Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gosson Bros Racing Exposed!

That's right, we're hanging it all out here, for your amusement. Future generations will need a document for reference and this interview will serve as that template! In other words, I've been too busy this week to contact any big shots for interviews, so I roped my brothers into filling in at the last minute.

                          Gosson Bros: L to R: Wayne, Mark and Scotty
But the Gosson Bros weren't always my brothers and I. Our dad and his brothers were the originals, tearing up untold miles of highway on wicked scary rat Harleys, tweaked in ramshackle little garages and driven hellbent for leather, no matter the weather or the destination (which was often jail). Their heyday was the 1940's, but by the time we caught Go Fever, it took four wheels to catch our eyes. Car culture ruled and we were its eager obedient slaves. Besides, who wants to do what their folks did, right?

Oldest brother Wayne is the ringleader. He's built literally hundreds of high profile rods and customs. Here's some that are mentioned in this interview:

I followed in Wayne's footsteps. My junk has all been street/strip beaters. Most famous are the 'Son of Godzilla' Morris and the 'BTU' '58 Anglia:

Youngest brother Mark followed in my footsteps, but went German in a quest to separate from the herd: He's best known these days for the 'Rubber Chicken' Bug and the 'Dub 'n' Aire' Karman Ghia:

The three of us sat down for a virtual benchrace session here at the expansive SGE facilities this week (on Wayne's birthday, actually), during a late-night break in the action. This was a 'virtual' session, as Wayne lives in a Nebraska cornfield these days. He was 'too busy' to drive to Oregon for a 15 minute talk with his brothers, so he phoned it in. It started off in typical fashion...

Allright you leakers, knock it off! Let's get started. hey, Hey, HEY! C'mon you jangleheads, this is serious. Focus... Wayne, let's start with you. Age before beauty and all that. What's your earliest memory of what you wanted to be when you grew up? And what influenced you into hot rodding?

Wayne: When I was 4 or 5 years old, I'd strut around with a grease rag in the back pocket of my little white coveralls and a little mechanic's hat on my head, just like my daddy. I had a [then new] sad-face Fire Chief's pedal car that I'd jack up and crawl under to "fix" it, just like dad did with our family '48 Pontiac. I was gonna be a mechanic when I grew up.

Scotty: Jeez, you were a little prophet! Our (only) sister Gaye and cousin Dianne were quite the cowgirls and influenced me. I figured I'd be a singing cowboy when I grew up. I was on my way too, when car culture, then the Beatles sidetracked me. Wayne, you mostly raised me, so you and your gearhead friends were my biggest influence, for better or worse. In fact, once Ma taught me my ABC's, I learned to read from your car magazines. Tagging along with you guys was 'it' for me! I was 'behind the scenes' at a pretty early age, gettin' the inside scoop on events most of today's adults would gasp at. I've been junk ever since.

Mark: Well, I always wanted to be an entertainer. Someone who could bring a smile to people's faces and make them feel better. I got into the 'freaky' show cars of the 60s and 70s, when they were built just for fun. No, they weren't realistic - some of them didn't even run. But they served a purpose - to make people smile! Unfortunately, the car people took them way too seriously and seemed to think it was a slap in their face and didn't see the fun side. Heck, it brought more people into the shows to see the 'real' hot rods, right? Anyway, that's what got me into hot rodding and the style of builds I do now: Kinda cartoonie, simple cars - you either like 'em or you don't. There's no half way, usually.

What was your first car, or the first one you got running, anyway? How 'bout your dream car - the one that's still eluding you?

Wayne: My very first car was a cherry-pie 28-29 Ford coupe that a boyhood friend of my dad gave to me when I was 14 or 15. My buddy Ken Bailey and I would ride the 11 miles on our bikes [the last 3 miles were gravel road] to unbolt parts from it, bring them back to town and clean and paint them in preparation for the day it came home. Then we moved to another town, 120 miles away, when I was halfway through my sophomore year of high school. When I got out of the Army 6 years later, I drove up to see the old coupe and it was gone..
First car I got running was my '50 Ford Crestliner.. Built a '53 Merc motor
for it, in dad's little one car garage as a Junior in high school.

Scotty: I'll never forget stabbing that motor: "Scotty, you get under the car and line up the motor mounts when I lower the engine with this chain over that tree limb". Limb broke halfway down and my (8 year old) life passed before my eyes!

Wayne: Yeah, sorry about that. But you survived. Ahem... My dream car
has always been a 33-34 Ford coupe and the dream car I still don't have is
[another] '57 Pontiac super chief two door hardtop.

Scotty: Hey, you can never have enough '57 Pontiacs (a family illness)... And I know you're still cryin' about that Model A coupe - ouch! But you're building your dream car now: the '34 coupe! Maybe if I live that long - how old are you again? Nevermind. Well, I had a couple of $10 specials (first was a '52 Merc 2-door sedan) that never turned a tire, before I made enough hay bailing money to buy my '53 Ford 2-door wagon from Jim's Better Buys, on the edge of town. Paid $75. I was 12. Two years later, that's right where it barfed out the rods, coasting onto Jim's dirt lot and coming to rest in a puddle of it's own smoking oil. That car was a good education, setting me up for more high performance pursuits, afterward.

Mark: '63 Rambler wagon. Mom bought me a TV for Christmas and said if I wanted something else, I could take it back, so I took it down to K-Mart and got my $99. I scoured the want ads and found the Rambler. Plopped down my 99 bones and drove it two miles home. Turned it off and she never started again! No one could get it to fire. I paid $25 to have the junkyard come pick 'er up. I guess Karma says, if someone gives you a present, just accept it and don't try to finagle something better.
First car I got going? First I had to decide what to buy with my paper route/Taco Bell money. It was a toss-up between a Pinto wagon and a VW.  I chose to look for a VW first because, with Dad being out of the picture, I knew that I would have to fix anything myself, and with no experience, I knew there were more books on how to fix a VW than a Pinto.   I found a 1965 VW Bug sitting in a field, cobwebs in the engine compartment, rats nests in the interior, the whole Mary Anne!  But in the tradition of the VW, I put gas in it, a new battery in it and drove it home. Later, as I drove it daily, it would become 'Beginner's Luck!' and then 'Beginner's Luck Volume II'.  Dream car? I'm building it right now - the 'Dub-N-Aire'......The one(s) I always wanted? Of course, a '57 Chevy or Squarebird and for something REALLY different, a first generation Acura NSX. Not very hot roddy, huh?

Scotty: Mom bought you a TV?!

Mark: We're running out of blog room here...

Wayne: Scotty, 'focus', remember?

Scotty: Yeah, but -

It's a miracle that you survived what car adventure?

Wayne: Miracle adventure. Hmmm... (looking up, scratching chin) Hasta be the summer of '66. I'd just graduated from highschool [by the skin-o-my teeth!] and left home to go live in an old classmate's parent's basement in my old home town. Had a '55 Ford tudor with a 272, 3-speed O.D. and a leaky rear main seal with a slippery clutch. Had no job, no money, sold cast-off batteries and radiators to buy beer, had my buddy's little brother steal gas for our cars [Danny had a '55 Chevy hardtop with a KILLER 301, 3 speed] and ended up in jail twice that summer. Went in the Army that fall.

Scotty: Yeah, good times (laughs). But that's just where you had to go, to end up here today. Me too: I started driving at 12. I drove everywhere loaded, until I got straight at 28. So, 16 years of driving drunk (or worse) with no license or insurance, but no legal trouble - that's a miracle right there. After that, my closest call was probably busting my trans into three pieces while crossing the finish line at the strip in the Morris at night. 127 MPH on slicks covered with trans fluid - I still can't believe I didn't hit anything. But I almost got hit several times by other racers who didn't know my flat black car was sitting on the un-lit track! That was hairy...

Mark: You and me Scotty, in a stock oval window rag top  Bug, with a 36 horse engine on the ¼ mile - racing against an 8 second dragster.   Man, what a head start we had! With me driving and you looking over your shoulder saying, "Nope, he hasn't left yet...not yet......still sitting there"
"Scotty, I'm almost at the finish line!!"
"Well he must've broke, 'cause he's sitting there.  Make sure you don't break out, or you'll........WAIT!!!  He's coming!"
By now I've already put the binders on so I won't break out, then I hit the loud pedal all the way to the floor (could you tell?) and you say, "He's coming, oh geez, he's coming!!!"
When he passed us, it was very exciting and scary all at the same time...but when we lost, 'cuz I hit the brakes, the crowd went wild!!!  I still haven't lived that down!!!

Scotty: One of the best laughs of my life! When that guy passed us, the wind almost knocked your Bug on it's side! I may have pee'd myself that night...

What's your favorite car adventure, so far?

Wayne: There are sooooooo many! I guess driving my '41 Pontiac from Omaha to the Bonneville salt flats for Speed Week and then from there down to the HAMB drags the following weekend, tops the others..I dunno. Driving my '50 Chevy sedan delivery to Oregon for my 30th class reunion, stopping at Bonneville, camping along the way, stopping by Sturgis on the way home is also cool.

Scotty: Now that's an adventure with some substance. Hmmm... I've been so lucky - I've had so many adventures... But the one that meant the most, was Bonneville '96. We got there with the Morris and the entire family was there waiting! I'm still blown away! We towed from Nebraska and arrived to find the event rained out - but we had a blast and didn't really care! That was one of the sweetest moments of my life. Probably the only time I really felt a part of the family, you know (we're not the tightest family in town).

Mark: Oh, all the times I've driven a VW to Bug-O-Rama (or tried to!) are way up there, but numero uno?  It has to be Wayne and I sitting in a Greek Gyros on a Friday night at 8:00pm in Omaha, NE eating dinner and trying to figure out what to do for the weekend.  Wayne says, "Well, tomorrow is the Lone Star Round-Up in Austin, Texas." 
"So, how far is that from us?"
"Dunno, about 900 miles or so...."
"So what are we doing sitting here? Let's go!"
We were on the road before 9:00pm! Tooling all the way down to Waco-land in a slammed, black primered turbo 944 Porsche.....luckily the primer made us invisible to the cops. Either that, or they just saw us fly by and said, "There ain't no way what I'm lookin' at can be real"! Driving until noon Saturday morning straight through with my big brother, who without knowing it, turned me into a hot rodder: When he was in the Army, he left his '57 Pontiac at our house and being a snot nosed little 7 year old, it made a great slide, from the roof to the trunk, to the ground...but don't tell him!

Wayne: Say what?! YOU did that?

Mark: Scotty made me! Tee hee hee...

Scotty: I took the heat for that one, since I was left in charge of the '57 while Wayne was in Germany. By the way, houses have 'roofs', cars have 'tops'. Kids... (shaking head) But man, I was jealous of you on that one, Mark.  You guys called about a dozen times with updates, rubbing it in. That was hard to take.

What car adventure is still on your list?

Wayne: I wanna run the "One-Lap of America" race with my son.

Scotty: I came this close (holding thumb and forefinger barely apart) to running 9s with the Morris! And I always wanted to run Pikes Peak with it, just to say I did, you know. I hope to drive to the east coast and back some day in something fun, taking my time and seeing everything I've only heard about.

Mark: Driving the Dub-N-Aire to Hot August Nights.  Who has ever driven a bubble top anywhere? I'll be the first!
I'd always wanted to drive the "Rubber Chicken" from Medford, Oregon to Omaha, Nebraska..but alas, bills came due and I had to sell it (has this ever happened to anyone else?)

Looking back on your car life, what's the real value of your experience?

Wayne: I've made my living as a mechanic all my life, so building hotrods was just a natural offshoot - a relaxing hobby that helped me in my work
life. Plus, I can charge my hotrod magazines off to expenses on my taxes!

 Scotty: (chuckling) Yeah, bonus! Working on cars for a living taught me a lot about acceptance and perseverance - tools I use everyday. Building cars from scratch has taught me to look before I leap (when I remember to). Racing cars has taught me meditative skills - gotta get my drag zen on, if I wanna focus to the best of my abilities.
A lifetime of car culture has taught me that there's hardly anything less important. The people in the culture are my mirrors, showing me how easy it is to be seduced by nuts and bolts as a distraction from the real priorities - the 'inside stuff', you know. Having said that, gearheads are mostly straight-shooting, stand-up people and most are dear friends.

Mark: Hot Rodding and cars in general have taught me to appreciate other people's ideas and learn from them and from other areas of my life.  To be open minded enough to "steal" ideas from the off-roaders, the drag racers, the soap box derby racers, the washing machine makers, all sorts of people have given me ideas (some of them even good!) for my cars.  I suppose the best thing I have learned is to be tolerant of all the different areas of hot rodding.  Seriously, who would have thought in the '70's that we would be clamoring for longroofs? Or having entire shows and books and magazines devoted to "unfinished" primered cars? Nothing stays the same in this hobby, I love how it continues to evolve.

What's the future of hot rodding?

Wayne: Future? (laughs). The twists and turns it's taken through the years
have gob-smacked me! I never would have believed the stuff that's already
happened with rat-rods, go-carts, the van craze. But they've all been
superficial and temporary. I say the future will hold quality hotrods being
built that actually are capable of driving across America to have FUN!  I
see a resurgence of actual driving events that may even involve camping with
teardrop trailers and multi-day events. With quality-built hotrods that
actually have paint and plating.

Scotty: Wayne, I hope you're right about a return to driving events. As for the future, jeez, I have my hands full with the present! I'm grateful we have SEMA, so hot rodding has a chance for a future. I suspect rodders will have to make some hard choices to ensure that happens. But I know that when I got into this as a punk-ass kid in the '60s, no one could've seen where we're at today. This looks like the golden age, to me: More knowledge than ever at our fingertips, along with the biggest aftermarket in history and factory gow ending up in wrecking yards, so everybody wins! Will it get better or worse from here? I dunno, ask Mark!

Mark: Future? No future, just a continuing road......Who knows what will be "hot"? We've seen the carb slowly dying and EFI's just a "normal" thing today.  We thought 20 years ago, no real hot rod would have EFI, or a "self-leveling" suspension. Heck, I remember when it was looked down on to have seat belts!  But hot rodders are a smart bunch (shhhhhh, don't tell anyone, they still think we're all Bo & Luke Duke types!) and want to be safe, smart and if you are being honest, even though breaking down on the road can make a great story 6 months later, no one looks forward to or wants to break down.  The future? Tuck away those 4 door Tempos, the Grand Caravans, the 3 cylinder Sprints and the Prius', 'cuz in 2035 they will be highly sought after!  Don't believe me?  Well I wish I still had that 1963 Rambler Station Wagon that was drug to the automotive grave yard....it'd be worth more than $99 today!

If you were a car, what kind would you be?

Wayne: If I was a car, I'd be a Duesenburg roadster.

Mark and Scotty: What?!

Wayne: Oh yeah! I'd sit quietly in my climate controlled garage being rubbed and petted, only going outside to run on the best days! What a life! Any scratches or dings would be fixed immediately on my fenders!

Scotty: Huh. Well, I'd be a Jeep. I believe it was Elaine Benis - spokesperson for our generation - who said (paraphrasing): 'Women are sleek, graceful, beautiful sports cars. Men are Jeeps. Not pretty, but they get the job done' That's me.

Mark: I'd be Red Foxx's "Lil Red Wrecker". Completely out of the ordinary, brings a smile to everyone's face, yet leaves you wondering......why? But you also notice that that it's built to work, and move fast, and look good, all at the same time. Besides, try to find a picture of it without a bikini woman rubbing up against it...that is SO me!!! (laughs)

One more note on the future: Wayne's son Jeremy and Mark's son Skyler have both done major damage in the hot rod world already and they're just getting warmed up! Watch out for these two... I have yet to produce any offspring, but would like to take this opportunity to tell you that Shellski and I are only seven months from announcing..........................
that we've gone another seven months without changing a single diaper! Thank you.

And that should be about as much exposure to the Gosson Bros as the Surgeon General should allow. I'm so sorry. Be sure to wash your hands after reading this.