Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Favorite Tow Vehicles

Clair Reuter's Bandini/Devin trailered by Earl Carlson's Bosley Mk I at Wilmot, Wisconsin racetrack in 1959. The Bosley was on of the most beautiful American specials of the 1950s, built by Richard Bosley. Carlson is in the white shirt, back to camera, and Bud DuVall is seated on the ground.

OK, this is the most exotic tow car I've ever seen. The Bosley is an absolute one off and Earl Carlson is it's second owner. I guess you could say that it has enough power with its early Hemi engine.

I have always been amazed at some people's choice of a tow vehicle. One of my favorites was a gent racing an older Formula Ford who towed it with a mid 30's Rolls Royce hearse. Actually, it was very practical as well as classy. After all, the hearse had a lovely mahogany load floor with built in rollers and tie downs. Tools, spares, and cooler rolled into place beautifully.

More like the Bosley, was Hardy Prentice from California who won the national championship with a TR3 after owning the car for 25 years. Actually, the TR3 was his only car for many years. Prentice flat towed the TR3 to all the races, including the tow across the country from California to Atlanta, with a Jag E Type tow vehicle. Tools and some spares went inside the Jag. The spare engine and other spares went in the race car. Race tires were mounted on the tow bar. I don't know how many years he did this, but I can remember 6 or 8 times I've seen this get up. Wish I taken a picture.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Towing Stories

I don't know if you ever noticed, but if you get a large group of racers or other car guys together for long enough, the stories will turn to trailer towing. I don't know if towing is always an adventure or if its just easier to stretch a yarn when your talking trailers.

In this case, Bob is towing his two little sports car home as I write this. Bob's adventure started on the tow out to Georgia. He called me eastbound around El Paso to ask me to look up the wind velocity at El Paso. Apparently, the truck was a handful and he was trying to decide if there was something wrong with the truck of if the wind was really blowing hard enough to give him trouble. According to the internet, gusts were to 45 mph and they were a crosswind. Lucky Bob got to fight the wind with an empty truck and trailer all the way to Georgia.

I ran across the lower photo which reminded me of a small towing adventure for Dave Dobry. Back in the day, a bunch of us would go down to Road Atlanta for the Runoffs and this particular year, Dave decided to tow a little tent camper down for the week. He pulled it with his baby blue Volar. It had a slant 6 and a 3 on the tree, if I remember correctly. By the way, it was called the Volar instead of the Volare' because Dave said that it didn't deserve the accent.

Naturally, it rained for the last few days and the Georgia clay turned to grease. Trying to get up some momentum, Dave headed straight for the paved road. Unfortunately for Dave, he couldn't see the ditch between him and the road, so with a slippery thud, the frame was sitting on the opposite side and the front wheels were waving in the air.

At the point this picture was taken, we had disconnected the trailer and Dave was plotting his next move.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Math of Car Styling

As I've been thinking about these curvaceous Italian cars of the 50's, I was reminded of several conversations I've had on the subject with automotive designers. I'm no designer myself and won't claim any expertise on the subject, but I have had the opportunity to work closely with several automotive designers, one who is both very talented and a friend and several others of strong opinions and varying skill levels.

Now there are lots of things that go into good car design. The basic concept, the vision of the driving experience, the packaging and the way that interacts with the overall design are examples. In a way, the surface of the car can be the result of many other choices, yet is often the most important thing in the way we react emotionally to a car.

These designers all had different ways they approached the surface of a car, but in the many conversations with them, I reduced it all to a way that an engineer can understand. What is pleasing to our eye is most often curved like most things in nature. In particular, one designer talked about 'lines on a car that show acceleration'. What I understood that he meant by that are curves that are always changing curvature and, in fact, the curvature increases or decreases smoothly along the shape. Mathematically, that means curves like a parabola. In nature, that means shapes like a raindrop.

So, look at the Giaur or the OSCA or any of your favorite cars and you can see parabolas and surfaces of rotated parabolas everywhere. The photo above is the Bosley and it shows accelerated lines everywhere. The way that the designer combines them in long lines the run the length of the car and shorter lines that react to a wheel or a radiator opening, the way that he combines them into a smooth surface, that is the art of car design.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


And while I'm playing around with small 50's Italian sports cars, this is an OSCA whose picture I found on VeloceToday.com, a very enthusiastic site for vintage Italian cars. OSCA was the product of the Maserati brothers and represented their smaller engine racing cars. Most of these had a nice little 1350 cc DOHC 4 cylinder. These cars came slightly before the Porsche 550 Spyder and, although they had a smaller engine, were often competitive with the German car. As pretty as the 550 is, I would also have to say that the OSCA was prettier, IMHO.

Now there are 550 replicas today. Its too bad there aren't replicas of this car, or alternatively (in honor of Mr. Bastow who loves coupes) of the OSCA Berlinetta bodied by Vignale. Another very pretty car.

Friday, December 26, 2008


This post is in honor of Bob Wilson who is currently driving across the country to retrieve his toy cars, an Alfa Spider and a Beck Spyder. Although from the perspective of music, Bob is stuck in the Sixties, from an automotive point of view most things Italian and many things from the Fifties are preferred. So here is the Giaur. I took this picture at the Laguna Seca Historics.

It must have been fun to be an Italian male with some money in the post war years. Bernardo Taraschi was a racer who also built several names and styles of car of his own conception. Some of his early Urania car were powered by BMW R75 motorcycle engines. The Giaur pictured here was typically powered by Giannini 750 cc engines. These cars frequently used Topolino based suspension components, although sometime bespoke suspensions were created.

I just love the small size of these cars. Nothing like a few modern men standing around to give it scale. Of course, the main attraction for me is the very unique styling, but they were also quite successful in racing and are still prized for vintage racing. I can also imagine this being the inspiration for a variation of a Locost or other special car project.

So here is a holiday toast to the Giaur and "Diddi" Taraschi who built his dream.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Past

I freely admit that I don't do a very good job of taking people pictures. As a result, I often don't have good pictures of friends and family. Somehow, I managed to take a few pictures of my own family back in the Christmas of 1976. From left to right, my mother Ruth, my sister Pat, her husband Dave, and my father Art. Hard to believe that its been 32 years.

This is probably the nicest picture of my mother that I have. The interesting thing is that I'm about the same age now as my parents are in this photo. Time flies.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Old Wood

I've been trying to get over a cold, so I haven't been able to move forward with my plywood project. In the meantime, I've been trying to go through my old photos, a project that started in August. I am amazed at the number of photos I've taken over the years.

In this case, I found a couple of shots of one of my favorite places, the Mission at San Xavier de Bac just south of Tuscon. Truely a beautiful place with a lot of spirit. The old wood in question is the door which is original and over 200 years old.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Looking out Windows

Sorry, no picture this time.

One of my earliest memories was being a little kid, probably 3 years old, being sick and having trouble sleeping. My mother tried to comfort me by picking me up and walking around the house in the dark. We would go from window to window, looking out into the dark neighborhood from the darker house. Ever since then, I have enjoyed wandering around my own home and looking out windows in the night and half light of early morning or late evening.

So this morning, we are having a blizzard. Snow has been falling at something like 3 inches per hour and, although you can't see much when the air is full of snow, I've been looking the windows anyway. While looking at the neighbor's house, through the spruce trees, I saw something I've never seen before, a flash of lightning through the snow. Now that's a snow storm.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Old Houses, Old Wood

These days, old houses are making much more sense to me. I'm not sure that the cost of houses in this housing bubble was inflated by speculation or by the cost of building them. I just bought a single sheet of 3/4" plywood and it cost $39! How many sheets of plywood and other materials go into the cost of building a new house? Anyway, this guy above has a sweet little old house, but it looks like even he got caught by the cost of new materials. Truth be told, he had to pay my price, plus the cost of shipping it to his little island. I guess far from the madding crowd is great, just not necessarily cheap to maintain.

The first two shots are from Providence Island, Quebec. Providence Island, a little community of about 10 houses remains pretty and remote. These days it is a summer getaway for the people of Tete a la Baleine (Head of the Whale), a small mainland community of a couple hundred people in far eastern Quebec. Tete a la Baleine is only accessable by boat (one a week) or small plane and is roughly 250 miles from the nearest road. I always find it fascinating that people is who live in small remote places like Tete a la Baleine feel the need for a summer getaway.

Historically, Providence Island was a summer fishing station closer to the ocean fishing grounds. I guess when its 1900 and you fish from a small dory that you row to the fish, then being 6 miles closer to the fish was a big advantage. But nobody wanted to stay on Providence Island during the winter since the island's highest point is only about 20 feet above high tide and winter storms could make it uncomfortable.

Speaking of a fixer upper, you might be able to get this one for a good price. Woody Point, Newfoundland is a great spot, but unfortunately, the locals are under pressure from rich outsiders looking to buy weekend homes.

Welcome to Entende Cordial. So here is the history. Back in 1900, the owner of several fish packing plants came to the northwest coast of Newfoundland and started a lobster packing plant and small town to support it. This was the finest house in the town, built by the factory owner himself for his family. His grand daughter still lives on the property. Just not in the house.

So keep those old houses going. After all, the wood they were made from was much cheaper than wood today.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The New Chrysler

Go ahead, click on the image. I think its even better up close.

In case you hadn't figured it out, Chrysler is the chicken with the helmet in this story. I've had this picture on my filing cabinet for years, but today it hit me, this is what Chrysler has done in the past, this is what we have to do again, figure out a way to do things differently so we don't get pounded into breasts and drumsticks.

So there you go Mr. Congressman, we're going to put on our helmet, stand up on our toes, and look Mabel right in the eye. That's our plan. That, plus a few billion dollars, and we'll be driving the country back to prosperity.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Silver City Coffee Shop Story

Some of you may recognize this picture from my earlier, Silver City, NM post. Now it turns out that this is a main corner in Silver City. I liked it for the people sitting out on the sidewalk and for the Moto Guzzi motorcycle in the picture. Now it turns out that Bob has a story about this corner and those chairs, but so far, I haven't convinced him to tell it on his blog, Heatrave. Its his story, so I can't tell it. Besides, having been there, I'm sure he can embelish the story much better than I. So what do you say Bob?

Reasons for a Happy Dance

There are lots of reasons to feel down these days. But every now and then, I find myself doing the happy dance for no good reason. Sometimes its the respect of a colleague or a good conversation with a good friend over lunch. This time, I came up with a solution to problem on the bike that looks like nothing, but had me dancing around the living room with the stereo turned up loud.

In the process of changing over to an electronic speed sensor, I had the problem of keeping the wire from flopping around when the suspension travels. I came up with this idea that puts wire in a hose and makes it look like the brake hose on the other side. Better yet, I had all of the materials on hand, so it cost nothing and only took was a little time. Hence the happy dance.

So I'm going to use this experience as a reminder to show respect my coworkers, spend time with friends and family, and take pleasure in the little successes in life.

Here is wishing you many happy dances for no reason at all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Video Blogging

This is an experiment for me. Just an attempt to see how to imbed a video in a blog. So far, its easy.

This video was sent to me by my friend Corena. She finds all kinds of funny things. Naturally, I've already sent this on to the bicycle madman, John. For the rest of you, this looks like a great idea until you realize that if you stop, you sink, and keeping going takes a lot of energy.