United States in the 1950s and ‘60s. But it wasn’t until the oil crisis of 1973 that they started drawing widespread acceptance from drivers used to much larger and more luxurious vehicles. Soon, cars even such upscale cars were being exported from Japan to American dealerships and driveways.

And now not only cars such as the Datsun Z cars, Toyota’s 2000GT and the Mazda Cosmo (Jay Leno featured a ’66 Mazda Cosmo on an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage) are considered classics, but so are the early Datsun 510, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Mazda RX3.

The Japanese Classic Car Show is known as “kyu-sha paradise” by participants and spectators and remains at the forefront of the old-school Japanese-car movement in America.

This year it featured a superb contingent of Honda 600s, the first rotary-engined Mazdas, the very sharp Toyota 2000GT, the all-aluminum Acura NSX and the immensely popular Datsun 1600/2000 Roadsters which were launched in the late 1960s as a competitor to the British sports cars.

Special guests included Peter Brock, founder of the BRE Datsun racing team, and John Morton, the BRE driver who piloted the Datsun 510 to victory in the SCCA 2.5 Trans-Am championship. Also in attendance were Hot Wheels designer Jun Imai and Hot Wheels and Matchbox designer Ryu Asada.

One Datsun that stood out was a 1973 model called the “Giant Killer.” It was driven in competition by Dick Barbour (SCCA), James Brolin (IMSA), Paul Newman (IMSA), Don Prudhomme (IMSA), Clint Eastwood (IMSA) and others.

Also on display was a symbolic model of the emerging Japanese classic car scene, a 1971 Nissan Skyline GTR known as Hakosuka or “Boxy Skyline” and featured in the video game Gran Turismo.

Gerald Quist won First Place in Old School Cars with his yellow 1970 Honda N600 sedan while Best of Show honored Scott King with the beautiful white 1965 Honda S600 Roadster he restored himself over a seven-year period.

For more infomation, visit the Japanese Classic Car Show website.

 

Eye Candy: Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion

Photos by Howard Koby

Back in the ‘60s, when I was attending the Art Center College of Design, I used to drive cross-country every year from Brooklyn, New York, to Los Angeles, California. In my black 1950 Chevy 2-door coupe with three on the tree, I would pick up the route in Chicago and cruise along “The Mother Road,” as John Steinbeck dubbed it in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

(I remember needing only one $2 repair on the 3,000-mile trek when a heater hose busted).

Route 66 offered freedom for motorists who wanted to explore the country. It started as a trail for Native Americans and then was developed as a stage line before the Civil War. The number 66 was chosen in 1926. The route was fully paved by 1937.

Many people like to play a recording of Bobby Troup’s Get Your Kicks on Route 66 and slip back in time and reminisce about those “good old days.” Recently, more than 200,000 people and some 1,000 classic cars, hot rods and muscle cars lined the historic, tree-shaded Euclid Avenue in Ontario, California for a three day Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Rick and Kelly Dale from History Channel’s American Restorations hosted the opening of the show at the new amphitheater at Ontario Town Square.

Spectators and exhibitors descended upon Ontario from as far away as Australia and Japan and from all across the U.S. to share car stories, reminisce about cruisin’ down the boulevard on a Saturday night, show off their automotive treasures and to teach their children to respect and enjoy each other’s cars through a common bond.

Three days of live music (Little River Band), entertainment, food, and milestone 50th Anniversary celebrations of the iconic Mustang and GTO with a backdrop of classic and vintage automobiles, classic trucks, motorcycles, hot rods and customs fabricated from the hard and passionate work of the hobbyists kept thousands of families and friends flowing into Ontario all weekend long.

Glittering chrome and steel-bodied examples decorated block after block of the historic avenue with vintage cars from 1900 through 1975.

“Southern California thrived because of its rich love affair with the automobile,” said Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau, which produced the event.

“This is a chance for folks from everywhere in the world to gather and enjoy the nearly mystical passion that is shared by so many and embodied in Route 66.”

This was very much a family event. As one exhibitor put it, “ I built this Camaro for my daughter, who helped me restore it and now I have two more daughters with two more cars in the garage that I’m working on for them.”

Jack Tidball boastfully showed his purple 1933 Ford 3-window coupe and said with pride and a slight smile, “My son gave me this roadster for my birthday about 12 years ago!”

A striking highlight of the reunion took palace Friday night and was billed as the “world’s largest nighttime neon light cruise,” featuring a dazzling “moving light show on wheels” with participants who spent years building their uniquely lit vehicles. As one owner explained, “a complicated computer network controls the whole colorful neon system.”

Gilbert Hernandez, a local Southern Californian boy won the Neon Light category for his beautifully prepared white 1962 Chevy Impala, was able to change the neon colors from red to blue to magenta to green at the touch of a button inside the car while he was driving. Quite remarkable, I must say!

For more information, visit the Route 66 Cruisin Reunion website.

 

The Quail: A feast for the eyes and the belly

Robert and Anne Lee's 1949 Ferrari Barchetta was among the cars on display at The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering | Howard Koby photos
Robert and Anne Lee’s 1949 Ferrari Barchetta was among the cars on display at The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering | Howard Koby photos

Where else can you listen to triple F1 world champion Jackie Stewart and race car driver and TV host Alain de Cadenet casually chat about racing in front of 3,000 car enthusiast with some of the finest vintage and classic cars and motorcycles as a backdrop in an elegant garden party setting against the Santa Lucia mountains?

The 12th edition of The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering, part of Monterey Classic Car Week, honored the 100th Anniversary of Maserati, Competition Mustangs, A Tribute to India, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Super Cars, Post-War Racing, The Great Ferraris and Sports and Racing Motorcycles.

Racing champion Danny Sullivan aboard his Vincent
Racing champion Danny Sullivan aboard his Vincent

If that was not enough, modern day supercars were presented by Bugatti (six Veyron Vitesse ‘Legends’), McLaren, and Pagani.

Unlimited gourmet cuisine and fine wine, including an oyster bar, also were included in the limited-to 3,000 tickets sold, which kept the event relaxed and made it easy to stroll the lush grounds to admire all the marvelous automotive machinery.

The show also included entrance to Bonhams’ 17th annual Carmel Valley auction, where a 1962 Ferrari GTO sold for a record-breaking $38 million.

Best-in-show horrors went to a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150 C SS presented by Gwen and Tom Price from California. The car originally was delivered to French racer Louis Rosier. The Prices bought the car in 2010 and RM Restorations completed its restoration in August 2013.

Tom and Gwen Price takes best-in-show honors with their 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS
Tom and Gwen Price takes best-in-show honors with their 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS

The Tour takes Pebble Beach concours on the road

A 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa Scaglietti Spider cruises the Pacific Coast Highway on the Tour | Howard Koby photos
A 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa Scaglietti Spider cruises the Pacific Coast Highway on the Tour | Howard Koby photos
The Pebble Tour crosses Bixby Bridge
The Pebble Tour crosses Bixby Bridge

The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance is a testament to “elegance in motion,” a multi-million-dollar cavalcade of the finest vintage and classic cars in the world that undertake a scenic 75-mile cruise around the Monterey Peninsula in their participation in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Tour started in 1998 to showcase the beauty and elegance of the automobile as concours entrants motor along the spectacular 17-Mile Drive from the Pebble Beach Lodge and Equestrian Center on a route that then sends them a lap around the track at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

From the track, the Tour glides down the California coast on Highway 1, which hugs the dramatic cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the way to Big Sur where they make their turn-around at the Ripplewood Resort.

A pass over the engineering wonder of Bixby Bridge is a sight to behold both to photographers and spectators, who line the roadsides for this rolling classic car show.

Steaming along on the tour
Steaming along on the tour

A gourmet lunch stop in Carmel-by-the-Sea gives opportunity to hundreds of spectators to feast their eyes on about 150 automotive treasures that are seldom seen by the general public.

Where else can one see a rare Tatra, a classic Hispano Suiza or a steam-powered car side step a Ferrari Testa Rossa or a Maserati racecar?

The Tour is open to all entrants in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It is not mandatory, but if two cars tie when the judges score them in their various classes on Sunday, the vehicle that successfully finished the Tour wins the higher award.

McCall’s Jet Center soiree launches Monterey activities

Cars and aircraft provide the setting for McCall's annual Monterey kickoff party | Howard Koby photos
Cars and aircraft provide the setting for McCall’s annual Monterey kickoff party | Howard Koby photos

Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival is the “unofficial” event to kick off Monterey Classic Car Week. The event, held at the Monterey Jet Center, is a fabulous gathering of exotic automotive machines on the tarmac alongside private aircraft and historic World War II-era fighter planes with VIP guests hobnobbing with the likes of Jay Leno and Dan Gurney.

Most impressive this year was the 1962 Ford Mustang I roadster concept car (see photo above), which Gurney had driven around the Watkins Glen track before the 1962 U.S. Grand Prix. The car is now part of the Henry Ford Museum’s Driving America exhibit.

A Gurney Eagle and historic Porsche racer are party favorites
A Gurney Eagle and historic Porsche racer are party favorites

At $325 per ticket, the event is an annual s sellout benefiting the California Highway Patrol 11-99 Foundation that provides assistance to CHP families in financial crisis, in the case of death, as well as with scholarships for their sons, daughters, and spouses.

A Champagne reception and distinctive culinary delights from master chefs carried the Motorworks Revival to the early night as guests collected their “goody bags” containing mementoes of the 23rd annual gala.

See the mccallevents.com website for more information.

Top chefs provide food and beverages
Top chefs provide food and beverages

A Pope visits the Carmel Mission Classic

Even the Pope -- 1913 Pope Hartford that is -- is blessed at Carmel Mission Classic | Howard Koby photos
Even the Pope — 1913 Pope Hartford that is — is blessed at Carmel Mission Classic | Howard Koby photos
Carmel Mission's Basilica is a national landmark
Carmel Mission’s Basilica is a national landmark

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission is a natural and spiritually beautiful mission in Carmel, California. Its Basilica Church is a registered National Historic Landmark and the centerpiece of the Mission. There is a fine collection of Spanish colonial liturgical art and artifacts displayed through the church, which has 34 reredos and 5-foot thick walls under a catenary ceiling.

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Eye Candy: Vroom: The Art of the Motorcycle at Forest Lawn

Photos by Howard Koby

Did you know that Forest Lawn, the famed cemetery in Glendale, California, has a museum? Or that the current exhibition in that museum is entitled “Vroom: The Art of The Motorcycle?”

The exhibition features rare motorcycles with stained glass as a backdrop and an arcane collection of motorcycle-themed art including hand-painted gas tanks, black-and-white cartoons, poster art and striking sculpture.

One goal for co-curator and motorcycle historian and collector John Parker and museum director Joan P. Adan was to present an in-depth look at the changing history of motorcycle trends highlighting the effect and influence of the west coast.

The Forest Lawn Museum is a hidden but impressive structure located on the top of a hill in a cemetery in a peaceful, quiet setting and contains medieval art, religious relics, original artwork by Homer, Matisse and Rembrandt, among others along, with a partial collection by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Each historic motorcycle in the exhibition sits on a custom-built platform. You get a feeling of respect and appreciation for all art forms as you view them and the hand-painted gas tanks, secured on walls in exceptional design.

There also are more than 10 painted helmets, including a reproduction Peter Fonda helmet worn in the ’69 movie classic Easy Rider. The helmets were done by artists Troy Lee, Sara Ray and Pete “Hot Dog” Finlan. Also shown are racing photographs by Mitch Friedman, artfully placed on museum walls throughout the show.

Noted artists represented are Automotive Fine Arts Society member Tom Fritz (creator of the U.S .Postal Service’s Muscle Car Stamp Series); Syd Mead, graduate of Art Center College of Design and visual futurist and conceptual artist who worked on Hollywood films Blade Runner, Tron 2010, Aliens and Mission: Impossible III; renowned artist William Stout; graphic master Von Franco, who worked with Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth; Harley-Davidson’s official sculptor Jeff Decker; and Drew Stuzan, who illustrated over 150 movie posters including Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Star Wars and many more.

The rare and compelling two-wheeled machines on display are second to none, including an impeccably restored 1910 Flying Merkel, a 1914 Harley-Davidson board track racer, a 1938 Crocker formerly owned by Otis Chandler, a 1938 Indian Sport Scout Flat Track Racer, and a Galoise-blue 1939 Indian Chief that was once owned by Steve McQueen.

Also, a 1945/1965 Harley-Davidson Drag Bike ‘The Hog’ that set the track record at Lion’s Drag Strip at 127 mph in the quarter mile, a 1947 Harley UL ‘California Cut-Down,’ a distinctive 1953 Gilora Road Racer from the collection of Barry Weiss (Storage Wars), a 1968 ESO Speedway (racer Bobby “Boogaloo” Schwartz), a 1953 Moto Guzzi Falcone which has never been on display but is presented by one of the foremost restorers of antique motorcycles in America, Mike Parti, a 1999 Ducati 996RS (capable of 200 mph) raced by English ace Carl Fogarty, a 2006 Suzuki GSKR 1000 Race Bike (187 mph), and a 2009 Transformers Suzuki B-King featured in the 2009 movie Transformers’ Revenge of the Fallen.

The museum was recently named one of the top 10 free museums in the country by Yahoo Travel.

The “Vroom” show will be on view through January 5, 2015.

For more info visit www.forest-lawn.com

Eye Candy: Highway Earth Car Show

Photos by Howard Koby

This is a tale of nature, classic cars and the ghosts of Hollywood…

Highway Earth Car show was the brainchild of automotive photographer Evan Kline, a car lover who always had this “dream of bringing our community together in a magazine,” so he started a publication named Highway Earth and organized a first Highway Earth Car Show, held in late June, 2014 at beautiful Franklin Canyon Lake, which is semi-hidden deep in Southern California’s Santa Monica Mountains.

The grounds are a wilderness-hiking trail resting on 605 acres near the center of Los Angeles between San Fernando Valley and Beverly Hills. The lake is three acres and has over five miles of fantastic hiking trails with picnic grounds surrounded by natural grasslands and oak woodlands.

Back in the day, the lake and areas were used as TV and movie location sets which included the opening sequence of The Any Griffith Show (1960), Bonanza, Lassie, episodes of Star Trek, NCIS, the cult classic Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), On Golden Pond (1981), Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Rambo (1985), and music cover backgrounds for The Rolling Stones and Simon & Garfunkel.

Kline literally transformed the trails around the lake to a one-mile nature walk dotted with spectacular classic car groups along the leisurely stroll.

Hollywood legend and “the King of Cool” Steve McQueen was represented with the cars he owned including the 1956 Jaguar XKSS (driven over from the Petersen Automotive Museum), a ’76 Porsche 930 Turbo, which was one of the last cars McQueen owned, and a neat ’68 Bullitt Mustang GT 390 Replica displayed by Mustang lover Dave Kunz, ABC automotive specialist and reporter.

A scenery of towering pine trees, ponds and fauna was the setting for a varied temporary museum of classic cars, sports and muscle cars nestled among the shaded natural environment and was a welcomed sight and a cool relief from a well manicured hot sunny lawn of a concours.

Sitting proudly among the tall pines, Tom Peluso’s gorgeous black 1955 Ford Thunderbird is the car commissioned in 2005 by the US Postal Service to be the model for one of the Sports Car Series postal stamps. The series included a ’53 Corvette, a ’54 Kaiser Darrin, a ’52 Nash-Healey, and a ’53 Studebaker Starliner.

The postmaster at the time said, “These cars are a perfect reminder of the 1950s and American optimism that the nation’s future was looking bright.”

At every turn along the nature walk was another cluster of iconic classics. A sharp ’62 Thunderbird Sports Roadster know as the Bullet-Birds, a ’60 Facel-Vega Excellence, one of only 60 handcrafted and was the world’s fastest 1960 4-door powered by a Chrysler 383 V8 engine, a very cool DeLorean DMC12, a rare black rear engine 1941 Tatra T87 (3023 built), a stunning ’30 Cadillac V16 Roadster Convertible, a superb ’54 Hudson Hornet Convertible, a very rare crème yellow ’55 Hudson Italia, a 51 Kaiser Traveler Deluxe (designed by Howard “Dutch” Darrin and made by Kaiser-Frazer Corp.) , a wonderful family of Volvos which included “my dream car” a white ’64 Volvo 1800S that was driven by Simon Templar, The Saint played by Roger Moore in the fictional detective TV show produced in the UK, a good showing of impressive muscle cars along the lake’s edge and many more that brought a coined phrase to surface.

“Highway Earth Car Show was at one with nature,” and best of all, admission and parking were free.

Visit www.highwayearth.com for more info.

 

Eye Candy: San Marino Motor Classic

Photos by Howard Koby

At the historic Rose Bowl and the Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena, California, the Los Angeles Concours d’Elegance staged its inaugural event May 21, 2006, featuring more than 250 antique, classic, exotic and vintage automobiles being judged in 31 classes. For an added treat, KABC’s “Motorman” Leon Kaplan broadcast his popular radio show surrounded by all the beautiful cars.

Someone on the advisory committee said, “Pebble Beach maybe the pinnacle, but that is in Northern California and we hope to bring the same kind of event to Southern California.”

The Los Angeles Concours continued only to 2009. In 2011, co-founders Aaron Weiss, Ben Reiling and Paul Colony established The San Marino Motor Classic as a successor. The 2011 edition was a hybrid of a Classic Car Club of America Concours d’Elegance and is held at San Marino’s best-kept secret, Lacy Park, a 30-acre lush green span with a woodsy surround in the middle of a posh residential area.

For 2014, the theme was “Design in Motion” and the event featured 22 classes of cars with more than 200 examples including Brass Era, Depression Era, Post-War luxury and sports cars beautifully showcased on the expansive lawn.

Jerry Rosenstock who was Chief Judge in 2006 is still on the podium and had his work cut out for himself with about 70 honored judges to choose class winners and best of show. ABC’s Eye Witness News automotive specialist Dave Kunz and noted commentator and racing expert Ed Justice Jr. handled the emcee task with finesse and a touch of humor.

One of the most prized awards at the show is the Paul Cerf Memorial Award (CCCA- first won by Phil Hill with his 1931 Pierce-Arrow in 1955) which this year went to Fred Lax for his stunning 1934 Auburn Phaeton Saloon Coupe.

Best of Show Pre-War honored John Muckel for displaying his superb 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton and Best of Show Post-War went to a beautiful black-on-black 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster done by Hjeltness Restoration Inc.

I must say the Duesy surly deserves Best of Show (I even picked it), but my favorite vehicle was the 1913 Mercer Type 35-J Raceabout (once owned by Phil Hill) presented by the Petersen Automotive Museum. This gem was built by C. G. Roeling, who also constructed the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City (where I’m from) and is believed to be the most original Mercer Type 35-J in existence.

Proceeds from this year’s show benefit the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA, the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Rotary Club of San Marino. For more infomation, visit www.sanmarinomotorclassic.com .