What a year we’ve had here at BRE! We joined Nissan in April for the unveiling of their 50th anniversary 370Z at the New York Auto Show which included special art being created by one of our favorite motorsports artists, Austrian Klaus Wagger. Nissan’s 50thAnniversary 370Z is an homage to the BRE Championship winning 240Zs and this art commemorates this event with the BRE 240Z heading off into the background as the 50th anniversary 370Z comes forward.
We are thrilled to be able to offer this striking special edition 50thAnniversary Z poster to our fans… while they last. You can also choose (from the drop down box) to have yours autographed by BRE team owner and manager, Peter Brock. Purchase one for $24.95.
I’ve been lucky to have been invited to some great under-the-radar museums. Here are some of my favorites:
• The Chaparral Gallery in the Petroleum Museum in Midland, TX. Jim Hall’s collection of Chaparral’s is fascinating. Here you can see and compare how rare innovation and brilliance changed our sport forever. The oil field displays are pretty impressive too. This is where implausible inventions were created because no one had ever done what these wildcatin’ Texas “ahl biznes” roughnecks achieved. Innovation is part of Hall’s DNA. As much as anything I enjoyed the serenity of this place. In the quiet of the West Texas plains along I-20 is the greatest collection of Jim Hall’s Chaparral race cars. It’s a modest and quality display of these aerodynamic wonders. Well worth a stop.
• Speedy Bill’s (Speedway Motors) Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, NE – This is truly one of the most amazing museums (automotive or otherwise) I’ve ever been to and it was a crazy set of circumstances that led me there. While visiting Gayle’s family in Nebraska her dad asked if I had ever stopped by Speedy Bill’s in Lincoln. Her dad was in the communications business and had built some radio towers in the empty lot next to Bill’s Speedway Motors Museum. Her dad had met Speedy and gone through his collection before it was open to the public. He said there were “some pretty unique things” there he thought I’d like.
Even though it would be along our route heading back to our home in the Seattle area we didn’t have time to stop. However, traveling down I-80, two exits past Speedy’s in Lincoln we lost a wheel nut and the right rear wheel off my Daytona Coupe. We searched for the far-flung nut but in the tall grass alongside the freeway, we couldn’t find it. We stayed in Lincoln for a couple of days while another one was made. While waiting we rented a car and headed to Speedy’s. We met Bill (now deceased) and he gave us a tour of this incredible one-of-a-kind collection. As a racer in his youth, Bill was always interested in speed which translated into the myriad collection of accessories that increase the performance of a car. It’s how his massive automotive accessories business began.
In his collection, rather than just have a Model T on display he also had every accessory available for it. My grandad, EJ Hall, a personal friend of Henry Ford’s, made the two-speed Ruxtell axles for the T, amazing that this option was the ONLY non-Ford made part ever sold by Ford! Speedy had one on display. There aren’t a lot of cars in this collection so once you see everything that Bill pulled together you realize that gathering a bunch of rare cars and displaying them is child’s play compared to what Bill amassed. One particular focus is engines. I saw more unique, historically important engines than I ever imagined. Go to the museum website and select Display, then Engines from the drop down menu. The engines alone are worth the trip, but there’s more. An entire floor was dedicated to pedal cars and model tether-cars. People would travel on trains far and wide to race these “spin-dizzies” during the war as fuel rationing didn’t allow for real automobile races. It’s rather difficult to describe how amazing this collection is, except to say it’s at the top of my list of museums you should see that you might never hear about otherwise. Preferably, don’t wait until your car breaks down on the Interstate out front!
• With a location like Hickory Corners, Michigan I wasn’t surprised I hadn’t ever heard of the Gilmore Museum, until I arrived. It’s a sprawling complex of 20 exhibit buildings on perfectly manicured grounds. Located between Detroit and Chicago it has a particular focus on America’s automotive history including the horseless carriage as well as steam, gas and electric powered vehicles (before those became trendy). In covering America’s transportation history you also have to include trains. The Gilmore does that well with an actual train switch tower onsite which was relocated to the Gilmore campus after serving the Kalamazoo and South Haven railway line for more than 100 years. Visit their website and look at the Gilmore site map to see all the great displays in store for you.
There are dozens of smaller museums of quality we should all make an effort to support including:
The fabulous Lane Motor Museum in Tennessee which houses several of Nissan’s heritage cars including our BRE #46 Championship Datsun 510. The eclectic nature of this museum is a treat, It is currently celebrating the bicentennial of the bicycle and the 100th anniversary of Citroen.
The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY is celebrating its 25th anniversary this Fall (a great time for a visit). Not to be missed is the famed sinkhole in the middle of the museum that almost destroyed the place. Its now covered with a Plexiglas window in the floor so you can see right down into one of the world’s most famous natural depressions.
Now a question for you… what jewel of a museum have you seen that others should know about?
First, let me say that Baja racing is my favorite form of automotive competition. Baja racing culture is about life, speed, the beauty of the land and enjoying everything to its fullest extent. The fact that the rules are fairly free, with minimum oversight allows lots of innovation for the competitors. As for ourselves… with no fences, an open road and no self-inflated officials blowing whistles, screaming or telling you where you can’t stand means you’re in Baja for one of the most exciting and grueling adventures on the planet; Baja is one of the last great open road races in the world.
My recommendations for experiencing Baja are:
1. Let’s start easy.
Get acquainted by watching a Baja race on TV. This Saturday, June 1st, 2019 the San Felipe 250 will air on ABC's "World of X Games" at 2:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT. I’ve seen a preview and I can’t wait to see more…some spectacular coverage!
2. Getting the bug and want more?
Watch the full feature movie Dust to Glory by Dana Brown.
3. If you want to go to a Baja race
first, make a plan. The Baja 500 is actually running this week starting Saturday in Ensenada. Understand it’ll never turn out the way you expect but it’ll give you a structure to start! There’s a common saying mentioned frequently when nothing goes as planned in Baja (and it never does)… “That’s Baja!” We still have the race logs and maps we created when we raced in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Be prepared but most of all be flexible.
4. Choose the “right spot” to watch the race:
This is an easy yet difficult task in Baja because there’s 1000 miles of road to choose from. Once the field goes past there’s little chance of ever seeing them again, so get comfortable and relax. One of my favorite locations is the “Rollers” just outside of Ojos Negros. Hardcore fans will have been there since the day before the start, selecting their spot and partying as only they can in Mexico. You’ll know when the Trophy Trucks are coming as their support helicopters will appear first in the distance. Within a couple of hours, the entire field will have passed and, essentially, it’s over; but you’ll never forget the day. There are literally hundreds of such places all along the course, so be sure to look at the course maps.
5. Determine a meeting point so if all fails,
you know where to go to get back with your group. Gayle and I got separated while covering the Baja 1000 in 2004. I was shooting from a helicopter and she from the ground. She was to drive to a specific helicopter refueling location to pick me up when my stint in the chopper was over. She got there but I wasn’t there. Turns out there had been an accident on course and our chopper was flagged down to help. By the time rescue personnel arrived and we were back on our way we couldn’t recover the schedule. I stayed with the chopper until it got dark at which time they had to land because no aircraft are allowed to fly at night over Baja. I then flagged down the support truck of a team I knew. They gave me a ride but they were going the wrong direction, farther south to meet their race vehicle which was down with broken wheel lugs. I tagged along and got the best night photography of my career showing the team welding lugs onto the race car’s chassis in the middle of nowhere in the dark.
Having planned in advance what should happen if we didn’t connect at the fueling spot, Gayle knew not to wait for me any longer than 1pm. Following the course map she found a couple of crossover points where she got more race shots. As darkness fell she went back to race central in Ensenada and tracked which racers would be arriving at the finish line soon. It was the year “Dust to Glory” was being filmed and she engaged in some interesting conversation with the crew and director. She got some amazing shots at 2am of the winner of the bike class taking the flag (she loves to point out the two seconds in the movie where the camera pans past her as the winner comes in. After a few more hours of shooting she went back to our ultimate meeting location (a nearby ranch used by racers). No one was there and the generators shut off at night. She found her way to a room in the dark. A few hours later I was dropped off by the crew I’d spent the night with. Even with all the downtime they experienced they never quit and won the championship with my photos to prove it. Gayle and I had great stories to share when we reconnected. And we reconnected without panic because we had a plan and a contingency plan with an if-all-else-fails meeting location (the ranch).
6. Relax and take time to enjoy
the wonders of Ensenada like the local fish market where you’ll see fish being offloaded from boats and the best $1 fish tacos at stands just outside. Drink only bottled drinks. You can also go high-end for a great dinner at the upscale Sano’s restaurant just north of town. Try the spinach salad, a ribeye medium rare with baked potato and a great glass of local Santo Tomas red. It doesn’t get much better.
7. Join a pit crew.
Really got the bug? Most Baja pit teams are made up of volunteers. Some of these contract support teams, with members from all over the world, have been meeting in Baja annually for decades, hauling in everything imaginable to service and fuel their contracted racer teams. Since many pit stops are hundreds of miles below the border and teams have to get there at least a day in advance there’s no skimping on making life a great party. Great food, people, equipment and drink plus every possible luxury imaginable (including swimming pools) can be found out there, hundreds of miles from nowhere. Sublime madness. Do an internet search on “Baja pit crews.”
Check out this interview I did for SCORE a few years ago if you want to hear more.
As successful as the Shelby American operation was, Carroll didn’t really understand the potential of a viable brand using his name with his attendant racing success. Any attempt on my part to upgrade our initial “Shelby” or “Goodyear” merchandise was met with resistance because of cost. Shelby saw the advantage of promoting his name with “T” shirts but would only allow the cheapest materials to minimize cost. He didn’t understand that superior materials would last indefinitely as “collector items” and continue to promote visibility. Shelby simply didn’t have the facilities or people to promote and market any internally created products. Shelby’s rather small team of mechanics and fabricators were “racers”, without question the BEST in the racing game, with only one goal…WIN! But there wasn’t anyone internally who understood the potential of the Shelby brand. Later this became obvious and was one reason that Shelby allowed himself to be taken over by Ford when the opportunity came up to develop the GT40s. Ford had the expertise, money and a vast organization to promote and merchandise the Ford brand using Shelby’s name a team.