WHEN ELVIS PRESLEY TOOK A BACKSEAT TO CLAMBAKE’S RED HOT ’59 STINGRAY RACER

“For Corvette enthusiasts, the real star of ‘Clambake’ is the 1959 Stingray Racer concept— the car that is said to be the opening design salvo in what became the 1963 Corvette Stingray. While Corvette innovation was experience an exciting acceleration, the days of big money movie deals for Elvis were downshifting. Riffing on the similarity of every Elvis movie to every other Elvis movie, a studio executive once quipped: ‘Why do we bother to give his movies titles – couldn’t they just be numbered?'”

“The ’59 Stingray Racer has its own unique history. Designed by Peter Brock and Larry Shinoda, the chassis was provided from one of Duntov’s 1956 Corvette SS tubular frame racers. GM’s styling chief Bill Mitchell purchased the chassis and then directed and funded the design of the car in Chevrolet’s secretive Studio X. Once completed, Mitchell took the car racing as a privateer. The Stingray Racer was raced in 1960 SCCA competition by The Flying Dentist, Dr. Dick Thompson, who would bring home the C-Modified class championship in the car.

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McQUEEN’S BULLITT MUSTANG FOUND | IT WAS A JERSEY WIFE’S DAILY DRIVER…

It’s absolutely crazy to think that the same 1968 Mustang GT Fastback driven in Bullitt by Steve McQueen himself, would end up in the hand’s of an unassuming New Jersey housewife… But that’s exactly what happened.

steve mcqueen bullitt mustang gt fastback

“After Bullitt wrapped, the hero car was sold to a studio executive in Los Angeles, who kept it briefly before selling it, coincidentally, to a police detective. The officer shipped the car to New York and kept it for about three and a half years before placing a for-sale ad in the back of Road & Track magazine in 1974. His $6,000 asking price was somewhat steep, but Robert Kiernan, a New Jersey insurance executive and Mustang fan, went out to look at it. He bought it for his wife to use as a daily driver.” –Vanity Fair

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The original 1968 Mustang GT Fastback from Bullitt in Sean Kiernan’s secret barn in Nashville. Inset, the letter from Steve McQueen to Robert Kiernan, dated 1977. (via Vanity Fair) Courtesy of Ford/Historic Vehicle Association.

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MARILYN MONROE, THE TALK OF HOLLYWOOD | 1952 PHOTOGRAPHY OF PHILIPPE HALSMAN

In 1952, LIFE magazine assigned photographer Philippe Halsman to shoot Marilyn Monroe in her tiny Hollywood studio apartment. The resulting cover photo (at the end of this post) pushed her over the top, giving her immediate superstar status, and 20th Century Fox jumped to sweeten her existing multi-year contract to keep their starlet happy.

Marilyn Monroe LIFE Magazine Philippe Halsman photo shoot 1952 crop 900

“I drove to the outskirts of Los Angeles where Marilyn lived in a cheap two-room apartment. What impressed me in its shabby living room was the obvious striving for self-improvement. I saw a photograph of Eleanora Duse and a multitude of books that I did not expect to find there, like the works of Dostoyevsky, of Freud, the History of Fabian Socialism, etc. On the floor were two dumbbells.

I took hundreds of pictures. Finally I asked her to stand in the corner of the room. I was facing her with my camera, the LIFE reporter and my assistant at my sides. Marilyn was cornered and she flirted with all three of us. And such was her talent that each one of us felt that if only the other two would leave, something incredible would happen. Her sex-appeal was not a put-on– it was her weapon and her defense.” –Philippe Halsman

Marilyn Monroe LIFE Magazine Philippe Halsman Photo 1952 900

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CRY BABY | JOHNNY DEPP IN JOHN WATERS’ ’50S HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS CULT CLASSIC

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“John Waters’ musical ode to the teen rebel genre is infectious and gleefully camp, providing star Johnny Depp with the perfect vehicle in which to lampoon his pin-up image.” –Roger Ebert. Well said. Depp has always deftly embraced ironic roles to deflect the trappings of his undeniable handsome-as-hell looks. 21 Jump Street definitely had the potential to pigeon-hole his career, had he been a lesser actor.

Cry Baby would go on to become a cult classic, due largely to the pouty lipped, chiseled face of a young Johnny Depp in his physical prime, and on a Harley to boot. (They used a Sportster and K model, both red, that they swapped a few times in the film apparently with the thought that it would go mostly unnoticed.) For me the enduring 1950s aesthetic is always a draw, and Waters’ witty one-liners are priceless. And let’s not forget the interest that was stirred up back then by the young and sultry Traci Lords. It was her first non-nude screen role following her controversial (not to mention highly illegal) underage porn career that was still hot on everyone’s tongues and minds.

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DOES ‘RUSH’ REFERENCE THE BLACK SPIDER THAT FATALLY STRUCK SEBRING BACK IN 1957?

Formula One World Championship
“Niki Lauda had raised concerns about the safety of the track at the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring, but couldn’t convince other drivers to join him in protest. Due to a reported rear suspension failure, coupled with a wet track, his car swerved off course, hit an embankment, and burst into flames. Trapped inside the car, Lauda inhaled toxic gases and suffered severe burns to his entire head, including his scalp and eyelids. Lauda lapsed into a coma and nearly died. Yet just six weeks later, he was back on the track—and on James Hunt’s tail.” via
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This past week, Lee Raskin (motorsports historian, author, and vintage racer) wrote and said he’d recently gotten some racing friends together for a Rush viewing night in Baltimore. He shared his educated theory on a deeply intriguing scene that seems to nod to an old school racing superstition. So with all due respect, esteemed Director Ron Howard, there’s a question that begs to be asked here…
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THE SIX DEGREES OF SHARON TATE | MAO, McQUEEN, MANSON & MAD MEN…

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1967– Sharon Tate for a spread in Esquire Magazine, 1967, in a t-shirt printed with the Vietnam Star. –Photo by William Helburn

So this is what the internets are recently abuzz about– The Mad Men costume designer channeling the essence of Sharon Tate, circa Esquire magazine 1969, by placing the same Vietnam Star T-shirt on Megan Draper. Which, mind you– was probably not for sale at your local Hot Topic, head shop, or Amazon.com back then, so kinda random and creepy. It’s a pretty good ploy to generate some buzz– made me look twice, and I haven’t watched the show in a few years now. Probably exactly what they were going for. I will say, for the record, that the original photography by William Helburn is amazing– downright titillating, even.

But if you find this kind of stuff remotely interesting, the real tingler is how Steve McQueen himself almost ended up a part of the Manson massacre, and could have shared in Sharon Tate and the other’s gruesome fate…

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NORM GRABOWSKI’S CUSTOM CORVAIR BIKE | SICK-AS-HELL SIX-PACK ON 2 WHEELS

norm grabowski

“Norm Grabowski”s monster– the Corvair-powered “Six Pack”. Neil East (another rodding icon), owned AutoBooks in Burbank, CA, and Colorado Carbooks here in Denver told me that Norm used to come to L.A. Roadster club meetings on the Six Pack, and he said Norm had no problem kick starting this bike, when it was time to leave. It had no electric starter!” –Irish Rich 

norm grabowski corvair motorcycle

Norm Grabowski’s epic “Six Pack” — an air-cooled, flat-six Corvair engine mounted on the frame of a ’41 Indian shaft drive with no transmission, just a clutch. Another future Kustom Kulture legend pin-striped the bike– Dean Jeffries. Irish Rich (whose website is the authority on old school builders, and is due a ton of respect for his own incredible work) saw this impressive bike himself back in ’65, and has chronicled it well. Norm actually built 2 Corvair-powered “SIx Packs” — the other mated with H-D tranny called “PP ‘n’ Vinegar.”

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GLADYS INGLE AND THE 13 BLACK CATS | HOLLYWOOD’S HI-FLYING HELLRAISERS

Hi JP,
Your latest post about the Air Fast images really hit a cord with me. Coming from a predominately Air Force military family, almost every male relative has flown a plane at some point or another, and having been schooled in aviation history and legend my entire life I find endless stoke in those images. I thought I would share a few stories with you that might tickle your flying wings.

Firstly this chick [Gladys Ingle] has more balls that all your subscribers combined, including me!

All the best,

Eric Lindeman

Well Eric wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie! Gladys Ingle definitely had balls to spare– Maybe she had 13 pairs! She was the only female member of Hollywood’s 13 Black Cats aerial daredevil stunt troop. They flew “Jennys”– Curtiss JN-4 biplanes with an abundance of struts and wires to grip, making it ideal for stunt-riders and wing-walkers. Gladys earned her fearless reputation by changing planes in mid-air without a parachute or safety gear. Legend has it she performed her wing-walking stunts hundreds of times. She’s a young and spry woman of 25 or 26 years old in the below pics– amazing. One popular stunt had Gladys performing archery atop a Jenny biplane in midair. She went on to live a long and healthy life, passing away in 1981, at 82 years of age. I’d love to know more about the incredible Gladys Ingle, so please reach out if you’re in the know!

Gladys Ingle transferring from Bob McDougall's airplane to Art Goebel's

Wing-walker Gladys Ingle transferring from Bon McDougall’s airplane to Art Goebel’s airplane with no parachute or safety gear. In 1927, after several aerial stunt and wing-walking deaths, parachutes were finally required by law.  –courtesy  San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives. Keep reading and you’ll see an amazing video of her in action…

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ROBERT REDFORD ON TWO WHEELS FINDS HIS PROMISED SUNDANCE LAND

A very cool little insight below about how Robert Redford first stumbled upon his higher calling in life while riding his bike. Further proof that Four wheels move the body– but two wheels move the soul! More on Sundance later…

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ca. 1972 — Robert Redford, looking very Jeremiah Johnson here, on his Yamaha dirt bike — Image by Orlando Globey

Robert Redford stumbled upon what would become Sundance while riding his motorcycle from his home in California to school at the University of Colorado in the 1950s and saw the totemic 12,000 foot Mount Timpanogos. “It reminded me of the Jungfrau in Switzerland,” he says. “It stuck in my head.”

He later met and married a Mormon girl from Provo, came back, and bought two acres of land for $500 in 1961 from the Stewarts, a sheep-herding family who ran the mom-and-pop Timphaven operation. Redford built a cabin and lived the mountain man life here with his young family when he wasn’t on set making his early films.

By the late 1960s, developers were beginning to change the face of Utah. Redford scrambled– using some movie earnings and rounding up investor friends to purchase another 3,000 acres, heading off a development of A-frames that would have been marched up the canyon on quarter-acre lots.

“I was determined to preserve this, but it was not bought with big money. That kind of development was the reason I left Los Angeles. So I bought the land and started the Sundance Institute before there was anything here. I was advised that I was out of my mind. But I wanted the perfect marriage of art and nature.”  

–By Everett Potter for SKI magazine, 2008

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ca. 1972 — Robert Redford, looking very Jeremiah Johnson here, on his Yamaha dirt bike — Image by Orlando Globey

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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

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