What a really good race driver does in his retirement years

It’s been a long time since Bob Cicconi strapped on a race car but people still haven’t stopped talking about what happened when he was still doing it. He is the eldest son of a racing dynasty formed outside Philadelphia by his father, Lou Cicconi Sr., who I helped vote into the Eastern Motorsport Press Association‘s Hall of Fame in 2013. Lou Sr. was the patriarch of a clan that has stood tall and proudly in American open-wheel auto racing via the exploits of sons Bob, “Liquid Lou” and Guy. Bob Cicconi, shown here in the potent Jim Rieder-owned Midget with Gaerte horsepower at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, owns wins in USAC (both Sprint and Midget), a podium finish at the Little 500 for Sprint cars in Anderson, Indiana; was a formidable competitor in the USAC Mini Indy series for Super Vee formula cars, has amassed Midget trophies from ARDC and NEMA, holds a USAC Silver Crown victory, and has performed on stages including the Chili Bowl Nationals, the Hoosier Hundred and the Oswego International Classic for Supermodifieds. The guy, like his brothers, is a racer. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that with a few favorable breaks, Bob Cicconi could easily have punched his ticket to the Brickyard.

I was talking to Bob this week for a forthcoming Speed Sport feature and asked what he’s been up to. You may be as surprised by his answer as I was. Since stepping out of the cockpit, he’s become a competitive builder of scale models, a terrifically cool pastime, specializing in replicas of historic warships but also dabbling in, you guessed it, racing cars of the past. Like yours truly, Bob’s a member in good standing of the International Plastic Modelers Society/USA, the United States offshoot of a modelers’ group first founded in Britain during the 1960s. IPMS/USA is a huge organization, encompassing 220 chapters in the United States plus affiliates in Canada and the Philippines. Its biggest event is the annual IPMS National Contest, which attracts hundreds of modelers’ precision replicas. To people who create miniatures in scale, winning it is akin to standing atop the Knoxville Nationals podium, and Bob’s accomplished that.

Here’s one example. Bob’s speciality is the dreadnought era of combat ships, here embodied by this waterline replica of the U.S.S. Arkansas, a battlewagon that saw duty in the World War I years. Modeled in 1/700th scale, this earned Bob second in class at the IPMS/USA Nationals.

Here’s more. Also in 1/700th scale, this is the U.S.S. Phelps, a Porter-class destroyer from World War II that served with distinction at Midway, Coral Sea and in the Aleutians campaign before being decommissioned and scrapped in Philadelphia. Note the intricate, well-executed maritime camouflage finish on the hull. This won Bob first in class at the Nationals.

Naturally, model cars are another outlet for Bob’s creativity. The first replicas is the Miller 122 that the great Frank Lockhart used to win the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 1926. Based on the 1/25th scale kit from Etzell’s Speed Classics, Bob added intricate aftermarket wire wheels and wired the supercharged straight-eight engine. The second car, looking to be based on the famous Monogram kit, is the Hinkle Special, the Kurtis-Kraft 500C roadster, with Offy power, that the California hot rod and Midget hero Jack McGrath raced in the 1955 Indianapolis 500 until the engine failed, just months before his death on the Phoenix dirt. If nothing else, Bob’s work makes it clear that at their core, racers are determined, competitive people in virtually any undertaking they choose to pursue.

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