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Catching Up On 50 Years

The gap in time between when I sat watching those early broadcasts of Indy and NASCAR races on my family’s black and white TV and when I finally got into a race car is about 50 years, which is also the age of the car I now race. And by race I mean endurance road race, and Bonneville salt flats race, and car shows, and museum exhibits, and cross-country jaunts. After 50 years with my car life on hold, I have a few things to catch up on, and I’d start by racing the Tinyvette.

For me, racing was always out of reach. Too busy, too broke, too small a tool box. Then one day, a chance meeting with friend Alan Brattesani at a local tire shop. I joked that we should get an Opel GT, dress it up like one of the Corvettes that are doing so well at Le Mans, and race it in Lemons. We laughed and continued on with our days, but an hour or so later I had an email from Alan about an eBay GT in our area. Five days and $500 later I had two stinking field-find GTs stuffed into my one-car carport. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s when my life took a serious turn.

The next morning the two of us stood there, looking at the cars. The blue one had less rust. Lets go with that one. Okay. Now, where to start? Let’s check the front brakes and bearings. I guess they looked okay. Putting them back together was a different story. It’s a good thing we had an intact parts car nearby to serve as our guide. That’s where we were back then in terms of wrenching skills.

Two weeks later… (to be continued)

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Two weeks later we had vacuumed out 8 gallons of rat and rot and had taken everything off the car we weren’t afraid to touch. We celebrated the end of the “breaking rusty bolts” phase about the same time we put the first part back on the car, and a week later we celebrated again when the engine started and ran. We were so lucky. We knew next to nothing about engines at the time.

Another two weeks later and the car was caged and had a fresh gas tank, brakes, wheels, and tires, so we took it to Thunderhill for some testing and came back home with a long list of things to fix.

A few weeks later, it was crunch time. Our race was on Saturday and we leave for the track on Thursday. It was Sunday evening and I had just rollered on the first coat of primer. It was gorgeous, if only because the car was now only one color. The next morning it got another and that night it got paint, glorious Rust-Oleum Sunburst Yellow, more or less just like Corvette Racing’s cars. The next morning, after gently sanding the dead bugs off, it got a second coat.

On Wednesday I worked through the night finishing the electrical system, taking care not to rub up against the still soft paint. Shortly after sunrise Thursday the guys showed up to help pack. By mid-afternoon the car was on the trailer, and just after daybreak on Friday it was in our pits at Thunderhill Raceway. Just nine weeks, from hantavirus-infested heap to a reasonable approximation of a race car. We had made it. Now we just needed to race it.

To be continued…