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Thursday, September 19, 2013

This is what $2.2 Million dollars sounds like.

     The car is a 1963 Ferrari 250GT Lusso. One of 350 manufactured between 1963 and 1964. It was Ferrari's attempt at building a "luxury" coupe'. That means it had a heater fan and a cigarette lighter. This machine was purchased by its current owner in 1979, and has been in our shop for nearly five years undergoing a complete nut-and-bolt restoration. Countless hours have been invested in making the sheet metal and body even better than the original product. The interior has been completely re-done, and I took responsibility for building its 3.0 liter, V12 powerplant, and subsequent tuning.

     As an automobile mechanic.... this a dream come true. The task was a mixture of both hilarity *and* terror in building such an iconic engine, complete with three beautiful Weber carburetors. Little reference material is available for these motors. What you learn.. you learn from old skilled hands and kind hearted advice from those well versed in Italia.

I work with some astoundingly talented and conscientious people. The end result of all this earnest work and extreme effort is nothing less than stunning. Hours upon hours were spent making sure the grill fit flawlessly. The door shells were re-made by hand, from aluminum. Even the tapered spark plug looms were made from scratch, as were the clamps holding the foglight rings to the bodywork. Every fastener was re-plated and re-installed in its original location, on the machine. 

     Perhaps the thing I love most about this car, is that it will be DRIVEN. It will not be immediately put up for auction, nor will it hide in a garage, languishing for years. It will be enjoyed. And loved. And flogged. 


I'd like to dedicate this post to Mr Walter Spak of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Walter specialized in Italian machinery from the 1950s-60s, and was a kind and thoughtful human being. We lost Walt last year and the world is a bit sadder without him. I wish he could have seen and driven this car.

Ferris ain't got nuthin' on me. I get to drive it again today!

Friday, April 12, 2013

I could totally sell the shit out of that shit.

As often happens while driving a boring vehicle down the road, my mind wanders as I start reading the names off the back of various cars on the highway. This morphs its way into a minor fit of ADHD as thoughts clang off the innards of my noggin. I start thinking about the process used to come up with the names of new car models.

How *DO* they figure out what they'll call the next motorized appliance? Here's a few things I picked up that might aid in illuminating my dear readers, and a few thoughts I've added on my own. I figured all I need to do in order to be a successful automotive marketing genius is throw a bunch more hair gel in, wear some metrosexual black T shirts and stop wearing socks with my slip on shoes. Oh...and I have to be completely disconnected from the actual appreciation of automobilia. That's absolutely crucial. 

FIRST: Buy a thesaurus. Look up synonyms for words like "speed", "fast", intimidating", "sexy" and other things we want our cars to be. 

SECOND: Make it a Masculine name. Nobody wants a car named "Muira","Ginetta" or "Fulvia", right? Of course not. Those cars all suck.

THIRD: Get the thesaurus out again. Look up words that promote trustworthy engineering. Words like "precision", "accuracy", "heartiness".

FOURTH: Pick a good country of origin for your imaginary car company. Italy and Germany are good ones. Stay away from tiny Asian or Eastern European countries that get invaded a lot.

FIFTH: Close your eyes and pick up the nearest book written entirely in Latin. Open it up and put your finger on the right side page about 1/3 of the way down. Write down that word. (It doesn't matter what it means, it's not YOUR language after all, right?) Stay away from medical books that discuss things like lung infections and glandular cysts.

SIXTH: Make sure the name ends with a vowel. Words like "turd", "weasel", and "grunt" don't end in vowels... see how this works? Avoidance.

Now.... pick a word from each step. Take three letters from each. Put them together in a random order and make it three words somehow. 

OK I confess. This doesn't really work. I'm just making a point here, ok?

What happens when you don't follow the rules? You end up with names like the "Lamprey Flatus Mk IV" or the "Bowl Clinger 5000".

If all else fails. Pick a city. Name your car after the last native resident kicked out or the first white man to invade it. Never fails. And be sure to mention something patriotic.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

So my sideshow has a sideshow!

It's been a busy week! I'm in full speed production mode for a few Art festivals this spring and working out the details on some custom commissioned work.

Here's the latest work as of March 27th:

I had a lot of fun making this one, but almost lost it in the beginning phase.


For the wine savvy gardener. Stand stakes in to ground or a large planter.

Metalsmith and Jewelry maker Aileen Lampman's presentation concept for the "steel twigs" is brilliant.

To see more of my work, visit

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The overwhelming power of Beauty

     My father suffered a heart attack this week. I found him face down on the carpet of his apartment on Wednesday. He was conscious and fairly alert, but shaky and extremely weak. I am unable to fully comprehend the idea that he may have been there for hours, helpless and alone.

     For the last few days, my brother and I have been by his side at the hospital, where he appears stable and is being moderately sedated. It will take some time before we can make any decisions about his long term care. I've been back and forth to his apartment in a retirement community several times, cleaning and sorting through things in an attempt at summarizing the final hours of his presence there and preparing the space, hopeful for his eventual return.

     Last night I had a truly profound experience. In the lobby, assembled near the lit fireplace were 20 or so of his neighbors and fellow residents. They urgently asked me to provide them with details of my father's condition. At first I was just going to stand and tell them that he's stable and should come through it, but then I decided to sit and truly speak with them.

     I filled them in on many of the details. Perhaps too many. Each and every one of them expressed how much they've missed him in the last few days. How they grew to really love him, and how much they appreciated his often off-center outlook on things. These people love him in much the same way as my brother and I do. At this moment, I began to realize how much interaction he really had with people where he lives. And how he affected them by being there. A part of their community.

     Until last night, I had only provided information on his condition to the staff and one other resident with whom he appears to have a wonderful relationship and friendship. I wanted her to know he was alive and seemingly stable. Though I don't know her feelings for my father, I do know that he adores her character, her experiences, and her completely on-point and razor sharp intellect.

     The residents in the lobby said they had been asking her for as many details as she could provide, and that she was especially concerned for my father's health. I could no longer keep it together. I lost it completely and broke down in the elevator as it graced it's way up to the third floor, where his apartment is.

     I've learned that the things that trigger my tears, are from beauty and love and caring. Whenever I think about how much my father is appreciated or adored, or loved... my emotions overflow and I begin to weep.

     When I think about all the things that my father loves and cherishes, the same wave of overwhelming emotion hits me. His love of music. Of brilliant women. The beauty of Jellyfish. The fragility fossils. Of automobiles. And of my late mother.

     I hope to get him back in the coming weeks. I want to shed tears for his recovery next.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Breaking Mental Bread

     It seems I'm destined to be surrounded by a shit ton of independent thinking and creative people with vastly different skills and interests than myself. I'm not sure if this a conscious decision or something else entirely. It's not luck or destiny. But I'll take it.

     Cabinet makers, metal smiths, wood workers, potters, contractors, film makers... the list goes on. Every time I peer in to one of their worlds I learn something new and gain an even greater appreciation for whatever their alien craft might be. There's always more beneath the surface of these people I tend to encounter, than one might imagine. What makes each of them the object of my intrigue and affection, is the way in which our common interests and passions tide in and out in our day-to-day being.

     The man that fixed my leaking ceiling tonight and I talked about Latin and South American food. He's a middle aged white guy in a small rural Pennsylvania town just like me, and yet he spoke of his love of Argentina and Brazil (particularly the music), and his affinity for Cubans.

     I winked and showed him a photograph of the most stunning Paella I've ever seen. One created by my "second family's" mother. A woman of Cuban descent I've known for over three decades.

     Immediately he gasped and asked me to e mail him the photograph. He's the second person that's made that request of me after seeing this image (photo courtesy of George Lampman) and yet I hardly know him. This plumber / carpenter / apartment maintenance savior / world traveler in my living room. 

     Apparently there's a market for serious food porn. I should probably start a website and sell advertizing to chili enhancement pharmaceutical companies. 

     I really don't know. I just fix cars.

     So... as a test of the ether's ability to enable lusts of all kinds, I now present it to you all.

Remember: This is an experiment. A social one.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I love a good story

     I bet you're wondering how we fared in the “Chump Car” race...and probably wondering why I've been so lazy in continuing the telling of it's outcome. I'll spoil the ending early. We got knocked out.

     It was an innocent mistake and there were no long lasting hard feelings. But racing stuff happens...and it happened to us. While Adrienne Hughes (one of our four drivers) was pulling in to the pits for a routine tire and fuel stop, she got dinked in a crucial portion of the front suspension by another car. What followed was a lightening fast swap of front strut and spring from our donor car, and a short lived return to the action. Alas – the aluminum motor mount arms had sheared, and the engine soon leaned against it's own pulleys and hoses causing a rapid loss of power steering. Even after we decided that coming in 10th or 11th wasn't worth the headache and further risk to the car, Roy crawled under the machine and began chaining the engine down against anything he could find. Yes... even scraps of wood were used to support an engine. In the end, we thought that the altered geometry of the drivetrain would inevitably grind other expensive bits and we decided to engage in my other favorite part of racing... the comradery.

     Our neighbors in the paddock area had a full on luxury hotel on wheels, complete with TeeVees, stereo, cooking devices, showers, and refrigeration. They fixed up one hell of a lunch. It was a simple affair but so very welcomed after a morning of chill damp temperatures and grime. They fixed up a giant batch of chicken and dumplings, fresh vegetables, soup, coffee, and the requisite adult beverages. The topics of conversation that grew out of our breaking bread were the stuff of fantasy... and yet they were very real.

     In my exposure to both amateur and professional racing, I've learned that there's a particular economic level one must attain to participate in this activity. I had always hoped that somehow I'd be swept up in it and gain my wealth through some kind of osmosis. That never happened. I owned a real race car for about six months and soon realized the resources required to maintain and race a car are far from my Visa card's already stretched limits. It appears that I'm destined to live only vicariously through the people with whom I share my fascination with “behind the scenes” race track energy. It's not envy. It's an appreciation for the great experiences that their lifestyle affords them. I respect and value unique experiences and stories above all else – and it makes for some great and valued acquaintances. The stories swapped while standing next to a race car or eating in a lawn chair at the track are wonderful, colorful tales filled with heroic characters and chaotic hilarity. What I realized that weekend was that each story teller truly reveled in the experience about which they spoke. Not the objects or means by which these experiences came upon them. I'm not sure what gene separates “rich pricks” from people of means that have true and genuine CHARACTER, but I can tell you that being surrounded by the good ones can be a real intellectual exercise. Like reading a great book, it spawns wonderful dreams and creative inspiration. These folks didn't gain their lifestyle by being lazy. Maybe that's the secret DNA element.

     I have hundreds of their stories rolling around in my head, and though the particular facts of each one may get blended with the elements of another, I love them all. I'll share bits of one from the Chump Car weekend that stuck with me. Naturally it involved the glamorous elements of fast machines and international travel. It included phrases like this:

We arrived in Geneva at 10pm local time and (our host) picked us up in their minivan, which he then drove at 80 mph through dark country roads for about an hour to his house, where he prepared a gourmet meal using only the leftover ingredients found in his kitchen.”

What caught my attention was that their Swiss host was not only an avid and accomplished European race car driver – but also a well known Chocolatier. I pictured a 250 year old chalet, bathed in the warm glow of antique lighting and dark, well worn floor boards. A stone fireplace with a swinging kettle for soup, and probably a couple of wolf hounds. This imagery and a full belly of dumplings made me completely forget about my cold wet feet, or smelly fuely hands.

     I have many other race track stories that have affected me. One of my favorites involves a woman I met at a vintage race several years ago. She was about 70 and friends with the driver we were there to support. She parked her rusty 1980s pick up truck next to us and proceeded to unload the grim black trailer that followed it. On that trailer was a Porsche. I could tell this was no ordinary car. It was a 1971 911 in bright Germanic orange with the headlights taped over. On one headlight, she had drawn a well detailed eye and on the other, a closed winking one - eye lashes and all. The more I learned about this woman the more enthralled I became. She and the car ….had a story.

     She and her husband bought the car new in 1971 and it was their daily driver for many decades. Though they still kept it in street legal trim (license plate and all) they decided to race it at occasional events up and down the East Coast. At one race, her husband wrecked the car. I'm told it was a bad accident, but that he escaped unharmed, only to suffer a fatal heart attack on the way to the hospital for a “post incident check-up”. It's a sad and tragic thing, but it's not the end of the story. This woman (remember – she's about 70) had the car rebuilt, and now races it herself...and wins. She has a bazillion dollars in the bank, yet carts the car solo with an old beat up truck and a crusty trailer. Unloads it herself, and leaves the keys in it. She even told us: “If you need to run downtown this weekend, go ahead and take it. The keys are in it.”

     See? **THAT'S** what it's all about. I really don't give a shit how fast your car is... I care more about how far you'll go with it. You're the people that are my heroes.