July/Aug 2019 edition
Issue #6 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
The Time Has Come
The Walrus said to talk of many things,
Of ships and shoes and sealing wax,
And cabbages and kings…
Actually that is not exactly what both the Publisher and Editor of this fine magazine had in mind when they recently asked if I would write about what is my favorite thing after vintage cars, bright women, and loud music.
You know there are people in our life that we see irregularly. Yet no matter the elapsed time, the warmth and conversation always picks up precisely where it left off.
A select group of books fall into that category. And that got me to thinking about what it is about each of these special friends that mean so very much to me. For some, it is the specific content for which I had a passion, for others it is simply the manner in which it is written, sometimes it is the images.
In my youth I was taught to respect and try to read all manner of books, simply because each requires skill and effort to produce, and unless you try all within the scope of your passions, will you never learn what others have spent time and money to put into your hands.
Decades later I have become more selective. In no particular order, I look for quality of content, quality of writing and the book’s purpose. On that last, I can and do constantly read drivel if it satisfies the other criteria. And I guess that is the baseline, isn’t it.
Oddly enough, Motorsports writing comes in all categories and over the years I have set aside a number of books that, while not constantly called upon, comfort me simply by their presence on a nearby shelf. Some are more financially valuable than others but all have an equal and non-monetary value to me. And strangely, most have a story attached to them that prompts me to cherish them.
It was Monterey Week 1987. My first visits to the peninsula and its varied automotive adventures. I was at Laguna Seca Raceway wandering through the tent vendor alley. I was looking for Denise McCluggage, my favorite automotive writer, who had just released a new book with photographer Tom Burnside entitled American Racer. We had been up and down the aisle when I spotted Phil Hill in the Road & Track booth. He was signing and selling 4’x5’ John Lamm photographic images of him driving Pete Lovely’s Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. I knew that he and Denise were close friends, so I queued up to ask where Denise might be.
The line moved quickly and after I introduced myself, I asked him my question. He said that since he was going to the pit area to race a vintage racer, he would take me to her. BTW he said, why don’t you buy a picture? Certainly! I said, somewhat startled by the question and swallowing hard. The cost was $400. As we walked the four minutes to Denise, he asked me how I was involved etc. I told him I had worked for Champion Spark Plug Co. and covered races with Champion Race Director, Dick Gail.
It turned out he was good friends with Dick and he said I looked familiar. I assured him we hadn’t met, but he insisted. As we neared Denise, he put his arm around my shoulder and introduced me to her as an old friend who had worked with their mutual friend Dick Gail, and helped him at the track. Denise beamed, and we hit it off right away. We were swapping stories about Dick, and I now had new friends in Phil and Denise.
Phil Hill – A Driving Life
Photography by John Lamm.
My “friend” Phil Hill was the first American to become a Formula One champion, and was a three time Le Mans winner. He also drove for ATS, Maserati and later Chaparral. But, Phil Hill was far more than a very good racing driver. He was also an excellent writer who drove important racing cars, and wrote columns about them and other drivers in Road & Track for years.
This book is a reminiscence of the time he and R&T photographer John Lamm spent driving important automobiles, not all racing cars, and profiling important contemporaries like Moss, Andretti, Dan Gurney and others. In this book you will find a story about the 1886 Benz Replica, and the cover car, a billiant Maserati 250F, his first F1 drive and the car in which Fangio famously overcomes a 48-second deficit in the final 22 laps to pass Hawthorne’s Ferrari and win the 1957 German GP on the last lap, and in the process, breaking the lap record 10 times.
Hill’s generous writing style and sensitive observations compliment Lamm’s incredible images. It is a journey that took several years on numerous race tracks in Europe and America to complete.
Phil Hill – My Driving Life is a treasure and a fascinating journey, and it also ticks off all three criteria required to exist on my top shelf. The writing on its own is worth the price, and the addition of John Lamm’s photographs and some vintage images taken at the time and featuring Fangio, Collins and others, puts “content” over the top. As for its purpose, few books go as far in explaining why we love racing cars, and the people who build and drive them. If you are only going to have 10 books on your shelf, be certain this is one of them.
Collectible Value: The book was a product of Bull Publishing, who also offered it as a Limited Publisher’s Edition of 300 signed by Mario Andretti and others. One slightly used copy of which is currently available on the internet for $500.
PS: Two years ago I met Phil Hill’s son Derek at Monterey and we had a moment or two to chat. I told him the story of his dad’s insistence on our having met. He said to me “I’m surprised and doubtful. My father had a photographic memory, and my belief is that if he said he met you, he probably did.” Derek has much in common with his father. And that is not a bad thing.
PPS. That framed image of Phil Hill in the Testa Rossa has never left my office, since it came home from the framer.
May/June 2019 edition
Issue #5 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
“Collectible” and “valuable“ needn’t be prerequisites for adding an item to your collection. In the case of books, the aspect of “value” can be as important as the quality of the material or its rarity. In this issue, I would like to bring two books to your attention whose monetary value is wildly different based primarily on their availability. Yet in my opinion, both have a common value, based solely on their content. Here is the story of these two stories, but first a little of my backstory….
David Halberstam was one of America’s greatest contemporary writers. It was said that “David Halberstam wrote books that fused narrative storytelling with investigative reporting.” The result: stories that hummed with energy and authority and reads as well as -- if not better than -- some novels. High praise indeed!
I had the honor and pleasure of meeting David Halberstam after he had written a book entitled The Reckoning. The book was about the crisis in the American car industry caused by Japanese manufacturers, introducing better quality automobiles to the American public who were eagerly welcoming change. He traced the actions of the Ford Motor Company, who were studying Japanese manufacturing concepts, in order to determine what they could adopt and introduce to a proud American workforce, and its customer base. It was well researched, and he was making a presentation to the American “aftermarket” industry about his observations.
After listening to his presentation, I realized that he had unquestionably been briefed on who his audience was, but he had absolutely no idea what we did, or how we did it.
The automobile in America is a romantic story full of exciting products, life and death motorsports events and larger than life characters in boardrooms, shop floors, and at race tracks from coast to coast. And the story has always been better told by people who lived it.
Stand On It was written by two automotive racing journalists, Bill Neely & Bob Ottum. It is loosely based on the life and adventures of one of American motorsports most outrageous and talented personalities, Curtis Turner. Their protagonist, Stroker Ace, emerges from the dangerous life of the hillbilly “moonshine” runners, risking life and jail to outrun the dreaded Federal “revenooers”. NASCAR decried that image for fifty years. Today they embrace it as “romantic.”
The book is funny, and based loosely on truth and legends, but what makes it work, is Neely and Ottum knew their subject! Nobody in the sport I ever met, ever found one thing wrong with it, and it is funnier than hell. A used copy sells for $100 online.
The Last Open Road (by Burt Levy) is Catcher in the Rye at speed! I confess that I never liked Holden Caufield. I found it difficult to identify with the teenage angst being suffered by an upper middle class white kid trying to find himself. Many of us never had to find ourselves.
In Buddy Palumbo, author Burt Levy has created a real character, who though at times portrayed as a little too roughhewn, nonetheless has heart and character, and both serve him well as he negotiates situations which will be eerily familiar to many lower middle-class kids of the fifties and sixties. The cars, scenes, and adventures are exceptionally well painted and thoroughly researched. Unlike Stand On It, this one is still in print and not expensive. $30 new, available on TheLastOpenRoad.com website or you can find a used one for less, with a bit of a look around. Shortly to be available as an Audio Book, too.
Notes from the Publisher:
Having just finished The Last Open Road by Burt Levy myself... I was skeptical at first, but loved it! A great example of Historical fiction from the 1950s featuring numerous and great classic cars, race drivers, and racing milestones: General LeMay saved Racing! How the Jaguar C-Type came about! The beginnings of S.C.M.A! All woven together expertly around a young mechanic’s life. A great read and highly recommended.
I found a 1st edition of David Halberstam’s The Reckoning on eBay for $6.95. Happy to sell along, once I’m done reading, if anyone is interested? Sharon.Spurlin@classicads.us
Mar/Apr 2019 edition
Issue #4 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
I found the image by Michael Furman on the cover of this month’s issue intriguing. While I am recognized here as an “incidental” collector, when it comes to books about whose subjects I have an interest, I become a “determined” collector. What caught my eye, was a book about the Schlumpf brothers of France’s Mulhouse Museum fame, authored by a favorite British motorsports journalist of the period, Dennis Jenkinson. He was Stirling Moss’s navigator in the winning 1955 Mille Miglia, rated one of the greatest drives of all time. Thus, an opportunity to learn more about how the reclusive Schlumpfs lost their amazing collection, written by a man with impeccable motorsports credentials, was irresistible.
Before dawn on the morning of March 7th, 1977, a small group of 17 Schlumpf factory workers, forced their way past a single guard, and occupied the main building of the Schlumpf factory in Mulhouse, Alsace, France. What they discovered was unquestionably the best and largest collection of important automobiles ever assembled. And they had no idea this collection existed. It took two days to find and count all 577 automobiles, 122 of which were Bugattis.
Jan/Feb 2019 edition
Issue #3 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
If you are an enthusiast who delights in the history of our sport and finding out how, why and where things happened, you might appreciate Rachael Clegg’s artistic take on historic events, that took place on two of the most important and dangerous tracks in the world.
In my school days, my classmates and I were ferried on rare occasions to a large museum to view the works of famed artists. Many considered this akin to “casting pearls before swine”. We were kids! We yawned at Rubens portraits, pointed, tittered, and blushed at the site of plump semi-nude angels and yawned again at each landscape. And then there were the enigmas; the works of Van Gogh and Picasso, for which our guides had no plausible explanation that a pre-pubescent mind could ever comprehend.
Now I am drawn (forgive the pun) to art that has a story. It is a dimension now essential to adding pieces to the cherished detritus of my life. Some of the time the story is obvious in the image. At other times, a discussion with the artist is needed to give the piece meaning for me.
The 12.2 mile Nurburgring in Germany is unquestionably the most dangerous race circuit in the history of the sport. Dubbed “the Green Hell” by Jackie Stewart, it has been neutered and mercifully bears no resemblance to its earlier deadly iterations. Today’s 12.2 mile track is the site of an excellent driving school, and a “rent-a-road” format that by paying a toll, people without imagination or knowledge of history run their quick street cars.
When I first saw Rachael’s work, a calendar of pieces shot at the Nurburgring, I was interested but confused. I recognized the track and recognized her, but what was it all about? And then I read the stories accompanying each image. Rachel’s calendar retells tales which are now part of the history of each track, and by shooting at the precise spot where history took place, with relevant artifacts, she brings history to life.
Each image features her, a story about what happened at that precise spot on the track, and the pieces of cars or equipment involved in the incident. Each calendar tells twelve collectible stories. All, truly worthy of occupying space on the Incidental Collector’s wall.
FUCHSRÖHRE: For the 1971 1000kms World Championship Tony Goodwin entered a car with a sawn-off roof, having previously learned that cars with open roofs attracted twice the appearance money. But the car was rejected by scrutineers and so the team promptly had an Adenau blacksmith fabricate a roll cage. The scrutineers were so impressed with the makeshift repairs, that they allowed the car to enter the race. But the car went backwards through a hedge near the Fuchsrohre, and then suffered an exploded tyre at Antoniusbuche, which destroyed a bulk of the bodywork. Remarkably, they finished with a podium result.
Nov/Dec 2018 edition
Issue #2 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
The perfect photograph or print, the painting that captures a moment, or a sculpture that evokes a memory, is from its inception both Art and Memorabilia. Most of us, even those among us who own but one such book, image, or piece...are Incidental Collectors. We are enthusiasts first, collectors second.
As defined in a previous article, the preferred purpose of collectibles is that they evoke a cherished memory, incident or concept. While memorabilia in all forms are equally capable of evoking these responses, visual art, in the form of images or paintings that can be permanently displayed are most commonly favored.
Sept/Oct 2018 edition
Issue #1 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
According to the dictionary, “AutoMobilia” is not actually a word. It is an amalgam of the words “automobile” and “memorabilia “ and the latter also is a euphonious contraction of the words “memory” and the Latin for “stuff”.
Though the word “memory” is not a part of the title of this new publication, “memories” justifies its existence. Our goal here is to periodically present a selection of stories, images and products to kindle old memories and remind us all that we are neither unique nor are we alone. If our lives are truly a journey, memorabilia are certainly its sign posts.
As I look about me, I see two large framed posters by Nicolas Watts, one of Moss driving the #722 Mercedes in the ‘55 Mille Miglia. Arguably the greatest “drive” in history. The other is of the Phil Hill-Mike Spence Chaparral winning at Brands Hatch in ‘67. Brutally beautiful car! I also see a smaller black and white image sitting on an easel. My friend Michael Keyser sent it to me.
In 1972, at the USGP in Watkins Glen, he took a picture through the window of the room where the drivers meeting was being held. It’s a wonderful picture of my heroes of the day slouching on couches, sitting on tables and leaning against walls. I was there that weekend. Out of the corner of my eye I also see a 1/18 model of a Porsche 904 which another friend gave me. I love that car.
A poster the Guggenheim created for the “Art of the Motorcycle“ exhibit in NYC in 1998 is by the door. Nice poster. Somewhere on the way to the kitchen is a small picture of me leaning my long gone Ducati 851 into a tight turn at NHIS. I keep it in sight because it reminds me of the bike and the day and how good I looked on that bike. But mostly I treasure it because it also shows me looking good and at the same time missing the apex by fifteen feet. It’s really humbling, and I need humbling from time to time.
The Incidental Collector