Tuesday, April 28, 2015



Hot rods from then and now mix it up in the parking lot, in homage to the shifting trends of American gow. 

... shepherded by suspect political agenda maneuvering (smog credits, ECM monitoring, etc), it's pretty damn reassuring and gratifying to discover an unabashed tribute to the true lords of high performance. Indeed, gratitude was omnipresent at the grand opening of Wilsonville, Oregon's World of Speed museum on April 24th. The museum blew onto the world stage with a dramatic fanfare of bone-chilling sideways rain, as the Dave Hough family's original "Nanook" Fuel Altered "cut the ribbon" with a 90% load of nitro in the tank to kickstart the festivities, following a tortuously windy speech by the mayor of Wilsonville (a bedroom community of Portlandia). Once the paper ribbon was snapped apart by Nonook's Moon tank, the overflow crowd filed into the building to dry each other off with shop rags and untangle their hair with a comb on loan from the onsite custodian (a particularly manic individual who goes by "Mister Nick").

It's no secret that I'm no fan of the static display. Yet there I was, sporting a permagrin, chatting up dignitaries, and clicking off photos like a tourist fresh off the bus from Stick City. For me, this was a social event - a reunion with friends I normally see only at race tracks. It was nice to actually converse with them without screaming over thousands of horsepower broadcast by zoomies. And to my own surprise, I fell hard for the museum. To my prejudiced eye, cars look their best in motion, but I do appreciate the opportunity to savor their details while they're at rest. Each was beautifully presented at the museum.

Hot rod photojournalist Tony Thacker really came into his own while working the NHRA's Wally Parks Museum in Pomona. So he was the natural pick to co-govern the World of Speed with curator Ron "Tiki Warrior" Huegli. Finally allowed the budget and creative freedom to realize his most inspired and ambitious visions, Thacker transformed the former car dealership into a high performance Shangri-La over the last three years. It's an amazing accomplishment, for which Northwest hot rodders can take great pride. The museum's courteous and well-informed staff has been trained (by the infamously ruthless Thacker) to provide visitors a fun and relaxed experience. Indeed, they treated everyone like royals - even the SGE reporter! I arrived fashionably late, barged in, and began working the room. The cars may be the stars, but this day was all about the people of speed.

It was a long wait to hand over my ten bucks (no preferential media treatment on this day)...

... but my fellow co-standers and I enjoyed passing the time by viewing the gigantic video display at the box office - a portent of things to come.

Once paid up, thoroughly vetted, and hand-stamped, I was in! This Bugatti was a nice reward for the effort.

Less than a minute into my visit, I happened across (L-R) Tony Thacker, Dave Wallace Jr., and his better half, Donna Guadagni. Hilarity ensued. I snapped these photos as Twisty Ron Austin and his better half Crankypants Tami buckled my knees from behind. Real funny, guys. No photo of you two! This was the last day on the clock for Executive Director Thacker. David Schaeffer is assuming that position, so Thacker can finally move to France. You'll be sorely missed Tony(!), but we're all happy for you. 

Speaking of Twisty, he and Jim Lindsay's restoration of the Bob Duedall Comp Coupe (center) was keeping good company on the main floor. But Lindsay was nowhere to be seen, despite a booth bearing his name that hogged up prime floor space. His possible location became the day's Jimmy Hoffa-esque topic of conjecture. 

For my friend, Donna N: Barney Navarro's roadster awaits a push start from a '41 Merc coupe. It took some wrangling, but now Donna and the roadster are finally reunited (in a sense), right here in the Beaver State. 

Well, well, well. Look who wandered in out of the rain, looking suspiciously smirky. (L-R) Marty Strode and Jim Lindsay were mum on their whereabouts, offering only a cryptic, "It was worth it." Marty did confirm that work has begun on the Strode Bros' "Double Trouble" minibike. 

This crazed photobomber seemed especially enamored with Lindsay. Security immediately escorted the interloper from the property. (Photo courtesy of Marty Strode)

A fuzzy Danny Thompson brought along a half dozen of his dad's old racers as party favors. Danny and Jim Travis restored them after a nasty fire tore through the M/T Enterprises storage facility. Danny's "Challenger II" streamliner was home in California, getting the full spa treatment in preparation for this years' Bonneville Speed Week.

 Dave and Linda Hough (pronounced "Huff") took a few minutes to assist with background info for my latest book project. Bless their hearts for that, and for bringing the "Nanook" Altered to Oregon from their Las Vegas digs. Dave began running this thing in 1967. His son Rick eventually drove it for several seasons, then Rick's son Kyle took the reins and hasn't let go yet. 

Jungle Pam does Oregon! Far from her first time, Pam Hardy says she's worked about every strip in the Northwest, including Balboa in Eugene (which was news to me). Just as personable as you've heard, Ms. Jungle remains drag racing's greatest ambassador and seemed genuinely happy to be here. She even confirmed some Jungle Jim stories I'd recently heard about. Thanks Pam!

Herm Petersen ("The Northwest Terror") has also been very helpful on the new book, but we never met in person until the museum opening. Mr. Animated was uncharacteristically speechless upon learning the museum had named their board room for him. Well deserved, considering Herm's generous contributions to the place. Oh yeah, he's a great guy, too.

Finally meeting renowned photojournalist Peter Vincent and family was a major rush! Peter (at right) has influenced and inspired my work for years. His son Nathan (at left) and wife Kimberly (behind camera) instantly felt like old friends, and Peter even put me at ease, after a while (hero worship is counterproductive, but inevitable at times). Peter now owns the infamous "15 Ounce Fuel Coupe", and dropped it off at the museum for your viewing pleasure. It'll be there until Speed Week in August. (Photos courtesy of Kimberly Vincent)

Wallace (covering the event for Hot Rod Deluxe) shoots Northwest hero Dick Kalivoda in the Kalivoda & Hamlin B/Modified roadster (the trophy on the hood is Dick's first, won in this car at Pacific Raceway's grand opener on the 4th of July, 1960). Hopefully this image conveys some of the day's family reunion vibe.

While staggering through the endless labyrinth that is the World of Speed, I inadvertently found myself alone in the unattended shop area. I was just hunting down a restroom, and stumbled into paradise! 

Hallelujah! The photojournal gods gifted me an unrestored twin gas dragster! I know better than to be greedy. Just get the shot, thank the gods, and go home grateful.

Before hitting the road, I snapped some random shots for your amusement...

The original plan was to sleep in my car, make another lap through the museum in the morning, then hit the drags at Woodburn on my way home. I got antsy instead, and headed south on I-5, riding the storm out.

I made it as far as Canyonville before fatigue, night blindness, and hydroplaning on bald tires took their toll. This was the scene I awoke to at 5:30 AM at the Canyonville rest area. I'll admit to being a bit miffed that my car wasn't invited to display at the museum, but I couldn't afford the bus ticket home, anyway. This adventure's final score: 9.5 Quote of the weekend: "It was worth it!" 
(Scotty shots)



When she isn't spoiling the swans who live behind her house, SGE pal Holly Felsen Welch (Henry Gregor Felsen's daughter) rescues baby squirrels from the trees in her yard. Holly found this newborn had been kicked out of the tree last week, and is now nurturing it back to health. (Photo courtesy of Holly Felsen Welch)

Indycar teams don't screw around when it comes to pit boxes. I need one of these! Shot at World of Speed. (Scotty shot)


Programming note: Our comprehensive Techno-Blog feature scheduled for this week will run next week. Motormouth Ray fans rejoice: This post will be rated FF (for Full Frontal exposure). Proof of age required before entry. No exceptions.  (Photo courtesy of Tim Welch)