Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Greece is the Word! is viewed around the world and as a result we have received this photograph of a vintage TQ Midget... in Greece!

Constantin Sourelis of Evnia Automobiles, a collector-car broker in Switzerland, contacted us regarding a 1960 TQ that he is offering for sale on behalf of a client in Greece.

The car is fully restored and appears beautiful in all details, but in our view is optimistically priced at €24,000 (24,000 Euros). At the moment that this is written, the Euro-to-Dollar conversion makes that $31,500. Plus shipping. Yikes.  Update 1/18/13:  The seller has revised the price to a much more realistic and attractive US$16,000, including shipping to the US!

The car was built in 1960 in Florida by a racer named J.W. Payne, and was raced at the Florida City Speedway near Homestead, as well as at tracks in or near Jacksonville, Hialeah, and Palm Beach through at least 1966. After passing through several owners and suffering several periods of neglect, the car was given a high-dollar restoration in 1996.

It was not an ATQMRA-legal car, it ran on an alcohol-nitro mix with twin Dellorto carburetors and has a number of details that were perfectly legal in Florida TQ racing but which did not conform to ATQMRA rules. Not that we care today – all vintage TQs are welcome in the Vintage Club.

It is not clear how the car came to be in Greece, but Greece is where it is.

The sale of the car includes extensive documentation in two large files, with period photographs and even home movie footage – which can be seen here on Youtube. The photo below of J.W. Payne winning a race shows a sister car, Payne built three cars in all.

The car can be seen on the Evnia Automobiles web site, just scroll down a bit past the Bentleys and the Jaguars to find the TQ.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Camden Cop

One of the top drivers in the ATQMRA in the early 1960s was George Sweeten, shown here in his signature number 54. He raced at Teaneck, Pine Brook, Old Bridge, Wall Stadium and elsewhere in those years.

But despite being the club’s 1965 driver co-champion and winning one of the big indoor races in Atlantic City in 1966, he quit racing because his family perceived it as being too dangerous.

Sweeten then took up something hardly without risk: He became a cop in Camden. In case you are not familiar with the city of Camden, New Jersey, there are few places tougher for police work.

He joined the Camden Police Department in 1969. Already in his 30s when most police rookies were in their 20s, Sweeten was nicknamed "Pappy" by his fellow officers. He served Camden for 25 years before retiring in 1994, having risen to the rank of Detective.

George Sweeten passed away in December, 2007, at the age of 74.

Sweeten was remembered by a former police partner as "a good guy to work with, straight as an arrow so you didn't have to worry about him. He was an honest cop, an all-around good guy." Those who were around the ATQMRA when Sweeten was racing will also describe him as an all-around good guy. He conducted himself like a gentleman and was an easy fan favorite.

When George Sweeten set racing aside he was not without a hobby. He had worked as a sign painter and was an accomplished artist, painting landscapes and covered bridges. He was a devoted family man who left a widow, three daughters and five grandchildren at the time of his passing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vintage Mystery Car

A puzzle this week, in a 45-year-old snapshot:

This Instamatic photo – remember Instamatic cameras? – was taken on a Sunday afternoon in October, 1967, at Pine Brook. The occasion was a racing program for the benefit of Norm Smizer, who had recently lost his eyesight due to complications from cataract surgery.

This photo was intended to be a clear shot of the silver car in front of the Mountain Garage Jeep, but the #0 whizzed into the frame as the shutter was opened. (Hey, what can you expect from a kid with an Instamatic?)

The puzzle concerns the silver car. It was brand-new that day, unpainted, with a masking-tape "X" for a number. But it did not fire and it did not race. Most significantly, and why we are interested all these years later, it was front wheel drive.

We cannot recall anything else about it. Who built it? Who owned it? Who was the driver on this day? What became of it? As far as we can remember, a front wheel drive car never again appeared after this day.

Was it squirreled away somewhere? Was it converted to a conventional rear wheel drive car, painted, and raced?

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or even if you have only a good guess, let us know via this link.

Oh, and if you want to confirm for us who the driver in the #0 was on this day, we’ll happily take that, too!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Like Ike

Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, and Gordon Eisenhower was on his way to victory in this photo taken on July 25, 1959, by Ace Lane, Sr.

We are posting this photo because the race was run on the fifth-mile infield track at Old Bridge, New Jersey, and Vintage Club members will have their cars on display this weekend as part of the annual Old Bridge Stadium Speedway Weekend.

It was a 20-lap feature that night more than 50 years ago, one of four late-summer ATQMRA dates at Old Bridge that year. Eisenhower qualified the Bob Pouleson 7o7 – the original 7o7, not the later roadster that many of us still remember – by winning the consolation race after failing to qualify through the heat races. Eisenhower took the lead on the twelfth lap and led Tex Enright and Jerry Wall under the checkered flag.

Today's drivers may not know what that lever is, outside the cockpit, on which Eisenhower has his left hand. That’s the brake lever, these cars did not have foot brakes. Also, down low alongside the cockpit is a nearly-vertical cylinder, which is the fuel pump. The fuel tank was pressurized by manually pumping this pump. Pressurized gas tanks... these cars were rolling bombs!

Eisenhower is wearing a loose-fitting uniform, likely not even remotely fire-resistant but certainly better than the T-shirts we see in many old racing photos. His goggles are hanging around his neck because – hard to see unless you click the photo to enlarge it – his helmet has a clear shield.

Eisenhower would win at Old Bridge again in August, again doing so by qualifying through the consi. Trailing Eisenhower to that second victory was George Sweeten, followed by Lloyd Mullin.