STEVE MCQUEEN REMEMBERED | FORMER LOVER, FELLOW RACER

-

1960 Lime Rock Nationals– Denise McCluggage sits on the grid  while SCCA gets things straight.

-

Back in 1955 or so, a young Denise McCluggage had a chance encounter with a then unknown Steve McQueen which led to a brief affair and a long-lasting friendship. They would be separated by their own career ambitions, and the many demands and erratic schedules that come with the territory. That said, McCluggage managed to stay in touch over the years. She herself would go on to become a legend in the world of auto racing– a renowned driver, writer, and photographer for over 50 yrs. McCluggage has won trophies around the world and raced for Porsche, Jaguar, Lotus, Mini Cooper, Alfa, Elva, OSCA, Volvo, among others. In 1961 she won the grand touring category at Sebring in a Ferrari 250 GT, and in 1964 McCluggage scored a class win in the Rallye de Monte Carlo for Ford. She shared her remembrances of McQueen and their relationship years after his passing, published in AutoWeek magazine back in 1981. She recalls a young, lean McQueen who was already obsessed with cars and racing, who swept her off her feet with his searing looks, charm and well… incongruity, as she puts it.

-

1955, Steve McQueen as he looked back in the day, running around the Village w/ Denise McCluggage – Image by © Roy Schatt

-

Shortly after our reunion he had sidled up next to me and whispered in my ear: “I’m falling in love all over again,” and given me the full brunt of the smile. My response had been an instantaneous hoot of laughter. –Denise McCluggage

Continue reading

WHETHER I’M READY OR NOT– IT’S TIME | RETRACING A FATHER’S LEGACY

-

My friend Matt over at Smoke & Throttle is on a very cool quest to retrace the tracks left behind by his late father, 1987 AHRMA Champ, Robert “Snuffy” Smith. Matt was knee deep in his father’s racing circle as a kid. It was a way of life, plain and simple. But now that Matt has a love of motorcycles all his own, and a new taste for racing– he’s grown a whole new respect and appreciation for his beloved dad’s passion and accomplishments on the track. Armed with a new perspective, it’s pretty meaningful to reflect back on and understand just how special those days were. I’m excited to see this story unfold as Matt shares it with us over the weeks and months to come. Read on.

-

1996– Robert “Snuffy” Smith on his ’76 Triumph T140 (25) and Jesse Morris (295) at Daytona.

-

“I grew up going to the races with my father, the late Robert ‘Snuffy’ Smith. I always loved the hustle and bustle of the pit area. Rushing to get the jetting corrected before the next heat race, or trouble shooting timing issues with minutes left before the green flag drops. Multiple people tearing into a bike like doctors working on an accident victim after being wheeled into the E.R.. It excited me then – and as I’ve gotten back into going to races – it excites me even more now. I knew after last weekends trip to Roebling Road that wrenching on my own bike and competing was just something I HAD to experience.”

Continue reading

GARY NIXON | “SO– WHICH ONE OF YOU SORRY S.O.B.’s IS COMING IN SECOND?”

Gary Nixon started racing when he was 15-yrs-old– professionally at 17. Short and wiry at only 89 pounds– his slight size gave him an advantage over many of his bigger and more experienced competitors. Nixon would have his break-through year in 1963– winning his first AMA National road race, following-up 3 weeks later with a convincing victory in a short-track National race. He would finish the ’63 season ranked sixth in the Grand National Series.

Nixon’s speed, strength and skills accelerated, and the wins kept coming. In 1966 he was AMA Grand National runner-up to Bart Markel– and took the top honor of National Cycle Champion for 1967 & 1968. Nixon was known as one of the most tenacious and tough competitors ever, who often rode injured. For three years he raced with a battered leg held together by an 18-inch rod of stainless steel. The injuries would soon catch-up with Nixon, and he would be limited to mainly road racing. True to Nixon’s legendary skill and determination to win, he became one of the best pavement racers on the scene.

The history books should also reflect Gary Nixon as the 1976 World Formula 750 series champion, and the first American to win this honor– but Nixon was screwed by the bureaucratic governing board’s late decision to throw out a controversial race during the season. This would cost Nixon precious points, and ultimately the title.

Gary Nixon will not only be remembered  as a great champion who earned the respect and admiration of teammates, competitors, and fans alike– he was also one of the most colorful characters to ever grace the sport.  RIP Gary Nixon.

.

“Back in the day, you had to do like everything– dirt track, road race, TT, short track, mile, 1/2 mile…  when I was a young kid, I was kind of a sports freak. I liked playing baseball, and playing football– but then everyone got big and I stayed small… Then, playing baseball, I got hit in the head with the bat– and I thought, man this is not it! So, I’d seen a couple [motorcycle] races, and some pictures in magazines, and I thought– Well, I want to do that, you know! Then, it just so happened that a guy came into town and had a bike that needed a rider…”

–Gary Nixon

.

Gary Nixon, 1967 National Motorcycle Champion– who held the AMA #1 plate in 1967 & 1968. “To those who follow the sport, Nixon is the American dream, the champion– and that’s what earned him the right to blur around tracks this year with No. 1 displayed on anything he rides.” –Baltimore Sun, Sunday Magazine, 1968

-

“Gary had the ego of a racer, and you need an ego to be a racer. He was known to go to the starting gate before the start of a race and say, ‘Which one of you is coming in second?’ He rode injured, and for his size was a strong man. He did one arm pushups for strength. He said, ‘If you want to go faster– you have to brake harder than anyone else when going into curves.’ And in order to keep the bike from wobbling, he had to have strong arms.”

–Robert Glick

-

Arguably one of the most iconic and loved images of motorcycle racing legend Gary Nixon. Taken at the old Ascot Park Speedway back in 1967– Nixon, tongue out, sliding into the half-mile oval track turn.

-

Continue reading

PHOTO TIM’S EARLY DAYS | I WAS A KID ENTHRALLED WITH MOTORSPORTS…

-

Early Days — image by Photo Tim
-

-

“I was a kid that was enthralled with motorsports.  When I was 11 yrs old or so, a friend from schools parents took me to Ascot Park.  I started sneaking into the pits to be closer to the racers by going around the back where they had a 20m pile of gravel to shield it from the passing cars on the freeway.”

“One issue with sneaking in to the pits is you don’t have anything to do, so I would stand around and talk to one of the guys taking photographs, Dan Mahoney.  One night he handed me a camera and placed a little white pebble on the track.  He said, ‘when the bikes get there push this button.’  I did and the result is the photo below.  I was 12 yrs old at the time.  The next week Dan said I had a natural talent and would I like a job shooting the races.  I was a part of racing!!!  Ok, not on the track, but still…”

–Photo Tim

-

-

Early Days — image by Photo Tim

-

-

Early Days — image by Photo Tim
-

Continue reading

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN | BRITISH RACING LEGEND BARRY SHEENE


“Your arse, if you’re going fast enough.”

–Barry’s famous retort when asked by BBC, “What goes through your mind during a crash?”

In a brilliant racing career in which he amassed back-to-back World Championships (’76 & ’77), 23 Grand Prix victories, and 52 Podium finishes in all– the late, great Barry Sheene is one of the most loved and remembered motorcycle racing legends to this day. The victories alone, as impressive as they were, would not be enough immortalize the man. It was Sheene’s fearless spirit & iron will, a body that was repeatedly broken but not beaten, and his witty charm & handsome looks, that have eternally endeared him to racing fans around the world. It’s that old cliche– every woman wanted him, and every man wanted to be him.

Barry’s career was no doubt impacted by two major crashes that are forever a part of motorcycle racing history. The 1st occurred in 1975– at the Daytona 200, a locked rear wheel at 170 mph jerked him violently and Barry lost control. It’s a wonder he survived at all– amazingly, he didn’t even lose consciousness. In fact, he later recounted the crash in detail as the unforgiving track pummeled his flailing body. He suffered a shattered left leg, smashed thigh, broke six ribs, a wrist, and his collarbone.  When Barry awoke at the hospital, he didn’t miss a beat– asking the attending nurse for a fag (cigarette, for you Yanks out there). The 2nd came in 1982–  the two-time World Champion crashed (again going 170 mph) at Silverstone during practice for the British Grand Prix. Barry later recalled, “Wasn’t my fault; came over a hill and there was a wreck right in front of me.” They feared he’d never walk again, let alone return to the racetrack. His legs were compared to “crushed eggs,” taking eight hours to piece back together– with the aid of two stainless steel posts, two steel plates and almost 30 steel screws. After Barry was told he might be able to bend his knees in three months time, he did it in two and a half weeks– and returned to racing the following year. Some took to calling him– Bionic Barry. How you like them apples?

-

October 4th, 1958, Southwark, London– Motorcyclist Frank Sheene here pictured with his young son (the future legend Barry Sheene) at Club Day —Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis. Barry’s old man, Frank Sheene, was no slouch on a bike himself– and could even turn a wrench.  The young and fearless Barry was on a bike at the wee age of 5 yrs old–  a Ducati 50cc motorbike. He entered his first competitive race at the age of 17 at Brands Hatch. He Crashed, (DNF). Wasting no time, Barry entered again the very next weekend and won the bloody thing. The Barry Sheene racing dye was cast.

.

Continue reading

RELIVE DRAG RACING’S TOP RIVALRY 11/10 ~ THE SNAKE VS. THE MONGOOSE

-

-

One of the greatest rivalries in all of Drag Racing history has to be the classic Wildlife Racing matchup– Don “Snake” Prudhomme vs. Tom “Mongoose” McEwen.  Any red-blooded boy born of that era remembers their famous Funny Cars decked-out in bright Hot Wheels badges screaming down the 1/4 mile in a furious blur that lasted all of 5 sweet seconds.  The two faced-off in match races that raged over a period of about 3 years.  Don Prudhomme, being the stronger competitor, usually came out on top. Their epic West Coast battles, fueled by huge sponsorship deals (Mattel, Coca-Cola, Plymouth, and Goodyear) were a major draw, and their loyal fans never tired of seeing them go head to head.

The Petersen Automotive Museum is celebrating the opening of their new exhibit, NHRA: Sixty Years of Thunder by paying tribute to – Don “The Snake” Prudhomme – during their annual Tribute Night on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010.  Honored guests include– Roland Leong, Tommy Ivo, Carroll Shelby, Ed Pink and many others. Special guest Dave McClelland, the Voice of the NHRA and longtime friend of Don Prudhomme, will be the Master of Ceremonies. Their will be a film featuring The Snake’s epic history, and several other drag racing icons will share their stories of the legend. A live auction of amazing racing memorabilia will follow with proceeds going to the Petersen’s educational programs.

If you’re a Drag Racing fan of any age– this is an epic event not to be missed.

__________________________________________________________________

-

Racing rivals- the Snake and the Mongoose at Dallas International Motor Speedway (1969-1973). Continue reading

SEX & SPEED | “JUNGLE PAM” HARDY & “JUNGLE JIM” LIBERMAN LIGHT ‘EM UP

1973 — “Jungle Pam” Hardy and “Jungle Jim” Liberman with his Chevy Vega Funny Car.

*

You’d be hard-pressed to say who was hotter back in the ’70s– “Jungle Pam” in her go-go boots, short-shorts, and titillating tops… or “Jungle Jim” Liberman’s rubber-melting burnouts, wheelstands, and screaming up and down the length of the dragstrip backwards.  Liberman was arguably one of the most flamboyant and memorable showmen on the funny car circuit, who knew better than anyone what the crowd wanted– and hiring the 18 yr old tall, dark and sexy “Jungle Pam” Hardy as his sassy staging sidekick was a calculated stroke of marketing genius.  But she was no lightweight– she quickly learned to turn a wrench, know here way around cars, the crowds, and the scene– the fans loved her.

“Jungle Pam” is still a legend to this day, and a true original.  Sadly, Jim Liberman left us back in ’77 when his Corvette hit a bus head-on in a tragic road accident.  His spirit lives through all the drivers he’s inspired, and the countless memories of his “Jungle Jim” antics and achievements during Liberman’s legendary racing career.

*

Drag racing legends “Jungle Pam” Hardy and “Jungle Jim” Liberman doing what they do best.

*

*

“Jungle Pam” gets down.

*

Continue reading

CARROLL SHELBY & THE FORD GT40 | FOUR YRS OF DOMINATION AT LE MANS

*

When Henry Ford II’s quest to buy Ferrari back in 1963 was spitefully squelched by Enzo, the mandate was given to, “Kick Ferrari’s ass.” And not just anywhere– at Le Mans, the world stage of auto racing.  The ass-kicking would finally come in the beautiful & brutish form of the iconic Ford GT40–America’s most incredible racecar ever.

Originally developed in England by Ford Advanced Vehicles Ltd under the direction of Aston Martin’s former team manager, John Wyer, the GT40 failed at Le Mans in ’64 & ’65, as Ferrari finished 1-2-3 both years. With failure no longer an option for anyone who wished to remain employed by Ford, Carroll Shelby was tapped to give the GT40 the necessary bite to beat the Italians.  Shelby’s success at Le Mans in his own Cobras, and again with the GT40, was not about technology, but by being crafty.  He replaced the 289 c.i. GT40 engine with the same powerful, big block 427 c.i. V-8 that powered his Cobras.  The lower revving, larger displacement V-8’s were more able to take the stress of long endurance races than the higher-revving, small displacement engines used by Ferrari.

Shelby not only ended Ferrari’s racing dominance, he exacted sweet revenge for Enzo’s snub– and garnered Ford a remarkable four-year winning streak from 1966 – 1969.

*

Two massive American automotive legends — Carroll Shelby and the iconic Ford GT40. Originally labeled GT, ’40’ was added due to its incredibly low 40-inch stance.

*

*

West Sussez, England — A Carroll Shelby masterpiece, 1960s JW Automotive/American Gulf Oil-sponsored Ford GT40  racecar at the Goodwood race track — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis

*

*

1969 Carroll Shelby / Ford GT40 MK 1 racecar (JW Automotive/American Gulf Oil-sponsored) with body panels removed.  This Ford GT P/1075 is one of the few racecars to ever win the 24 Hours of Le Mans back to back– here pictured as #6. — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis

*

Continue reading

“WE’LL DROP A HEMI IN THE REAR– AND RUN LIKE HELL.” | HEMI UNDER GLASS

Promo ad sketching out George Hurst’s concept that gave birth to the epic– ‘Hemi Under Glass”  via

That’s the way the whole thing got started.  A Barracuda with a nasty 426 Hemi stuffed where the back seat used to be.  A Barracuda, the likes of which had ever been seen before– with Hurst-designed hi-performance chassis, suspension, driveline components– and naturally a 4-speed stick. This beastly Barracuda was christened “Hemi Under Glass”– a black & gold bomb that appeared at main events across the country.  It would rock awestruck crowds back on their heels, as the Barracuda’s front wheels pitched high into the air and screamed down the strip with its nose pointing to the sky.

This was the hard part– fitting the 426 Hemi through the Barracuda’s front door for the first time. With the aid of a cherry-picker, Hurst personnel jockey the mill prior to making primary measurements that result in the Hemi’s final location.  — Hot Rod, circa 1965, via

The “Hemi Under Glass” was a Hurst Shifters’ promotional project (designed by George Hurst & Ray Brock) that performed at drag strips and auto exhibitions across the country throughout the mid ’60s and ’70s. Hurst hired-on professional driver Bob Riggle to race the Hemi-powered, mid-engine ‘Cuda in front of testosterone-laden crowds who loved the spectacle of seeing these over-the-top wheel-standers scream down the strip at well over 100 mph down the track. Over the years 9 different “Hemi Under Glass” autos have been built, all based on the Plymouth Barracuda.  Riggle himself drove the epic Mopar wheelster up until 1975 when he hung up his racing gloves after a serious accident, and moved back home to Arizona.

LindaVaughn hemiunderglass

“Hemi Under Glass” was largely forgotten about until Bob Riggle decided to resurrect the drag strip icon in 1992, at the urging of “Miss Golden Shifter” herself– Linda Vaughn, and began building a replica of the ’68 model.  Bob once again toured the country’s drag strips and auto exhibitions– drawing new fans, and tickling the old-time reminiscers as he and “Hemi Under Glass” sped down the strip full-tilt, still bringing everyone to their feet just like old times.

“Hemi Under Glass” was originally designed in 1965 by George Hurst & Ray Brock to be a competitive racer.  They soon encountered a problem– the mid-engine placement of the extremely powerful 426 Hemi caused the front end to jerk up into the air quickly at acceleration, which became a huge hit with spectators, so they embraced it and made it arguably the most iconic 1/4 mile wheel-stander of all time.

-

Continue reading

OLD SCHOOL HURST GIRLS GONE WILD | GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES

linda-vaughn-hurst-lug-nutsLinda Vaughn, the legendary “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter”

Linda Vaughn, the lovely, leggy, legend of the auto racing scene from the 60’s through the early 80’s was better known as– Miss Hurst Golden Shifter. She was a trophy queen whose voluptuous looks and charm often stole the show at auto racing events she attended– SCCA, NASCAR, Indy & Formula One, among others.  Linda has been knocked by many for setting Women’s Lib back with her busty displays, but her passion for the sport ran deep and she had a major impact– not just in promoting the sponsors, but also in advancing women’s racing.  Vaughn earned her SCCA competition license at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving and then got behind the wheel and raced.

Linda Vaughn, the legendary “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter”

Continue reading