Wednesday, December 26, 2012


You have your Time Magazine Person of the Year, your Heisman Trophy Winner, your Late Show Top Ten List, and your Best Dramatic Actress in a Supporting Role. I have this blog, which has been noted as one of Google’s 100 Most Insignificant Sites, which I assume formally qualifies me to list what I deem to be the coolest and coldest events of 2012.

Coolest (in no particular order):


Yet another of my extended hitch hiking journeys across the U.S. produced the usual results: A wicked case of permagrin, more new friends, and enough hot poop to nourish this blog and several issues of Hot Rod Deluxe magazine. Major stops included Speedway Motors, the Sandhills Open Road Challenge, Speed Week, the Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance, and the California Hot Rod Reunion.


Not that I know jack about bikes, but this guy also owns the tire store where all of my rolling stock comes from. And after years of nodding hello to each other in the pits and staging lanes of our local track, it’s wonderfully surreal to see him blasting across my TV screen every Sunday. Scotty’s a helluva great guy, and works harder than the average bear at everything he does. He earns his success and wears it gracefully. His learning curve was actually a straight line, traversed on everything from street bikes to Nitro Harleys, Pro Mod Bikes, and now, Pro Stock Motorcycles. The only comparable current local yokel is Top Alcohol Dragster shoe Mike Austin, who’s automotive repair shop is scant feet down the road from Scotty’s tire store. I love that stretch of Hwy 99 North and have proven it with countless contributions of vulcanized rubber coating. It's okay - I have a tire guy.


Can you believe I write this drivel from such a palace? I know, me neither. Amazing. This is my office -  just one of many, many rooms that I spend a lot of time dusting...

Lance and Diane Sorchik made their maiden voyage to the northwest this fall and I was honored to offer them room and board. Lance dug Twisty Ron Austin's race trailer. Kiwi "House" Gilbert brought his whole fam damily for a stay, but we were having too much fun to stop for photos. Rick "What?" Smith is a regular visitor at my place. Here he is (sans cigar) getting my old Anglia teched in. I miss it, but it's in good hands...

I’ve been house sitting for the neighbors since June. They’re really nice people and I’m very honored that they trust me with their amazing home. I call it The Museum, for its dense collection of artifacts from around the globe and across the span of time. Wandering rodders have always been welcome at my place, which is usually a tiny rented room. But in 2012, I was able to offer genuine comfort to weary friends for the first time. For that, and the silent solitude to write in, I’m ever so grateful.

Right where I left it, fifteen years ago. The cowl is a '31 Briggs-body Model A and the rear half  is a mystery piece (it was represented as a '27 Rickenbacker, but I soon learned that Rickenbacker never offered an open car. It might be a Studebaker). These components represent a $25 investment. As of today, I also have a frame, drivetrain and suspension to go with this tin. I can't show or tell you any more, as this project will be detailed in an upcoming book. You have to squint really hard to see the potential here, but trust me, it's gonna be cool.

Fifteen years ago, I began mocking up a Model A-based jalopy in my shop. When a hot job offer dictated a long distance move, the project was abandoned in a field at Dr. Lockjaw’s farm. It would still be sinking into that field today, were it not for the Good Doctor’s generous offer to help me build it in his shop! So I go out there every Sunday (30 miles each way) and Doc coaches me in converting my dubious vision into reality. Delayed gratification at its best! It will take a while at this rate, and I’m fine with that. Having lost my shop over five years ago, it just feels good to be accruing greasy cuts, burns and blisters on my fingers again. Thanks Doc!!!

Flat black and slammed hard, how could anyone resist EE's badass Chevy? Especially when it beat all the big scary baddies. Crewchief (and Erica's main squeeze) Dave Connelly makes it go and Victor Cagnozzi primes the pump. They actually made P/S event coverage interesting to watch, twice, in 2012. More of this, please.

Well, it’s about time. When Pro Stock was instituted in 1970, many of us fans expected Shirley Shahan and Judy Lilly (at least) to appear in the new class, but apparently their invitations to the party were “lost in the mail”. Okay, they both may have just preferred to stay in Super Stock for all I know – I’m not privy to that information. But I do know that Enders’ 2012 wins are the first estrogen powered event victories in Pro Stock since the NHRA deemed the factory hot rods a PR gift from God, FORTY TWO YEARS AGO. Good Lord, what’s that smell? For today, I’m wearing a clothespin on my nose and congratulating Erica Enders and her tribe on this monumental achievement. And I’m hoping someone up in the tower has noticed that something smells sadly wrong in Mudville.


The Austin Bantam altered from New Zealand, Renault sedan delivery from France, and primered Deuce roadster from Switzerland are only three of over a dozen such overseas racers who breached U.S. borders to race in the land of the fast and told all to yours truly. If you think getting out to the local track can be a challenge, try racing on the other side of the planet!

Similar to the Model A project, this is also a long distance dream, slowly coming into focus. I’ve alluded to it before here on the blog, and only mention it again now out of pure adrenaline poisoning. Every day, the first GBR book gets a little closer to print, and it’s looking pretty damn good (thanks to Lance Sorchik artwork and Christy Collins design)! And there are more fun surprises heading your way under the Gosson Bros. banner. Stay tuned...

 The above artwork was supposedly done by Felix at five years old. If that's true, I'm even more impressed with his vision and faith. No Red Bull needed - Felix' adrenaline valve is stuck open. Can you imagine doing this?

As you know, I’m all about the leap of faith and trusting in the present moment. That’s why this guy is my new hero. Fearless Felix Baumgartner from Austria, fell over twenty four miles after stepping from his custom NASA-style capsule, wearing a space suit, a helmet and a grin. Felix clocked a four-plus minute E.T. and cleared the traps at 833.9MPH (or Mach 1.24), breaking the sound barrier in the process. Baumgartner shaved a whopping sixteen seconds off of the previous E.T. record, set 50 years earlier by his hero, retired Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger, who coached Baumgartner through the experience. Fearless Felix had hooked his capsule to a balloon in Roswell, New Mexico (of course) and ascended to 128,100 feet before taking the big dive. When his face shield fogged over at stratospheric altitude, Felix shrugged it off and fell blind. He spun out of control at one stage of the drop, but reeled himself back in. After cheating death by freefalling through the sound barrier, Felix quipped, “At a certain RPM, there’s only one way for blood to leave your body, and that’s through your eyeballs. That means you’re dead. That was what we feared most.” But Baumgartner survived and was humbled in the process: “Sometimes you have to go up really high, to understand how small you really are.”

            No caption required. This now iconic image still triggers every nerve ending in our souls.

Not car-related, but this is even more important: People across the country are actually talking to each other! And it isn’t about the usual banality we use to distract ourselves from reality – it’s actually about reality itself. Sure, some are posturing themselves and most are pushing agendas, but they’re all talking about it, and get this – most are speaking from the gut – not the so-called intellect. That means there’s a chance that positive change could come of this discussion and American society could potentially take its first shaky baby step forward in decades! Shooting from the hip, so to speak, this appears to be a divisive train wreck approaching - but when you stand back for some perspective, you can see people feeling, people opening up, people soul searching, people intently listening – all the required ingredients for growth. I’m so damn proud of every one of us, I could salute! Keep this momentum going and it’s bound to deliver us to places unimaginably wondrous… Eventually.

The Coldest (in no particular order):

From the Civil War to 9-11 and beyond, we figured we'd seen the worst that humans were capable of. Like any pivotal event, the timing of this one made the difference. Time will tell how much difference.

We’ve absorbed some heavy hits over the last two centuries in this country. But perhaps nothing has delivered such a collective wince and shudder. Today we are a black and blue nation. How to heal from this? Discussions on eradicating mental health stigmas and consideration of gun control are underway. The world is watching our next move very carefully.

   (Vintage photo courtesy of Ken Crawford)
People in the know tell me that Tony never missed a single event at his home track - Famoso Raceway, near Bakersfield. I don't know how he could do that and hit every SCTA Speed Week too, but he pulled it off for a lot of years. Tony was a lifetime member of the Smokers Car Club that hosted the Fuel & Gas Championships (AKA March Meet) at Famoso. Tony's Fuel Altered ran regularly and successfully against the rail jobs. The other (color) shots are from October - the last time I saw Tony, running A/Fuel with son Darrell at the 2012 Hot Rod Reunion. Godspeed.

You might know Tony as the runner up at the inaugural 1959 March Meet in Bakersfield, where he was forced to lift (to avoid hitting raucous spectators, or because of sand blowing onto the track - depending on which legend you believe) while battling Art Chrisman for the Top Eliminator title. Tony preferred to be known as a stable fixture at both Bakersfield and Bonneville, or later, a force in NHRA’s Heritage Series A/Fuel class, where he fielded a throwback grassroots nitro entry with his son Darrell. I met Tony a few years back, when our local hero Mike Austin was driving the A/Fueler for Tony (the car was built and stored here at Bill Comstock’s shop). In fact, I was there when Mike drove the car to Tony’s only March Meet win - what a night that was! During that time, I was honored to hang a bit with Tony and the guys. When I last saw Tony (on the starting line at the 2012 Hot Rod Reunion), he shot me a quick grin and knowing nod, acknowledging our little connection. Last night I heard that he had passed on. Today I can tell you one of the worst kept secrets in drag racing: When Surfer Mike Sorokin was killed, it was in Tony Waters’ dragster – a fact that tortured Tony so profoundly that most drag journalists omitted it from their coverage of The Surfers’ story, and Tony’s. I was always amazed that the press could muster that kind of respect for anyone, but once I connected with Tony, I understood. You had to admire the guy, period. His passion was that pure. A service for Tony will be held on January 5th at Hillcrest Mortuary in Bakersfield, at 11:00AM. A Celebration of Life will follow at Woolgrowers restaurant (where Tony was also a mainstay). Tony Waters was 85 years old.


This will likely live on as an infamous milestone. I only read Newsweek in waiting rooms, but it was a lifesaver for me at those times. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that another mainstream print publication has decided it can’t afford to pull precious resources from its digital persona to support its failing print alter ego. This saddens me. That’s right – the same guy who’s been preaching that growing pains are healthy is not happy with this one. I confess – I’m all too human. But hey, I don’t have to like change to accept it.

Here’s hoping that 2013 will spawn a new age of understanding and acceptance for all of us. Or at least take us a step in that direction. See you there!

My apologies to any Psy fans who hit this site in search of more Gangnam-style video. Have a super sparkly day!

1 comment:

  1. Happy new year! Tell Ron Austin I said hi! (we went to school together)