Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Luckily, I seem to have an endless supply of adventurous nephews. This is Lleyton Gosson. He's four years old. Other than the snappy headgear and blingy bike, this could be a photo of myself at that age. The same could be said for the following images... (Photo courtesy of Skyler Gosson)

                                            Thanks kids! I'm ready to face the future now.

"Oh, grow up!" That's what they said. Not once in my childhood did anyone advise me, "Don't grow up! Savor this most wondrous time of your life, and stay in touch with that curious, fearless kid for as long as possible." As it turns out, nobody had to tell me that. I've somehow managed to live almost 57 years while maintaining the maturity of an eight year old. People even paid me to play the guitar, then play with old cars, and now, just to play with words about old cars. Believe it or not, I make more money now than I ever did for mowing lawns, or even washing cars. And that was hard work (for a seven-year-old). Neato! I have no problem with such enablement.

Life just seems too fresh and sweet to ever grow old and bitter. I don't even know why anyone would want to do that. Sure, the maturity thing can be problematic: It seems like every time Saint Shellski introduces me to one of her fancy-schmantsy friends, I'm wearing a stained T-shirt with some hot rod cartoon character on it, or I'm watching cartoons on TV, or, usually, both. And it probably doesn't help matters that I've decorated her driveway with crusty broken parts, tools, and puddles of toxic automotive fluids ("No sweat, Hon. I'll just wipe it up with my shirt.") But hey, life is my playground...

... And I'm not so unique. Here's a random case study and a solid argument for perpetual childishness:

This lucky kid grew up surrounded by the race cars I drooled over in magazines. Those childhood influences ultimately doomed him to a life that worried his parents and teachers to distraction, while he kept his eye on the prize and the grin on his face...

What possible value could arcane motorsports knowledge provide in the dog-eat-dog world of cut-throat job seekers and career vampires? It came in handy for Rob Kinnan, and guided him to the Editor's chair at Hot Rod Magazine, where millions of readers depended on his experience to inform their crucial and expensive decisions - until it wasn't fun anymore, and Rob moved on. (Photographers unknown)


1970. Don't try this at home, kids: Professional driver on closed course? More like a teenaged Mr. Magoo with a reverse polarity compass. On my fourteenth birthday, I flew the coop to street race full time. School and home life were cramping my action. I rented a tiny ramshackle reproduction of a windmill in a backyard on the wrong side of the tracks for $15 a month and parked my '58 Anglia in the driveway. Beer bottles were cashed in for gas money and I challenged the biggest dogs of the valley. They chewed me up and spit me out. I came home almost every night with my tail between my legs.

            The Anglia and I shared a tragic unrealized potential. Alas, we both had minds of our own. (Photo by Scotty Gosson)

After three months of losing every race I ran, there was no money for gas or rent. I stored the car at a friend's place and hitch hiked to the Takilma commune, where I survived on mushrooms until being whisked away to Ken Kesey's dairy farm on the next bus to Springfield, Oregon.

Cassidy was the driver. Kesey was the conductor. Further was the destination. I snuck on without a ticket.

At the Springfield Creamery, the Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage serenaded us for three days (two of them "official") in a muddy field. Bliss! I loved my new family and gypsied with them off and on for a few years before the magnetism of crusty steel drew me back for good.

1978: We enjoyed a surreal reunion in Omaha, Nebraska at a 3,000 seat auditorium - over 2,500 of which were empty. During the hour-long dinner break, I exchanged Tri Five suspension notes with Phil Lesh, who was putting a '57 Chevy together at the time. Full circle. And that was the last I saw of the...

Epilogue: For years, I carried a heavy regret for abandoning my real family and my education in a state of self-will-run-riot. Thankfully, amends were eventually made and a reconnect occurred with the family. We're closer than ever today, which isn't saying much for us, but is an absolute miracle, all things considered. A GED was also eventually procured at a local junior college. I have no regrets today, realizing that the path led me to where I needed to be, and valuable lessons were learned along the way.



Previously on this blog, Todd Miller received the SGE bump with a mention of his Drag Race Central feature by Bob Frey. The Bump did its magic: Days later, Todd set a new NHRA Comp Eliminator National Record of 6.27 at 224 MPH in his Bill Comstock chassied Altered, blowing away the old record of 6.34 and 217 MPH. Way to GO, Todd!

Todd Miller, on the clock. He's a genuine northwest tree cutter. Having Bill Comstock's Acme Garage on his side doesn't hurt, either. (Drag Race Central photo)

Another steed from Comstock's stable that's been mentioned here is Dave Hix' new injected nitro Fiat. I stopped by Mark Daley's annual Thunder Struck car and bike gathering across the street from the SGE complex last weekend to find the Fiat parked at curbside. It's very close to being finished and Dave hopes to begin testing this fall. Expect a full feature, once that happens.

Hix and crew have been thrashing like rabid dogs and the car is looking good. Six second times at 200 MPH are the carrot on their stick. Heavy shoe Ronnie Mankins ran out to put some quarters in the meter and tidied up the chute lines while he was at it. Watch this space for more on this summer's most anticipated contender. Todd Miller will have some competition now.

Old pal Chili Pepper George Carlson blasted his Hemi T into town for the gathering. We've done some miles together... George invited me to ride along to Pleasanton this weekend, but I have to work. Doh!

My ex-neighbor Randy Grubb showed with his latest creation of whimsy. Randy's inspiration is so contagious... I love/hate him for that. Great guy though.

Our local track (Champion Raceway) is raffling off this '33 Willys street rod to raise funds. Great idea for a great cause. I couldn't afford the taxes if I won it though. I passed, so YOU'd have a chance. You're welcome. (Photos by Scotty Gosson)

Following my too-brief visit to the Thunder Struck street party, I hightailed it to Dr. Lockjaw's House of Tetanus (AKA Custom Metal) to form the sure-to-be-controversial rear crossmember for my Model A frame. This was another pinched-off visit (busy day), but we got the work table cleared and the tubing bender set up, then Doc shared a trick or two with me to strengthen my bending technique. Thanks Doc! I needed that.

This is a crossmember?! You'll see... One of Doc's favorite tricks is to get me laughing at the exact instant of the most critical moment of a procedure. But I showed him this time - the final product was a perfect fit. And I got a stimulating cardio-vascular workout in the process that some people would pay hundreds of dollars for. Meanwhile, across the valley, Bill Comstock sat on a stool and programmed his CNC bender to produce a perfect-first-fit 14-point rollcage for a customer, while he ate a sandwich and watched the drags on TV. Both methods work. (Photos by Dr. Lockjaw [top] and Scotty Gosson [bottom])

Motormouth Ray submitted some pix of Friday night's action at the Bellmore train station in Long Island, New York. Long Island has a rich street/drag race history that's still reflected in recent builds, even though they haven't had an operational track in many years. God bless the believers and rememberers!

The Caprice "SS" wagon invoked memories of my old Bi-Polar Bear. Ray dug it, too: "This wagon is a cruiser after my own heart. Lean and clean, but with the added surprise of a center console and floor shifter installed. Sweet! My wife even commented on the clean engine." Note exposed Edelbrock EFI programmer on dash. Must be a nice driver. Road trip!

Let me just say this about the Gas Chamber '55 and other cars of its ilk: Congrats, if your car was a true record holder! If not, I would encourage people to throw eggs at this car. This fad is an ignorant insult to everyone who's busted their ass to get a real record (most of whom would never ever brag about it via lettering). There's a lot to like on this shoebox (maybe too much), but the lettering spells pretentious to me. Ray's take: "The Gas Chamber has been on the scene for a few years now, and I always look at it again. The stance, patina, and overall execution are killer. Every gasser needs a strong mill, with the mandatory white fenderwell headers. I've decided that if I ever get around to building my '55 Nomad, I'm gonna go with the straight front axle and BBC I have stashed under my workbench. I also have Muncie and T-10 4-speeds laying around, for shifty shift man duties..."

"While my wife and I were walking into town for a slice and a Coke, we stumbled on this gem of tetanus-inducing ferrous oxide. I thought Scotty might like it as an apartment or crash pad. Besides, you have open air sleeping available, as well as indoor cover. Curbside camping at its finest! What more could a car guy want, or need (besides a tetanus shot, that is)? I'm off to another cruise night on Monday, so there's always more to come." Thanks Ray! The VW double cab could be my new dream home, depending on the rent. Does it have cable, internet and A/C? (Photos by Ray Guarino)



It's baffling to me, but my CarTech books are still selling well. If you want a first edition of this old rag, you'd better panic. It even inspired a cigar aficionado magazine to have me do a mini-version for their online magazine. I dig their concept of a large image per page with a sentence or two of text - like a children's book, only smellier.

It goes on and on, but you get the idea. This concept, in turn, has inspired me to begin on the next Gosson Bros. Racing Library project. We already have three more GBRL books waiting to print, so there's plenty of time to explore the graphic limits of this one. The subject matter and layout won't be anything like this, but the hook is set. I'm stoked. Could this one be my masterpiece? I've never been so inspired... (Images courtesy of Smoke Shop)

This week on Scotty's Bookshelf, variety is the spice. Just as with shifting musical tastes, today's reading preferences deem eclectic to be the new mainstream. Personally, I celebrate this healthy sign of (dare I say it?) evolution, that drives marketing executives to drink. More.

Please pardon the blur. I hadn't had my coffee yet when I shot this. A lot of ink was jettisoned when I moved downtown this spring. The surviving books stretch the links between Coonce and Felsen, Wolfe and Bryant. (Mostly) vintage magazines balance the bulk of the pared-down collection.

Don't have time for that much reading? You're in luck: Everything you'd ever want in non-fiction escapism is included in Scotty Gosson's Hot Rod EZ Reader Series Kit. Difficulty rating: 5

This weeks picks: *****, ***** (Five asterisks, each)

   Two thumbs up! Robert C. Post's High Performance is a true masterwork, covering drag racing minutiae obscure and legendary, from the first horse race to New Millennium 10,000 horsepower Top Fuelers requiring Racepak computers to track the wild horses. The focus is on the dragsters of 1950 to 2000, but every drag race niche is beautifully covered in exquisite detail. I've had my copy for less than three years, but it's already been taped back together multiple times - the hardest working tool ever in my box. My go-to reference manual.

What High Performance is to drag racing, David N. Lucsko's The Business of Speed is to the aftermarket industry that has supported hot rodding from day one. Detailed analysis of how and why business, engineering,  manufacturing, and marketing decisions were made are all exposed to Lucsko's harsh spotlight with a balanced and direct clarity. And the personalities behind the names are presented as well, giving readers rare insight into the baggage behind the decisions. 

Lucsko is a relative infant compared to the grizzled Post, but matches the veteran punch for punch, including that most important milepost (to me, anyway): Credibility. Both tomes instantly passed my personal Red Flag test and have repeatedly proven to be my most trustworthy sources of printed automotive information. Both books also provide comprehensive notes, indexes, and even essays on their sources. (Photos by Shaky Scotty Gosson)


                             Here's to youth. May it forever antagonize the curmudgeon in us all.