Sunday, June 25, 2006

Page two

In Racing we had a saying that was used at the bars in the winter when we would all get together. "If yer racin yer cheatin, if yer talkin yer lyin." It wasn't really cheatin so much as an intelligent reading of the rules. That's what I used. Some of the teams were blatant about cheating, and the tech inspectors had no clue how to catch them. Enter Billrilla. Bill would wear work cloths and show no affiliation with me or our group in the early days and at any new track. He could wander around and chat with the other teams as they worked on their cars, getting a good look at what they had. He would try to verify what he saw, and then bring me the info. In some cases I would just sit on the info and we would just go out and win. Every once in a while when the cheatin got way outa hand I would wait til we lost and then file a complaint to the tech guy. Usually had to hold their hands while they looked for what I told them. We gave that up after a while when they started shutting hoods at the sight of Bill. Bill called a few on the things he had seen, and some wanted to fight him. I made sure he didn't hurt anyone but let him answer the challenges after the night was over. Funny how everyone had somewhere else to be when the officials were out of the picture. One time we were working on a car in my shop. I was under it and Bill was on top in the engine bay. We were using some heavier then air solvents to clean stuff. I was breathing the fumes and soon noticed the world going black. The last thing I remember was reaching out and hitting Bill on the leg, and then I was out. When I came to, I was outside and on my side with Bill asking me if I was ok. If I hadn't hit him on the leg it might have been five or more minutes before he would have noticed a problem. As it was he had me outa there in seconds. Thanks bro.

Friday, June 23, 2006

My lil brothers page.

Billrilla is my lil brother. I don't remember exactly who named him that, I think the ex wife. The reason is simple. Bill V, the half brother to my best friend in highschool is somewhat an ape! The fun little boy we used to tease and Bro Mike used to call "The Runt" has an uncommon strength about his upper body. Bill is a very gifted auto tech that can build anything, and has the analytical skills to be among the best. Bill didn't have the cash to own his own shop so he worked for me or his brother Mike. His loss is our gain. This worked out well because I was never sure if Bill was comfortable with his ass swinging in the breeze. If something blew up it was always better if it was Toms or Greggs but it was in reality as much Bills. I remember one time we built a stationwagon to race on the street. "The Magenta Mauler" it was called for its purple and chrome engine. (built for ex wife.) The damn thing ate the starter and ring gear, requiring the removal of the transmission to fix the gear. Bill had assembled the unit and I disassembled it. When I got to take the ring gear off I couldn't budge the bolts. I propped my feet against the wrenches and pushed to no avail. Bill, with a double stack of wrenches tried and broke a couple of wrenches before getting the thing loose. That is where he got the nickname Billrilla. If Bill tightened it it was tight! Godamighty tight! Continued

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I want to say a few things about friendship. Some say that a man is truly blessed if he can count one true friend in this world. I've many! In the almost 44 years I've been here I have accumulated many friends, some very close and some not. I take friendships very seriously as I've had the opportunity to win and lose some. One of the things I have noticed about friendship is that distance is a killer. It isn't really distance so much as it is apathy. If you aren't the one to keep the fire stoked so to speak, then you will lose touch. If you stop and wonder; What ever happened to so and so? You are at fault. You took your eye off of your friend and the winds of time blew them away! Always remember that time has no effect over ones love of another human being so reach out! Always be willing to reach out, and take the initiative to preserve that which gives pleasure and comfort. I can think of nothing to this day that brings more comfort then friends. Doesn't matter if they are new or old, they bring warmth and comfort. That is why I had such a mad house as a young man, people coming and going, lots of laughter and fun. The one thing I miss about my old home is the close proximity of old friends. One of the things I love about my new home is the new friends. Friends can be of many types and from many arenas. Some you don't have to have met at all. (thanks to al gore and the internet..LOL) I am grateful to one and all. The reason I'm grateful is dependent on which friend I'm speaking of. Bill V, the one that drove 15 hours to my wedding, and Don, my soundingboard, Andrea, just makes me smile, and Donna, showing me that which I've never seen. I love Louise for her different point of view, always reminding me to keep an open mind. The list goes on forever, and I love you all. Don't lets ever forget one another! Our strength is in our belief and love in one another.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ron's page

It takes a huge amount of effort to go racing. In our case we had it times 7. We built engines for anyone we thought would win and gain some recognition for our work. The objective was to have a salable product. It didn't work. Drivers are a tight lot and would rather do it themselves and lose then pay for a product that makes them a winner. When I came home from my day job about six, Bill V was usually already in the shop working. He would sometimes bring some of his friends to help out. One such person was Ron Grubb. It didn't take long for him to fit in, and do a huge amount of work as well. Some people aren't blessed with many gifts, and Ron was one of those. Big and kinda gumpy, not pretty and no money. His teen years were a bit rough. He was going to be your typical ne'er do well. About his gifts. A gentle soul that didn't hurt anyone with a quick wit, and good sense of humor. Would gladly play basketball all night if we would, and a nice hook shot. Would also work all night on a friends car just cause it needed to be done. Tirelessly cleaned and polished engine parts, laying them out for assembly making sure to remove any lint from the parts before we would use them. Always running errands and getting sodas. During breaks he was outside swinging my kids around by the feet, and otherwise contributing to the mayhem that was my house in those days. There wasn't any money to pay such help, but there was food, and parts, and all the skills to be very very fast. I sold Ron a Mustang on the cheap, and then Bill V and I made it damn fast on the cheap. When I left Michigan, he was one of the little pieces of my life that I left behind, secure in the knowledge that he would always be there when I went back. Somehow I never got to hook back up with him and share a soda, and a memory or two. Now I can't! Ron was never the most careful person, and he died because of it. While fixing someones car, he was under it when it fell. It's a little late, but thanks for all those hours Ron. God rest and God speed.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Charmin Carmen

This page is about a woman, and could be titled; Why I would make a lousy Muslim. Racing at the level that we did it is a family affair. I had many close friends among our competitors and worked on their cars as much as my own. The reason was simple. If my guy, or in this case gal was going to win, I wanted her to beat you at your best. On any given Saturday night I would work on between five and ten cars. If Bill V was there he would work on an additional three or four, in addition to helping me. One day Greg V decided to sponsor a woman that had no money, and a very old beat to hell racecar. We put something together for her, and got her out for the last biggest race of the year. She passed two thirds of the field on the first lap. As she got to turn four, she got wrecked by someone not wanting to give up the spot. Over the winter one of our people that we helped with tech stuff approached me about making Carmen a winner. We agreed to work together on this project, thus giving the lady the resources that only the guys with ten or twenty thou a year had to play with. We took the engine out of my wife's old station wagon and tried to race that! It was a little low on breath in the straightaways so we tore it down and rebuilt it over a Monday through Wednesday. During that time Bill V spent many hours trying to get more breath out of a set of heads that were just too damn short of breath. Thanks to his efforts we got about an other fivehundred rpms down the straightaways. Made practice on Thursday and raced on Friday. We wrecked on Friday and spent all night getting ready for Saturday. Saturday was a big track with lots of banking, we knew we were going to run out of breath about half way down the straightaways. On the other hand we could out pull anyone coming out of the corners. All we needed was for Carmen to be able to put the power to the track. We had about five people working on the car that night, three of them drivers from cars she competed against. Everyone loves an underdog, even if it beats you. She beat dear friends that night. I thought Doug, her benefactor was going to throw me off the back of the stands he was so excited. We worked our asses off all year, and she gave us two track championships. We knew she would go out and win, or break the car trying. She, more then anyone else taught me that given a reasonable chance a woman could do anything she set her mind to. I remember one time we finished a race and I was in the pits getting the trailer ready, and packing our stuff to go home. The guy next to us had a bad night and was taking it out on everyone. The pits used to be a forty acre cornfield, so there's not much light. He came in hot, and did a doughnut and hit the trailer I was standing on. It knocked me to the ground, while taking a Lil bit of daylight and sense with it. That girl grabbed him by the face and helped him from his car and over to me. She read him from the book about what she would do to the man that hurt her engine builder or any of her crew. He apologized and walked off. I was looking at her kind of funny so she grabbed her breasts and said, " I've got a pair too! I just wear em a lil higher then you do!"

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hidden thunder

The first page will be Mr V's page. The man I bought the house from was a Vietnam era vet with a need for speed. He was of the James Smoky Yunick type. He would do anything, and blow everything up for one more mile per hour. He can be seen in the movie Heart like a wheel ( The Shirley Muldowney story) if you look very fast. The scene at Pomona dragway in California, Greg is leaving the line in an Orange and blue Buick GS Stage One. It is the car he would set an NHRA record with in that same year. He also had at one time an IHRA record holder Chevy Kingswood stationwagon. Yep we all raced wagons at one time. I had a Chevy Malibu wagon with about 400 horses as a daily driver. I got it with the house, the engine came later. The thing about Greg was that he and his Buddy Jim Paquette were building and racing cars that were spanking the big money guys whenever they felt like it, or had the money to travel on. He himself could have been a big money guy but wouldn't play nice with the bean counters. He took a Chevy Camero to a major race and encountered the engineers from Oldsmobile (our home town) and when approached said "Damn! There's enough Oldsmobiles here to start a junkyard!" Yep Greg likes it his way. Olds went with Dick La'Hae, as did Miller Brewing. Greg didn't care he beat them anyway. When I met Greg he was very fat and way past his driving days, but still the smartest kid on the block. His fault was that he was lazy and didn't want to do the actual work of putting the engines together. Enter myself and best friends lil brother Bill V, no relation to Greg. Bill worked for me sometimes and with me some times and was always and still is a very dear friend. I created a company called Response Racing Engines. Privately we did the assemblies for Gregs people, and tuned them at the track. Thanks to Greg we learned on stuff that was about three to five years ahead of NASCAR. Continued

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Toms Garage

People are everything to me. If I could, I would write about everyone I know. I try to see the good in everyone that I meet, and have a lot of friends because of it. I like to tell their stories. As best I know them. If I live long enough I'll tell yours as well......As best I know it. I need to write about a time in my life that I've put away for about nine years now. I will as I always do, start with a lil background so as not to lose you. This too will take a few posts. I used to live up north in Michigan, the place of my birth. As a young man I bought a house with my first wife. The man I bought the house from was a car guy. I'm a car guy. It was a great purchase because this man taught me a trade that I could turn into a passion. All that was asked of me was to leave his stuff in my garage and let him still work out of it. The rocket ship took off from there. The man, Greg V, built the hottest thumpinest racing engines I've ever seen. He taught me to make some thump too! This story is about that time, and those people that were special in my world at that time. The reason for the write is that I've learned one of them has died. A bit player in my life but as I've said, with me it's about the people. Continued.