Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Thanks to everyone for the positive response to last week's feature on A/FX racer Grady Bryant. He's a hero for many reasons, and hanging on to his old Nova race car has to count as one. This holier-than-thou Chevy II isn't Grady's, so relax. This image is here strictly for shock value. Got your attention, didn't it? (Field reporter Ronnie Mankins supplied this photo. He knows I have a taste for Swiss cheese hot rods.)

Looking into a turn, the car tends to follow your eyes around the corner, right? This technique comes in pretty handy, even when not at the wheel. Such as picturing what you'd like your life to be like. My spiritual trainer (The Good Reverend Salvatore - a sadistically honest man) recently alerted me that my fear of success has me stuck in place, and I won't make an inch of progress until I can visualize myself at the top of the heap. The theory is that once we can visualize it, we can begin to believe it's possible, and once we believe it's possible, it's likely to happen. I know this to be true from my own experiences, but haven't practiced it myself in weeks.

Ol' Sal was right. I've been visually impaired lately. I mean, I can spot your baggage at a glance from fifty paces, but have been blind to my own, even when it's dragging me down to a dead stop. So I blinked hard, looked around, and suddenly saw leaps of faith taking place everywhere. I'll share a few with you today. Luckily for all of us, this stuff is highly contagious. I still haven't allowed myself to imagine what the top of the heap looks like, but I can see myself crawling upward, thanks to inspiration from the following daredevils. And Reverend Salvatore, of course.


Spam has been sizzling around here for weeks, in anticipation of the Hot Rod Hill Climb in Georgetown, Colorado. Conceiver and promoter Mike "Nick" Nicholas is a real-deal hot rodder and family guy, who's thrown everything he has (and more) at this event for the past year. I was scheduled to cover the happening early on for Hot Rod Deluxe, but my puny personal finances put the kabosh on that plan, mere weeks before the flag dropped. Nick and I were both seriously disappointed when that happened.

Adding insult to injury, Mother Nature went tyrannical on Colorado. By event day, the President of the United States had declared Colorado a disaster area, I-70 to Georgetown was closed, and a death toll was mounting. But, to every meteorologist's amazement, the rain abruptly stopped and the race course (formerly dirt and gravel, but now paved) cleared off. And they came: Over 50 traditional hot rods braved the deluge to compete in the first Hot Rod Hill Climb since 1953, proving once again that when something is meant to be, it will be.

Welcome to Georgetown - Home of the Hot Rod Hill Climb Swim.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night can stop the spirit of hot rodding from getting through. They came from the west coast, the midwest, the east coast - even Canada. Hardcore lunatic fringe dwellers, each praying they wouldn't be the only ones crazy enough to actually show up. They weren't the only ones to have their prayers answered on September 14th.

Miraculously, just hours after the above photos were taken, this was the scene at Georgetown:

Heroes! All with hair raising stories to tell. I haven't heard any word on who won, how fast they went up the hill, or anything else. And it doesn't matter one bit. The message that was delivered at Georgetown: Priorities.

After hours (that is, after working his 9 to 5, taking care of his home and family, and organizing/promoting the hill climb in grassroots kitchen table fashion), Nick built a Model A coupe as an event promotion and a salute to the last guys (personal friends of his) to tear up the hill. Just before the kickoff, Nick finally got his tribute Model A to fire for the first time. Alas, no time to celebrate.

I believe this was shot three days before the event. Nick (in the coupe) conceded to accepting some last minute help. This is what friends do. Like a barn raising.

Ta Da! It's alive!!!

Hey! Is that uber artist, inky celebrity, and all-around swell guy, Thom "Superman Killer" Taylor in the seat? With mere hours left before the event, Nick was really desperate for help... Thom was my more-than-able last minute replacement at the Hill Climb. I'm already looking forward to his event coverage, which I know will be excellent, as always.

The perfect icing on a sloppy mud cake. Undoubtedly beyond exhaustion, this still had to be one jubilant moment for Nick. Congratulations, man! You were willing to do whatever it took, and it happened.

That's Nick in the gray shirt, introducing future hill climbers to some trail blazers from the '52 and '53 events. This sweet moment took place smack in the midst of the fray. 

Found on Nick's shop fridge, days after the event. Here we go again... (All photos courtesy of Hot Rod Hill Climb)


Known mostly  for loitering around train stations, East Coast reporter Motormouth Ray also hits the occasional legit car show. On the 18th, Ray gambled on an annual gathering of the tribes near Queens, New York, co-sponsored by the local Whitestone Hot Rod Association and Bill Giaccio at the MALBA Field and Marine Club. Ray clarifies: "The show was held in the streets of a small enclave in Whitestone Queens, called MALBA. I have no idea what that means, if anything. The bridge in the photo is the Whitestone bridge, which connects Queens with da Bronx. This is an exclusive area, with real nice houses. So nice, I'd be more than happy to live in any of the garages - that'd be an upgrade for me, for sure!" It could happen, Ray. But first, on with the show!

Excellent first impression. I'm liking this show already.

The car owners like it, too. Consequently, parking is tight at MALBA. Bumpers were tested.

Didn't see this coming. Gotta love white steelies though. Bonus points for the body-color hubcaps.

Uh oh. Street bullies! These guys look like trouble...

Oh my God! This '37 Chevy is parked dangerously close to a threatening shadow! Or is that a spreading pool of radioactive waste? Egads! And that white boat in the harbor appears to have been hijacked by Somalian pirates! Good Lord! Everybody run for your lives!!! Cool coupe though. 

A bit out of my comfort zone here, but this is supposedly the last car from Motion Performance. Mike Manning's '87 Monte Carlo SS runs a blown Motion smallblock. How embarrassing for Mike that it broke down right in the middle of the street. Poor guy.

Remember seeing Drag-U-La street race the Boothill Express on here a few weeks back? Imagine what a treat it would be to discover it at a local car show. Surprise!

This week's token GTO was Ray's pick of the show. Thanks Ray - a clean reality rod.

Ray gives this '57 Pontiac convertible four stars (a tired old Pontiac joke).

After the show, Ray trudged back to the dreary WHPC dungeon/studio for another grueling Motor Mouth Radio Hour, looking forward to some laughs. He got his wish, and more - a surprise shot of estrogen:

Chris Switzer, guest Melisa Vlasaty, and Ray Guarino, during a commercial break. Greg Sheridan of Full Throttle (motorcycle) magazine was the featured guest (and probably snapped this photo). Melisa is Miss Full Throttle 2013 and arrived with Greg, quipping, "I'm, like, the magazine's mascot." Cute kid (and quite the snappy dresser). But can she degree a cam?


UPDATE: Remember the BTU? Here's a reminder: The sequel to the Son of Godzilla car, the BTU was intended to be a recreation/continuation of my high school street/strip car, but ended up a dedicated Gas class race car. It was going to be my masterpiece, but two thirds of the way into the build, the economy caught me and I lost my shop - everything had to go. My racing pal Rick "Huh?" Smith had a bad crush on the BTU, and was all over it when I hit the panic button. His vision was to run it on the street as well as the strip, so he tore out my round tube chrome moly and replaced it with rectangular steel. He stretched the nose ten inches for good measure. Another nod to streetability was a mild gas engine to replace my high compression alky injection set-up.

When Rick and the BTU hit the strip, it ran right on the 10.60 C/Gas index and attracted a sizable fan club in the process. One of those fans was Rich Fiechter, who came down with a particularly nasty case of BTU fever. Meanwhile, Rick Smith was building a '34 Ford coupe that required extra funding. Smelling blood, Fiechter swooped in for the kill and is now the new owner of the BTU. May it serve him well, while freeing up Smith to realize his lifelong '34 coupe fantasy.

The key players, in order of mention:

The Son of Godzilla Morris Minor street/strip/salt car - now in the expert care of my pal CC in Portland, Oregon.

My teenage transportation '58 Anglia. In hindsight, the mostly stock 283/Powerglide combo was a recipe for a nap, but it was the fastest thing I'd driven at that point. It had enough juice to do wheelies though. And nobody told me it was slow, so I raced anybody, anywhere, anytime. I rarely won, but didn't care. I was a squirrel in love.

Forty years of unrealistic selective memory later, this is how I saw the Anglia. This '58 body (previously owned by every member of the Tyre Friars Hot Rod Gang and gifted to me) was dubbed BTU ("British Thermal Unit") and the name stuck.

A peek under the skin, in mid-build.

After Rick Smith's remodel, at Sacramento Raceway. Easy 10.60s all day long, with a single 4-barrel hydraulic cam smallblock. (Photo courtesy of Rick Smith)

Yeah, that's right - it's an angel hair queen, too. This show was a fund raiser put on by Rick's local club in Grass Valley, California.

If new BTU owner Rich Fiechter's name seems familiar, this may be why. His twin turbo big block '34 has been all over the 'net lately and is coming soon to a magazine cover near you. The BTU will be keeping good company. Can't wait to see what Rich Fiechter's BTU vision looks like...



When she isn't videoing breaking network news, blasting her motorcycle across the country, or wrenching on her beloved '48 F-1 (Code Name: Bondorella), Lori Bentley Law is aspiring to write the Great American Hot Rod Novel. Her latest is Motor Dolls, now available on MotorDolls.com and SquareUp.com. It's only $14.99 (including shipping) and is getting rave reviews. Log off of this flaky blog and order yours now! Hurry!

I haven't read it yet, but judging by its cover (and the reviews I've read), Lori has definitely realized her literary voice! She's been supportive of my writing, so I'm just paying it back here. Go buy Motor Dolls and send in your book review - then you'll be a writer, too!

The cover, finally ready for it's close-up.

Lori on the NBC clock. Filming Los Angeles street action every day must inspire some dynamic story ideas.
With husband Brian. Talk about a love story! Truly epic...

Lori and Bondorella. Now we have a love triangle situation. Intriguing...

Okay, the bike makes it a love rectangle, but who's keeping score? Me. Add in Lori and Brian's other motorized toys and this becomes a love octagon! Divide by 7.385, carry the one, and you get -well, just buy the book, okay? Lori obviously has gas tanks to feed!


This week's squirrel courtesy of Apple Records (a rarely seen out take). Imagine yourself here (eating a peanut).

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