Saturday, August 05, 2017

John Fitch, far more than just a race car driver, and more than a racing team director. Not only did he date JFK's sister, he was manager of Lime Rock, inventor of the sand barrel safety barrier saving over 17,000 lives, and a WW2 fighter pilot in the P51 Mustang

To think of him only on terms of a Gran Prix race car driver is to miss the majority of his astonishing life.

But learn from that. To think of most people in terms of just one thing, is to miss the big picture of their lives, and odds are you'll have missed the better parts.

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1917. He was a descendent of the inventor of the steamboat, John Fitch. Fitch's stepfather was an executive with the Stutz Motor Company, which introduced him to cars and racing at an early age.

When WW2 broke out, he volunteered in spring of 1941, for the United States Army Air Corps. His service took him to North Africa, where he flew the A-20 Havoc and then on to England. By 1944, Captain Fitch was a P-51 Mustang pilot with the Fourth Fighter Group on bomber escort missions, and became one of the Americans to shoot down a German Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

When Fitch returned to the U.S., he was among many young pilots who’d developed the need for speed during the conflict. He became part of the Palm Springs set, hanging out with Joe Kennedy’s sons including Jack and Bobby, and dating his daughter. But he was increasingly interested in racing and by the 1950s had started to devote more and more time to the sport.

Fitch opened an MG car dealership and also began racing at  Bridgehampton, and Watkins Glen.

In 1951, he raced the Fitch-Whitmore, a Jaguar XK120 to which he had fit a lightweight aluminium body, saving 800 pounds.

Fitch was so good he caught the attention of Briggs Cunningham, then rebuilt a Cadillac-powered Allard J2 from a wreck  and won the 1951 Gran Premio de Eva Duarte Perón – Sport

As a result of that win, the trophy and a kiss were given by Eva Perón, and he won the support of Cunningham, and got a seat with the Cunningham team at several races, including the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans, scoring a number of impressive victories at Elkhart Lake and Watkins Glen, and was crowned the first SCCA National Sports Car Champion.

And it was in Cunninghams that he would win his class at Le Mans in both 1951 and 1953, coming third overall, and he won the '53 Sebring 12 Hours.

In 1953, Fitch won the 12 Hours of Sebring, in a Chrysler-powered Cunningham C4R, was named "Sports Car Driver of the Year" by Speed Age magazine.
He raced a Cunningham C4R and Cunningham C5R for the Cunningham team,
competing in European rallies in a Sunbeam-Talbot for the Sunbeam team,
raced a Porsche 356 at Nürburgring,
competed in the Mille Miglia in a Nash-Healey for the factory team,
drove a Cooper Monaco for the Cooper team in the Aix-les-Bains Grand Prix
drove in the RAC Tourist Trophy race in a works Frazer Nash,
then took his rookie test for the Indy 500 in a Kurtis-Kraft-Offenhauser

In 1955 he was team-mate and co-driver with Fangio and Stirling Moss in a 300SLR, winning the RAC Tourist Trophy at Dundrod

For 1955, Fitch won the Gran Turismo oltre 1300 class in the Mille Miglia in at the wheel of a stock production Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, coming in fifth overall behind his team-mates Moss and Fangio in their Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR racers.

When he returned from racing in Europe at the end of the ’55 season, Fitch was chosen by Chevrolet Chief Engineer Ed Cole to head the new eight-driver Chevrolet Corvette racing team for two years.

Although Fitch would race on into the 1960s, after his awful experiences in 1955 he began to focus his considerable mental and physical energies on improving safety, not just for race car drivers, but everyone on the road. His most famous and greatest achievement was the Fitch barrier, a system of sand-filled barrels designed to protect drivers from impact with the end of guard rail or the pit wall inspired by sand-filled fuel cans which he used to protect his tent from strafing during the war.

With considerable bravery Fitch conducted multiple crash tests with himself at the wheel, and filmed by high speed cameras to perfect his theory. Affordable, easy to replace and remarkably effective, Fitch barriers soon became common sights all over North America.

Stirling won the 1955 Mille Miglia in a record time that would never be beaten, and that he did so aided not only by Denis Jenkinson's scrollable roll of pace notes he brought with him. Less well known is that it was Fitch who was meant to be driving Jenks and it was Fitch who had the idea for the pace notes.

But it was also Fitch who recognized that he had no chance of winning in a standard 300SL road car, but that the notes might enable Moss in his 300SLR racer to beat the Italians on home soil, something that had only been done twice in the history of the race and not since the war. It was Fitch who leant Moss both Jenks and the idea for the magic role of notes and I think his role in that victory is too often overlooked. As for his own performance in the race, with a German reporter with no knowledge of the thousand mile lap for a passenger, Fitch still came fifth overall in a standard road car, beaten only by factory prototypes.

Fitch did, however, return to racing at 87 years of age in 2003 and 2005, when he teamed up with a  50-year-old Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR at Bonneville in an attempt to break the land speed record for the class.
The fuel injection pump limited the top speed to only 150 mph, and with characteristic self-deprecating humour, Fitch noted that he had driven those cars faster than that in the rain, at night, on a road with 60 other cars.

A few years earlier, Fitch did set a speed record – for driving backwards, reaching 60 mph, set at Lime Rock

a look back at Top Gear fun

for some people motivation can be very different. Making yourself unhireable to common companies by tatting your face, neck and head, is one way to insure you'll succeed on your own, according to Gary Queen

Finding that most people won't train anyone to do good work as a job security principle, meant learning their jobs off the clock, so he went to work when the 1st guy got there everyday, 530, and learned his job before his own shift started at 8

He got his start in custom painting at collision repair shops in Austin. He learned the trade from the ground up. His job was taping off cars before they were painted, but he would come into the shop hours ahead of his shift to learn the other guys’ jobs. It was the only way to break out of the dead end job of taping.

His boss at the time told him he didn’t want to teach him how to airbrush because he was afraid Queen would take his job. So Queen bought an airbrush and practiced in his garage. Over one weekend, he painted his truck.

“I pulled my truck next to his truck on Monday morning. My truck whooped his truck’s ass. I said, thanks for not teaching me how to paint. You were my motivation,” says Queen.

Queen worked his way up to a Lexus dealership, doing the repainting after collision repairs, but his tattoos got him in trouble with the boss, so he quit.

“When I opened my own shop, I had one tattoo on the back of my neck. I said, 'If I put tattoos on my head I'm going to make it to where nobody will hire me; that will make me have to work harder at my own business,'” says Queen.

Queen switched from airbrushing to run his growing business, and hired two full-time airbrush artists, Mike Cissell and Tim Murphy. Both used to work at American IronHorse, a now defunct custom motorcycle manufacturer and Murphy is a trained artist who went to art school in Boston.

Murphy had a 20-year career as a custom engraver but said the work became physically painful, clutching tools day after day. He wanted to be an airbrush artist so after moving to Texas, he began working for American IronHorse. When it closed down, he came over to Other Side Customs.

Cissell had been a muralist and was doing airbrushing side jobs for friends, eventually building up a customer base. At one point he opened a mixed-use space so he could operate a gallery and give airbrush lessons in addition to his custom paint work, but had to shut it down because the city hassled him about the ceiling, not having separate bathrooms for each gender and not having enough ventilation.

for the little kid born with a silver spoon

this really is stunning. For other interesting interior design things, I have a Tumblr  because they aren't vehicle related

reminds me of the jokes that were printed and zeroxed in the early 80s, then emailed in the late 90s. 20 years later we Facebook them

Facebook is making a change in the way people post photos. Instead of paying for a website, people make a facebook page, and then anyone with a similar passion for that topic can add their photos... and then link other similar pages. Like these Australian and New Zealand old gas stations and tow truck pages  Australia Service Station Photos  New Zealand Service Station Photos  Petrol Tankers Australia and New Zealand

This is the worst excuse for a road I've ever seen. It needs a bulldozer to make it resemble a road! However, the Mercedes Benz truck? Does an incredible job, what a free commercial for MB!

Ambositra to Ambinanindrano Madagascar

on set photos from Smokey and the Bandit

Friday, August 04, 2017

On Christmas Day, December 25, 1830, the Best Friend of Charleston became the first regularly scheduled steam locomotive passenger train in the United States.

The locomotive made its initial run on the first six miles of track of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. Chartered in 1827, the same year that the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was incorporated, the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company steamed out of Charleston. The new line was designed to make Charleston competitive with Savannah, Georgia, for the cotton trade.

Over the next three years the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company became, for a time, the world’s longest railway line. The company was a predecessor of J. P. Morgan’s Southern Railway Company, which grew out of the realignment of southern railways following the Civil War.

This "Best Friend" was built in the late 1920's for the centennial of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company.

According to a report in the City Gazette, November 22, 1821 issue, a railroad was suggested to run from Charleston to Hamburg and a branch on to Columbia. Horatio Allen (1802-1890) was the chief engineer for The South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company from 1829 – 1835. (This line is now a part of the Southern Railway System.) On December 19, 1827, The South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company was chartered. Work began, January 9, 1830, on the line to Branchville, SC which was 62 miles from Charleston and it was opened in November, 1832. The line to Hamburg (adjacent to Augusta, GA) was opened on October 1, 1833. The line was now the longest continuous railroad in the world, 136 miles in length, and first to carry the US mail. (Derrick 1930, 10) This route took passengers on the 11 ½ hour trip with 7 stops for $6.75 one way. (Edgar 1998, 283)

The “Best Friend” had a brief, but historic, life. It was completed and put into regular service on December 25, 1830. On June 17, 1831, three men were injured in an explosion. A tied down safety valve due to the noise of the steam escaping, caused the boiler to blow up. Parts of the “Best Friend” were used in construction of the “Phoenix.” The “Best Friend” having been designed by C.E. Detmold, chief engineer was Horatio Allen, who early on advocated steam power locomotion and Nicholas W. Darrell became the first railway engineer. Nicholas W. Darrell died in 1869 after running engines for many years and having the distinction of being the first man to open the throttle on the “Best Friend.” The “Best Friend of Charleston” was modeled after its forerunner “Best Friend” and was known as the first locomotive built in the United States and used in service of transportation. (Southern Railway System, 1)

The "Stourbridge Lion," in 1829 was the first locomotive to run on tracks in America.
 The  "Best Friend of Charleston," in 1830 was the first locomotive to pull a train in America, carrying ca. forty-five passengers at speeds up to 21 mph.

The "John Bull," first ran in 1831 and today exists as the oldest complete engine preserved in the United States.

The "Brother Jonathan," was built in 1832 and reigned for many years as the world's fastest locomotive, credited with speeds up to 60 mph.

The "Gowan and Marx," was built in 1939 and so powerful it could haul forty times its own weight.

and that is the origin of steam locomotives in the USA

an 1846 map for travelers through the United States of America showing the railroads, canals & stage roads with the distances, and Disturnell's new map showing all the canals, rail roads, telegraph lines and principal stage routes.

Indicates drainage, state boundaries and shows many cities and towns with distances along roads and railroads. Indian tribes are indicated west of the Mississippi River.

Insets: Railroads & canal routes from Albany to Buffalo.--Map showing the rail roads between the cities of New York, Boston & Albany and the Hudson R. from N. York to Albany.--Rail road route from New York to Philadelphia.--Rail road route from Philadelphia to Washington.

Map of the United States and territories showing the extent of public surveys, Indian and military reservations, land grant R.R.; rail roads, canals, and other details

but seriously, to really have a good time looking at this map, go to and select "Download Tiff 1004.4 MB" and zoom in to look at everything in fine focused detail

The 4094-D is the largest fireless steam locomotive ever built and was originally built for the Hammermill Paper Company in Erie.

a "Fireless" type locomotive, often described as a giant thermos bottle. Fireless locomotives were used in industrial plants that had steam generating equipment for other purposes. They received and stored steam, and were able to run for a number of hours in switching duties.

running gear of the first electric locomotives were an evolution of the steam locomotives, just with an electric motor replacing all the steam generation equipment.

Image from the 1922 Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice which is now in the public domain

cool old fuel tanker... you don't see many this old still around

1966 AMC brochures were the most RWB booklets I've seen that weren't part of the spirit of '76

And I had never heard of the Americana magazine that AMC was putting out.

the AMC "Ceramic-Armored" exhaust

The exhaust system featured a "Ceramic-Armored" muffler.

The muffler and tailpipe were dipped at the factory in a liquid ceramic material and then fired at a higher temperature.

After that, the muffler was wrapped in asbestos followed by a galvanized steel shield.

So sure was AMC that the muffler and tailpipe were ironclad, they were guaranteed against rusting through as long as the original owner had the car.

This was done as early as the 61-62 Rambler, and as late as the 66 marlin

5 years went by real fast since Ray Evernham built the Nascar style 1964 Belvedere, and now it's for sale again

It's asking price is 249 thou.

There's no mention of how many miles have been put on it.

Toyota and Mazda have announced plans to build a $1.6 billion manufacturing plant in the United States

The Japanese automakers said in a statement Friday that the facility would be operational by 2021, but did not specify where it would be built.

Mazda plans to build new crossover vehicles for the U.S. market at the plant, while Toyota will produce its Corolla model there.

The move is likely to be seen as a win for President Trump, who attacked Toyota earlier this year over its plans to build a new factory in Guanajuato, Mexico. He threatened to slap a "big border tax" on Toyota cars if the plant isn't built in the U.S.

"The Dugout" sandwich stand, famous for French dip sandwiches, was surrounded by sandbags and had a WW1 plane crashed into its roof... that is pretty clever humorous marketing

for over 50 years Tillie Hattrup ran this roadside ice cream refreshment stand, designed and built by her husband, with Buick headlights for eyes, the head rotated, and the sign was old theater marque letters

The owl was built on Valley Blvd in Rosemead in 1926 and moved soon after to a better location three blocks away.

 In 1928 the owl was trucked down to South Gate, where it stood at 8404 Long Beach Blvd for about 20 years.

 It was by this time called the Hoot Owl Cafe, serving more than ice cream.

In 1949 the owl moved again, this time to 8711 Long Beach Blvd. It lasted there for 30 yeears.

The first move happened as Tillie sought better business by going to an area with potentially more customers. The next relocation (some 3 blocks away) became necessary after the land the building was on was sold to a new owner.

I seriously doubt the world would allow for any of us to build and run a business like this for the next 50 years. Today the permits alone would cost more than the above building did 90 years ago

But it seems Roy done her wrong in the 30's and up and disappeared. The census points out that she was a single mom in 1940.

 (Roy Hattrup, you single handedly ruined the impeccable reputation of Roy's everywhere, there never was a Roy I didn't admire til you. Roys that were the trademark of terrific character include Roy Rodgers, Disney, Orbison, Clark, Benavidez, Acuff, and O'Bannon)

Toonerville Trolley Sandwich Shop, 1920s Los Angeles

A Rolls Royce with an exhaust whistle musical pipe... I've never seen anything like this before

Thanks Andy! This was photographed at a stop of the Franklin Club's 64th Trek across New York state, in a small town near Syracuse

it looks like Travis is moving out of San Diego and up to Seattle... damn.

So he had to start driving his hot rods up to his new place, and the '40 I've admired that he's fixed up over the years was the recent moved car.

Made it all the way up the West coast with only one small problem, a fuse blew on the lights, but was quickly fixed.

On the way up though, he was stuck in traffic in Los Angeles, on the 5, and some random guy jumps out and hands him a Cuban cigar, telling him he deserved it for driving this cool old car

Another great guy moving on and out for a better life than this overexpensive underpaying city was going to help out.

What the heck will he do with the cool boat he fixed up?

Now he has both his cool old cars up north

Check out his blog at to follow along on this life changing event as everything gets relocated 

a parody of the Ken Block gymkhana videos

rip offs of the Monkeemobile

Why did they try and sell the Monkeemobile GTO as something else? I can't think of a reason.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

What did the letters GTX represent?

Gas Tires Xtras
Gas Tires and X Wife
Goat Xtreminator
Got To Xcelerate
Grand touring ..... xtreme?
Gran Tour Express
Grand touring experimental.
Grand touring exterminator
Gran Turismo eXecutive
Good Times eXtravaganza
G reat T orque X perience
Great To Excess.

According to Jack Smith, it was a business decision to just take the GTO name since they were selling so well. They couldn't use GTO, so they came up with GTX. He said the X didn't really mean anything, and was just a letter they decided to use.

In Jack's words...

"I was there to become the manager of the mid-sized Plymouth product planning group. When I got that job, one of my first chores was to field something that could compete with that GTO. Thus, the Plymouth GTX was born. Frankly, it was just a philosophical copy of the GTO. We took a premium Belvedere with a premium interior, premium accoutrements and moldings—all that stuff—and added the biggest engine that Chrysler had, the 440 four-barrel. A very strong car! It could easily compete with the GTO.

"And I can tell you how we got GTX, if you want to know. What does that X mean? It's just a letter. We arrived at it in sort of a logical way, but it was a copy of GTO."

or they are all wrong and Ma Mopar actually did print a definition: