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Global. Such a majestic word. Even now, in the digital age, it's still an incomprehensibly big world - wide awake and teeming with a zillion forms of inspiration. The possibilities are overwhelming. Fascinated with experiences 180 degrees from our own, curiosity often yanks us from the comfort zone for a reality slap of personal growth. While we're always better off for that, most of us are also relieved and grateful to return to the nest. Be it ever so humble, this is where we live.
Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley is a relatively small playground for us gearheads to co-exist in. So we grant each other adequate elbow room, but remain accessible, if needed. Most of us have known each other for decades and we can identify the people we don't know by their cars. It's a tight-knit community, where local lore is passed down through generations with knowing grins and respectful chuckles. The various macrocosms are broken down into microcosms, so all the fabricators, machinists, body men, and racers of various disciplines occupy tiny universes of our own that revolve around each other with a mutual respect. To this date, there have been no philosophical collisions and all factors interact freely and peacefully. It's a veritable idyllic utopia, where the creative process thrives alongside urban commerce - inspired, enhanced and informed by the natural beauty of our little corner of the world.
So today, SGE is featuring some samples of local yokelization in action, for your amusement. While none of this is exactly headline news, the local scene is fundamental in its own right and doesn't always receive the acknowledgement required for it to thrive. It's probably no different in your back yard, so hopefully you can relate. I threw my camera in the car to document some of this week's interactions. Hop in and join me for the highlights...
On Wednesday afternoon, I stopped by Twisty Ron Austin's shop to check his progress on a B/Gas '33 Willys build that I'd been hearing about. Ron and I became friends years ago at the drag strip and continued to cross paths at various shops and events until we knew each other's stories by heart. His brother Mike has garnered more fame (for racing Top Alcohol Dragsters) up to now, but Ron has been slingshotting him as of late. Always fastidious and detail-obsessed, Ron is now one of the west coast's premier fabricators. He's also a natural racer, wheeling his Slightly Twisted altered steeds to Championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012 (he finished 2nd in 2010). Teamed with wife Tamie Krankypantz and sidekick Brandon "Fast Mo" Pereira, the Twisters instilled fear in their ("Dragsters and Roadsters") class competitors from their first event, in 2004. They're only running at part-throttle this year, while focusing on the fabrication business, housed in Ron and Tamie's small attached garage.
I'll let Ron's skills speak for themselves in the photos, but will declare him to be a bona fide hero to more people than just myself. His bread-and-butter work includes building headers for the new-design Brad Andersen heads, used by all the serious Alky racers. After a passionate restoration of the 1961 Scotty Fenn (Chassis Research) K-88 chassis for the storied Duedall & Marrs B/Comp Coupe (now kicking large ass on the show circuit), Ron's name and skills are being bandied about by such icons as Kent Fuller, so he's doing something right. And for the record, Ron does all of this conjuring after his daily eight hour shift at a powder coating enterprise. He's a certified blue collar taxpaying worker bee, so his magic act is strictly an after-hours endeavor.
. He was also declared Woodburn's 2011 Driver of the Year. Dave goes back a ways with gasser legend Jack Coonrod (both are from Washington), so this Willys isn't his first guardrail dodger. Ron's prepping it for B/Gas battle. The BBC/Glide combo is for mock-up only. The final product will have a bit more hair on it...
Some Willys detail shots. Ron is just starting on the funny car-style rollcage, and most of the chassis is only tacked together at this point. Click on the rearend shot for a close-up look at a proper TIG weld. I swear, this guy is a cyborg.
The big news for me on this day was discovering Ron's secret weapon: The wireless TIG pedal! I've nearly killed myself while entangled in unruly power feeds inside rollcages. How could I not have known about these?
Combined, these two cars (sharing the same "extremely mild" drivetrain) boast 15 wins and 6 runners-up, in 49 races. For the math-challenged, that equals 3 Championships. Pit Sweet Pit shot: Krankypantz, Twisty and Fast Mo, at Woodburn Dragstrip. (Photos courtesy of Ron Austin)
In my heavily biased opinion, the coolest aspect of our little sandbox is the awesome drag strip that the County built for us in 1979. Now known as Champion Raceway, it has bankrupted more track managers than I can remember, but refuses to die, thanks to the diligence of local racers. I've worked for some of those managers (as Tech Inspector, Announcer and Media Liaison), and have also annoyed every one of them as a bonehead racer. Friday was the official Opening Day of 2013, so I headed out there to see what's new. There was plenty, but the best news was what hasn't changed: Catching up with old friends who've been through a lot of ups and downs together. It made a beautiful evening even sweeter.
So, if you need a moral to this story, it's spectate globally, race locally. Because in the end, all we have is the sum of our experiences, and each other. Nobody gets out alive, so savor the fellowship while it's here.
Next week: "... and to this day, they still haven't found the body!"