Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Early NASCAR Women: Sara Christian

Hi folks -- every day I learn more about auto racing history, and it is absolutely fascinating what one uncovers. In reading a public relations history of NASCAR published in the early 1970's, W.E. Butterworth's The High Wind, I ran across driver Sara Christian (1918-1980). A flash in the pan, so to speak, nonetheless significant in many ways in a sport that was regarded as masculine, particularly in the immediate post-WWII era. Sara competed in NASCAR's first race at Charlotte on June, 19, 1949, qualifying 13 in a car owned by her husband, Frank Christian. Later, she competed in the second Daytona Beach Road Course on July 10, 1949, finishing 18th. Husband Frank also competed in that race, finishing 6th, and thus the couple were the only ones to compete together in a NASCAR event. Other races during 1949 followed, and Sara finished 13th in the overall point standings that year. In 1950 Sara competed in only one event, finishing 14th at the 12th race at the Hamburg, NY Raceway.

What became of Sara Christian? Did she leave a scrapbook, or other race memorabilia? We need to learn far more about this woman who played an important role in automobile history.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Additional Term Paper Topics, HST 485, Seminar on the Automobile and American Life, Fall, 2010

Chris Economaki, the Dean of American Motorsports

Additional Possible Term Paper Topics, History 485, fall, 2010

Late 19th century Horse Racing in America
Bicycle Racing in the U.S., late 19th and early 20th century
Changes in the Technology of Timing Automobile Races
The Persistance of Dirt Track and Short Track Racing – Eldora and Shady Bowl, Ohio
Fred Funk and Racing in Dayton Ohio, 1936-1984
Politicians and Racing Safety
Wilbur Shaw, the Hulman Family, and the Resurgence of Indy after 1946
Ed Winfield and the Mystique of the Novi Race Cars
Safety and Racing at the Indy 500, post – WWII
Novels, Young Adults, and Auto Racing, 1950-1970
Post WWII Toys and Automobile Racing: Ray Cox and the Thimble Dome, Aurora and Slot Car Racing
Television and Automobile Racing --- 1950s and 1960s
Chris Economaki, the Dean of American Motor Sports
The Ford Motor Company and Racing, 1960s
Film and Outlaw Road Racing Post-Oil Shock I: Brock Yates; Cannonball (1976); The Cannonball Run (1981); Gumball Rally (1976)
Women and Sports Car Racing, 1950s – Denise McCluggage and others
NASCAR and Hollywood: Fireball 500 (1966) Red Line 7000 (1967); Speedway (1968) Days of thunder (1990); Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2008).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Death of Car Culture in America? The Social Consequences of the Internet Revolution?

Hi folks -- I ran across an interesting blur in the most recent edition of the Porsche Club of America magazine, Panorama. The header was entitled "Is 'car culture' dying in the U.S.?"

Here is what followed:

"It may well be, according to Automotive News, who postulates that just as the Internet has blasted music sales and dramatically altered the landscape for news media, so it has for the car industry for teenagers and 20-somethings. They note that the automobile is becoming less relevant for the under-30 crowd as this group depends more on social media for more immediate connection to their friends and peers vs. the direct contact of just a decade ago. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation data, in 1978 about half of eligible 16 year-olds and three-fourths of eligible 17-year olds had their driver's licenses. This decline has accelerated rapidly since 1998. Author William Draves (Nine Shift: Work, Life, and Eduction in the 21st Century) says that the digital; age is reshaping the world now as much as the automobile reshaped American life in the 1900s. Digital technology allows these teenagers to transcend time and place. He also says that the environment is a reason often given for why these Gen-Y teens drive less."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eddie Sachs -- from my early memories of the INDY 500

Known as the clown prince of auto racing, Eddie Sachs looms large in my memories from childhood. At the very time I began to take interest in the INDY 500, Eddie was at his best, although he never won an INDY race. He did come close, finishing 2nd in 1961, 3rd in 1962, and on the pole in 1960 and 1961. He is best remembered for being involved in a fatal accident in 1964 that also killed Dave MacDonald. The late 1950s and early 1960s was perhaps the last era during which racing at the Brickyard was so dangerous, and at times fatal for the unlucky few. Thanks, Eddie, for all that you did!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tony's 1967 Mercury Cougar -- an update

Hi folks -- right now I am visiting my daughter (Lisa) and son-in-law (Tony) in Escondido, CA. While I was taking a nap today, in a bedroom next to the garage, I heard a bunch of noise. It was Tony taking the seats out of the Cougar, or at least trying to, as he temporarily lost a socket in a bad spot under the floor pan. Finally he got the sets out and it is time soon to weld in a new drivers side floor pan. Here are a few photos of the car's engine and the job that faces him next!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Cruising The Grand" -- Escondido, CA, Friday, August 13

My son-in-law Tony Ryno

A very nice Alfa
I love these old T-Birds! Unusual color and ContinetalKit

A Rebel in liberal California -- I wonder what the Brothers think of this!

The crowds -- note the families and children here

A 429 Ford -- "The Raptor"

Nice period display with 1957 Ford station wagon

Nice car, nice girl taking photo!

Hi folks -- back in CA again and loving it like usual. Friday night, along with my wife Kaye, daughter Lisa and son-in-law Tony we all went to a cruise-in that takes place every Friday night in downtown Escondido, CA. This event is so California Car Culture! There were the dragsters that had a sound off -- it will shatter your eardrums. There were the two bands on Grand street. Tons of people, visiting the shops that stay open late, the bars that are filled with cougars, more 55-57 Chevys than you have ever seen in one place, old cars, newer cars to 1973, hot rods, customs, 1955-57 Thunderbirds, and above all so many friendly faces.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Henry Ford's Legacy-- Initials Etched in a School Desk!

You can thank former colleague and friend Ed Garten for this post. What follows is taken from two emails sent to me from Ed:

John, I was up in Dearborn this past weekend and walked into the Scotch Settlement School in Greenfield Village (as you know the actual school in which Henry Ford attended elementary school).
they have a new "exhibit" in the rear of the school. Seems there is documented evidence that Henry sat in the rear, the second seat from the rear and they have the seat in which he carved his initials -- an odd way to carve H F --written as one joined letter. See the attached photo I took of the knife-carved initials that they have under a sheet of plexiglass.

John Sloan, his Paintings that Included the Automobile, and his Commentary about American Values

John Sloan, ca. 1916, "Hill, Main Street, Gloucester"
Sloan had a car enthusiast friend, Randall Davey, and his car adventures were interpreted in the artist's later work. The painting represents the speed and freedom (and kicked up dust!) that were gained during various auto trips, primarily in the southwest. Sloan, who began as a critic of the automobile and American values, slowly caught up with the more exhilarating possibilities of auto travel.
"The Movey Troup," 1920. Here Sloan equates the automobile with stardom, wealth, and the American Dream. Stars and their cars remains an interest fro many Americans -- see MTV's "Cribs."
John Sloan -- "Indian Detour" -- 1927 -- buses, tourists, and travelers surround a group so Santa Fe Indians while performing a ritual dance! No longer is it the wagons surrounding migrating settlers, as was the case in the 19th century. A new era of freedom, indeed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Auto Racing and Art: Two Familiar Early Examples

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Automobilist, 1896. Lithograph, 14 3/4 x 10 1/2.Perhaps he earliest work of a major modern artist featuring the image of an automobile. Lautrec portrayed his cousin in a fuming vehicle in this diagonally divided composition. The intense driver is contrasted with a shadowy background figure of a promenader and a dog. It is the new century, filled with technological possibilities, that is contrasted with the old.

George Gaudy's 1898 poster announces the new race course at Brussels' Spa. Father time is behind the wheel of a moving automobile, with speed as the emphasis. Swirling lines spin off the tires of the vehicle driven by Father Time. Does time change because of the inherent speed of the car? It is the end of the century, the end of an age.