Tuesday, August 4, 2015



We're back! Unfortunately, I left my blogging passion in my other pants, so this is what you're getting this week. My apologies.

While I'm no spring chicken anymore, I still feel as wobbly on my feet as I did back when my mom took this photo. I was three days old here, and thought I knew it all...

This more recent photo of me (taken as I exited the parts store yesterday) illustrates my condition after barely making the latest CarTech book deadline. Thankfully, the young man assisting me to the car also helped me find my keys. Not to brag, but I'm getting pretty damn quick with the walker. (Photo courtesy of Someone I Don't Remember)

Okay, old is relative. I'm feeling it, but am not going it alone. This old blog has also been limping along in a state of neglect for the last three weeks, as I struggled with the latest book deadline. Deadlines almost always reveal themselves to be more challenging than expected, but you'd think I'd get better at them with practice. Instead, each one just kicks me a little harder. So it is that this week's entry consists of unabashed fluff. But there is a thought provoking underlying message: What will become of us when we're no longer productive? When we're put out to pasture, will we just rust away in solitude, or is there some chance we'll be rescued by a hero with a hard-on for history?



Been biting my lip for months on this. Now I can finally tell you that our northern Oregon correspondent Marty Strode has begun construction of yet another contender for his Racing Roadsters group. This one is special, as it will run a hotted-up inline 6-cylinder to compete against the field of (mostly street legal) flathead V-8's that race on dirt at various venues around the Pacific Northwest. Marty is not building this car for himself. This one - a tribute to the fabled Spalding Bros. Special - is for a customer with a credible racing history, and inline sixes, in particular. Yep, Too Tall (Pat) Ganahl is hitting the dirt in a Martymobile.

The original Spalding Special (with the conspicuous flip-up cowl) , as photographed for a June 1950 Hot Rod magazine feature. Brothers Tom and Bill Spalding were already dry lakes legends when they whipped up this track roadster in 1949 (a three week build). It did well against the V-8's, but by the time they got it dialed-in, track roadsters were on their way out of fashion. Bill ground cams until leaving rodding in 1955. Tom developed the first distributor to live at 8,000+ RPM. You may have heard of his Spalding Flame Thrower ignitions. (Photo courtesy of Hot Rod Magazine)

In some parallel world, Pat Swanson built this Spalding Bros. tribute, circa 2006. It is unknown whether it has turned a tire in anger. (Photo courtesy of Pat Swanson) 

Strode's initial mock-up of the Too Tall T bodes favorably for a future of flinging dirt clods at unsuspecting Fords. Ganahl knows how to build the power. He also owns and restored the Ike Iacono Jimmy Six dragster, and has used straight sixes in a few street cars, as well. Like the Spalding Bros. job, the roadster will run a Chevy block with Wayne 12-port head, and triple carbs. Torsion bar suspension and a Pat Warren quickchange will lend a legit vibe. Marty vows, "It will resemble the original as close as possible. I'm still juggling the engine location and wheelbase. This should be a fun project, and will keep me busy this winter." (Photos courtesy of Marty Strode)

Just for grins, another look at the Spalding Bros. Special, under construction on their California car port in 1949. (Photo courtesy of Hot Rod Magazine)



It's been 53 days since the O'Briens of Los Angeles sold their house, loaded up their custom '59 Chevy Parkwood wagon, and lit out on an improvised tour of 25 of the United States. In that time, we've been through so much with them that they've virtually become members of our own families. We've welcomed their roller coaster ride into our homes for weeks now, and they seem part of the furniture. Alas, even a double fistful of E-tickets can't last forever. So it is that we wave a final goodbye to dad Shawn, mom Kenna, son Cormac, and daughter Birdy. The Simpsons got nothing on this bunch. But the O'Briens just seem so much more... life-like. It's been a helluva run.

The OB's have put on a few miles since we left them two weeks ago in Mississippi. They went northwest from there, to hit the Kustom Kemps of America Leadsled Spectacular in Salina, Kansas.

When in Kansas... Walmart is the place for new tires! Not quite Disneyland, but close enough.

Just ask Dorothy - Kansas has weather. No damage to the lucky Parkwood though.

One of Kansas' finer points: A road leading to Texas. I can say that because I used to live in Kansas.

Because they couldn't find a sign lettered, "Welcome BACK to Texas". The O'Briens were just there a few weeks ago.

Kenna celebrated Texas by having her 35th birthday party there (or so she claims. This sure looks like Salina).

New Mexico! 

Shawn tests the waters at The Blue Hole, in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. White spheres are apparently in keeping with the whole Area 51 thing.

Back in Arizona, for a previously missed photo op at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post. I believe this is where Lori and Brian Law get their groceries. Well worth the drive.

Finally, back in California, just in time for a forest fire sunset.

A hundred miles from home, and the big reunion with dog Mohawk, freshly escaped from the dog-sitter. 

Kenna takes the final shot, as Shawn wheels the wagon into the driveway. Just how final is this image? Find out next week, in our gala Chasing the O'Briens retrospective, complete with special guest stars to be announced! Guaranteed Blogoboffo! (Photos courtesy of Shawn O'Brien)



Yeah, me again. Just wanted to see how I look in pearls. Now I know.

Graphic proof that toolboxes are absolutely worth risking life and limb for. 


Old and in the way, that's what I heard them say
They used to heed the words he said, but that was yesterday
Gold will turn to gray, and youth will fade away
They'll never care about you, call you old and in the way

Once I heard tell, he was happy
Had his share of friends and good times
Now those friends have all passed on
He don't have a place called home
Looking back to a better day, feeling old and in the way

When just a boy, he left his home
Thought he'd have the world on a string
Now the years have come and gone
Through the streets he walks alone
Like the old dog gone astray, he's just old and in the way

- David Grisman