I love the idea of these driving resorts, and I hope that Bilster Berg is a huge success. There’s a lot of love in this video of racing drivers’ reactions to their initial experiences on the track. Directed by GT Racer’s Alexander Davidis, there’ll be some familiar faces here for fans of the series. But there’s also some tremendous vintage racing machinery in the form of E-Type Lightweights, 911s, Austin-Healeys.
One thing in particular stood out as drivers describe the difficulty in learning the track and the learning curve in coming to terms with its compact complexity. One driver says it requires many, many laps before you start to get it right; another driver says a couple of hundred laps would be necessary to learn it properly. That sounds about right for a track that has been described as a mini-Nürburgring.
Did you catch what Derek Bell said, though? “To come back on my own without other cars, just sort of do five or six laps to get it all together”.
A couple hundred laps vs. Five or six laps. That right there is the difference between even a highly skilled racing driver and Derek Bell.
Do you think it’s just because Abarth started with small displacement engines that his name isn’t whispered with reverence by every hot rodder? You’d think that everyone tearing into a Ford flatty or Chrysler FirePower would offer a silent prayer to Abarth and the empire he built hot-rodding Fiat engines.
Why the apples? Under a doctor’s care as part of an intense weight loss program, Carlo apparently adopted a diet of apples and steak. Only apples and steak.
These weren’t little GoPros hanging off of the Maestro’s Lancia. Each of these cameras had to be loaded with film, started up, and run a few laps. Then they had to do it again and again so that you don’t see the giant camera in the other angles. It’s easy to dismiss the complexity of these earlier onboard films when we can easily toss a half-dozen or more digital video cameras on a car at every possible angle. It’s part of what makes early onboard footage so precious.
Looking through the slow motion montages in this clip, I have to believe it was part of the inspiration for Saul Bass’s racing sequences in Grand Prix.
How hard do you think that Alfonso de Portago would laugh if we could tell him that racing teams have models in the pit lane who’s job it is to shield the drivers from the sun? De Portago didn’t need someone to cover his head when it started to rain before the 1957 Cuban GP and he certainly didn’t need it for the sun. A Shell ad wedged in the windscreen of his Ferrari 860 does just fine, thank you very much.
Every year we see a new collection from a fashion designer talking up his inspiration from Steve McQueen. My recommendation: Look to his countryman Masten Gregory. Dude was stylish. Seriously, when you can make two sets of goggles hanging around your neck look badass you’re doing something right.
I’m not entirely sure that Alberto Ascari would have loved Murray Walker’s introduction in this clip from Walker’s F1 Greats. Once the stats start rolling in I’m sure the mood would have lightened. Tremendous.
Editor’s note: Rich Stickley wrote in recently about his acquaintance and unsung American racing legend Dick Stockton. He’s a frequent mention in the history of American road racing, but there’s not been much of a proper writeup on the man. Rich had recently recorded a short interview with Dick and wrote in asking if The Chicane would be interested in putting up an article about him. I’m guessing you know the answer to that question… I’ll let Rich tell you the rest of the story.
For many of us, motor sports in the 1960′s were something we either watched from behind the tire walls as children, or look back on in some sort of nostalgic awe. We think of men with cold dead eyes piercing through the grime of their goggles, racing on the brink of death amidst an orchestra of side draft carburetor trumpets, snarling side pipes, and screeching tires, and we cannot help but be drawn in. Of course, there are others who look back on motor sports in the 1960′s and say, “It’s just stuff to me.” They were there, right in the thick of it. One of these men is Dick Stockton.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Dick didn’t take the plunge into motor sports until the Air Force shipped him off to California. Here he began attending races as a spectator, and picked up an old Ford Roadster to tinker around with. This wasn’t enough though, and a short while later Dick purchased an Austin Healey 100-4, which he raced at Stockton air port and a few other places in the Northern California area.
After his time in the service, Dick worked at a Chrome plating shop in California for a few months, but eventually decided to head home where he ended up working as a mechanic outside of Philadelphia for an Englishman who he recalls being “a real wheeler-dealer type of guy.” It was here that he ended up working on the Austin Healey 100-4 of Steve McQueen, who was in the area filming his first major film, The Blob.
Dick continued to bounce around a bit as a mechanic, and eventually grew tiresome of working for “wheeler-dealers.” He decided to open his own speed shop with a friend of his in the early 60′s in Abington, Pennsylvania. Shortly after opening though, the friend left, and Dick found himself running the whole show himself. Dick’s shop went on to develop quite a reputation for building and maintaining top notch race cars. In engine tuning, Dick stood with the best of them. The Toyota Celica he built and maintained for Buzz Marcus captured the first professional Toyota victory in the United States, and it is said in some circles that if Dick merely touches your car, it will gain 10 horsepower. The shop had an elevator to get cars onto the second floor, but the belt for the elevator’s motor was long gone so, as Dick put it, “who ever volunteered, or whoever I told to do it, had to go up on the third floor, grab a hold of the wheel and pull the elevator up.” The second floor became home to a myriad of race cars over the years, from a Ferrari 500 TRC to a 265 Chevy, but perhaps one of the most historically important cars kept up there was a Turner who belonged to a local guy. His name was Skip Barber, and at the time he was looking for somewhere to work on his car, as he was just starting out in racing. Dick remembers jokingly, “I dunno if he’d recognize me… He basically built [that car] on the second floor of the shop. He had it balled up, I think, most of the time.”
Along side maintaining and building race cars for others, Stockton also quite successfully raced a number of iconic cars throughout his life in racing including a Datsun 510, an early Corolla, a Vulcan Formula 5000 car, and even a rare aluminum bodied Elva. In the late 60′s Dick acquired a 289 AC Shelby Cobra for the modest price of 5,000 dollars from Gene Fisher. Stockton remembers this car very fondly, claiming “in a cobra back then you didn’t drive around a corner, you drove around a corner sliding,” and on famous tires at that. Dick remembers, “one of my customers at the time happened to run the tire store for Roger Penske… tires for the cobra [were] the same size [Mark] Donohue was running on the Camaro in the late ’60s early ’70s. I would buy the scrubs from Donohue’s Camaro for 25 dollars a piece. At one time I had current tire of the week club.”
In 1965 at the SCCA runoffs in Daytona, Dick , his Triumph TR4, and Dick’s crew ended up sharing a garage in the pits with Bob Tullius and his Group 44 team for the race. This led Dick to come to the conclusion, “a group is an organized bunch of people, right? A crowd is a bunch of disorganized people. That was us.” It was from these thoughts that The 71 Crowd was born, and a rivalry between the two teams began. Dick even remembers moving things around in his bay to trick the Group 44 guys into thinking that he was changing the set up on his car, with the hopes of psyching out his competition. Eventually things escalated and became a big enough deal at the runoffs that year that Dick remembers, “a local TV station picked up on it and they interviewed me and all that.”
Towards the end of the 70s and into the 80s, Dick didn’t do much racing, and in 1996, he closed his shop due to being “fed up with people and customers.” However, in the last decade or so, Dick decided to track down his old TR4, buy it back, and have another go at things. Within no time at all Dick has found him self right back at the top, and his Triumph is easily one of the fastest SCCA Vintage TR4′s in the country. His car set up is nothing short of innovative, and Dick says of his current impact on vintage racing, “I kind of think I opened up the door a little for some of the people racing TR4s on the east coast. My car is constantly being developed.” At 79 years old, Dick still does most of his own mechanical work, and is extremely competitive on the track to this day. Currently working on repairs after hitting the wall at a VRG event held at New Jersey Motorsports Park last September, Dick plans on being fully ready for the upcoming vintage racing season, and more competitive than ever.
Here’s some on-board footage with Dick from the 2011 SVRA Feature race at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Special thanks to Bob Adams for tracking down and taking pictures and videos, and for introducing me to Dick.
While I was visiting Detroit over the Holidays I spent New Years Day having brunch at the Vinsetta Garage. The Woodward Avenue service station opened in 1919 but has been shuttered for a few years. When I’d heard that it had been sold as restaurant space I was afraid that we’d lose another gearhead landmark to contemporary redevelopment.
Thankfully the co-owners kept more than just the name when the Vinetta Garage re-opened as a restaurant last summer. The interior looks largely untouched. Vintage automotive signage looks right at home next to old Strohs and Schlitz signs near the bar. If I were still living in Detroit, I would absolutely be a regular. As you might expect, the menu is peppered with motoring references of one sort or another—mostly Detroit muscle and hot rods.
This item on the menu, though, stood out as one of only a few GP racing mentions. The cocktail offerings list The Jimmy Clark: Gin, lemon juice, egg white, and sugar with soda. It got me wondering. I can certainly imagine naming a cocktail or two after James Hunt… Maybe Graham Hill… Maybe Ascari… But Jim Clark?
Today, Jimmy is remembered as such a serious—even wholesome—character that it almost seems sacrilege to name a cocktail after him. Maybe the years since his death have made his memory rose-colored and I have it all wrong. Do you think he would have been knocking his signature cocktail back on an evening at the Steering Wheel Club?