Krazy Kar Kapers IV
The Stealth Porsche—At a Shelby American Auto Club convention in Anaheim, July ’84, a member at a nearby table caught my attention when he unscrewed the top of his cane (more an accessory than necessity), and poured liquor of some sort into a dry water glass. The ensuing conversation revealed that he was the proud owner of a number of very high performance cars, including genuine 289 AND 427 Cobras, and a late model Porsche 957 “whale tail” coupe. He enjoyed Shelby outings at Willow Springs, Carroll Shelby’s original high-desert test track, but was becoming fed up with the hifalutin’ doings of the L.A. Porsche Club, which also held events there.
Members were just too darned snooty, he said, and they would order a catering service to bring everything for a splendid luncheon, from linen tablecloths to a champagne fountain. The Shelby folks just had fun, and, if Carroll showed up, there would be ample supplies of his home-made Texas chili (which ain’t fer sissies). Before a recent Porsche event at Willow, the man said, he decided to show his true feelings to his fellow members. On Saturday afternoon, he and his buddies purchased a quantity of beer, four cheap paint brushes and four quarts of latex interior enamel in the following colors: tan, jungle green, black, and brown. They then returned to his home, and after a few beers, proceeded to paint the costly coupe in “camo,” ala U.S. Army (the paint could be peeled off, later).
Early the next morning, said Porsche owner was speeding up the Golden State Freeway toward the high desert, when he realized someone was pacing his car in the left lane. Looking over, he saw a couple (also L.A.P.C. members) in their Porsche, and the woman was motioning for him to lower his window, which he did, at 80-plus mph.
“What the hell have you done to your car?” she shouted.
“What are you talking about?” he yelled back. “You can’t see me!” And with that, he put the hammer down, and (rapidly) left them behind.
His Ford V-8 was fast, but radio was faster—At Grossmont High in the early ‘50s, there was a junior (for anonymity, we’ll call him Mitch) who had a near-new Ford convertible, with a black top over its original lime green body (Remember those?). The original single-exhaust pipe had been replaced with “duals,” and the mufflers were of the short “steel-pack” variety. For the novice, this was a loud exhaust if one stood on the “go” pedal. Leaving the high school one afternoon, Mitch floored the Ford through all three gears. As he approached the Grossmont Summit, near La Mesa, red lights shone in his rear-view, and he had to pull over on the unpaved shoulder. A CHP emerged from the Buick two-door, and came alongside Mitch in the driver’s seat. “Those are really loud pipes you’ve got there,” said the officer. “No kidding?” inquired Mitch, with a sober face. “Could you get in and rev it up so I can hear?”
“Sure!” replied the cop, and Mitch went to the rear to listen. Cop revs, and Mitch walks back, and says, “I don’t think that was so loud. Would you listen again?” CHP complies, walks to the rear; Mitch revs way up, slams the door, and takes off, spraying the officer with dust, dirt and DG granules. But, he does not pursue Mitch. Instead (and foolish Mitch didn’t know this), the CHP merely called DMV and gave them the license number he had copied before he even left his cruiser.
After spending some time driving around, Mitch headed for home, thinking how smart he had been. Only after he had pulled in his folks’ driveway, did the CHP drive up, with red lights flashing, and arrest him.
(A footnote: The next year, Mitch entered his Ford in the Prowlers Car Club Annual Safety Run, and he took top honors, that Sunday afternoon.)
It had eight cylinders, but they were all in a row—And, speaking of car clubs, a member of one of the oldest, the San Diego Road Ramblers, one Wayne Porter, in ’53 was the proud owner of a ’40 Ford De Luxe coupe, which had a very strong flathead V-8.
At about the same time, the City of San Diego acquired two new Packard sedans, touted as capable interceptors, by the local dealer. One, however, became the property of the S.D. Chief Elmer Jansen to use as he wished. The other was, at times, put in service up and down the San Diego portion of US 395, which ran from south Mission Valley to Lake Hodges. People were known to speed as they left the city, so 395 was sort of a two-lane speedway.
Enter young Mr. Porter in his rather innocent-looking ’40 coupe. At some point, the officer in the vaunted Packard gave chase to him, who was, at first, unaware of his pursuer. He was northbound, and just enjoying the 90 to 100 mph trip. Soon, however, Porter saw in the distance flashing red lights, which, after another mile or so, seemed not one bit closer. For several more miles, Porter kept an eye on the red lights, and finally decided he would slow down to the 55 mph limit. Shortly after, siren wailing, the black Packard pulled up behind Porter, who pulled over to stop. Cop approaches: “My God, man! Didn’t you see my lights?” Porter: “Yeah, but you didn’t get any closer, so I figured you were an ambulance.”
At this point, the overworked engine began to belch and hiss, and the cop’s attention was riveted on his failing interceptor. Raising the hood revealed a badly boiling engine, which soon after died and would not restart. The exasperated officer got in the car to make a call for a tow from the police garage, and at last, apparently decided that issuing a speeding ticket would only serve to bring more embarrassment to the SDPD, Porter was sent on his way, but it would not be the last time the in-line flathead eight would be towed in shame back to HQ. (Note: Packard built a V-8 too late, and the venerable marque, at one time, America’s finest, would be gone by the end of the ‘50s.)
Frank Sinatra would have been envious—In the Fall of ’63, a new dragstrip opened in Ramona. It was called San Diego Raceway. A partnership of owners included local contractors Bob and Paul Darrough, who contributed grading and paving for the strip, which is now the taxiway on the south side of Ramona Airport, and passes Chuck Hall Aviation. The following spring, the annual Smokers’ three-day drag meet was held at Famoso, north of Bakersfield. Many of the SDR staff, including yours truly, track announcer Dave Scully and partners Paul Darrough and Lou Castagna, who was a concessionaire, were there. After a Saturday of watching qualifying, we gathered at Darrough’s second-story motel room, to head out for supper. Castagna, who was a moose, was in his cups, and eager to get to the next place for a refill. Darrough was holding us up, and Lou grabbed the fedora off Paul’s head (he was bald), and put it on at a jaunty angle, and began singing “Fly Me to the Moon.” Darrough was angered at this, but could not retrieve his chapeau, as Lou sang his way out the door. (At this point, I need to state that I wish I had 10 seconds of film of what came next, because it was phenomenal.)
Great, big Castagna stepped over the waist-high railing, continuing to sing, ala Sinatra, and, with one hand sliding down a baluster of the railing, stepped off on the roof of a pickup below, and thence to the bed, and then to the ground, without so much as a hiccup. “Fly Me to the Moon” never stopped, and Darrough’s hat was still on Lou’s head. Gene Kelly couldn’t have done it any better.
Handicapping made easy —In ’56, my dad bought a new Lincoln Premiere sedan. It was a gorgeous car, inside and out, and, if he weren’t using it, I sometimes could use it for dates and such. The next year, at age 22, I was teaching auto shop at Grossmont High, and I would grade Friday’s test papers at Dobbs’ Drive-In (where Drew Ford now stands) that night, and the boys could stop by and get their scores. One such night, when I had the Lincoln, a Helix High kid walked up and said that his buddy wanted to drag with me. “What’s he got?,” I asked, and he pointed out a red and white ’56 Chevy V-8 two-door. Well, Chevy 265 V-8s were pretty hot, and the Linc, even though it had 285 HP, was no match in a regular drag race, so, I said, “I’ll do it from a rolling start, up on the freeway.” The kid checked with his friend, who agreed, and they got another guy to start us by flashing his lights from behind when the start speed was reached.
“He wants to know the start speed,” the kid said, and I answered, “From a rolling hundred.” The kid gulped, and ran back to the Chevy: No problem. Hell, I knew that the Chevy would be just about wound out at that speed, while the Big Linc wouldn’t even be breathing hard. Off we went, up the Lemon Avenue on-ramp, and a minute later, after a flash of high beams, a disappointed Chevy owner watched Lincoln taillights disappear into the night. A high school auto shop teacher did that? Yeah, and was that ever dumb!
Andy Smith, a Ramona resident, is a retired educator, an Army veteran and a former radio station owner, news editor and reporter.
- Krazy Kar Kapers — III
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