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SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS
NEWSLETTER 310 -  February 21 , 2014
Editors-in-Chief: Jack &  Mary Ann Lawford www.landspeedracing.com
President of the Society: Jim Miller, 1-818-846-5139.
Assistant Editor: Richard Parks, Rnparks1@Juno.com
Photographic Editor of the Society: Roger Rohrdanz, beachtruck@juno.com
Northern California Reporter:  Spencer Simon, sparklecraftspecial@yahoo.com
Field Reporter/Historian: Bob Falcon, RFalcon500@aol.com

Click On All Images / Link For more Info / Images

Some Names To Look For In This Newsletter:   Bud Meyer celebration of life coming up
Richard Parks,  Jim Miller,   Ron Main,  Stan Goldstein,

STAFF EDITORIAL, by Richard Parks:  
     I had a recent conversation with our president, Jim Miller recently, about the shutdown of several potash facilities owned by the current mining lessee on the Bonneville Salt Flats.  It appears that the reason for the scaling back of operations at their New Mexico facilities and perhaps at their plant in Wendover is due to a slowdown by farmers in purchasing fertilizers for their fields.  We may see even more closures of potash mines and this may ease the pressure on the Bonneville Salt Flats which is used by land speed racers and the public in other areas of recreation.  But just as agriculture could go into an economic downturn, it can also experience rapid booms of growth and demand more potash as fertilizer for their crops.  At one time the chemical companies also found a buyer for the salt waste products in Washington State in the nuclear plants.  Today the chemical companies can also bag the waste salt in their ponds and sell it to cold weather states for use in salting roads to remove ice during the winters.  Salt is not rare and exists in huge underground domes and in salt lakes around the world.  Salt is also mined directly from sea pans.  Mining and extracting the elements in salt and the expense of transporting it is a cost that factors into whether to open a salt mine. 
     The Wendover mining plant is profitable or it would be shut down.  The problem isn’t the profit motive of an American business.  The problem is that the salt being mined is on an American National Monument or preserve.  I checked all over the internet to find out the status of the Bonneville Salt Flats.  We all know that a Federal government bureau is in charge of maintaining the Salt Flats for the use and enjoyment of the public, but trying to pin the government down as to just what their obligation is may be a futile effort.  What I can say is that the government is responsible to keep it the way that they found it when the land went into its trust.  However, the same was said of another Federal bureau that was given the jurisdiction to look after displaced Native American peoples and you know how that turned out for them; starvation and disease.  According to eye witnesses there was four solid feet of salt thickness on the lakebed when the State of Utah and the Chamber of Commerce for Salt Lake City turned the salt flats over to the government.  The 49ers or the first contingent of SCTA land speed racers from Southern California told us that they measured the salt back in 1949 and it was four feet thick. 
     We have to ask ourselves a few questions.  The first question is, “Doesn’t the government have to maintain the facility in the SAME condition as when they received it into their trust?”  The second question we need to ask is, “Who is receiving the fees paid to the government by the mining companies.”  We know the lessee is paying fees for the mining, because the law requires it.  Just as cattle ranchers have to pay a fee for grazing their cattle on open public land, so do the timber and mining companies pay a fee for using public land.  The Bonneville Salt Flats are but inches away from returning to mud flats that they were millions of years ago before Lake Bonneville formed and began accumulating salt from a leaching process in the surrounding hills.  The Federal governmental agency in charge of the Bonneville Salt Flats can’t say that getting rid of the salt by selling it to the chemical companies is keeping the land the way they received it by all Federal laws.  Not unless the agency received jurisdiction over the land millions of years ago before the salt was laid down.
     The SCTA/BNI is not the only recreational user of the land; there are many others who use the lake as well.  The SAVE THE SALT Foundation is the number one defender of keeping the lake bed the way it was when Ab Jenkins touted it to the rest of the world as the “Greatest racecourse on the face of the planet.”  If mining interests went into Zion’s and other National Parks and began to grind up the arches and beautiful landscapes for sand and gravel operations the public outcry would cost some of our politicians their jobs.  But the rape of the Bonneville Salt Flats goes on unabated.  I have no knowledge of the efficiency of the SAVE THE SALT Foundation and even if I did have a personal, first hand view of their efforts it wouldn’t matter.  The destruction of the salt flats is not due to the effort of this group, nor is it due to any lack of effort on their part.  They are doing what they can.  The problem is twofold; the land speed racing community has their hopes raised by efforts from various defenders of the salt flats, and secondly, by putting their trust in a government agency of the Federal Government.
     The reason that trusting the government to do the job Congress commanded of them has to do with money.  This simplistic answer is, unfortunately, proven over and over again every time the government is charged with carrying out the public trust, is evident.  It isn’t just Bonneville; it is every section of government committed to doing a job to the letter and spirit of the law.  As we see everywhere, the Federal government fails in a consistent effort in most of its undertakings.  As with the failed effort to race at Vandenberg Air Force Base, which my father succeeded in getting the government to allow (one time on a trial basis), money was the reason the effort failed.  Or rather the lack of money is the reason for the failure.  Jim Miller pointed out the large sums of money that the SCTA/BNI (and other groups) organization pays the Federal agency for the lakebed.  The mining lessee and other companies pay more; much more.  If these mining companies paid less is it logical to assume that the Federal agency in charge would ignore the requests of racers?  The Federal agency in question may receive revenue to operate and pay salaries and benefits from Congress, but revenue received from non-governmental sources make up a goodly portion of its operating expenses.
     A case in point is the Los Angeles County Fairplex at Pomona, California which has multiple land use projects, including the Fair, L. A. Roadster Show, Grand National Roadster Show and another 46 weekend events that brings in millions of dollars to the County of Los Angeles.  The Fairplex Board also allows two or three drag race dates a year, which brings in millions of dollars at each event.  This is a major reason why drag racing is still there and why the complaints of homeowners in the surrounding areas of La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona have been muted by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.  It is a major reason why in 1998 the Fairplex board allowed the professional drag racing company to take over building 3-B and turn it into a major motorsports museum.  It had been the home of quilters who exhibited their skill and artistry prior to that.  Motorsports turned out to be a more lucrative use of the site.  The same is true with the Bonneville Salt Flats; it is more valuable monetarily to the Federal agency as a mining pit than as a recreational National Park no matter what Congressmen ordered.  When the last flake of salt is gone and the mining companies cease paying millions of dollars yearly as fees into the coffers of this Federal oversight agency, perhaps the land speed racers may get the use of the Bonneville MUD FLATS returned to them as Congress ordered.
     Unfortunately it is the distance from human habitation that dooms the salt flats in Western Utah, for there are few people to complain and fewer Congressmen to be voted out of office by an irate public.  There are massive salt domes under major cities in the United States, but removing the salt causes massive urban damage and thus those salt domes are unusable.  Can you imagine the hell that elected officials would face in New Orleans should parts of the city collapse into a sink hole?  There is a way to save the salt flats and I detailed it in an article that I wrote called Politics in Racing.  A few who have read the article at
www.hotrodhotline.com commented negatively on it, meaning that they aren’t interested in the EFFORT that it would take to bring about a no-mining clause in the Federal agency’s charter.  Ron Main took it upon himself personally to raise $40,000 to buy back salt and put it on the lake bed.  But even if there is a clause in the purchase price between the interested parties, there is no effective way to keep any mining company from poaching the salt it sold to LSR parties or to keep the Federal agency from continuing to sell leases.  And what happens if after all the salt is gone that the Federal authorities find that the mud itself has commercial wealth in it; some minerals worth digging up.  I applaud all those who are trying to save a precious National Park from destruction, but when Congress, the President and the Federal agency in charge of the salt flats are not making any effort to save a National Treasure then the public cannot help but despair.
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Why We Ride Goes Worldwide is a good flick.  I saw it two weeks ago in Ventura.  See www.whyweride.com   Stan Goldstein
     STAN: Can you send me a movie review to publish?  The trailer for the film is quite interesting and shows motorcycle usage in all its aspects; recreational, racing, etc.  There is even some footage taken at Bonneville.
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     The Bud Meyer Celebration of Life is planned for March 1, 2014 at the Auto Club Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.  The time is 11 AM to 2 PM.  Please contact the museum at 909-622-2133 for directions and for any changes in schedule.
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STAFF NOTES: There is another source for racing articles now available to us in http://www.racingjunk.com/news/category/guest-column.   RacingJunk.com is one of the other websites owned by Internet Brands that also brings us www.BikerHotline.com, and www.hotrodhotline.com.  If your group has racing events send your schedules and the results of your leagues races.  They will also take news on racing teams.
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     New Challenge FaceBook site.  Be sure to send a "Friend" request and join your fellow Challenge racers in daily communications.  Share photos of your VW racer and build efforts at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/36hpvw.challenge.  Recently a 36hp Challenge crew headed by Bruce Cook in North Carolina announced the team was approximately 75 percent along in the creation of a new Unlimited36 Challenge racer. The goal is to top the still unmatched top 36hp speed of 129.68 miles per hour set fifty one years ago by Dick Beith with his Pepco blown lakester at Bonneville.  The beautiful all aluminum body being hand crafted has been patterned as closely as possible to the three Volkswagen T-64 Berlin to Rome racer's built by Dr. Porsche in 1939, in keeping with the spirit of the VW Challenge.  Bruce and the team are shooting for racing this summer at an ECTA Ohio Mile event and if that goal is met, they hope to bring the T-64 Rome to Berlin recreation to Bonneville for a photo op. 
     You will be able to see updated T-64 "build" photos on the Samba (Vintage Speed), Ultimate Air Cooled (Vintage Speed), the Cal-Look Lounge, Volksrodder (Bonneville Challenge) and H.A.M.B. (Landspeed Addicts) forums.  Information will also be posted on the new 36hp & Big Block VW Challenge FaceBook location.  Make plans for this September to be at Bonneville.  Why?  It is the 100th Anniversary of racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats, and in addition we have Darrell Vittone and the "Inch Pincher" coming with a Denzel powered 36hp engine, Manu Thuillier and Paul Loofs "Round the World 55 Beetle" (have you seen the VW Canada video on the car?), and now maybe the North Carolina teams "Type 64" DSS36 recreation and possibly Chris Runge's "Glockler" clone coming as well.  And on top of that add in all of the other 36hp and Big Block VW Challengers that will be racing along with Hot VW's Magazine planned coverage.  Burly Burlile
 

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Gone Racin’… BONNEVILLE; A CENTURY OF SPEED.  Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  January 27, 2014.  Reprinted by permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com

     BONNEVILLE; A CENTURY OF SPEED is a collaboration between author David Fetherston and longtime land speed racing activist Ron Main.  Fetherston was born in Australia and developed a love of hot rodding which has inspired his journalistic career.  I have reviewed other books by Fetherston and they are all very well done.  Ron Main is a businessman, land speed racer and activist.  He is also capable of talking the Devil out of hell and when he is committed to a project he will find the men and women, work out a plan and carry it through.  A goal dear to the hearts of both Fetherston and Main is the protection of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Western Utah on the border of Nevada.  The Salt Flats are a historic landmark, both in legal terms and in the hearts of land speed fans worldwide.  It is here that the British invasion of Malcolm and Donald Campbell, John Cobb and numerous other Brits came to demolish the ultimate land speed title.  It is here that Wally Parks, Robert Pete Petersen and other members of the dry lakes Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) came to establish the greatest land speed test site in the world.  It is here where Breedlove battled the Arfons brothers during the helter-skelter 1960’s duel. 

     But the Bonneville Salt Flats are degrading due to the mining operations on the lake bed that has removed around four feet of solid salt and left only a thin layer left for land speed racers to run their cars on.  Obedience to the law was not good enough to force local and national politicians to demand that the chemical companies leave the Salt Flats in as good a shape as they found it.  The Save the Salt organization has tried for years to work with state, local and national officials and the chemical companies to address the degradation of the Salt Flats by mining.  Ron Main came up with a plan to help and enlisted David Fetherston.  They created a monumental book between them called BONNEVILLE; A CENTURY OF SPEED.  Then Main contacted John and Annika Buck who owns and promotes the Grand National Roadster Show each January at the Los Angeles County Fairplex, in Pomona, California.  Main proposed a show of some eighty land speed vehicles as a way to show the world what the sport is all about and to bring attention to the plight of the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Buck, a true hot rodder at heart, gave Main the go-ahead to stage the three day event during the 2014 Grand National Roadster Show.  Main and Fetherston had the books ready to sell and they sold like hotcakes, raising over $40,000 to buy salt to replenish the Salt Flats.

     BONNEVILLE; A CENTURY OF SPEED is a hard bound book, with no dust jacket sleeve.  The cover of the book shows the Ack-Attack streamliner and the Poteet and Main Speed Demon on the Salt Flats.  On the back cover is the Kirkland and Teverbaugh Special.  For an additional donation Fetherston can have your own car embossed on the cover.  The book is cloth bond and the pages are top quality photographic paper.  Each book is numbered.  David Fetherston is the author, book designer, layout and self-publisher.  The ISBN number is 978-0-9646175-8-2, but a better way to purchase this book is to go directly to the publisher; Fetherston Publishing LL.C., P.O. Box 1742, Sebastopol, California 95473, or go to www.bonnevillecenturyofspeed.com

     The book measures 9 inches high by 12 inches wide.  There are 306 pages in the book and over 600 captioned photographs, both in color and black and white.  Normally I count the photographs, charts, magazine covers, maps and other additions to the text, but in this case there were just too many.  The photographs, whether black and white, color, tinted or sepia was outstanding.  The captions were thorough and understandable.  The chapters were broken down into historical periods beginning in 1899 and continuing until 2013.  There were also some additional sections or chapters that included; Bonneville 200 MPH Club, motorcycle streamliners, Utah Salt Flats Racers Association World of Speed, Mike Cook Shootout, SEMA, Save The Salt, BUB motorcycle speed trials, a sponsor’s page, postscript, description of the writers and an index.  Also listed were the acknowledgments, table of contents, dedication, salt reclamation project and the introduction.  I have to commend the authors for including a two page index.  So many other writers ignore creating an index and without one it is difficult to do historical research.  The copper colored sky contrasting with the gray salt flats on the cover is striking.  This is a book thorough enough to be a major part of your library on land speed racing and yet would also make a great coffee table book.

     The text is substantial in size, which isn’t always the case with works that have as many photographs and visual materials as this book has.  The captions easily double the text and fill out the picture of land speed racing at Bonneville.  The first fortynine years covers 33 pages.  This chapter starts out with Bill Rishel, then leaves the Bonneville scene and gives a brief history of European land speed racing.  It is too short a chapter to cover all the interesting quirks at Bonneville.  Then it returns to men such as Ab Jenkins, Malcolm Campbell and John Cobb are portrayed.  There are some errors, such as the mention of Wally Parks, Lee Ryan and Robert Petersen considering the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1945.  Parks was fighting in the Philippines and Ryan and Petersen were working in Hollywood.  In any large work that takes on a century or more of historical data there are bound to be some errors.  On the whole the book is quite informative and many of the photographs have never been seen before.  It is a work that can be read through in a sitting or put down and picked up whenever the mood strikes.  It has a National Geographic Magazine feel to it.  You can just read the articles and text and come back to the photographs later, or turn it around and peruse the photos first.

     There are nearly 80 pages dedicated to the late 1950’s through the mid 1970’s, a period of time in land speed racing that is often overlooked.  That’s due to the fact that about this time drag racing took off and so many land speed racers decided to forgo the dry lakes and salt flats and head for the closer to town dragstrips.  Today there seems to be a turnaround as many drag racers are finding their sport to be very expensive to compete in and are now building Bonneville race cars.  The sport of land speed racing is noticing an influx of racers who want to try Bonneville at least once in order to fulfill their bucket list of life’s adventures.  The problem is that the Bonneville Salt Flats may deteriorate unless we do something about the degradation of the facilities.  There aren’t a lot of places that are convenient for land speed racers to go and race their vehicles.  Those dry lakes that do exist are often impossible to get to or closed to the public.  That is the motivating message behind BONNEVILLE; A CENTURY OF SPEED by Fetherston and Main.  This is a fine book and deserves to be in your library.  I rate it a 7 out of a possible 8 spark plugs.

Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM
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Mass Exodus, by Le Roi Tex Smith.  Reprinted by permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com
     Boy was my internet been buzzing the past few weeks, with the info that Source something or other just had a mass firing.  You don’t know Source?  That’s the magazine distribution company that a few years back bought up so many of the automotive titles.  And as is want for really big corporate companies, they are dumping magazine staff big time.
     I keep in contact with nearly every facet of the media, so I was especially interested that a couple days ago Source canned something like 60 employees, at least two well known names in street rodding: Rob Fortier (Rod & Custom) and Eric Geisert, who did photo and writing work for several titles, including
Street Rodder.  Some mention of mag titles being axed also, but no confirm on this yet.
     No big deal to you?
  Well, you are way wrong there, bucko.  As you know, I am no fan of corporate America, definitely not corporate media.  Too much emphasis in the corporate world is placed on the spreadsheet bottom line and not enough, ever, on the reader/enthusiast line.  So, the first blip in any corporate cost cutting exercise is to attack the reader.  Sadly, corporate thinks that supporters are dime a dozen and that those supporters are idiots!
     Anyway, how this affects you is quite direct.  Instance: You grow to like a particular magazine or electronic message board. You like the content, and the way it is presented.  You get to know that bit of information source as something, someone personal.  You grow to trust it, to take it into your personal space as a friend.  And you begin to rely on it.  Kind of like the small town grocer or hardware who is suddenly replaced by The Big Box.  Who can you ask for advice in The Big Box?  Certainly not the corporate bean counter.
     So, this is especially pertinent in the current climate of irreplaceable media veterans. This continual pruning of the media tree has failed to create a steady flow of replacement editors and writers who are savvy on automotive subjects, to the point that the once-newcomers have become the old heads that are now being chopped off.  With no new heads being grown.  The result is that you, the enthusiast consumer, is being ever more increasingly left to drift without source of entertainment or information.  A kind of modern day dark ages.
     To be sure, history proves that nature abhors a vacuum, and eventually corporate greed and expediency will dwindle.  Until the point where the cycle will inevitably produce another era of consumer fed demand.  Already we see this with electronic media taking up where the print media has fallen asunder.  Yet, there is much work for the modern enthusiast media to fill the widening yaw of consumer need.
     Where the print media has gone astray is too much misguided emphasis on advertising revenue (seemingly immediate) versus consumer loyalty (long term).  The result is that we, the hot rod enthusiasts, are shortchanged with magazine articles that do nothing but show how to use an advertiser product and ignore innate hot rodder talent.  After all, this talent is what created that advertiser product in the first place.
     The bottom line is quite simple.  If the corporate mindset is entirely on immediate profits, then that entity will drift into oblivion.  We need good media, folks, and we need it to be innovative and sustained.  Print and electronic, we need it all!
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PLAYING CARS (and Marbles).  By Le Roi Tex Smith.    Reprinted by permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com

     It was before Big War Two, down there in bayou country, Orange, Texas. Plenty of gators around, and water mosecon’s and gar fish, and cars of every kind. Long’s they were Fords and Chevy’s. A decent place to grow up and look every morning for whiskers and sneak some white makin’s and keep falling off bikes with those hard rubber tires. And for finding vacant lots for playing make-up baseball games, and having war games, and playing cars.  Yep, sure ‘nuff make believe car stuff. Didn’t need no money, just a good flat digging stick, and a few blocks of wood.  Whatcha wanna do is find a lot with some dug out holes, or ditches, already in place. Then, you start carving out roads. Everywhere roads, especially on the walls of that hole. If you find an old wooden matchbox the tray makes a very useful dumptruck, and you even dig holes into the cliff alongside your “mountain roadway” and think of them as garages. Big old tree leaves and sticks make houses and such. For vehicles, all you need are small pieces of wood. Even small broken tree limbs work in a pinch
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Gone Racin’…
Big Daddy, the Autobiography of Don Garlits, by Don Garlits and Brock Yates.  Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  Reprinted by permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com

   One of the best biographies on racing personalities is Big Daddy, the Autobiography of Don Garlits, by Don Garlits and Brock Yates.  This is the second enlarged and updated edition that has gone through four revisions and updates and numerous printings.  Big Daddy is adapted from the original book King of the Dragsters, by Brock Yates.  Don Garlits is one of the pre-eminent drag racers of all time and he works with Yates to produce a fascinating biography of his life in racing.  Big Daddy is published by the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, Inc, 13700 S.W. 16th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 32676.  The phone number listed in the book is 904-245-8661.  The book design and topography is by Philippe H. Petot and the photo credits are extensive and well documented.  Big Daddy is a paperback book measuring 6 by 9 inches, with 354 pages on matte, acid-free paper and has held up remarkably well.  The front cover is well done, showing a wheel-standing dragster and the back cover a photo of Garlits’ Kendall-sponsored Navy dragster on the deck of an aircraft carrier.  The front and back covers are the only color photographs.  In addition there are 177 black and white photographs and one ink drawing. 

     The captions for the photographs are explanatory, but they are brief and the reader needs to refer to the text.  The photographs are also on matte paper and not the waxed paper normally used for photographs, but the quality of the photos is good enough to add to the textual material.  The ISBN number is 0-9626565-0-x and a copy can be purchased by contacting the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, one of the best car racing museums in the country.  Garlits began collecting vintage racing cars long before it was fashionable and has an outstanding collection.  There is no table of contents, acknowledgments, introduction, preface or index.  Garlits is a man of few words and what he says he honestly states and believes.  He gets right into the subject of his life and tells it in a straightforward manner.  There is a list at the back of the book which tells of his racing achievements and milestones in a chronological manner and which is worth consulting as you read his life story.  As a reviewer, I really miss having a comprehensive index to refer back to, because Big Daddy is a historical work as much as racing literature.

   Don Garlits is a man who is bigger than life and he instills a vigor and enthusiasm that is difficult to explain.  He is passionate about his beliefs and unwilling to suffer fools easily.  It is this passion that inspires some men and women to follow and emulate him, while other people dislike him for the same reasons.  What he brings to racing is passion.  He is also an inventor and craftsman, who is never happy until he has made something better and more efficient.  He also brings that same zeal to people and organizations, constantly pushing, prodding and seeking to do things more efficiently.  If he fails it is only because he is human and such failure gnaws at him and makes him strive to turn disappointment into success.  His life from the earliest days was never easy and the competition fierce.  The book ends around 1990, four years before he runs for a Congressional District seat in northern Florida.  A true conservative like many drag racers, Garlits feels that a man is known by his achievements and not by media spin and glitz.  When hot rodders and racers came up with the terms “all show and no go,” and “all flash and no cash,” to emphasize their disdains for empty words, you can just see Garlits’ face and know that he is a man of substance and merit. 

     In Big Daddy, Garlits tells about how he fought for what he believed to be the right course of action and he readily admits that he sometimes made the wrong decision or came to the wrong answer, but there is this indomitable spirit in him that says he must keep at it until he has it right.  His inventiveness and genius as a mechanic and driver are legendary.  His victory count is impressive, considering that he raced when there were fewer National titles in his day.  Many other drag racers have won more races and have greater accolades heaped at them, but when a poll of drag racers is done, they look up to Don Garlits as “The King of the Drag racers.”  There are Princes, Dukes, Barons, Lords, Knights, Earls, Counts and many other colorful titles claimed by drag racers, but no one has ever claimed to be “The King.” 

   Statistics can be manipulated in so many different ways.  John Force has won some 120 National Races in 350 some events.  His success rate is one victory in three, a phenomenal percentage.  Don Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein have been successful as drivers, team owners and in raising the standards of gaining sponsorships.  Shirley Muldowney brought women into the mainstream of pro drag racing.  There are blogs, websites and car clubs that debate endlessly the place that each racer belongs and yet, it is Don Garlits that sets the standard that drag racers will always follow.  Just as Babe Ruth left the nation amazed at his ability to hit home runs in baseball.  Hank Aaron and that Bonds fellow ended up hitting more home runs than the Babe, but when Americans vote they will rank the “Babe” as the man that stands out in their minds as the best at what he did.  So it is with Don Garlits, he will always be seen as the quintessential top fuel drag racer and that has to do with who he was a man just as much as with his record as a drag racer. 

     Big Daddy has 46 chapters and 354 pages and they are filled with the history of drag racing from the mid-fifties right up to 1990 when this edition ends.  No doubt he is constantly updating his life story and there will be more and later editions available.  Garlits unabashedly tells his side in the struggles with track operators, promoters and the competition with other drag racers.  His battles with west coast drag racers are the stuff of legend.  His fight with the NHRA and his association with the AHRA and PDRA is told from his perspective with no punches pulled and a desire to “tell it as he saw it.”  Many people will proffer a different view and say that Garlits’ got it all wrong, but few will say that he didn’t try to explain it honestly as he saw the events unfold.  Big Daddy is a book that has to anchor the library of the serious fan of hot rodding and drag racing.  It is a story of what many call “the Golden Age of drag racing,” from 1957 to the 1970’s.  This was an age when creativity and passion could win races.  Today it is the vast sums of sponsorship money that puts together the best crews, cars and drivers.  As a book, Big Daddy is a must have, as a man, Don Garlits is truly “The King.”  This book is rated 7 out of 8 sparkplugs and a must have book for the hot rodders library.
Gone Racin’ is at
RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM
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Gone Racin’…Big Daddy; A Career Pictorial Volume 1, by Don Garlits and Michael Mikulice.  Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  Reprinted by permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com

     Big Daddy; A Career Pictorial Volume 1, by Don Garlits and Michael Mikulice is a hard-bound book published by Walsworth Publishing Company.  The ISBN number is 0-9626565-2-6 for volume 1 and 0-9626565-1-8 for the three volume set.  This review is only for volume 1 of the pictorial.  Check with your local book store or order direct from The Museum of Drag Racing, 13700 SW 16th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34473, or call 877-271-3278.  Big Daddy; A Career Pictorial Volume 1, is a cloth bound book on high quality waxed paper suitable for excellent photographic reprinting.  The book measures 8 by 11 inches and has 216 pages.  There was no dust cover protective jacket, but the book looks very sturdy and built for constant usage.  There was no price listed for the volume or the three books in the set.  I am only reviewing volume 1 and will review volume 2 and 3 separately.  Big Daddy; A Career Pictorial Volume 1 has the following components; 362 black and white, and 89 color photographs.  In addition there are 89 sidebars with all sorts of information; including races competed in, dimensions of Don’s cars and other interesting facts in his racing career.  There was one artwork, three drawings, nine magazine covers, five newspaper clippings and one map included in the book.  The degree of factual information is extensive.  Some of the captions for the photographs were short and the rule of thumb for captions is the more the better.  Captions should stand alone from the book and should always include; who, what, where, when and sometimes the how and why.  There was no index and although this is a pictorial, it hurts the cross-over appeal of a book like this to be lacking an index.  Big Daddy; A Career Pictorial Volume 1 can easily be a pictorial, a coffee table book or a history, but without an index the historian and serious student of the sport of drag racing can only guess where the material he/she seeks is located.  Adding an index would easily have made this book superior to others like it.

     I was really impressed with the factual thoroughness of the sidebars.  This is a book that one could pick up and devour, then set it aside for a while and come back and read it thoroughly again.  The text is limited, but then it is a pictorial after all.  Therefore the captions need to be really thorough and often they weren’t.  However, that’s the historian in me asking for more.  For the general public the book is outstanding.  This is volume one of a three volume set and I just cannot fathom there only being three volumes of photographs on the racing career of Don Garlits.  Perhaps this is just a start and more books will come forth in the future.  I could say that Don Garlits is the pre-eminent drag racer for all time and probably few people would argue with that statement.  But I’m not sure that’s the way to define who and what Don Garlits is.  He certainly is well known.  But notoriety sometimes obscures a man and puts him above and beyond what he really is.  Garlits is first and foremost a hot rodder with a burning desire to take on a challenge or solve a problem in the most expedient and smartest way.  He also just happens to be a drag racer who has won a lot of races and championships.  Add to that his reputation for innovation, design and mechanics and he has earned his place in drag racing lore.  Garlits is far more important to racing though.  And it is unfair to judge him solely on his racing career.  Other drivers and owners have won more races and championships, but Don raced in the early years when there were far few national events for him to compete in.  He also raced against the very best drivers the sport has ever had.  His competition was ferocious.  Don also raced in several sanctioning bodies, many of which are no longer in operation and when a league folds, so often the records are lost or not mentioned in the newspapers or magazines.  He is one of the most focused men I have ever met.  He has a well defined view of what he is and what he believes in and is not willing to change his core values.  He is a Christian who does not leave his views behind when he goes on the road.  He is direct and tells you exactly what he thinks and feels, even if it isn’t politically correct.  He is as honest as they come and a southern gentlemen, yet he’s willing to fight for his beliefs at a moment’s notice.

     There’s another side of Don Garlits that’s known, but often not stressed enough and that’s his desire and willingness to share his knowledge with others.  This includes the efforts that he has put into building up the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida.  Long before it was popular to invest one’s time, money and effort into saving the history and heritage of hot rodding, drag racing and the car culture, Don was building a museum and restoring cars that he had found.  We can’t possibly thank those individuals who create private and public museums to house our automotive history.  The research that is done in the restoration of racing vehicles and the memorabilia that is uncovered keeps our history and heritage alive for future generations.  Don Garlits is also interested in preserving the history of our country and protecting our culture.  He spent his own money to run for the House of Representatives in 1994 in an effort to provide honest and capable leadership in Congress.  That he failed to be elected tells more about the corruption in our political system than it does about Don Garlits.  Big Daddy; A Career Pictorial Volume 1 is arranged like a diary, rather than by chapters.  There are a few photographs from the 1930’s and ‘40’s, mostly family pictures, and I would have preferred to see more from this time period.  Often writers will overlook the formative years and start right in with those years when they were best known.  The first section or chapter if you must, starts with the years 1950-54.  Don’s first drag race was at Zephyrhills, Florida in June of 1950 and he recorded an elapsed time of 19.10 in a 1940 Ford convertible.

     The years go by, the sidebars record times, dates and places and Garlits begins his ascent to the peak of the drag racing world.  His reputation as a fierce competitor is achieved through one race, event or contest after another.  He leads organizations and has a fan base that stretches from coast to coast, but it is a grueling schedule and his competition strong and capable.  Don readily admits that many things that he tried to achieve could have been done better.  He is honest in relating his mistakes as well as his successes, but the most important attribute of a hot rodder is the desire to solve a problem and make things better through innovation and ingenuity.  The pictorial is a testament to a man who strove to overcome the problems that he faced in his professional, business and family life.  The last section ends with the year 1970 and by then Don Garlits is an acclaimed champion and trend setter.  Volumes 2 and 3 will pick up from there, as he has more races to win and new challenges to meet.  Yet if this were the only volume that you owned, the consensus that you would reach is that Don Garlits had already made it “Big” and that there were no further worlds to conquer.  You would have been wrong though.  Don is no longer racing, but he is still actively promoting the sport of drag racing that he loves so dearly.  The quality of the photographs is for the most part good to exceptional.  The ratio of black and white photographs in comparison to color is to be expected due to the era that we are dealing with.  The list of contributors is impressive in size and scope.  There is a short but interesting page pertaining to glossary terms and another page describing drag racing slang.  Don devotes a page thanking all those who made an impact on his life, including his love for his family and his creator.  There is a one page description of his museum and a map where the museum is located.  This is a very informative and interesting book and I give it a 7 out of a possible 8 sparkplugs.
Gone Racin’ is at
RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM
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Gone Racin’…
The Birth of Hot Rodding: The Story of The Dry Lakes Era, by Robert Genat and Don Cox.  Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz.  Reprinted by permission of Internet Brands and www.hotrodhotline.com

     Robert Genat and Don Cox have teamed up to bring car buffs a unique book.  Genat brings his skills as a writer, and Don Cox provides photographs unparalleled in quality.  Genat interviewed many racers who competed at the Dry Lakes in Southern California and captured the spirit that prevailed among this pre and post World War II generation.  Cox photographed the energy and the spell, which this racing held over the young men and women of that era.  Using the new state of the art 35mm Kodachrome slide film, Cox took some of the first color photos of this early period.  There are 96 color plates, many full page, 58 black and white photos, and the book is 156 pages in length.  The book is divided into five easy-to-read chapters, with a foreword by Wally Parks and a short index and bibliography.  Take extra care to preserve the book jacket, for it is one of the best that I have seen.  The bibliography rests heavily upon rare source material, out of date publications, SCTA archives and books.  The foreword and introduction were quite moving and set the stage for the rest of the book.

     The first Chapter deals with the Dry Lakes history and I was surprised at the new information presented here which was new to me.  I couldn’t believe how clear and stunning the Kodachrome colors were.  It is usual to see only black and white photos from this period, and yet here, at the beginnings of this sport, were all these magnificent full-page color prints.  Genat doesn’t skip over the early history.  In a clear and precise style, devoid of hyperbole, he tells the compelling story of the Dry Lakes racer.  Chapter two explains how difficult it was to get to the Dry Lakes, the structure of the organizations that set up the races, and the actual racing and time trials that went on at these meets.  Chapter three describes the hot rod clubs and speed shops where we would have found the hot rodders during the time when they weren’t racing.  The speed shops and clubs provided a place for the serious racer to pick up tips and learn new ways to enhance the performance of their cars.  The clubs provided structure and created a sense of identity.

     Chapter four describes some of the roadsters that raced.  The author explains the passion, which prevailed at that time for the sporty looking roadster, and the fervent belief that it was the fastest style of racecar.  SCTA banned coupes from racing at its meets.  To race anything but a roadster was sacrilegious.  Other timing associations would organize to allow coupes to run at the Dry Lakes, but the sleek looking roadsters were the pride and joy of the SCTA.  Chapter five ends this book with the story of how Dry Lakes racing finally matured into a multifaceted sport that grew to accept the coupes, modifieds, Belly Tanks and streamliners as part of the racing scene.  As Genat weaves the story and Don Cox provides the images, this book is equal to, or better than, any book on Dry Lakes racing that I have seen before.  There is real substance and historical merit to this book.  If you only have a few minutes, then just enjoy the wonderful photos.  If you have time, then this book is one of those treasures that you will find impossible to put down.  There are quite a few books, many that are out of print, that deal with the Dry Lakes period of hot rodding, but this is the book that you should build your library around.

Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.
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