Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sy used to own Grand Prix Motors in East Rutherford NJ. He shut it down in the late 60's because Lotus would ship him new cars with used engines and it created quite a problem.

the 2 litre Coventry Climax Lotus 15

His father came over to America as in indentured servant.

He walked from Minsk to the seacoast when he was 15 and got passage on a boat courtesy of a tailor who paid his passage (which was $10).

He worked for him for a year, sleeping on the ironing board, in order to pay off the $10. (This was a common Russian Jewish immigrant story.) He worked for him for another year to earn $15 with which he bought a pushcart and went into business for himself.

Eventually he became very successful in the dress business and had his own firm, Wasserman and Kaback, making ladies' dresses. As he became more successful he moved up in the world, got married, had kids, and became one of the first Jewish families to move to Riverdale, N.Y.

When the time came his son, Sy, applied to NYU where he went into engineering and joined the Army ROTC in 1941. When he signed on, he was disappointed that his mother made him sell his Indian motorcycle.

 Though his unit was activated, Sy was kept in school by the Army as they needed engineers. He was transferred regularly, starting at NYU, moving to Rutgers, the University of Illinois, etc. "The kids in the class just ahead of us were sent to work on the atomic bomb." Upon graduation, he received his degree in Mechanical Engineering from New York University in 1946

After the war ended Sy and his wife raced hydroplanes in upstate New York. These hydroplanes were very small, light , high performance watercraft not unlike a sports car for the water.

The first sports car race he entered was the 1953 Bridgehampton Road Race. This turned out to be the last year of the race through the streets of Bridgehampton--it was stopped on the 7th lap when Harry Gray flipped his Jaguar C-Type at the bridge.


 In his early racing career, Sy raced almost every weekend, driving either midgets or sport scars. Gradually, it became obvious to Sy that the sports car racers earning the checkered flag were often driving Lotus cars.


Another of Sy's early cars (around 1954) was an HRG with a Buick engine which was an early version of the all aluminum engines. The HRG was a modern car styled after the classic pre-war sport scars. He had terrible crash in the HRG at Watertown, N.Y., his apparent injuries sufficient to prompt the officials to pronounce him dead at the scene. They even called his father to come and pick up the body! Needless to say, they were wrong. He had broken his nose, teeth, shoulder and three ribs, and punctured a lung. Sy made a quick recovery and was back at work within a week.


There is a lot more to his story, but I leave that to you to dive into if you wish. Around 1960 or 61 he formed Grand Prix Imported Cars in Rutherford NJ " hoping that it would underwrite some of my racing expenses. That did not work out. It was a secondary business as I was very busy with Weathermatic at the time. Absentee owners don't seem to profit much in the car business. I started it in 1961 and closed it in 1963. It was a headache which didn't provide any assistance to my racing career."

Sy goes on to explain the gentleman race driver's situation in the early 60's ­ the end of an era in which any sports car racer of sufficient means could buy a competitive car, and mix it up with the best drivers and cars the world had to offer:
 It might be interesting for you to know that when I was racing cars it was sort of the last period when an individual could decide to go racing. Everyone I knew who did this wound up "hocking the ranch" to do this. There were a lot of unhappy wives. And they didn't do it for long. But they could do it.

I'll leave you with this, he raced with/against, Mark Donohue, Stirling Moss, Mario Andretti,

http://www.simplesevens.org/sykaback/02.htm

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