Just who is a car guy? I am that guy | Life in Ludlow

Ned Luce
Posted 8/5/20

By at least some metrics I am a “car guy.” I have read several car related books such as “Go Like Hell” by A.J. Baime, the book upon which the recent movie “Ford Versus …

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Just who is a car guy? I am that guy | Life in Ludlow

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By at least some metrics I am a “car guy.” I have read several car related books such as “Go Like Hell” by A.J. Baime, the book upon which the recent movie “Ford Versus Ferrari” was based. 

I have read “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Seattle resident Garth Stein, also made into a movie. This book was kindly loaned to me by my neighbor Harold Brunstad because, well, he knew I was a car guy. 

I just finished “Faster” a terrific book by another Seattleite, Neal Bascomb which describes how an American heiress joined with a Jewish race car driver and the head of French Auto Company Delahaye in the 1930s to build and race a winning Grand Prix car designed to beat the Germans in 1939. 

I have watched “Ford vs Ferrari” four times, the movie version of “The Art of Racing in the Rain” twice, “LeMans” with Steve McQueen several times, “Rendezvous” and others. In my Porsche RS America I have driven Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca, and Road America along with lesser known tracks in the Midwest. I have actually been to an Indianapolis 500 race. In the spring of 1970 while in the Navy in Washington, D.C., BJ and I bought the first of our six Porsches, a sweet 1965 356 SC Cabriolet. Hey, some people have boats! 

Finally, and this is the real qualifier, I worked in a Sohio service station during the summers of my college years, actually pumping gasoline and learning that drops of brake fluid can permanently damage the finish on my father’s 1959 Dodge. 

Just like the Port Ludlow Yacht Club or the Daughters of the American Revolution there are membership requirements for eligibility in the Porsche club. (For the yacht club, your check has to clear.) PCA requires one to actually own a Porsche although you need not keep it! Our involvement in PCA took several forms over the years as I was president of the Kansas City Region and we were “Rally Masters” for several events in mid-Missouri. We attended 13 “Porsche Parades,” the annual PCA convention, in cities across the country from one Portland to the other. In every one of those we participated in the “Time and Distance Rally,” finishing in the Top 10 in most of them. 

I was reminded of those days while reading “Faster” because the main characters participated in rallies in the 1930s. A notable one was the Monte Carlo Rally in January of 1938. The following is a quote from the book describing the conditions. “Soon they were climbing through the snowbound mountains. It was well below zero, and their icy breath clouded the windows. Neither their fur-lined coats nor their heavy boots kept out the cold, and snow entered their vehicle through the holes for the gear and brake levers. Like sailors in a leaking boat, they were constantly bailing out snow through the windows. Still, they made it through the icy pass and to the first control point on schedule, despite their brake cables nearly freezing to the windshield.” 

BJ and I thought a tough rally was one without enough potty stops. 

We, probably more I, have spent a lot of time at concours events, basically car shows. We, or I, rarely entered but did enjoy the opportunity to view the result of the labor of individuals clearly unaware of the problems caused by their obsessive car cleaning behavior. Bless them. 

Of course, there are fewer car shows around this year. However, my old friend Skip Owen, he and his 1958 Oldsmobile formerly of Port Ludlow, sent me a 30-minute video of the recent “Bremerton Cruz,” a parade of vintage cars of the’50s and’60s through Bremerton. Those in the know realize you can get on a website entitled “Bring a Trailer” to view hundreds of cars being auctioned through the website and get some semblance of a car show fix. Elana Scherr in the August “Car and Driver” opined that “Virtual car shows don’t do it for me. It’s just looking at cars on the internet. That’s not a car show; that’s Tuesday.”  

All this being said, there are many of you who are car people of one stripe or another: Pat Cooper with his 1957 Ford Thunderbird convertible, Jeanne Joseph with her Porsche Boxster, Steve Gross with his Dodge Viper, and many more. Many of you are more knowledgeable and have more experience than I but all must concede enjoying the fun and camaraderie we have with the habit. 

As we go forward with the electrification in the car industry, remember why a robot wanted to sleep under a car, he wanted to wake up oily.

Love a curmudgeon, wear a mask and have a great week!

(Ned Luce is a retired and air-cooled IBM executive who lives in Port Ludlow, where the rubber meets the road.)

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