It was a race of firsts last Sunday when the Trans Am West Coast Championship held its inaugural race at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, CA. The race marked the first time a Trans Am event was hosted at Willow Springs – a track famed for its preserved original layout since it opened in 1953, and was the first time Trans Am has raced on western soil since 2009 at Portland International Raceway.
— CarCast (@CarCastShow) March 30, 2017
But there were more firsts to be had, as Chassy Media’s Adam Carolla contested his first professional race, driving an 850-horsepower Corvette C7.R contested by Burtin Racing, calling it, “The best decision I ever made.”
It was the best decision I ever made. https://t.co/RPDilpHeNQ
— Adam Carolla (@adamcarolla) March 30, 2017
The opportunity to drive for Burtin Racing occurred when Burtin, a professional chemist and entrepreneur who has founded household name brands such as LINE-X and FOAMETIX alongside a successful racing career, was familiar with Adam’s passion for racing, in particular Trans-Am, through some collaborations for their day jobs and by watching Chassy Media’s documentary, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman. After some talks, Carolla was secured for the ride.
The ride itself was a Tony Ave-built Corvette C7.R-bodied Riley Technology-designed tube chassis for Viper’s factory efforts from a couple of years ago, and powered by a Chevy SB2 NASCAR engine modified to Trans-Am’s liberal engine rules. Adam was to drive the No. 33 Go Share branded Corvette, while his teammate Richard Wall, in his Trans-Am return to Trans Am after decades away, drove the No. 7 Welded Fixtures LLC Vette.
Despite having only one practice session with the beast of a racecar and having to learn how to shift with a sequential shifter, Carolla qualified a respectable fifth position out of the six cars in the top TA class (the race itself featured three different classes). But more challenges were to come for Adam in the High Desert Challenge race event.
With only some Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) races, Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity successes, and historic racing experience under his belt, this race was to be Adams’ longest race he had to endure. The race itself was a 100-mile sprint around the 2.5-mile Big Willow circuit – an almost whale-shaped track that Adam had not had great experiences at when racing in the past.
“Willow Springs is like my Moby Dick,” groaned Adam in his latest CarCast Podcast 913. “The last two times I’ve been there, I went off (the track) violently…I just don’t like the track.”
At the start of the race, Adam dropped to sixth and paced himself and his car as the leaders slowly edged away. Thankfully, a blown engine from one of the leading Corvettes promoted Adam back to fifth, and allowed him to catch up to the pack with the subsequent full-course caution.
From there, Adam was able to stay with the leading pack and made a daring late-braking move on the inside of the No. 64 Corvette driven by fellow rookie Ken Davis at the first turn for the final podium position with ten laps to go. This pass would later earn Adam the COOLSHIRT “Cool Move of the Race” award.
The final ten laps saw Adam drive hold off attacks from behind, first from Davis, and then from the hard-charging sports car veteran Greg Pickett in the No. 66 Mustang that was originally battling for the lead before briefly going off the track.
Adam reached the checkered flag in third position, just a half second ahead of Pickett. After the race, the Adam’s exhaustion was apparent even if he had scored a place on the podium.
“When he got out of the car, he looked a little bit gone,” says Burtin. “I kind of looked at him and asked, ‘Hey, how’s your condition?’ and he just kind of walked the other way…You got to give it to him – he didn’t use any cool suits. He raced the old-fashioned way.”
Adam himself was understandably enthusiastic about his experience:
“For me Trans Am has always been huge,” says Adam in the official Trans Am race report. “I have old Trans Am cars from the 70’s and 80’s. I have some 2.5 Trans Am cars from the 70’s and I have Paul Newman cars that were raced in Trans Am. So just the idea of being asked to race in the modern Trans Am was a huge honor. Just being able to hold my own in modern Trans Am was exciting to me.”
With three more races to go in the Trans Am West Coast Championship presented by Pirelli, the next question is whether Adam will continue to race in the championship for the title.
“We’re in negotiations right now,” says Burtin. “I think the bug bit him a little bit.”
For more information about the Trans Am by Pirelli Championship, check out the official Trans-Am website here.
For Adam’s thorough recounting of the race weekend, be sure to check out CarCast episode 913.
For video highlights of the race, watch the compilation video found here.
For more information about Burtin Racing, check out their website.
The Mercedes Benz 770K limousine would be considered a sweet ride if not for its evil, sinister history. In 1938, the company produced it exclusively for the top brass of the Nazi party, including Adolph Hitler himself. Yep, a monster riding a monster: the car was twenty-feet long, bulletproof, upholstered in glove leather and supercharged. When it roared by, jaws dropped, heads turned, necks craned, and you better step the hell out of its way, peasant.
By war’s end, most of these cars didn’t make it, but two of them survive and drive a fascinating, unlikely tale of mystery. Through strange-but-true plot twists that seem only believable in movies, the cars wind up in the United States. At first, they’re a sideshow attraction — war trophies on display. Yet these wheels inspire all the feels: greed, disgust, outrage, morbid curiosity, and even envy. As time goes on, the super-limos take on the sins of their fathers and inherit a shitload of misunderstandings, misinformation and misleading rumors.
Robert Klara’s book, The Devil’s Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler’s Limousine in America, traces the 40-year winding road that takes the 770Ks on their strange postwar journey. The story involves the U.S. Army, opportunistic millionaires, ravenous crowds, and even the sleuthing of an old-school Canadian librarian who helps reveal the cars’ origins in a way that Google never could.
Here, Robert gives us a test drive and the lowdown.
RON: This is an incredible story, and yet it’s the first time I’m ever hearing about it. Why is that?
ROBERT: A lot of what I write about in this book is shadow history. It’s not the sort of thing you are liable to find in museum collections or the vertical clipping files of libraries.
These cars – I’m speaking of the two I’ve focused on principally – were largely sideshow attractions. They traded hands among some pretty eccentric characters. It wasn’t really a mainstream topic. It wasn’t flowing though the recognized cultural mainstream.
If these cars had wound up in major American museums, I think it would be a different story. They only started to garner attention in the early 1980s.
What I’m doing here is a fringe topic, to put it mildly. And there are probably lots of other stories like this out there. But they exist on the periphery of a monumental topic, and that might be why you haven’t heard about it.
RON: The cars themselves are both magnificent and sinister. Give us a description of the way you personally see them.
ROBERT: I have seen both of these cars in person, and, of course, I have seen hundreds of pictures of them. I’m not new to classic cars. I’ve loved them since I was a teenager. And yet there is something about the 770K that just stands apart in a way that is difficult to process.
In terms of engineering and styling, it is a beautiful and breathtaking piece of machinery. The sweep of its lines, its appointments, its detail, its sheer strength, is magisterial. And at the same time, there is a cast to the car; there is a sinister element to the styling of it.
When you know what it is, it’s very easy to read evil into what you are looking at.
It was no accident that the National Socialists used the 770K as part of their propaganda, as part of their stagecraft. This automobile is the sort of thing that prompts you to step aside at its approach.
Even when it debuted, there was a critic who noted that the car reeked of a certain “Teutonic arrogance.” It certainly is an arrogant automobile. It has a swagger to it, not unlike the way a bully walks. That is a palpable feeling when you are in the presence of these cars.
RON: The common belief is that Hitler owned these cars, but that’s not exactly right. What’s the real story?
ROBERT: These cars were designed – not solely for Hitler – but for heads of state. Frequently, these were dictators. At the very least, they were extremely wealthy men. They were designed to impart the power and the authority of the men who could afford them.
There is an essential problem with the idea of “Hitler’s car.” The senior henchmen of the Nazis had a motorpool system. They shared their cars. While a small number of the 770Ks were armored with Hitler in mind, these cars were frequently used by many members of the Nazi elite.
Hitler was not the owner; it was a car that he used frequently. The central mystery of this book is: how do you substantiate that? How do you prove that? And I discovered, while doing research, that it’s an extremely difficult thing to do.
The complicating problem is that the cars were virtually identical. Even if you find a photograph of Hitler riding in a Grosser 770, you really don’t know what car that is, especially from a distance.
[These cars’] origin stories were often hearsay to start with, because the cars were discovered in Bavaria, abandoned. Who is to say who used them, who owned them? So you have rumors lying on top of the problem that positive identification was extremely difficult.
Two-thirds of this book is about what happens when hearsay passes as fact. As these stories roll along, they become more and more embroidered. Soon, you have this hyped artifact that’s believed to be all kinds of things. There is just no proof of any of it. And resolving those mysteries is at the heart line of this book.
RON: Tell us a bit about the visceral reaction the car sparked as it toured America.
ROBERT: It evoked a range of responses, as you would expect. Some people were fascinated by it. Some people were drawn to it in a way that wasn’t very healthy. A good many people were repulsed by it, which is certainly understandable. Some people wanted to do violence to it.
If there was one response I didn’t detect in all the research I did, it was ambivalence toward it. It seemed to evoke a very strong response.
What surprised me: in the postwar period, I thought there would be more people coming forward about the way the car was being used. I thought they would be angry about its presence. It took me a while to understand that in the postwar period, the car was pretty much a war trophy. It was a symbol of a military and ideological victory. We Americans were flush with our victory, and this car was proof that we vanquished the worst totalitarian regime in the 20th century.
As time went on, the feelings about the car changed. More people came forward to express their disagreement with the car’s exhibition — and some, simply with its existence.
The increase in the awareness of the Holocaust took longer than a lot of people realize. Obviously, some Americans knew about it – some while it was still happening, and then after the war when the horrible pictures started coming out. It took time for the Holocaust to be understood as a human rights tragedy, and predominantly, the tragedy of the Jewish people.
As more Americans got a grip on the enormity and meaning of that event, the symbolism that this car embodied changed. It was no longer just a war trophy. It was a symbol of Hitler.
Click here to devour your copy of The Devil’s Mercedes.
Find out more about Robert here.
Chassy Media is deeply saddened to learn about the passing of John Surtees last Friday.
Surtees was born to a motorcycle dealer on February 11, 1934, in Surrey, England, which destined the Brit to an early life of motorcycle racing. In 1949, at age 15, Surtees entered his first motorcycle race on a grass track before working for the Vincent factory as an apprentice the following year.
Throughout the 1950s, Surtees would race motorcycles in the 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc classes, earning some impressive accolades along the way: becoming the 1956 500cc Champion, and becoming both 350cc and 500cc Champion from 1958 through 1960, winning 32 of 39 races during those years in a spectacular era of dominance with the MV Agusta team. He also became the first man to win the Senior TT at the Isle of Man TT three years in a row.
In 1960, Surtees made the switch from two wheels to four wheels when he made his debut in Formula One, racing for Team Lotus at Silverstone. The following two years, Surtees raced for Yeoman Credit Racing Team and Bowmaker Racing Team before becoming a factory driver at Scuderia Ferrari in 1963. Surtees and Ferrari would compete in F1 and Le Mans from ’63 to 1965, winning the Formula One World Championship in 1964 and becoming the only racer in history to win world championships on both two and four wheels – a distinction he still maintains.
Surtees and Ferrari split right before the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. As explained by Surtees in his interview for The 24 Hour War, he was due to drive the Ferrari 330 P3, but for political reasons was replaced by (Italian and relative of Fiat’s Agnelli family) Ludovico Scarfiotti. Surtees confronted Enzo Ferrari immediately about the replacement, resulting in the divorce of the star driver with the legendary marque.
Surtees continued the 1966 F1 season with Cooper, winning the Mexico Grand Prix and finishing second in the championship before moving to Honda Racing for the ’67 and ’68 seasons, and British Racing Motors (BRM) in 1969.
From 1970-1972 Surtees raced in F1 under his own name with Team Surtees before retiring from competitive racing.
In addition to his impressive F1 and motorcycle record, Surtees competed in Can-Am, winning the inaugural 1966 championship with Team Surtees in a Lola T70, entered Le Mans four times (earning the best result of third in 1964), and also contested F2, USAC, and a variety of other open-wheel and sports car races during his illustrious career.
Post-competitive racing, Surtees would continue to drive his old motorcycles and cars in various vintage racing events until his sudden passing on March 10, 2017, from respiratory failure while at a London hospital. Surtees was 83 years old.
The car that saved Gina Grad’s life? A Corolla, of course.
Gina is a co-host and news director of The Adam Carolla Show podcast. Though spelled slightly differently, it still an apparent stroke of serendipity that ACS would become her new home. She’s also the co-host of Andy and Gina In the Morning on LA’s KSWD-FM, 100.3TheSound.
The Toyota Corolla incident takes place about a decade ago, Gina tells us. Although based in LA, she’s back home in Kansas for a wedding (third time being a bridesmaid). She’s riding her 2000 Corolla on the open highway, on her way to The Plaza (fancy!) in downtown Kansas City. In the backseat: her beautiful Vera Wang bridesmaid dress.
Here comes trouble: a car sidles up on her right – way too intimately — almost slamming into her. Gina reacts quickly, reflexively jerking her steering wheel to the left. As a result, she hits the median. The car rolls – twice. Yep, Gina does a double flip. And she lives to tell the tale.
She explains, “I am a terrified person in general, but for whatever reason, I felt super calm, somehow safe. I felt myself saying, ‘You’re okay.’ It felt like it was happening in slow motion. Thank God, the car landed right-side up.”
The unintended stunt draws a crowd, including, Gina notices, a “super-hot medic.” (This is, after all, Kansas, where they grow them easy on the peepers.) “My first thought is ‘I don’t have insurance,’” Gina says, “and my second thought is, ‘I’m not going to be able to make it to this wedding.’”
At the hospital, the doctors gather around her, baffled. They wonder how this survivor survives. They tell her, “You should be very, very hurt.” Yep, Gina is Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, but with better hair. She isn’t totally in one piece, though. If you look closely, there’s a tiny scratch on her chest where some glass hit her. With a shot of ibuprofen, the doctors send her on her way to the wedding.
“The only thing that was not destroyed in the car was me and the dress,” she says. “Everything else was like Godzilla put his hand down and smashed it. The Vera Wang dress should have been ripped to shreds, but it was perfect.”
Third time being a bridesmaid is clearly the charm. “I hobbled down the aisle that night, and was in the wedding,” she says. “I remember the rabbi saying a prayer for me and letting the entire congregation know that I was single.”
No Viking funeral for the ol’ Corolla, although it’s clearly a hero for navigating Gina through harm’s way. Her mom gets to identify the car, or what’s left of it. “It absolutely shook her to her core,” Gina says. “I can’t imagine the feeling of my mom thinking, ‘My child was in this.’ She’s a saint for doing that.”
Astoundingly, this was not Gina’s first nightmare with a hard pull to the left. As a teenager in Kansas, she and mom buy a used car from a shady dealership. “A friend of a friend of a friend,” Gina recalls. “I could smell a rat the second we walked in.”
The used car: a 1988 Nissan Sentra, cobalt blue with a Pepto-Bismol-pink racing stripe. Gina says, “If you gave a kindergartner a crayon and asked him, ‘what do you think your car would look like?’ This is what you would get: a boxy, children’s drawing idea of a car.”
The test drive takes place on another Kansas open highway. Gina lets go of the steering wheel for a millisecond – the car pulls so hard to the left that it almost slams into the median. “I got scared and I looked at the salesman,” Gina says. “With a little flop sweat and a little stutter, he said, ‘Oh, it’s supposed to do that. If it pulls to the right, it will pull you into traffic.’ I’m just a teenager, but I know that doesn’t make sense. I also don’t question authority because I’m a young girl.”
She buys the car – reluctantly – and it works fine, for a bit. Then, after a short honeymoon, it begins its stalling and heartbreaking and disappointing, but you already anticipated that part.
What Gina’s driving now: a Subaru Crosstrek, through a sweet endorsement deal with her terrestrial radio station, 100.3TheSound.
“It’s – by far – the best car I’ve ever owned,” she says. “From what I’ve experienced, this is my favorite car.”
We continue to flip for Gina on a daily basis. Fortunately for her and the rest of us, her life on the road is now on the straight and narrow, free of any unexpected pulls to the left.
For decades, the 1968 Mustang GT 390 that was used in the film’s iconic car chase scene was assumed to have been scrapped shortly after production due to the enormous wear and tear inflicted on the Fastbook during the shoot.
Instead, a partner of body shop owner Ralph Garcia Jr. found the dilapidated car at a scrapyard in Baja California – painted white over its famous Highland Green Metallic paint and in rough shape. Garcia Jr., who specializes in building replicas of “Eleanor” from other cult car movie classic, Gone in 60 Seconds, initially bought the car with an “Eleanor” project in mind and was shipped to a shop Garcia Jr. owns in Mexicali. When Garcia Jr.’s partner Googled the VIN number, they knew they had made an important discovery.
Soon after the find, renowned Ford expert Kevin Marti paid a visit to the car and was able to authenticate it as the missing Mustang.
Two Mustang GT 390s were used in the making of Bullitt. One (VIN 8R02S125559) was pampered and used in low-action scenes – mostly when McQueen’s titular character, Frank Bullitt, was driving around his neighborhood in picturesque San Francisco. That Mustang has enjoyed three owners since the shoot, and has remained in the same family anonymously for some time now (despite McQueen’s attempt to purchase the car).
This other Mustang (VIN 8R02S125558) was seen flying down San Francisco’s Taylor Street, chasing a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T in what is perhaps the greatest car chase scene in movie history. Despite modified suspension, shocks, and pickup points, the vehicle took an absolute pummeling during the filming and was long-assumed to have been sold for scrap. Instead, it appears the car was actually driven for some time after.
Under the white paint were several other layers that implied its post-Bullitt use. A good chunk of the original modifications have been thankfully preserved, such as the strut tower reinforcements and the holes drilled into the trunk to allow for a generator to power movie lights.
The vehicle has unfortunately already been repainted back to its original color, despite Marti’s advice to leave the car as-is for collector appeal. However, Sanchez Jr. plans to fully restore the vehicle just in time for Bullitt’s 50th Anniversary next year, and then possibly an auction block where it could fetch up to around one million dollars.
Now, to find that James Dean Porsche 550 Spyder..
This weekend, many prominent cars, iconic racers, collectors, and enthusiasts will be visiting Amelia Island for a variety of automotive-related shows, several auctions and other special events that make up the Amelia Island Concours Weekend. Here is a small preview of what one can expect on the small Floridian island:
The 24 Hour War Film Screening
One of the first activities begins on the evening of Thursday, March 9 when the Amelia Motoring Film Exhibition kicks off at the Amelia Community Theatre at 6pm. As part of the three-film event, Chassy Media will be presenting The 24 Hour War. Tickets are $20 for those interested in attending the event and seeing The 24 Hour War the way it was intended – on the big screen!
Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance
(Photo Credit: Rashba.com)
Probably the closest rival to Pebble Beach, CA’s legendary Concours, the Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance attracts some of the world’s greatest cars and iconic people who were closely associated with them. Adam will be entering two of his vehicles in the show itself.
In addition, Adam will be a featured judge of the Nissan/Datsun entries and will host a seminar on Friday featuring some of the most prominent people that contributed to the success of Japanese auto manufacturers in the US racing scene (John Morton, Tommy Kendall, and Sam Posey to name a few).
RM Sotheby’s Sports Car Auction
Since 1999, RM Sotheby’s has been the official auction house of the Amelia Island Concours D’ Elegance and features some of the most desirable cars that enthusiasts love to collect. Last year’s combined sales from the event were in excess of $38M, and this year the auction is bigger than ever before. Extended from one day to two days and featuring more than 150 cars, this RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction is set to be their most successful to date – especially when they have cars like these up for sale:
2005 Ford GT
(Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s)
If you weren’t lucky enough to preorder one of the all-new Ford GTs, here’s your chance to buy the next best thing. One of two early millennium Ford GTs to be auctioned off by RM Sotheby’s this weekend, these Ford GTs honor the styling of the original GT40 (perhaps more than its latest counterpart).
This particular GT features a striking red with white racing stripes and has only 2,453 original miles on the odometer. If you’re looking for a pure Ford GT driving experience complete with a V8 and manual transmission, it’d be hard to look past this lot.
“It’s a great car to drive, very comfortable and easy to drive too,” says Alexander Weaver, Car Specialist at RM Sotheby’s. “I could drive one of these cars everyday if it had a back up camera.”
1969 Tasca-Ford Mustang Boss 302 Trans Am “Metuchen Special”
(Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s)
This Boss 302 Trans Am is a legendary model that participated in a golden era of Trans-Am, and driven by Dean Gregson in nine races from 1969 to 1972. The car has recently been restored to its original 1969 livery and features all its original sheet metal.
“I could not believe how easy it is to throw one of these around the track,” says Weaver. “They handle amazing, the driver input is so easy, and they feel light and very nimble which is not something you expect out of a big, American Mustang like that.”
1970 Nissan Fairlady Z 432
(Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s)
One of only 420 built exclusively for the Japanese market and with many not surviving, this rare Fairlady Z 432 features four valves per cylinder, three carbs, and twin overhead camshafts (wow!).
“The engine revs so high,”says Weaver. “It just keeps reving and revving. It’s super fun. Probably the most expensive 240Z you can ever find (the car is estimated at $150k-$200k) – but also the best you’ll ever find.”
Imported to the United States in 2013, this car at auction presents a rare opportunity to own an amazing piece of Japanese auto history. Don’t be surprised if even Adam jumps in on the bidding of this beauty.
Speaking of Adam and the RM Sotheby’s Auction, Adam has two vehicles from his collection that’ll be under the hammer this Saturday:
1965 Lamborghini 350 GT by Touring
(Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s)
The Lamborghini 350GT marks the debut of the Italian manufacturer’s production cars and are exceptionally rare with only 120 having been built.
A vehicle that Adam has owned for many years, this 350GT is pleasantly unrestored and original while also well maintained and regularly driven. This 350GT was even lent out to James Franco for his Gucci commercial that the charismatic young star directed and acted in.
“This is a car that people would be very proud to show in a preservation class,” says Weaver. “But also a car that is ready to be driven and used.”
1969 Lamborghini Islero 400GT
(Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s)
In typical Lamborghini tradition, the Islero was named after the bull that killed Manuel Rodriquez in 1947 and features its original 4-liter 320bhp V-12 engine with six Weber carbs.
Like the 350GT, this Islero owned by Adam is mostly original and unrestored but very well maintained. The car even features an original well-preserved pigskin leather interior – a special-order from the original owner.
“Great looks, extremely rare production numbers,” adds Weaver. “I think the Islero has been a very underrated car for a long time now.”
The RM Sotheby’s Auction at Amelia Island takes place Friday at 5pm with the Orin Smith Collection, and Saturday beginning at 11am. If you’re unable to make it to the event in person, you can watch both days of auctions online for free at their website.
When all is said and done, the 2017 Amelia Island Concours weekend looks to be an incredible experience for the automotive enthusiast. We look forward to hearing from Adam about his experience when he gets back!