Category archives: Commentary

McLaren died at age 32, but movie renews his life and legacy

Bruce McLaren would have been 80 years old had he lived | McLaren movie photo
Bruce McLaren would have been 80 years old had he lived | McLaren movie photo

I was less than a year into my job as a sportswriter at the daily newspaper in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when the Associated Press teletype machine delivered the news that Bruce McLaren had died. McLaren, 32 years old and perhaps at the height of his racing career, was testing his new M8D Can-Am car when the rear bodywork came loose as McLaren was driving at speed on the straightaway leading to the Woodcote corner on the Goodwood racing circuit in England.

None of the others working with me on the sports desk that morning understood my reaction as I read the words printed on the pale-yellow paper that fed from a cardboard box into the teletype, where a “copy boy” would tear off the stories and deliver them to the news, Sunday or sports department. Continue reading

Classic Cadillacs in muddy field and other road-trip observations

The family that paints together... | Larry Edsall photos
The family that paints together… | Larry Edsall photos

What is it about Cadillac Ranch that refuses to allow me simply to zoom past on Interstate 40, that draws me off the super slab and onto the frontage road, to park beside the road and to walk through the cow-catcher gate and out into the farm field west of Amarillo, Texas, where 10 vintage Cadillacs — from a 1949 Club Coupe to a 1963 Sedan DeVille — are buried nose-down, though at a very precise angle? Continue reading

Tales from the Black Forest, and beyond

Klaus Ludwig in an AMG-prepared Mercedes-Benz 190 2.5-16 Evo | Mercedes-Benz photos
Klaus Ludwig in an AMG-prepared Mercedes-Benz 190 2.5-16 Evo | Mercedes-Benz photos

You have to wonder what they thought in Tuscaloosa, Spartanburg and Chattanooga last week when it was reported that our President complained during his visit to Europe that German automakers were selling too many of their vehicles in the United States, while American automakers sell very few of their vehicles in Germany. Continue reading

So many parallels in collecting automobiles and art

A 'mechanical art gallery' is one way to describe a Gooding & Company auction tent | Larry Edsall photo
A ‘mechanical art gallery’ is one way to describe a Gooding & Company auction tent | Larry Edsall photo

Gooding & Company recently distributed a video featuring car specialist Justin Gosaynie. In the video, Gosaynie says his first car was a 1971 Alfa Spider that he had to restore if he wanted to be able to drive it. That led to work as a restoration specialist, then for several major collections, and finally to the collector car auction house. Continue reading

Nothing Mickey Mouse about car folks doing good

Mickey Mouse and his new Hot Doggin hot rod | Disney photo by Matt Alexander/PA Wire
Mickey Mouse and his new Hot Doggin hot rod | Disney photo by Matt Alexander/PA Wire

‘Goodonya.” Technically the expression is “good on ya,” but on my trips to Australia, it sure sounded as though folks were pronouncing a single word of encourage and agreement and approval for someone who had done something praiseworthy.

With that in mind, permit me to say “goodonyas” to Kevin Cornish and Deb Pollack. And to Dana Mecum and John Andretti. And to a consignor at Auctions America.

I moved from Michigan to Phoenix as the country was in full Y2K, the sky is falling panic mode. One of my early duties was to cover the collector car auctions taking place and I remember people talking even then about how Arizona needed a concours d’elegance and maybe even a vintage racing weekend.

There was lots of such talk, though precious little beyond that, in the ensuing years, at least that was the case until a local car collector named Kevin Cornish put words into action, formed a committee and launched the Arizona Concours d’Elegance. Sadly, after only four years, that event succumbs to a lack of sponsorship.

Nonetheless, in just four years the event featured some of the world’s finest automobiles, and in the magnificent yet intimate setting of the inner grounds of the Arizona Biltmore resort, and perhaps most importantly, raised $300,000 for Make-A-Wish, money that enabled 30 children facing life-threatening illnesses to have their wishes come true, even if only for a day.

Deb Pollack and those who drove toward a cure
Deb Pollack and those who drove toward a cure

And then there’s Deb Pollack, an auto-oriented public relations professional I’ve known for more years than either of us is eager to admit. Complications from Parkinson’s disease claimed Deb’s mother in 2006. Last month, Deb overcame grief with gumption by staging the first Drive Toward a Cure auto rally and convinced 36 car owners to take their choice of routes — south from the Bay area or north from Los Angeles, meeting in Paso Robles a few days and several hundred miles later.

There were various events along the routes, including an autocross in which a skillfully driven 2017 Subaru Outback posted a time faster than any of the exotic vehicles in the field.

From what I’ve heard, a good time was had by all, and in the process $25,000 is being donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center. Deb’s planning another such rally this fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains with the finish line at the second Atlanta Concours d’Elegance, and hopes to stage more such events, including similar rallies in Europe.

Did you know that Mickey Mouse is a car guy?

London cabbie reacts to seeing Mickey and his new hot rod
London cabbie reacts to seeing Mickey and his new hot rod

Turns out that the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has been replaced by Mickey and the Roadster Racers on the Disney Junior and Disney Channels, with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Pluto racing around Hot Dog Hills and other locations.

One of the characters on the animated program is race announcer Billy Beagle, whose voice you might recognize (it’s Jay Leno).

Turn out, as well, that Mickey’s car, the Hot Doggin Hot Rod, has emerged from the television screen to become a running vehicle that was unveiled last week to a British audience at the London Motor Show 2017. Sometime this month, an episode of the program features Mickey and company chasing down a thief who steals the Queen’s crown jewels.

Speaking of racing and the month of May…

Mecum Auctions, which stages its 30th annual Dana Mecum’s Original Spring Classic sale May 16-20 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, will sponsor Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s No. 24 Chevrolet-powered car and driver Sage Karam in the 101st Indianapolis 500.

Mecum Auctions sponsors Indy entry | Mecum photo
Mecum Auctions sponsors Indy entry | Mecum photo

Mecum sponsored the historic Dreyer & Reinbold car in 2012, with Oriol Servia driving to a fourth-place finish.

By the way, Karam, 22, is from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the hometown of the Andretti family.

The Dreyer & Reinbold team traces its roots to the 1920s and Indy car builder Floyd “Pop” Dreyer. Dennis Reinbold is Dreyer’s grandson and has been fielding cars for the 500 since 2000.

Dana Mecum also has a long history with Indy cars, collecting them and each year leading the Millers at Milwaukee vintage racing weekend. Last summer, two of Mecum’s vintage Indy racers were on the 18th fairway for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where his 1965 Ford GT40 roadster also was part of the featured Ford GT40 50th anniversary Le Mans victory class.

Speaking of auctions and Indiana and the month of May…

1947 Dodge pickup
1947 Dodge pickup

Two of the cars on the docket at Auctions America’s Auburn Spring sale this weekend in northeast Indiana are being sold to benefit the automotive restoration technology program at McPherson College in Kansas. The vehicles are a 1947 Dodge pickup (Lot 3134) and a 1932 Ford three-window street-rod coupe (Lot 3135).

Each car has a pre-sale estimated value of $20,000 to $30,000.

Speaking of things most people would prefer to ignore…

In my first professional lifetime, I wrote about sports. Primarily stick-and-ball sports, but also about auto racing. One of the things that makes writing about auto racing different from writing about other sports is that sometimes, too often, your stories become obituaries for drivers for whom the checkered flag has flown too soon.

Knee injuries are debilitating. Death is fatal, and final.

Try as we do, even the most objective of journalists cannot help but establish friendships with some of the people about whom they write. For me, one of those people has been John Andretti, son of Aldo, nephew of Mario, cousin of Michael, husband of Nancy, father of Olivia and Jarett and Amelia.

John may be the most versatilely successful racer in history, having raced not only Indy cars and stock cars and Le Mans-style prototypes but also a Top Fuel drag racer. And he survived it all.

But now, at age 54, and ready to walk a daughter down the aisle at her wedding, he’s been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, and it has spread to his liver and, at last report, doctors fear to his spleen as well.

As might be expected, John is fighting the disease, and his fight includes going public and using his celebrity to encourage everyone to get screened, and to do so years earlier than usual.

“You don’t know,” John told the Indianapolis Star newspaper. “Nobody knows until they get screened.

“I’m glad people are taking this as a wakeup call,” he added.

Artist reports on his drive in the Targa Florio

Kenny Schachter's perspective on the Targa Florio 2017 | Kenny Schachter photos via artnet.com
Kenny Schachter’s perspective on the Targa Florio 2017 | Kenny Schachter photos via artnet.com

I’ve written before about the automotive adventures of Kenny Schachter, the artist and art commentator who last year bought a 1961 Alfa Spider at RM Sotheby’s London auction. Schachter will show a car-centric exhibit — #Manual (as in shift-for-yourself gearboxes) — next month at Design Miami/Basel.

Schachter’s car collection includes a 1970 Fiat Abarth 124 rally car, so Fiat invited him to participate in the recent Targa Florio. Here is a portion of his report, originally published by artnet.com. Continue reading

Impermanence and the art of automobile maintenance

Author Robert Pirsig with his son Chris on their famed motorcycle trek | Robert Pirsig archive photo
Author Robert Pirsig with his son Chris on their famed motorcycle trek | Robert Pirsig archive photo

I take it as a point of pride that I do much of my own work on all my old cars. It is an extension of the richer understanding of the machine, and an additional source of enjoyment (most of the time) in the ownership experience.

Most of us go through life not fully understanding the how, let alone the why, of what makes our world work. These days, it seems there is precious little curiosity about such things. Continue reading

A backhanded compliment for classic cars in Canada

Vintage E30 BMW M3 might be just what is needed for track day activities | BMW photo
Vintage E30 BMW M3 might be just what is needed for track day activities | BMW photo

‘Canadian driving club bans newer cars over safety concerns,” reads the headline on the autofocus.ca website report that the BMW Club Canada’s Trillium chapter in Toronto has banned new cars with modern automated forward braking and lane-departure and correction systems from track events because those systems “pose a danger to drivers at speed.” Continue reading

Hey, baby, have you slept in a Ford, lately?

Baby sleeps in bed that mimics sounds and movement and even lights of a late-night car ride | Ford of Spain photo
Baby sleeps in bed that mimics sounds and movement and even lights of a late-night car ride | Ford of Spain photo

You may have had friends like Laurie’s parents. To get her to go to sleep when she was an infant, they’d have to put her into her baby safety seat and drive around the block a few times before she’d doze off for the night. Sad to say, you may have had such an experience with your own children.

That situation is so commonplace and apparently so universal that Ford of Spain and its advertising agency have created the Max Motor Dreams, a prototype infant bed that simulates the sounds, lights and even the “comforting movement” of a ride in the car. Continue reading

April Fool’s followup and other news updates

Here's a sight you don't want to see in your rearview mirror | Lamborghini photo
Here’s a sight you don’t want to see in your rearview mirror | Lamborghini photo

Hat’s off to Honda for the best April Fool’s Day gag by an automobile manufacturer, 2017 edition.

Each year of late, automakers have attempted, and in some cases have succeeded, to spring April Fool’s Day jokes on the news media. Last weekend, those jokes included: Continue reading