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Going Racing

I do not think I can just jump into "how I got started in car racing" without providing some background in how I got interested in cars in the first place.  My story is not unique, but it may help some readers who are not born and bred car guys. So here goes.

I was drawn to car racing slowly after missing an opportunity when I was 8 or 9 years old. My dad raced karts for a couple of years around 1960-62. I got to spend a lot of time in his kart as I broke in engines and tested on the Darley Moor circuit near Ashbourne Derbyshire in England. I did not get to race before he gave up the sport after at least two near death crashes 😒.  


I liked the feeling of driving. I was lucky that my dad was a car guy and he either funded or partly funded some of my first cars. My first car was a 1964 Ford Anglia with a 997cc four cylinder. I hand timed a 0-60 time of over twenty seconds! My dad and I took the head off, de-coked the head and reground the valves. This got the 0-60 time down to about 13 seconds, but it was my first attempt at going faster mechanics. The other odd thing we did to this car was to paint it yellow with boy racer black stripes. That was not what was odd. We brush painted the car with what my dad called "coach paint." My guess it was a lacquer paint as it really gave a nice finish. Virtually nobody figured out it was hand painted.

Having read how you could swap the crank and rods from a 1340cc Ford Classic, that was our next project.  We also added a Stromberg carburetor. It was indeed, quite a bit faster, but sensing imminent doom, from our engineering I sold the car after driving about 800 miles. Sure enough, the next owner blew the motor.


I drove a 1966 Cortina GT at Loughborough University, and then a 1970 TVR Vixen.  When I got my first job as a teacher in 1976 I moved up to a 1973 TVR 3000M.

First Car:  1964 Ford Anglia

1970 TVR Vixen S2

1973 TVR 3000M

In 1978, I emigrated to the United States to go to graduate school.  After taking a loan out, not sure what I was thinking!, I had a 1976 455 cu in Trans Am 4 speed.  I soon settled in to the reality of graduate school life with a 1973 AMC Matador, which had crash damage, but ran OK.  I paid $200 for the car and drove it 60,000 miles all over the Eastern US.

In 1985, as I was about to graduate from the University of Illinois, I bought a TVR 2500 M.  I drove out to Washington DC in the Matador to pick up the car, towing it home on a U-Haul tow dolly. The car had no bonnet/hood.  I found one in Dallas for $200 and paid a student $50 to pick it up on the way back from Spring Break in Corpus Christie, Texas. With the help of a local mechanic, I got the car running and in the fall of 1985 I drove it from Champaign, Illinois to Mobile Alabama.  There was no rear window in the car and pulling off to rest in the middle of the night resulted in multiple mosquito bites. Once in Alabama, I found a local guy to paint it. His estimate was classic:  "Paint car all over for $500" Which he did.  I paid another $25 to get the car buffed out, all over.  His cousin did the entire interior for another $400.


In the late summer of 1986, I moved to Chicago to take a job in the health care industry.  The Matador had gone through its second transmission and I sold it the night before I left Mobile for $30. I had an uneventful and pleasant drive from Mobile back to Champaign. Looking back, I was lucky that the TVR was really pretty solid mechanically. I had driven the car as a daily drive in the summer of 1986, in sultry Mobile. It usually rained in the afternoon most days, the wipers worked, but Rain X was better than those emasculated British wipers.


By September of 1986, I was focused on beginning a  sales career with Sandoz Nutrition. The TVR saw very little use except for the occasional car show, which led to new friends in the TVR car club. I now had a company car! Relative to the Matador or and TVR it was so nice just to jump in and drive.  The company car, also set me on the pathway for 30 years when I pretty much never bought my own gas/petrol. It was all too easy.

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