All posts by Larry Nutson

Larry Nutson is an auto industry veteran, a mechanical engineer by education and an automobile enthusiast at heart. His diverse automotive career includes a youthful stint in semi-pro drag racing, twenty-five years working for Volkswagen of America, three years of Chevrolet strategy planning at Campbell-Ewald Advertising, and a position as founding member of the Detroit-based Individual Communicators Network (ICN). He is a past chairperson of the SAE International Public Affairs Committee, has provided public relations services for SAE Congress and Formula SAE and was a consultant and sponsorship representative for the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit. Larry is the Chicago Bureau Chief for The Auto Channel and resides in Chicago.

Eye Candy: Milwaukee Masterpiece

Award winners roll toward their introductions at the Milwaukee Masterpiece| Larry Nutson photos
Award winners roll toward their introductions at the Milwaukee Masterpiece| Larry Nutson photos

Early morning light rain didn’t discourage exhibitors or spectators at the 11th edition of The Milwaukee Masterpiece. A light breeze cleared the skies quickly at the picturesque lakefront location.

The Milwaukee Masterpiece takes place on the shores of Lake Michigan at Veteran’s Park, a spectacular venue situated between the Milwaukee Yacht Club and the stunningly modern Milwaukee Art Museum with its kinetic “wings.”

More than 200 unique cars, trucks and motorcycles were arrayed on the show field. Complementing the rolling sculpture for the first time were “Beautiful Boats,” an array of classic wooden boats from mid-20th century. Continue reading

Eye Candy: 17th annual Mid American Motor Works VW Funfest

Mike Yager bills himself as the chief cheerleader at Mid America Motor Works, which is located on a 200 acre campus in Effingham, a city in southern Illinois. One of the annual events hosted by Yager and his family is the VW Funfest, a gathering and celebration for air-cooled Volkswagens billed in its 17th edition as “Cars and Stars” and featuring the legendary Bruce Meyers, creator of the Meyers Manx. Also shown was a 30-minute sneak peak of the new documentary The Bug Movie. Continue reading

Eye Candy: 2015 Hot Rod Power Tour

The Hot Rod Power Tour is billed as the world’s largest road trip. The 2015 Power Tour has been off and running, hitting seven cities in seven days chasing the Mississippi River south from Wisconsin to Louisiana. The 21st running of the Power Tour features thousands of cars from all over America and beyond. This year that tour, with sponsorship from Chevrolet Performance and Continental Tire, ran June 6-13, starting in Madison, Wisconsin, and ending in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Continue reading

Eye Candy: Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals

Photos by Larry Nutson

With no snow on the ground to deter travel on this pre-Thanksgiving Chicagoland weekend, young and old alike got to see hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cars that delighted all and brought a smile to many a face at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals.

As the show’s title suggests, there are muscle cars both vintage and new, Corvettes, drag race tribute cars, nostalgia drag race cars, a midway of vendors for car enthusiasts and hobbyists, as well as an assortment of vehicles for sale.

A 1971 426 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible that sold for a record $3.5 million earlier this fall greeted show visitors at the entrance.

VIP celebrity guests included the likes of Jim Wangers, the Godfather of the GTO; Ohio George Montgomery, the famed gasser and pro-stock drag racer; members of the Plymouth Golden Commandos drag race team from the mid-1960s, and Corvette road racer Tony DeLorenzo, who was recently inducted into the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame.

Dennis Pittsenbarger, star of the Discovery Channel television show Highway to Sell, emceed weekend premier unveilings of recently completed restorations such as the Clark Rand 1964 Hemi-powered Cheetah.

A field of Cobra Jet Fords, L89 Chevys and Hemi Mopars brought oldsters back to their younger years and educated youngsters about the history of performance cars in the U.S. auto industry.

Did you know that the drag racing term “funny car” had its beginnings in 1965 with the Mopar altered wheelbase race cars?

For those looking for a winter project, a display of dusty and dirty “barn finds” offered various muscle cars and ex-race cars, each one waiting for a hobbyist. Free seminars offered information and education for the muscle car enthusiast.

Preliminary estimates had it that about 20,000 folks would visit the show and from about 30 different states.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of many, many of these iconic and unique contributions to the American automotive scene. The sixth annual Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals featured nearly 600 mint condition muscle cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s, first generation Corvettes up to today’s Stingray and a collection of local hobbyists cars and trucks.


Eye Candy: Mecum’s 2014 Chicago auction

Photos by Larry Nutson

Yes, it’s an auction for buyers and sellers. However, it’s also a wonderful car show.

Mecum Auctions’ 2014 Chicago classic and collector car auction returned to the suburban Schaumburg Convention Center with an exceptional lineup of nearly 1,000 collector cars headlined by a healthy variety of American muscle, Corvettes and more.

Among the big attractions for collectors and admirers were a Bloomington Gold Survivor 1967 silver-on-red COPO Corvette convertible and a 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T. Other featured lots included two Nickey super Camaros offered from Chicago-collector Mike Guarise’s collection, as well as a Chicago-local 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A sold new from Mr. Norm’s Grand Spaulding Dodge and a 1970 Buick GS Stage 1 factory prototype show car.

Vehicles were up for bid all weekend. About one vehicle every two and a half minutes was the norm.

A selection of cars from the Scott Bayrach collection was especially interesting. Included were a 1950 Nash Ambassador Super Sedan, a 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette, and a 1955 Dodge Custom Lancer Royal Convertible.

By the auction’s end, muscle cars and Ford GTs dominated the sales.

Host to 936 vehicles and throngs of buyers, sellers and more than 15,000 spectators, the lineup brought an excellent variety, but it was the impressive selection of muscle that stole the spotlight and virtually every spot in top sales. With 579 of the total vehicles offered hammering sold, a 62 percent sell-through rate was achieved and total sales reached $15,267,644.

The Ford GT market has been white-hot. Auction sales were topped by three headlining vehicles, all Ford GTs. A 2006 Heritage Edition with just 182 miles took top sales honors with an impressive price of $475,000. A 2006 GT sold for $335,000 and a 2005 GT for $300,000.

A 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Fastback, formerly from the collection of past Major League Baseball player John Smiley, brought in $200,000 and a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda sold for $185,000.

We roamed the cars and trucks assembled under the tents along with the hopeful owners who wanted to sell, bidders who wanted to seal a deal, and tire kickers galore.

There was something for everyone’s taste and for everyone’s bank account. The auction was a gallery of rolling artwork for you to admire in your garage, your driveway or cruising the streets of your town.


Eye Candy: Route 66 Motor Tour begins

Photos by Larry Nutson

The inaugural Route 66 Motor Tour is on the road. On October 9, under slightly hazy skies and mid-50 temperatures, approximately 25 vehicles departed Joliet, Illinois on their trek south and west.

Following the Illinois Historic Route 66 signs along with the aid of a map and route instructions handed out at the morning driver’s meeting, the first overnight stop was Litchfield, Illinois. That’s about a 240-mile drive that the “Route 66-ers” have all day to complete.

Along the way they’ll pass the Blues Brothers car, Gemini Giant in Wilmington, the Polk A Dot Drive In, as well as a very historic Texaco gas station. The Pontiac-Oakland Museum is a must stop as well as the Cozy Dog Drive-in in Springfield, home of the corn dog.

Craig Parrish provides updates at morning drivers' meeting | Larry Nutson
Craig Parrish provides updates at morning drivers’ meeting | Larry Nutson

Event organizer Craig Parrish says that about 80 cars have preregistered, of which 40 or so plan to drive the entire route. Many cars will join along the route; the total number is an unknown. Leaving Joliet were cars from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Florida.

Steve Wild of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and his mother Ruthann are driving Ruthann’s 1961 Chevy Impala that she bought new. Steve and his mom were looking forward to the drive in their “survivor” with an expression of hope that they encounter no car troubles.

Brothers Tom and Wally Bailey of Lansing, Michigan, are driving their 1953 International Harvester Travelall that’s powered by a 403-cubic-inch Oldsmobile engine. Jan Miller of Ovid, Michigan, is driving her customized peach colored ’47 Olds convertible. Jan’s husband passed away four years ago and she is now doing the driving, as he would want her to, she said.

Two sisters, Pearl Cooper of Orland Park, Illinois, and Bonnie Stump from Florida are Thunderbird collectors. Bonnie has a ’56, ’62 and a ’65. Pearl has a ’56 and they are driving her turquoise green ’02. She recently sold her ’65. Pearl’s T-bird love started with her now -eceased husband. Bonnie says she has a following of about 100 folks that she will be e-mailing a daily travel log.

Jerry Mattson and his wife are driving their tribute dirt track racer. It’s a ’39 Plymouth body mounted on a ’56 Chevy pickup chassis and powered by a 350 Chevy small block. The car has no heater, no A/C and Jerry just put in a blower to help defog the windshield instead of his wife wiping it with a towel.

John Weiss is the director Of preservation for the Illinois Route 66 Association and the author of a three books on the Illinois section of the “mother road.” He is along for the trip and will be providing lots of insight and history on the world famous Route 66.

Day one was planned to end with a visit to the Sky View Drive-In for a two hour cruise and then viewing “American Graffiti” on the big screen.


Eye Candy: The Milwaukee Masterpiece

Photos by Larry Nutson

My early arrival well before the 10 a.m. opening offered a field of more than 200 unique cars, trucks and motorcycles blanketed by a hazy sky and cooled by the Lake Michigan breeze. With mother nature’s big silk flying overhead, this delightful scenario allowed for photography from nearly any angle with little or no wait for spectators to finish their viewing and give me a clear shot.

The Milwaukee Masterpiece takes place on the shores of Lake Michigan at Veteran’s Park, a spectacular venue situated between the Milwaukee Yacht Club and the stunningly modern Milwaukee Art Museum. Inaugurated in August 2005, the Milwaukee Masterpiece has accomplished a good deal in just nine short years, making itself a destination for local residents as well as regional travelers. The show has grown to be counted among the most respected events of its kind in the nation.

2014 marks the 10th edition of The Masterpiece, which headlined “Our Favorite Automobiles, Motorcycles and Trucks.” Festivities ran throughout the weekend of August 23–24, 2014, culminating in the concours d’elegance.

Three 50th anniversaries were celebrated – the Pontiac GTO, Milwaukee’s own Excaliber, and the Ford Mustang. Special guest Jim Wangers, the godfather of the GTO and the marketing guru behind the introduction of the GTO and the muscle car concept, was on hand to chat with show visitors and provide autographs.

There were 224 motorcars and motorcycles in 29 judged classes selected from all over the world and invited to celebrate automotive art and history.

Related events included the Style & Speed Social traditionally held in an historic Milwaukee landmark and the Seminar Series, which spotlighted various entries, their owners and their histories in a moderated discussion.

In 2006, Club Day was established as a companion event, held in the same venue prior to the concours. “Club Day At The M” has grown to nearly 400 entries – a completely separate roster of fine vehicles than those seen on Sunday.

Proceeds raised by The Masterpiece benefit social and medical service programs.
The Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and Meta House have been designated as the 2014 beneficiaries of The Masterpiece Ltd., the non-profit organization that operates The Milwaukee Masterpiece.

Attendees saw award-winning vehicles that placed in other major shows such as Pebble Beach and Amelia Island, with owners from countries as far flung as Italy, Switzerland and Canada, as well as U.S. states from Florida and South Carolina to Utah and California.

In The Great Race, its ‘Race, Repair and Repeat’ on a daily (and sometimes nightly) basis

Ed Habentz's 1928 Ford Model A Speedster needs some work | Larry Nutson
Ed Habentz’s 1928 Ford Model A Speedster needs some work | Larry Nutson

I caught up with the officially named “2014 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty” at the end of its third-day at the overnight stop in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. On a 2,300-mile journey from the coast of Maine to central Florida, 104 vehicles are competing in this time speed endurance rally for vintage cars.

The prize, beyond just finishing and checking it off your bucket list, is more than $150,000, with $50,000 going to the first place Grand Champion.

'The Krauts' proudly drive their 1934 Ford Deluxe Phaeton
‘The Krauts’ proudly drive their 1934 Ford Deluxe Phaeton

Participants in this the 29th Great Race are from all over the United States, as well as Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. From Berlin, Germany, Thomas Karr and his 18-year old son Benjamin are driving the Team 97 1934 Ford Deluxe Phaeton in their second Great Race. The Karr’s are proud to be nicknamed “the Krauts” and drove three years ago around the Great Lakes in that Great Race.

A 1970 Nissan Laurel is being driven by Guillermo Wam of Peru, now living in Miami, with Toshi Haru from Akasaka, Japan, as his navigator.

Each driver and navigator team is given printed route instructions. Beyond knowing where they will stop for lunch and at day’s end, they don’t know the route that they will take to get there. And consider there are no on-board navigation systems or smart phone maps allowed.

A trio arrives at check in after a day on the road
A trio arrives at check in after a day on the road

The trek is grueling. Cars break. At Valley Forge, only 94 were still running. Some get repaired over night. Ed Habetz in his 1928 Model A Speedster had a transmission breakage needing an overnight repair in Valley Forge. The evening before, a head gasket was replaced on one of the oldsters.

For the first time by any team ever in 31 years, Irene and Barry Jason from Keller, Texas in their ‘66 Mustang had a perfect day. They arrived exactly at all the checkpoints perfectly on time and had no penalty deductions. The Jasons were the Grand Champions for the previous two years driving a ’35 Ford Coupe.

Ashley Caldwell checks on her parents' progress
Ashley Caldwell checks on her parents’ progress

To make the Great Race happen requires a team of about 60 staff and volunteers. Ashley Caldwell is a 17-year-old from outside Atlanta. She is participating in her tenth race… yes she started at age 7. Her parents, Chad and Jennie Caldwell, drive the Team 31 1931 Auburn Boattail Speedster.

At each stop along the way, Brian “Motormouth” Goudge is the voice of the Great Race, welcoming each car under the “arches” at the finish. Motormouth Brian gives details of each car and tells the story of the team, entertains folks in every local community and explains the complexities and scoring of the very competitive Great Race.

Cars can be no newer than 1972. Some vintage cars have been “modernized” within allowable rules, for example, equipped with an alternator to provide reliable electric supply. Some older closed cars have been fitted with air conditioning to help with a bit of relief from the heat along the way.

Mary and Ted Stahl from Chesterfield, Michigan are driving to raise funds for VCRA to fight Autism. They are driving a 1935 Auburn 851 and their two sons Brett and Dan are in a 1941 Packard Coupe. The Stahl’s motto is “Race, Repair and Repeat.”

1938 Ford Fordor Deluxe police car is one competing in The Great Race
1938 Ford Fordor Deluxe police car is one competing in The Great Race

The race takes nine days with drivers covering about 225 miles each day over about nine hours. Cars are divided into five divisions. The oldest car is a 1915 Hudson 6-40 driven by Frank Buonanno of Newton, Connecticut and Chris Clark of Ansonia, Connecticut. Of course you couldn’t have a race without some police help even in vintage cars.

Departures are early each morning as racers aim for their goal: To Finish is to Win.

Eye Candy: Jaguars at the Simeone

Photos by Larry Nutson

After its beginnings as the Swallow Sidecar Company, Jaguar leapt onto the international racing scene in the 1950s, establishing itself as one of the greatest automotive marques in history. Thanks to the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia, a look at the progression of Jaguar from its beginning through to the 1970s brought us some wonderful images and insights.

Bill Lyons founded the Swallow Sidecar Company, first making sidecars for motorcycles and then car bodies. In the mid-1930s, Lyons decided to build complete cars, initially a sedan, then the SS-90, the 90 referring to a top speed of 90 mph. In 1936 came the SS-100, first with a 2.5-liter engine and later with a 3.5, which enabled the car to top out at 125 mph. Only 116 of the 3.5-L models were made between 1938 and 1940.

Rallying was a popular way to advertise cars and the SS-100 was successful in the Alpine Trials, the Monte Carlo Rally and the Royal Automobile Club Rally.

Following World War II, the SS nomenclature was for obvious reasons now inappropriate and the Jaguar brand was born. Of interesting note is that the name change was also due to Coventry, England having been heavily bombed by the German army during WWII.

Rallying gave way to track racing after the war and Jaguar competed in the international racing scene. The basic Jaguar engine continued for many years with dual overhead cams added to provide more horsepower. The C-type was the first production car to have disc brakes. More horsepower to go fast and good brakes to slow quickly before a turn made Jaguar successful on race tracks and the winner of the 1951 and 1953 LeMans race.

Shown in this Eye Candy are a 1938 Jaguar SS-100 3.5-L, which represents the classic pre-WWII rally car; a 1953 C-type that finished third in the 1953 Sebring 12-hour race; a 1956 D-type that also ran at Sebring, finishing third in 1956; and a 1971 XK-E 4.2-L.

Of interesting note for music fans, when the Simeone Museum bought the Jag D-type, the underbidder in the purchase was Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones who was quite miffed that he “Didn’t get no Satisfaction.”

Eye Candy: Carlisle Import and Kit Nationals

Photos by Larry Nutson

Sunny skies and a cool breeze made my first visit to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, as well as to the Import and Kit Nationals, quite pleasant and memorable. Every auto enthusiast should make at least one visit to the Carlisle Fairgrounds and take in one of the dozen or so auto events held there each year.

This was the 29th edition of the Carlisle Import and Kit Nationals. What’s really unique about this three-day, mid-May car show is that nearly every car is driven to the show. There are very few trailer queens, save for some out-an-out race cars.

British marques took center stage. Austin Healeys, Jaguars, Lotus, Minis…both small and large, MGs, Triumphs, TVRs and more were in the multitude. I also was amazed at the huge number of Saabs. Nissan was on board with a Heritage Collection display. License plates from all over the eastern U.S. as well as Canada were evident.

A vender midway and swap meet had folks searching for restoration parts both new and used. Seminars thru out the weekend provided tips on maintenance, troubleshooting as well as restoration and kit building.

The Carlisle Club Program provides access to perks, recognition and parade participation. Saabs@Carlisle, the Audi Club, Speedster Owners, Volvo Club of America, and yes, the Manx Club for street-legal dune buggies, were all on the scene.

The Susquehanna Region of SCCA conducted autocross runs for anyone who wanted to have a go at it. IMSA champion Bobby Archer of Archer Brothers Racing from Duluth, Minnesota, was on hand and ran some hot laps on the autocross course in a replica of his winning 1984 Renault Encore.

The enthusiasm at this event is mind-boggling. Show goers and car owners are of all ages. I was impressed at the large number of young folk who brought their own personal prized car to exhibit, with some of the cars being about the same age as the owners.