Archive for the 'Personalities' Category

An appearances thing

Monday, May 17th, 2010
Glen Looper with my RENU repaired gas tank

Glenn Looper with the Corvette gas tank

What do you do when the best looking thing from your car is your fuel tank?  That is my temporary problem.  I picked up my “RENU”ed tank from Looper Servicenter in Rockville, MD – – on Friday and it is embarrassingly fine looking.  All of the rust holes have been repaired, the inside and outside has been AL oxide blasted, and all has been coated with “RENU” formulated polyvinyl coatings and lifetime guaranteed.  Working with the owner, Glenn Looper was a great and informative experience.  He possesses many years of automotive repair experience and was full of great tips and links to other resources.  Glen also takes the time to make sure you fully understand the repair process, and he keeps you informed throughout the process, so you can make do or not do decisions along the way.  He even took the time to video tape the leak test so I could appreciate how many holes I actually had in the tank.  He takes in work from all over the country and has lots of experience with classic cars.  Bring a fat wallet, but expect to get a first class job.

Readers of my previous blog entries know that I have been obsessing about “originality”.  This seems to be a Corvette owner thing, fostered by obsessive attention to “numbers matching” and all sorts of other unhealthy for your driving “bones” attitudes.  The deeper I climb into the Corvette rehab the more apparent it becomes that I can have either a driver or a show car, with no middle ground.  I believe that committing to the RENU repair on the gas tank was enough to get me past the ambiguity and commit me to the driver path; so good news there.

The other thing that the “clean enough to swill beer from” tank does is increase my incentive to get on with the clean up and repair.  The rest of the car can definitely look this good.  The fuel lines are currently soaking with carburetor cleaner.  Next I will blow them out and then replace all of the flexible lines and the fuel pump.  Even though the car has not run since I rebuilt the carburetor, I think I will pull it apart and replace all of the gaskets and diaphragms, just to ensure that all of the degradable parts in the fuel system are brand new.  Check out below to appreciate the kind of gunk that collects in old fuel lines.

Fuel line gunk

Fuel line gunk

Marlboro Raceway memories

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

For those of you who missed visiting Marlboro Raceway in Marlboro, Maryland, I found a taste of it for you.


The article at this website from the Washington Post .com is a nice reminiscence of what it was like at Marlboro in the 50’s and 60’s.  There is also an excellent film clip from a race in 1957 and additional links to other early racing.


I remember attending several races there; and in fact catching my own “I wanta race virus” there.  My best memory is of warding off freezing temperatures at the Refrigerator Bowl, run in January, with a flask of Apple Jack.


Marlboro was a very tight track, more suited for time trials than racing, but it did produce some exciting races.  The longest straight ended in a sharp left turn; and that turn claimed many race cars.  A straight off took one thru trees and brush and eventually into a creek!  The start/finish line was located in a tiny oval bowl (maybe 1/16 mi.).  Entry and exit from the bowl often included airborne moments.


After racing ended in the 60’s, it was still used occasionally for time trials/autocrosses.  I remember the first Hurst Shelby Mustang renta car showing up there and being thrashed within an inch of its life.  My own experiences of autocrossing at Marlboro in a Corvette and a Sprite are treasures.  Think I still have a trophy or two around.


Some of the early racing greats like Roger Penske. Mark Donahue, and Bob Tullius raced there.  Marlboro doesn’t quite evoke the same public memory as Riverside, but, for sure, it was equally important to the development of popular sports car racing. 

Washington DC Autoshow and Henrick Fisker

Saturday, February 7th, 2009


Henrick Fisker and the Karma

Henrick Fisker and the Karma

If Barack Obama can say, “I screwed up”, so can I.  A couple of missives ago, I lamented the boringness of being green.  Basically I felt that “green” cars were technically interesting but boring from a driving excitement point of view.   The Fisker automobiles may change that opinion quickly.  The models displayed at the Washington Autoshow certainly created the aura of driving excitement just sitting on the display floor.  These are totally sexy looking automobiles, and if all of Henrick Fisker’s enthusiasm and charm translates into driving excitement, we have a great start on a green revolution that will light the fire of any “Garage Envy” fan.




I was totally impressed that Fisker himself was on the floor of the Convention Center and willing to talk to all who visited about the features of his great looking cars.  If he can actually deliver these cars for the $88K that he is quoting it will be one hell of a deal.  The fit and finish of the models on the floor (a Karma sedan and a Sunset convertible) was first rate.  Fisker stated that he penned the exterior design.  The interiors were excellent as well.  Fisker out sources all of the components and will do the assembly of the early models in Finland.  He claims that this manufacturing method is what allows him to price it at $88K and also has enabled him to get the car to market so quickly.  Fisker is developing his own US dealer network – about 40 dealers.  Very interesting car and manufacturer, I can’t wait to read some driving impressions.


There were many other green production and concept cars at the show and their presentations were very interesting.  There were lots of cutaways, component displays, and talking heads to inundate one with information about green options.


From a Garage Envy point of view, one had to look hard for interesting driver’s cars.  Many of the exotic car manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini were not there and manufacturers really had toned down the performance models in their lines.  For example GM lined up their Corvette Z1 with all of the rest of their Corvette models and didn’t even highlight it.  I would have thought they would have put it on a rotating dais.  Guess they were afraid of a congressman blasting them for misusing taxpayer bailout funds.


My bottom line is that the autoshow in your neighborhood is worth going to this year.



Kimi vs Deweycheatumnhowe

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009


This news clip from the New York times this week was irresistible.  The text reads roughly as follows:  The Hambletonian winner Deweycheatumnhowe voted trotter of the year, while record earner Somebeachsomewhere voted top pacer of the year.


How lucky we automotive race fans are!   Can you imagine David Hobbs describing lead changes between Icemankimipartyboy and Orderofthebritishempirelewish.  Or even more ludicrous, Darrell Waltrip moderating a punchout between mandmsnickerbush and cousincarlaflac.  The possibilities make my head hurt.


So next time you view a Formula 1 race or the NASCAR circus think about the possibilities. Suppose racer agents/promoters get in on the game and  sell naming rights to the racers themselves; they could surely come up with even more novel names than the horseracing industry.  And now consider how really, really, really lucky we are that right now we live in an era where that idea has not yet caught on.




Charles Duryea and his Hill

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

The Historical Society of Berks County houses a small, but very nice museum at its home in Reading, PA.  Tucked among its numerous Berks County centric items is but a single car, a 1902 Duryea.  The Duryea is commonly known as the “first gasoline powered commercial American car”.  Quite a mouthful, but suffice to say this is a classic American car.


My interest, though, is less for the car and more for the Hill.  Charles Duryea built his cars in Reading, PA for a time and he used a steep and winding road that climbed Mt. Penn to test his cars.  In his honor, the road was renamed Duryea Drive.  To this day cars, and drivers are tested on this hill in the Duryea Hillclimb.  I got to know this hill, its turns and straightaways in my college years as a form of relaxation, recreation, and adventure.


At the time I owned an Austin Healey 100/6 and it was ideally suited for that hill.  It had plenty of low end torque and enough gears (with overdrive) to easily top 100mph.  Duryea Drive became my nighttime hangout.  Nighttime was best because one could see approaching cars by the cast of their headlights on the trees; so the entire road could be used when blasting to the top.  Police were also not a problem since if you met one on the hill, you were long gone before they turned around to give chase.  (I never thought about radioing ahead back then).


I probably learned more about car control on that hill than all my other driving combined.  Skinny street tires probably did not make for terrific times, but it was great fun broad sliding and then recovering around the numerous hairpin turns and feeling the wind in my hair (I had some then) at top speeds across the top of Skyline drive from the Pagoda to the old Fire Tower.


Luck more than skill contributed to an accident free driving record on the hill.  I can’t say as much for my parking record.  One night while parked with a companion at an overlook on Duryea Drive I accidentally depressed the clutch when distracted by other activities and rolled into a stone wall.  But that is a story for another time.

Duryea Hillclimb - 1960's

Duryea Hillclimb - 1960's

A fitting tribute to Phil Hill, see Vintage Motorsport magazine

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Phil Hill was lucky to grow old, and the rest of us were fortunate to share the reward.  Phil’s best known racing days were in the 1960’s; a period filled with danger for racing drivers.   Many of Phil Hill’s contemporaries of that period died in racing accidents, while Phil managed to perform at the highest levels with barely a scratch.


There were many equally famous racing drivers in Hill’s generation, but something made him stand out in my mind.  I think part of it was that he drove intelligently and always was mindful of his car.   He rarely broke and he seemed to have an uncanny ability to get a sick car to the end of a race.


Of course becoming the first American Formula One champion ensured Phil Hill’s special place in the hearts of all of us American fans.  After his retirement from professional racing in 1967, Hill continued to be a prominent spokesman in the racing community.  He became a broadcaster briefly and a long time contributor to Road & Track.  His insights and recollections made for fascinating reading.


I never met or spoke to the man, but I was lucky enough to see him race several times and managed to capture a few pictures of him.   You can see some at



Read the tribute to Phil Hill in the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Vintage Mortorsport,, it’s the best I have seen.


Phil Hill at Sebring in 2002

Phil Hill at Sebring in 2002

Road & Track’s Peter Egan no longer visits my garage

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Peter Egan no longer dwells in my garage.  For many years I have looked forward to Peter’s monthly “Side Glances” in Road & Track magazine.  We were distant brothers, about the same age, and similar automotive interests.  But now Pete has gone “up market” on me.  Where is that “hands on” guy who could resurrect a rusting hulk with bondo and a box of used parts?  A favorite old column of his described how one could rid oneself of accumulated used parts by storing them in dated cardboard boxes.  Then after a respectful period, perhaps a year or two, if the box had not been opened, one moved it to the dumpster.  Not!  Of course we couldn’t trash those potentially useful items.  They just continued to accumulate, but now neatly stored in dated boxes.


In the December R&T, Peter tells us of his latest restoration project; a worthy one, a vintage Lotus Elan.   He had a good start, given his clever separation of body and chassis, but it all went up scale from there.  Bought a new chassis to the tune of $3K and shipped the body off for a many month restoration at a body shop.  Yeah, I know it all looks really great: in fact so great Pete is now paralyzed with the fear that the car has become magically attractive to anything that might mar the finish.  How is he going to get the courage to drive this thing?  And poor old Sam (his dog) is probably banned from the garage for life.


So now all that’s left is screwing it back together; and using all new parts, I bet.


So I yearn for the return of the Peter E I once knew.  The one who spilled coffee on the new seat covers, stored empty beer cans in the trunk, and spent hours sand blasting old suspension parts for reinstallation.


Sigh.  Pete you may have moved up scale and may even be thinking of moving to a warmer climate, but you will still write the first page I turn to each month in R&T.