Category Archives: Real Men

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Day For Night At Daytona

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Winning Ford Mark II (#98) leads two other Ford Mark II cars (#95 and #96). CD#0777-3292-0443-10

The presentation recently of the Ford GT program to race at Le Mans and in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the confirmation of the drivers for the upcoming Rolex 24 Hours invited comparison with a similar set of circumstances some 50 years ago.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Race winning Ford Mark II driven by Ken Miles/Lloyd Ruby makes a scheduled pit stop. CD#0777-3292-0443-3

In 1965 Ford had suffered public humiliation at the Le Mans 24 Hours when all six factory cars retired before the halfway point. What is often overlooked is that the four Maranello-entered Ferraris also fell by the wayside leaving Italian honour to upheld by the ageing privateer NART-entered  Ferrari 250 LM driven by the unlikely combination of veteran American, Masten Gregory, and the mercurial Austrian, Jochen Rindt.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Bruce McLaren in the cockpit of a Ford Mark II. CD#0777-3292-0443-7

In 1966 there would be no repeat of this debacle, Ford would dominate endurance racing in a manner rarely seen, the Board and, more importantly, Chairman Henry Ford ll had decreed it, Ferrari were to be crushed. There was an expression popular at the time “You can’t beat cubic Bucks!”, Ford would prove that conclusively. The first shots in the campaign would come in early February at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway with the first running of the Daytona 24 Hours.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Walt Hansgen/Mark Donohue Ford Mark II makes a pit stop. CD#0777-3292-0443-2

The Ford GT40 had been superseded by the Ford MK ll, which had been thoroughly tested and improved after tripping up in 1965. Five examples were entered, three by Shelby American and two for Holman and Moody. Ferrari decided to give the race a miss, persistent labour relations problems, a new set of regulations for Formula One and the prospect of a drubbing all contributing in some measure to this course of action. A Ferrari 365P2 was entered by Luigi Chinetti’s NART outfit, the same folks that had humbled Ford at La Sarthe the previous year but even with drivers of the calibre of Pedro Rodriguez and Mario Andretti this was not expected to be competitive in the face of the Detroit armada. The other speedster in the paddock was the brand new Chaparral 2D with backing from General Motors but this project was too new and untested to pose a serious threat to Ford.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Privately owned Shelby GT350 Mustang driven by Roger West/Richard Macon. CD#0777-3292-0443-9

The race wasn’t much of a spectacle for the reported 22,000 crowd, Ken Miles in the leading Shelby American Ford overtook Jo Bonnier’s Chaparral on lap two, motored off into the distance, and that was that. Florida in January can provide great contrast in the weather and in 1966 the daytime was pleasant enough but frost was reported on the banking during the long hours of darkness.

Just over 2,500 miles later Ford would monopolise the podium with 1-2-3-5 places, the only blot on the copybook coming with the second Holman and Moody Mk ll suffering a failure of its experimental automatic transmission.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Ken Miles in the cockpit of a Ford Mark II. CD#0777-3292-0443-6

Ken Miles was a key part of the Shelby Cobra and Ford GT40 programs. He had served in the British Army during the Second World War as part of a tank crew. He left Britain for California in 1952 and soon immersed himself in the growing sports-car competition scene on the West Coast. A succession of wins and a growing reputation for engineering and developing racing cars brought him to the attention of Carroll Shelby.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Dan Gurney (#97) in his Ford Mark II leads two Ferraris. CD#0777-3292-0443-1

Miles is widely credited with the eventual success of the Cobra, I looked at that Here and here. He was also a major contributor to turning the Ford GT40 and its successor the Mk ll into truly great racing cars.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Lloyd Ruby (left) and Ken Miles (right) in victory circle after winning their second consecutive race. CD#0777-3292-0443-5

Miles shared victory at Daytona in the Ford MK ll with Lloyd Ruby, a veteran of many Indianapolis 500 campaigns and a fast, safe pair of hands. They would share further success at the 12 Hours of Sebring a month or so later but that would be the high point for Miles. In August 1966 while testing an experimental Ford J Car at Riverside Miles was killed in an unexplained accident, the entire Shelby American team were devastated at the loss of their charismatic driver.

Photography copyright and courtesy of the Ford Motor Company

John Brooks, January 2016

 

This One Is For Bob Carlson 1948-2008

Scanning social media while enjoying a glass of red on a Friday night is a largely pointless exercise, mostly involving dog, cat or toddler videos or folks getting worked up about the latest idiocy from Trump or Hillary (a plague on both of their houses). My attention was caught by a post from Deborah Kay Carlson, the widow of the late Bob Carlson, marking the seventh anniversary of his passing. Being a Brit I did not really know Bob that well but my man, Kerry Morse, did, and wrote a fine piece at the time. I am posting it again as a tribute to Bob and a small attempt at bringing comfort to all those who have suffered a bereavement at this difficult time of the year.

 

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I didn’t see any of the Daytona 24 Hours but I was certainly surrounded by the emotions of what the Porsche victory meant. A late dinner that Sunday evening in a large room of a new hotel in Sicily and PCNA’s head PR honcho, Bernd Harling kept leaving the table to escape the masses of journalists who made the trip to drive the new Boxster around the roads outside of Palermo.

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Aside from sneaking outside to have a smoke, Harling was keeping in contact with his PR ilk at Daytona on the status of the P-cars. He would return to the table  and give me the updates. My feelings towards the proto-turtles of Grand Am hasn’t changed and it’s doubtful if it ever will. But David Donohue is one of the genuinely good people out there and he has come close, very close, so many times in so many events. I was there the last time a Brumos Porsche won the 24 in 1978 and then there is the matter of time loving a hero as David’s father won Daytona 40 years ago. The recent passing of Bob Snodgrass, who for so many years was a major force behind both Brumos and Porsche, was also present with us all. If David Donohue could go from Pole to Victory Lane, well… who wouldn’t cheer a story like that?

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Harling vacated once more for the cool air of Sicily and my mobile buzzed as dessert was being served. It was Mr. Brooks who proceeded to describe the final lap and the scene from the Brumos pits. Harling returned, stood up, gave a short speech and then a toast all around. Thousands of miles away in victory circle a whole different set of emotions were on display. David Donohue made it certain that Bob Snodgrass got his due but also for one who had been responsible for what has kept Porsche Motorsport so visible in the U.S.

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Bob Carlson was always in motion. Until cancer finally overtook him, it wasn’t his style to complain, he always was thinking ahead. He spent the last quarter century of his life pulling the levers and oiling the squeaky wheel behind the scenes of public relations of Porsche in America. It may seem like a dream job but this was a time of transition for Porsche and Bob put in a lot of long hours getting such mundane tasks as the “details” done correctly. The man stayed out of the public view and never cared for being in the spotlight, he was far more comfortable being the lighting director and getting that spotlight trained on the task. He never overshadowed his subjects, the cars, the drivers or the company. To Bob, it was Porsche first and foremost.

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Bob Carlson was born and grew up in San Jose which meant that Laguna Seca was his “home” track. He covered motorsports for the town paper, got a fistful of degrees from SJSU and eventually the road led to a full time gig with Porsche Cars North America and in a “I can’t believe my good fortune scenario”, was put in to racing PR. This was the time of the late, great Al Holbert and the 962 era. I can still picture Bob at Daytona during the 24 hour race, running back and forth from the official Porsche truck to the Holbert pits, gathering his notes. He was always energetic while a pack of us burned out hacks would sneer and wonder aloud why we kept coming back year after year. Bob carefully maneuvered through the PR minefield of the Porsche Indy experience, putting the best face possible on a series of missteps and mishaps and then the tragic plane crash, which claimed the life of Al Holbert.

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Porsche was having it’s own internal struggles and the sales slump that hit in the early 90’s stretched the bounds of credibility. Bob Carlson caught a lot of flak from many of us in the business, but it was always in a behind the scenes, good natured but with a point, manner. He caught a break because even within the boundaries he was honest and forthright and while many of the answers were considered off the record, that bond was honored. One must remember, he was a gringo working for a German company. For many, that thought is a migraine in progress. As the company rebounded, both in sales and the overall product, a move for PCNA to Atlanta, gave Bob the springboard for creating some new ideas to modify the dreaded ‘arrive and drive’ staple that most automotive company invites had become.

passing-the-1-1

My personal favorite was in 2000 and quality seat time aboard the new 911 Turbo. The event was based in Reno which offered up ample opportunity of making the best of a route that covered several hundred miles, the highlight was the chance to make timed runs out in the desert region of Black Route. This was a true USAC sanctioned record run through a series of timed stages. Weather had a lot to do with the overall times, that were set, ground condition, wind direction, just like the real world but it was a great experience and one befitting the car.

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Later that evening at a historic house near Carson City, the after dinner entertainment was Mark Twain, or about as good as you are going to get to the real Mr. Clemens. That was Bob Carlson, eclectic in his choices, but always memorable. Being a hockey fan, he would check to see if there were any games, even in the minor leagues, on any number of press trips. Picture this, a game with so many penalties that there were only two players remaining for each team as the rest had been ejected. Bob leaned over and said, “You think these guys will get to the bigs?”

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Bob Carlson wouldn’t want a tribute, that wasn’t his style but it looks like he has left something that will continue to be a tribute to what he worked for. After the 50th Anniversary of Porsche in 1998 that was a first class bash at the Monterey Historics, Bob hit on the idea of having a get together of like minded Porsche enthusiasts and their race cars every few years instead of waiting for ten years or longer. Support for the idea was tepid at first but after the success of the original Rennsport Reunion held at Lime Rock in 2001, the planning for an even larger event to be held at Daytona in 2004 was put in place. This time, many of the great names of not only the drivers, but the engineers, were to be honored.

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And then again in November of 2007, a gathering of 917’s were the highlight of Rennsport III. Bob Carlson, although thin and suffering the effects of treatment for cancer, happily wandered through the maze of people and cars, smiling and taking it all in. And then the 2009 edition of Daytona and it’s 24 Hours for Brumos, for Porsche and for David Donohue. It’s what Bob Carlson would have wanted and more importantly, deserved.

Kerry Morse, February 2009

Hal Thoms looks back on a racing desperado – Milt Minter

1969 PR photo

 

Long ago and far away Kerry Morse and I ran a small website, SportsCarPros.com . We didn’t post much but when we did it was generally the real deal rather than filler or press releases. We always knew when we were on target from the abusive outbursts from those we had called out. We also provided a platform for those who understood what the Right Stuff was. So ten years ago today the news came through that Milt Minter had passed away the day before. A month or so later there was a memorial service which Kerry and his buddy, Hal Thoms, attended and the upshot was this fine tribute to Milt courtesy of Hal. I am of the opinion that it is too good a piece of writing to moulder in a dormant website.

When I proposed running this piece as a mark of respect to Milt on his tenth anniversary Kerry suggested that he would update his introduction, of course this deadline was missed, and frankly, I would not have it any other way.

Apologies for the strange formatting, WordPress has a mind of its own some days, did Morse inspire it?

Compliments of the Season to one and all.

John Brooks, December 2014

you drive for me-with Vasek

A few weeks ago my friend Hal Thoms and I made a journey to the small town of Sanger, located just outside Fresno in the central valley of California. The purpose of this drive was to get together with several hundred people and to throwback a few beers and swap tales of one of the most original individuals to climb aboard a race car. Upon arriving, it was obvious that we were here for a party, not a weepy memorial. The choice was not a church or hall but a sound stage full of Americana and a large horseshoe bar located off to one side. But then that’s the way Milt Minter is and was. In today’s motor-sport world talent and ability are not enough, it is what one can bring in addition to the table. Milt Minter’s greatest asset was himself and nothing else. Hal Thom’s remembrance of the man is proof enough of that. Ironically there were several close friends of Milt that could not make the trip because it was the same weekend as the test days for the Daytona 24 Hours. Any guilt? Nah, Milt would have skipped his own party to be back in a race car.

Kerry Morse, February 2005

 

together again
Milt Minter – An American Driving Legend (Donkey Bop)
Milt Minter was a great race car driver. He had an immense fire and passion for racing, and was as competitive as they come. He could drive the wheels off of anything he drove. He “kicked ass” not only on the track, but also in life. He made many cars appear much better than they actually were with his smooth, aggressive driving style. More importantly, he was a true friend. Every one of us, who knew him, knew him as one of the friendliest, kindest, sincere people we have ever known. He always had time for everyone. He was one of the best storytellers ever. He is truly one of the last of a rare breed. We will miss him dearly. We lost Milt after his long battle with cancer on December 23 in his hometown of Sanger, Ca. He was 71.

Hal's first photo of Milt

 

Down by the River (side)
My friendship started with Milt in the summer of 1968. I had just graduated from high school, and attended an SCCA race at Riverside Raceway. Boy, was I into Porsches! I borrowed my mom’s Brownie Instamatic camera, and off I went. Nothing was sweeter than the sound of a 911S “on it” with the pure Porsche tunes being played out of a Bursch exhaust! I was truly awed by a bright orange 911S being driven sideways lap after lap through Turn 6. It was there that I clicked off the first picture of this 911S that I ever took at a car race.

We later ventured into the pits. There it was, that hot 911S! Beside it, it’s driver, Milt Minter. To our surprise, he asked us “How are you guys doin’?” Is he talking to us? WOW! We talked for nearly a half hour before an older gentleman came up and needed to speak to Milt. I need a photo before we go. Click. My second photo ever taken at a race. It was of Milt, and the older gentleman I would later come to know, Vasek Polak.

Soon thereafter, in January of ’69, I began a four year stint serving my country in the Air Force. I would miss, what I now consider, the “glory days” of Road Racing. Not only the SCCA races, but the Trans-Am and Can-Am wars. Thank God for ROAD & TRACK. I kept up with all the racing news. Among others, I read about that driver that had befriended us in the pits at Riverside.

check out Milt's t-shirt

 

P-O-R-S-C-H-E
In 1958, after service in the Navy, Milt began his racing career in his hometown of Sanger, Ca, when he traded in his VW Beetle on an MGA that he prepped for racing. He found it uncompetitive even though he finished 3rd or 4th in his class behind a gaggle of Porsches in his very first race.

Sam Caldwell of Foreign Motor Sales in nearby Fresno, where Milt had purchased his Beetle, also introduced him to those quick little Porsches. Milt was convinced Porsche was the car to have if you wanted to be successful in racing. After scrimping and saving his earnings from driving a school bus, be had enough to buy a very used 550 Spyder in 1960 for $5,000.00. It was a handsome amount back in those days. With fewer than five total races under his belt, he entered himself in the prestigious Pacific Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. The world-class event included drivers of the stature of Jack Brabham, Jimmy Clark, and Dan Gurney.

a Speedster in Stockton

Milt did well enough not to embarrass himself in his first professional outing. Unfortunately, the 4-cam engine blew before the checker flag fell. He soon found out that no one in the Fresno area would touch the complicated 4-cam engine. He had disassembled the engine but didn’t have the knowledge (nor did anyone else) to rebuild it. The 550 would sit in his backyard for over a year before he sold it for $4,000.00 to a local PCA crony, Warren Crumly.

Meantime, Milt’s first real patron in his racing career was another Fresno area native, Bob Rhodes. Rhodes turned his gorgeous concours winning Super-90 356 Coupe into a road racer. He installed a roll bar behind its drivers seat for Milt who would not disappoint as he would place second behind Harry Weber’s 356 at a race at Laguna Seca. In the pits between sessions, Rhodes would be wiping off his car trying to keep it in pristine shape. Milt didn’t put a scratch on it.

Harry Weber was so impressed with Milt’s aggressive, smooth driving style, that he hired Milt to drive for his own team. In 1963, Weber fielded Milt in a black Carrera GT belonging to Don Dickey, once again at Laguna Seca. Milt was having a tremendous race until the motor blew. Still impressed, Weber put Milt in his newly purchased red 904 at an SCCA event at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1964. This was the ride that boosted Milt out of production car ranks and into the sports racer elite. Even though Milt came within a length of beating Porsche guru Scooter Patrick, driving Otto Zipper’s 904, Weber withdrew his 904 “baby” from further competition after it had suffered minor collision damages in the contest. It would be Milt’s last Porsche ride for 4 years.

at Candlestick in a 904

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter Otto, here’s Vasek and a no go for Ginther

After the Candlestick Park race, Otto Zipper convinced Milt to move to the L.A. area to become a mechanic for him. Zipper thought Milt had prepared Weber’s 904 for competition. He hadn’t. Even though he insisted he wasn’t a good mechanic, and that it was his great driving skills that had gotten him his second place finish, Zipper insisted on hiring him. As Zipper and his team, anchored by Patrick, departed for the 12 Hour race in Sebring, Florida, Milt was left behind to be in charge of Zipper’s Beverly Hills garage. “It was one of the saddest times of my life. Everyone went off racing but me.”

When Zipper returned and discovered that Milt wasn’t really a mechanic, he let him go to Vasek Polak who had also thought that Milt was a great mechanic, even though Milt continued to confess it was great driving skills that he possessed. After a short time, Polak also let him go.

In 1965 Milt drove a Lotus Super-7 fielded by another Fresno area patron, Clarence Matthews in many selected SCCA events. He had some great battles with yet another Fresno resident, Dick Smith, in his quick Carrera Speedster. Smith wound up taking the Division title, and later the National Championship in his Speedster. Once again beaten by a Porsche. Milt did have a fine season and finished up 6th in the Pacific Coast Division.

1966 saw Milt behind the wheel of the Universal Motors Formcar Formula-V. He went on to take 1st in the Southern Pacific Regional Championships.

By the time 1967 rolled along, Clarence Matthews offered Milt a ride in his new Mustang in the second year of the Trans-Am series. It was a successful year. In ten Trans-Am events where he finished, Milt never finished out of the top ten. Milt gained much experience ‘banging fenders” with the likes of Parnelli Jones, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Peter Revson.

Milt trashes his teammate

Vasek Polak again entered the picture at the end of the season when he approached Milt and offered him a test drive in his SCCA Porsche 911. Milt jumped on the chance to pilot a Porsche once again. The test was conducted at Willow Springs. Milt passed with flying colors and was offered the ride for the upcoming ’68 season.

In 1968, the SCCA was the factory battleground for bragging rights in the sports car industry. The Porsche 911s were up against the heavy guns from Lotus, Triumph and Toyota. In the very first race of the season at Willow Springs, Milt had a race long battle with Scooter Patrick’s factory Toyota 2000 that damaged every corner of his Polak 911. Milt was victorious! Polak was ecstatic! The “farm boy” from Sanger thought he had found a new home. Not so. Days later he was informed by his boss that Jon von Neumann made an offer to Polak for Milt’s services that he could not refuse. It was off to von Neumann’s Porsche Distributor team headed by Richie Ginther. He soon found out that he was expected to play “second fiddle” to the teams lead driver, Alan Johnson. Johnson had won the ’67 SCCA C/P National Championship at Daytona.

Richie Ginther with Milt

Milt’s status with the team created a major problem for Milt. “When it came to scrappin’ and we were back a little ways, I could run circles around Alan fightin’ for the lead.” Milt did confess that Alan was a much better frontrunner, and very hard to catch and pass while in the lead.

After two full seasons with Ginther and the team orders, it came down to the 1969 SCCA American Road Race of Champions at Daytona, and Milt had had enough. “I told Richie that the race was going to be mine, even though I knew it might cost me my ride.” He was told that if he won, he’d be fired. He drove to a convincing win. After the winner’s ceremony in winners circle, he was indeed fired.

how about a beer instead _

Milt’s driving relationship with Polak was quickly rekindled. The following year, 1970, he took Polak’s 906 to the BSR National Title. Milt also spent time behind the wheel of the Polak 904, which dated back to ’68, winning several Pacific Division A/P races.

Heavy Metal – enter Trans Am

1970 also saw Milt driving for Roy Woods Camaro American Racing Team again in the Trans-Am Series. In July, at the Donnybrook, MN round, Milt became the first independent driver to win a Trans-Am race.

10 at Laguna Seca

Other highlights of Milt’s career included 1972 when he drove a Jerry Titus Firebird(see the reply below from Harry Quackenboss)  to victory at Mid-Ohio, becoming the first driver to win a road race for Pontiac. He wound up 2nd overall in the season’s Drivers’ Championship. He also finished 2nd overall in the Can-Am Drivers Championship driving Polak’s 917/10. At the end of the season, Milt was flown to Stuttgart where Ferry Porsche awarded him the “Pedro Rodriguez Trophy” for most aggressive Porsche driver in the 1972 Can-Am Series.

1973 was off to a quick start as he co-drove a Luigi Chinetti Ferrari to a fine 2nd in the 24 Hours of Daytona. That was followed up the following month with another 2nd overall in the 12 Hours of Sebring co-driving Michael Keyser’s Porsche Carrera RS.

Meanwhile back in the States….
Milt had accomplished quite a bit in his racing career. But he was not done. As I mentioned earlier, I was off serving my time in the USAF from January ’69 – January ’73. A great racing era. I missed it.

In October of ’73, I was off again to Riverside Raceway for the Can-Am race. The Can-Am Series was in its final glory that year. Porsche 917s had been totally dominating that year as well as the previous two. Mark Donohue in Roger Penske’s 917/30 was all conquering in ’73. Porsche’s dominance would lead to major rules changes the following year, as the Can-Am would eventually die off a few years later.
A days
Milt was not driving a 917 for Polak. That was left up to Jody Scheckter and Brian Redman. Instead, Milt was driving once again for an old friend, Otto Zipper. He had a great race finishing 5th overall in Zipper’s little 3-liter Alfa Romeo. On Friday, cruising the pits, I once again came across Milt as I had back in ’68. “How’s it goin’?” he asked me once again. I told him “Great!” I told him of our previous encounter and explained I was now attending College and was taking up photography. I was armed with my new Nikon 35mm camera, and I was shooting my very first rolls of B&W film for my first assignment for my first photography class. I clicked off a few shots of him and his Alfa. After a nice chat, he wished me luck in my photography endeavors. It made another long-lasting impression on me. Unfortunately, over time, I have misplaced those first rolls of B&W. They were the first rolls of film I ever developed myself, and the first prints I ever printed myself, ever. I got an A in my class. I would later attend Brooks Institute, School of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA, where I would later obtain a BPA degree in photography.
Milt wins in the #81 Toady
More racing laurels were obtained by Milt in 1974. He came in first in Toad Hall’s Carrera RSR at the IMSA Camel GT race a Laguna Seca, defeating Peter Gregg and a very large and talented field. Throughout the ’74 IMSA season, Milt drove three different cars. Later in the season, at Talledaga, he would win driving John Greenwood’s Corvette. Going down to the wire of the IMSA season, Milt was locked in a tight battle with Peter Gregg, previous multiple IMSA driving champion.
In the series finale, a 250-mile race at Daytona, Gregg lead Milt 98 to 96 in points. Milt jumped once again in the Toad Hall RSR and led the race until the engine disintegrated. Greg went on to win the race, and the championship.
getting Paul Newman sleepy
1974 also saw Milt’s first appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans where he co-drove an RSR with Michael Keyser. They experienced several problems during the race, but still managed to finish 20th.

The remainder of the ‘70s saw Milt in action as a “hired gun” by several professional race teams. He competed for Ferrari Teams several times at the 24 Hour Daytona race. In 1977, he finished 5th in a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona co-driving with Elliot Forbes-Robinson and Paul Newman.
co driving with Ted Field
Milt and I would have another chance meeting in 1979. This time, I was now a professional photographer working for Rapid Pace, Inc., and shooting for Ted Field’s Interscope 935 team. Danny Ongais, Fields usual co-driver, was off at Indianapolis for the 500, so Milt was hired as Fields co-driver for the Riverside 6-Hour event. I was very surprised, to say the least, when I entered the Interscope pit area – THERE WAS MILT! I made my way over to him and he asked me “How’s it goin’?” NO WAY! We once again had a great chat. He was very impressed that, after hearing about our earlier encounters, I was now a professional photographer. He was very happy for me.

I got a Nikon camera, I love to take photographs…. It would be another 5 years before Milt and I would meet up again. By now I had been earning my living as a professional advertising photographer for several years. I had become good friends with Carl Thompson and Vasek Polak. Carl was Head of the Polak Competition Department, which had moved into historic racing. I had done a lot of product/race photography for Vasek Polak’s magazine ads. When I had spare time, you could find me hanging out at Polak’s race shop in Torrance, Ca.

In 1994, Polak & Thompson were ready to begin running one of the Polak 917/10s in vintage racing. Who better to drive it than Milt! It was VARAs (Vintage Auto Racing Association) Porsche/Alfa Challenge being held at Willow Springs that September. Friday afternoon, it was getting pretty late. “Where’s Milt?” Finally, in rolled an old green pick-up truck and out jumps this crazy guy with a goatee – it’s Milt. “How’s it goin’?” he asked.

That weekend he hung out with us. I now had a motor-home and several of our 356 racers would use it as a base at the vintage race event. Beer was in order and a BBQ followed by hours of Milt’s great story telling. He made several new friends that weekend.

Monterey Historics 1998

Desperado
After many vintage races, and a few years passed, VARA planned to revive Pomona’s glorious road course of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s through the L.A. County Fairgrounds. An initial race was run in 1995. For it’s second race at this historic venue in May of ’96, VARA was looking for something great to promote the race. I suggested to Dan Verstuyft, VARAs President (and excellent Speedster racer!) and to Carl Thompson an idea I had. “How about having the race in honor of Vasek?” After some discussion with Vasek himself, it was decided that is what we would do. The race would be a Tribute to Vasek Polak. I was very honored to have lunch with Mr. Polak several times, and other meetings with him, and got to know him quite well.

After 6 months of planning, over 65 vintage Porsche race cars would show up to pay homage to Vasek. Cars included 550, 550A, RSK, 356 Carreras, 911s, 904, 908, RSR, and 962 examples. Vasek brought out three 917s, a 908/3, a 2.1 RSR Turbo, and the very first 935 ever produced. Drivers in attendance included Milt Minter, Jack McAfee, Jon von Neumann, Joe Playan (550 Spyder driver), Max Balchowsky (Ole Yellar fame), John Morton and George Follmer. It was quite a weekend indeed. Drinking beer and hanging with Vasek and Milt one evening was quite an experience. Who was the most popular storyteller? Why, it was Milt of course.

Milt would also visit our camp-sites at Laguna Seca for many of the Monterey Historic weekends. That man could stay up all night drinking beer and telling Bill Doyle, Steve Schmidt, Gary Emory and me his stories as only he could tell.

the 356 outlaw
Speaking of Gary, he built a 356 “time-bomb” racer called Desperado in the early ‘80s. Desperado was so radical, it could only be raced in the POC (Porsche Owners Club) events in an experimental class. The body fenders were flared, the front fenders had “917-type” design, and the body was painted in Gary’s favorite Porsche 908 Flounder paint scheme. Eventually, Dean Polopolus needed a radical car to place his newly developed 911 engine into, so he talked Gary into installing it into Desperado. Dean’s engine was a 3.2-liter, 911 6-cylinder engine, with the middle two cylinders cut out, producing a 2 litre, 4-cylinder configuration. “It ran like stink!” said Milt, who was the cars primary driver. Milt would go on to set several fast times of the weekend in POC time trials.

Gary once decided he would like to drive Desperado at an event at Willow Springs. Milt was Gary’s instructor for the weekend. In an early practice session, Milt was riding shotgun as Gary was familiarizing himself with the track and the car. After a few laps, Milt was getting bored. “Come on Gary, Goddamn it! You’re driving like an old woman, lets get goin’!” Gary quipped that he was going fast enough, thank you. Well, the next thing Gary knew, as they were approaching the “sphincter-tightening” turn 9, Milt took his left foot and stomped Gary’s right accelerator foot down to the floorboard and grabbed the steering wheel with his left hand, “Come on Gary, we can go twice as fast through this turn!” For the next half lap, Milt was driving from the right hand seat, and Gary had one of his thrills of a lifetime!

Fast lap and the final lap
Milt had his biggest battle the last few years of his life. He battled cancer. It was a gallant fight. He would never complain. You wouldn’t expect anything but that from Milt. I saw him drive Ray Stewart’s ex-Ginther 914/6 at Willow Springs last October. Guess what, he still could kick ass and won the race. It would be his last.

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I had been telling him for quite some time that I wanted to come up to Sanger and see him because I wanted to do a story about him. A few weeks later I finally made the trip to see Milt and Melissa. What an afternoon we spent. His good friend Dean Polopolus was also there. Milt had his passion for great story telling in full gear sharing many great tales with us. Nobody could tell a story quite the way Milt could. After another most memorable afternoon, it was time for me to head back home to Southern California. He gave me a huge hug, and with a twinkle in his eyes, he told me he wasn’t doin’ too good. He looked into my eyes and told me we’d be friends forever. He passed away about a month later.

I am a lucky man. I have a wonderful wife, Marilyn, and two wonderful daughters, Tricia and Traci. I have been very blessed. I have gotten to pursue my passion in life that I have totally enjoyed. How many people can get up every day and look forward to it and the work they are involved with?

No one else in my life inspired me to pursue my dreams of being a race photographer than my encounters with Milt did. He was a great driver, but a greater friend. I only know one thing, when I hopefully reach the Promised Land, he’ll be one of the first ones to greet me, “How’s it goin’?”
Hal Thoms
Tustin, California
February 2005

Day After Day

2014 JB General

Two days are never the same in my business. A visit to Woking on Thursday, to McLaren GT and a look at the 650S GT3………..then a quick photoshoot with a road going version and Concorde at Brooklands………a big thank you to the great folks there.

2014 JB General

Then up to Silverstone yesterday for the Sir Jack Brabham Memorial Service. A proper salute to a great man and a true Champion. More on these stories in the coming weeks…………..

John Brooks, October, 2014

Post Time with Jürgen Barth at The Monterey Motorsports Reunion

More from our favourite Bond Girl, who put this fine piece together for us a few weeks back. Life imitates Morse and I have been extremely tardy in posting, apologies to all, will do better, yeah, right!

Our correspondent - ps

 

As a lifelong equestrian, it’s both humbling and awe inspiring to watch a professional trainer take an already awesome horse and elevate said beast to new levels of jaw-dropping excellence.

double d - ps

Such a presentation calls for a unique combination of talent, drive and experience. As an amateur, I usually want to hurry home, saddle my own horse and attempt to replicate that caliber of horsemanship.

a venti latte - ps

A racecar isn’t a horse and vice versa, but the 2013 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion provided race enthusiasts with the opportunity to witness the same type of demonstration.

Barth on the Grid practice -ps

In general, vintage events tend to restrict the run groups to amateurs. Professional involvement is usually kept to a minimum and for good reason. However, with Porsche celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 911, the organizers encouraged the participation of several pro drivers by creating a special run group of 911’s built from 1964 to 1973.

Nine eleven Hell - ps

Over forty entries were accepted for Group 8B known as the Weissach Cup. One of those drivers on the grid was Jürgen Barth. Barth embodies the motorsport professional. Experienced in virtually every aspect of the game, the Barth resume includes driver, with overall and class victories at Le Mans, factory development driver, race organizer, international steward, and established author. His steed for Monterey was indeed a special 911 and one that Barth was very familiar with. The 1970 911 ST, chassis number 911 030 0949, is one of the factory lightweight rally cars. Its impressive history includes such famous names as Waldegard and Larrousse taking turns behind the wheel.

For 1971, the car was used by Barth as a service car for the Monte Carlo Rally and then sold. The new owner retained the services of the young driver and the 1971 Tour De France should have been the high point for Barth and this particular 911. Unfortunately, a loose flywheel and a damaged the crankshaft resulted in a DNF. Barth finally got his first 911 win later that year in this same car at a French National race.

In 1998, with Porsche celebrating a 50th anniversary, owner Roy Walzer asked Barth to drive this special car at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races. In that race, Barth started 5th and was to lead every lap right up to the last few feet of which Hurley Haywood got by in the Brumos 914-6.

The MAN - ps

Reunited again in 2013, the car sported the Tour De France colors, the same colors that took Barth out of the hunt. This was the second “go” for both Barth and the machine at Laguna Seca. Attrition and incidents cut the field down in Group 8B for Sunday afternoon’s race and thirty 911’s filled the grid. The organizers made the decision to split the field and utilize two safety cars, with the first group getting the green flag approximately fifteen seconds ahead of the second.

Grid 1 - ps

Due to an electrical problem that sidelined Barth on the track during the morning race, he started in 29th position – the back row of the second group. Simply making the start was an achievement of sorts, the electrical problem meant Barth would be driving with no functioning instruments, including the tachometer. His race would be accomplished by the sound and feel of the car, a professional at work. Additionally, the Barth 911 was one of the few cars in the field to race with the correct motor displacement, however, talent can overcome such occasional inconveniences. At the end of the first lap he had dispatched the entire second group of cars and took off after the first group with a beautiful display of consistent driving and carrying far more speed in and out of the corners than any of the other 911’s. After eight laps it was all over and Barth settled for 8th place with a lap time that on paper would have been third or fourth against more powerful RSR’s.

Jurgen Knocked em - ps

In the end, and in horse-speak, Barth “spanked” the field. But, for us amateurs, it’s not a punishment. It’s a lesson. A little tutorial that provides an aspiration for the next time we ride into an arena or drive out of the pits.

Lizett Bond, October 2013

Mea Culpa, I failed to credit David Soares for the photos………….

Salt Fever

2009 Bonneville Speed Week

Bonneville Salt Flats and the Speed Week. It is like nowhere else on earth, they tell you….

2009 Bonneville Speed Week

Yeah, sure……….but they are right………..there IS nowhere like it.

2009 Bonneville Speed Week

The pure speed, the free spirit, the sense of freedom and the almost infinite space………………I hear that salt gets into your blood…………….I tested positive for Sodium Chloride…………

2009 Bonneville Speed Week

One day I will go back to the remote salt flats, perhaps you never leave…………..

2009 Bonneville Speed Week
Ry Cooder caught the mood of the addiction to speed on the salt………..

Three o’clock, this morning, I woke up in a dream.
Thought I heard a FlatHead motor roar, I thought I smelled gasoline.
A feeling came upon me, that I ain’t had in years.
Something like a hot dry wind, whistling past my ears.
Saying “Time, Time, Time is all you got”.
There’s a memory that’s still burning, way down in my mind.
And that’s why, I’m going out and trying, a FlatHead one more time.

I ain’t seen my racing buddies in thirty years, or more.
One by one I lost them, out on the dry lake floor.
We learnt to push those FlatHead cars as hard as they could go.
Just like old Whiskey Bob, down on Thunder Road.
I hear their voices calling, just across the finish line.
And that’s why, I’m going out and trying, a FlatHead one more time.

I’ll get back to you baby, don’t you have no fear.
‘Cos I been there, and I wrecked that, and baby I’m still here.
But I can’t take you with me, when I cross the finish line.
And that’s why, I’m going out and trying, a FlatHead, one, more, time.

Time,

Time,

Time is all you got………………………………….

2009 Bonneville Speed Week

John Brooks, October 2013

Chapeau Porsche!

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Press releases rarely excite me enough to read, let alone post on DDC, but news from the Nürburgring that Porsche has broken the production car lap record is truly worthy of comment. Actually not breaking the record but smashing it. All round good egg Marc Lieb was at the wheel of the Porsche 918 Spyder which lapped the Nordschleife in 6:57.00 taking 14 seconds off the previous best.

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So salut Marc and Porsche!

Classical Gas and Thunder Road

The Professional

No it is not a call for Mason Williams or Ryland Cooder, however timeless they are, but it is mid-August so the Monterey Peninsula is buzzing with automotive gold. Whether it is down on Pebble Beach or up at Laguna Seca there is something for every kind of petrolhead and I hope to bring you more during the coming weeks. Here is a bit of the real stuff. Jürgen Barth in a 911 sporting Catalan colours, courtesy of our friend David Soares.

2013 Brooklands Mustang

Meanwhile on the other side of the world I popped over to my local track, Brooklands. The reason was to see the Mustang and other Americana event and well worth the time it was too. More from that later……………OK it was not The Quail but the same spirit is found here around the Byfleet Banking, Percy Lambert’s ghost still races his Talbot and with the right kind of imagination you can feel that Certain Sound.

John Brooks, August 2013

24 Hours at the Starlight

KeyserBook161

A recent celebration of the Steve McQueen classic “Le Mans” in Los Angeles brought out all the stars. DDC’s own Bond Girl was on hand to add lustre to the occasion and here she gives her take on the screening.

When the film “Le Mans” was released in 1971, I was barely driving. It was the era of the Saturday night date at the local drive-in theater. I saw “Le Mans” at the Starlight. Please rest assured that any exuberance exhibited while watching cars racing around a track in the French countryside existed purely for the benefit of the boyfriend of the moment. However, it wasn’t all feigned. There was that crush on Steve McQueen. As far as I was concerned, the King of Cool just embodied the sexy Hollywood superstar. So while a trip to the drive-in to see Le Mans was, for some, all about the racing footage, I just wanted to gaze up into those dazzling blue eyes. Talk about a passion pit.

KeyserBook160

In the racing world, however, it wasn’t just about McQueen’s taciturn Michael Delaney and those charismatic facial expressions. Beyond his craft, enthusiasts respected the man as a competent racer, making the role a realistic fit. For all that, the movie itself co-starred in pole position with the Circuit de la Sarthe. Considered by many to be the most influential racing film ever made, some forty years later, “Le Mans” enjoys an almost cult like following. From Delaney’s slate gray 911S, to the Heuer Monaco on his wrist, to the 917 in Gulf Colors, the film resonates.

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Still, aside from McQueen, just who and what were we actually watching? For starters, actual footage from the 1970 24 Heures du Mans. Moving on from there, how about a supporting cast including the likes of Brian Redman and Jo Siffert to name just a few of the notables – piloting various Porsche 917’s and Ferrari 512’s. In addition to list of drivers named in the credits was a very young Jürgen Barth. When asked of his own role in the film, Barth replied, “I drove the 911 that caused the crash.” We were watching legends at work, no wonder it all appeared to be so authentic.

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Voyeuristically, we screamed along the Mulsanne Straight in the rain, at night and in the home stretch. And that’s what makes the film more of a documentary, that insider’s perspective. At the time, a good percentage of us truly had no idea we were watching the real deal as we munched popcorn and steamed up the windows of our own rides.

TCM ON SCREEN

Today, aside from in-home, Blu-Ray screenings, the chance to revisit “Le Mans” on the big screen is almost never going to happen. But the opportunity did arise recently, and what better venue than The Chinese Theater in LaLa Land? Hollywood is not only the land of the star, but playground to the luxurious, the fast, the cool, the expensive automobile. These attributes converged at the Turner Classic Movie Festival with Porsche Cars North America joining the celebration by hosting Club TCM, held at a venerable hotel. A pre-screening discussion presented two of racing’s own cool cats, Derek Bell and Vic Elford, on the dias, and rounding out the expertise was McQueen’s son, Chad. Each reminisced about a simpler time in racing, about McQueen and his driving, his personality and their own experiences during the filming of the movie.

Hollywood-5

Basking in the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown, the approach to Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel revealed two Porsches positioned on their own crimson runner; a brand-new, bright yellow 991, and a black, completely original 1965 911. Needing no introductions, the pair stood in silent welcome as fans of the film and the marque arrived to revisit 1971 in the comfort of Hollywood’s Chinese Theater.

Dave sees a

It may not have been the Starlight, but then again, I’ve been driving for a long time now.

 

Lizett Bond, May 2013

Photos courtesy of Lizett and scans courtesy of Michael Keyser, taken from my review of his book on the making of the movie

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