A gilded trove of cycling history

Let me explain how it all started. I’m seriously enthused by the history of American speedway racing, particularly on the very old stuff, the dangerous board and asphalt speed bowls that largely disappeared around the same time as World War II. In my library, I have histories of the famed Nutley Velodrome in New Jersey and the nearly vertically banked Oakland Speedway in California. I reached out to Don Emde, the subject of this post, because I wanted to acquire his work of research, The Speed Kings. It’s the definitive history of early motordrome racing, and won Best of the Year in books from the Motor Press Guild, which counts us among its membership. So I reached out to Don, the scion of a Southern California motorcycling family that has been on two wheels since World War I, and we got to talking. Don was kind enough to not only sell me The Speed Kings but to also include a review copy of his newest work, on the pioneering cycle racer and daredevil Freddie Ludlow.

We’ll get to this title in a moment, but first, you’ve got to get to know Don and what he does. Aside from hailing from a bike family, Don has been a top-tier motorcycle racer, winner of the Daytona 200 in 1972. He and his father, Floyd, are the only father-and-son duo to have achieved victory in the legendary Daytona race. Don’s late brother, David Emde, was the 1977 AMA 250cc national champion. More recently, Don is also president of the Trailblazers Motorcycle Club, which can trace its roots to 1940. After retiring from active competition, Don turned to journalism and historical research in a crucially meaningful way. His books rely heavily on priceless archival material that he personally gathers and verifies. I can tell you flatly that Don Emde Books publishes some of the most lavish and detailed motorsport histories of any kind that you’ll find anywhere. The depth of information and its loving presentation is no less than stunning, which I challenge you to learn yourself. Don has published histories of the Daytona 200 and a personal effort retracing the route that the record-setting motorsport folk hero Cannonball Baker rode across the United States in 1914. Freddie Ludlow: His Life on Two Wheels began when Don acquired Ludlow’s personal scrapbook as part of a research acquistion, starting further inquiry that resulted in this exhaustive, heavily illustrated 176-page hardcover volume. The book chronicles Ludlow’s accomplishments as a World War I dispatch rider, speedway racer, very early Bonneville Salt Flats competitor aboard a radically streamlined Indian and later, motorcycle policeman in Pasadena, California. This is simply fabulous stuff. Go to the website, where you’ll find this book, priced at $45.00, along with the other Emde titles. We’d be remiss if we didn’t add that Floyd, Don and David Emde are all enshrined in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

2022 Tundra bows in Texas

Production of the all-new, new-generation 2022 Toyota Tundra full-size pickup commenced in a big way last week outside San Antonio as the first such rig rolled off the recently expanded final-assembly line at the huge Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas plant, where the line dedicated to U.S. Tundra production is located. Despite the obvious import of launching a new model, TMMTX and its workforce of 3,200 will also be producing the first hybrid-powertrain version of the Tundra, which will be rolled out early next year. The Tundra rollout marks the line’s first major model change since Texas truck production commenced for Toyota in 2006.

Among the usual welter of politicians, the rollout was also witnessed by representatives of more than 20 on-site suppliers that regularly do business with TMMTX. Toyota invested $319 million in the plant two years ago in anticipation of the new Tundra project, adding 141,000 square feet of assembly space to the already sprawling plant, which now has the capacity to produce some 208,000 new vehicles annually.

Old cars mean very big money

If you own a historic or collectible vehicle, there’s a very good chance that you’re already a customer of Hagerty, Inc. of Traverse City, Michigan, because Hagerty is already a prominent insurer of old cars and trucks, having issued specialized policies covering some 2 million such vehicles worldwide. Tomorrow morning, Hagerty will – literally – ring in a major new chapter in the firm’s existence, as it begins trading publicly under the symbols HGTY and HGTY.WS. Hagerty executives will personally get to clang the iconic bell tomorrow morning at the New York Stock Exchange as trading commences.

The emergence of Hagerty as a publicly traded enterprise follows its Special Purpose Acquisition Company operating merger with Aldel Financial Inc., an equity firm that specializes in large-scale capitalization. According to the announcement of the merger from Hagerty, institutional investors such as State Farm and Markel Corporation have supplied a $704 million PIPE (the acronym stands for Private Investment in Public Equity) financial commitment that will assign Hagerty a pro forma enterprise value – essentially, the firm’s new level of market capitalization – estimated at $3.1 billion. That total will free up some $265 million, which the firm has already earmarked for digital strategies. It’s very easy to see what’s made Hagerty a very hot property in both the automotive and Wall Street worlds. Hagerty has experienced a 29 percent annual revenue growth rate between 2018 and 2020, and boasts a staggering 90 percent customer-retention rate. Hagerty’s about a lot more than insurance now: It owns digital properties, magazines, a market-valuation service and most recently, a portfolio of some of the most prestigious automotive events in the country including the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the Concours d’Elegance of America, the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, the California Mille, and the Motorworks Revival. Hagerty’s IPO is a seismic event in the old-car world, establishing it as one of the hobby’s most powerful economic and social forces.

“Charging” to innovation

We’re expecting cars, and trucks and SUVs, to do increasing numbers of tasks seamlessly besides hauling our bodies and knickknacks around. An abundance of technology is turning cars into entertainment centers, shopping planners and impromptu shelter out in the woods, depending on vehicle and optioning. Hyundai’s new, all-electric IONIQ 5 SUV has just copped an accolade for its own multitasking capabilities, receiving a 2021 Best of What’s New award from the editors of Popular Science magazine for one such technical advance.

Specifically, Hyundai received the accolade for the Vehicle-to-Load electronics, V2L for short, that are engineered into every edition of the IONIQ 5. Effectively, it allows the midsize EV to function as a battery charger, allowing owners to power laptops, cooking gear and entertainment consoles wherever the party’s happening, all by plugging into a V2L outlet at the IONIQ 5’s charging port. You can use it to send emails, chill your libations or even jump-start another EV whose batteries have run dry. The IONIQ 5 is just now hitting the showrooms.

Beaucoup bucks? Buy a Bug!

It’s a description that usually refers to the royal family and its native minions, but the bottom line is that people from Saudi Arabia who are actually Saudis usually can boast an incredible amount of funds. So perhaps it’s scant surprise that Bugatti, where the price of admission is measured in seven digits, has chosen the petro-kingdom as the site of its newest retail dealership, Bugatti Riyadh. Fittingly, it’s already being described as one of the largest Bugatti showrooms in the world, operated by the SAMACO Automotive sales congolmerate.

The above automobile, the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport, is a screamer that can be appreciated, in every sense of that word, by those with the income level typical of royal relatives in Saudi Arabia. Having been there during Operation Desert Shield, and having witnessed an S-Class Mercedes-Benz sedan there customized into a three-axle stretched limo with a built-in pool – no lie, I saw it in the driveway at the Dharhan Hotel, where the media was billeted during Gulf War 1 – we can tell you with full confidence that a Bugatti market exists in abundance there. To that end, Riyadh, the kingdom’s capital city, recently hosted a major high-end automotive salon, while Bugatti hosted its first Saudi ride-and-drive for prospective, and creditworthy, Chiron enthusiasts.

Mullin collection receives U.K. honor for exquisite history

We already reported once this week on the doings at the second Historic Motoring Awards presentation that took place last week in London, where our friend Bill Warner from the Amelia Island concours was presented a lifetime achievement award. That wasn’t the only honor on motoring history that the U.K. group sent stateside. The Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, up the coast from Los Angeles, received the distinction of Museum/Collection of the Year, joining the group’s 2016 designation of founder Peter W. Mullin as recipient of the group’s Personal Achievement Award.

It’s arguably less immediately known than the nearby Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles or the Nethercutt Collection of Sylmar, largely because the Mullin Automotive Museum has only been in operation since 2010. But the Mullin is nearly alone among prominent American automotive collection for its concentrated focus about the cars, and particularly the design excellence, of France’s great automakers. The Mullin image above shows its Francophile devotion, here especially to Bugatti. The Mullin collection is one of America’s most eclectic and exclusive, and is fully deserving of a run up the Pacific Coast Highway to examine its exhibits.

Art Evans, 1934-2021

We pause to give some sad recognition to a guy who really cared about the history of road racing in the United States, and especially during its glorious formative years in Southern California. Art Evans was the founding presence who established the Fabulous Fifties non-group, as he liked to call it, of worthies who took part in the great California sports car boom that roared into existence during the 1950s. Art, who passed on last week, lived the era as few others did. Before he got into research and publishing, Art and his dad allied with Bill Devin to create and market Devin’s line of sports car kits, which launched the careers of numerous star drivers. A West Point graduate, Art began racing his MG in 1955 against the likes of Phil Hill, Ken Miles and even James Dean, during the latter’s brief racing career and even briefer lifetime.

Art teamed with California sports car icons Johnny Von Neumann and Vasek Polak to organize an early Southern California vintage festival for historic racing cars, and their drivers, at Palm Springs in 1985. His enduring legacy, however, will be as a journalist and historian, which is how I got to know the guy during my Hemmings stint. His 2001 book, Fabulous Fifties, illustrated by his own photography, was a person recounting of the people who brought road racing to life in California. Art continued to write throughout his life, one of his final titles being a respected, and necessary, review of the contributions that World War II veterans provided to American motorsport. Art was a good guy who genuinely cared about the world he introduced to the masses through his journalism, and he will be missed.

The legacy of a legendary dealer that put Porsche on the map

It’s a name you may not immediately recognize unless you’re a a serious enthusiast about Porsche’s history in North America. If you are, you already understand that Vasek Polak, a Czech immigrant who came to the United States to seek his fortune, is today a fabled figure in the Stuttgart firmament. Starting out with a repair shop, Polak opened a dealership in 1959 in Manhattan Beach, California, that was the first free-standing, Porsche-only retailer in the United States. Before shifting his operations to Portland, Oregon, Polak became one of the great privateer entrants in Porsche motorsport, fielding cars for marque legends ranging from Jack McAfee and Milt Minter to George Follmer and Hurley Haywood. The Polak Porsche footprint is vast, and the founder’s descendants are taking some meaningful steps to keep its heritage alive.

Vasek Polak’s granddaughter, Maurie, is making certain that the Polak Porsche heritage remains vibrant by launching the Vasek Polak Collection, the first step in a process by which the family name will receive the same level of recognition in the broader automotive world that’s it’s long enjoyed in the Porsche community. Part of that effort is the planned publication of a major historic book on Polak, the elder, and his alliance with the Porsche family. The site will shortly expand to include an online store and opportunities to acquire memorabilia, including the forthcoming book. Some of the material will be on display at the 2022 Porsche and Vintage Volkswagen Literature, Toy, Model, and Memorabilia Swap Meet set February 26th at the Hilton outside Los Angeles International Airport. Visit the website, as above, and you can sign up for email alerts on All Things Polak.

Lifetime honor for Bill Warner, the man behind Amelia Island

One of the good things about following the world of cars, and motorsport, is that you get the privilege of meeting truly unique individuals who have their feet firmly planted in both those orbits, the kind of person that Bill Warner embodies. You’ve met my fellow Floridian in this space before. He is the founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, which traditionally kicks off the U.S. season of really high-end car events each spring from its location at the Ritz-Carlton in that northeast Florida oasis. Amelia Island has been taking place there since 1996, except for the pandemic interruption of 2020. I personally rank it alongside Pebble Beach and the Goodwood Festival of Speed as gatherings of historic automobiles that every enthusiast ought to visit, or try to, at least once.

As I type this, Bill is just back from receiving a very special honor, a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2021 Historic Motoring Awards in London. In presenting the recognition, James Elliott, editor-in-chief of Octane magazine, said, “It was a privilege to give it to such a wonderful gent who has done so much for our hobby.” No argument here. Besides handling the million last-minute things that come up at a weekend of Amelia Island’s magnitude, Bill does a lot of what the photo depicts, leading an auction during the concours weekend to raise a lot of money for regional charities, getting bids on cool stuff like the painting of Hans Stuck Jr. seen here. Bill was a greatly noted motorsport photojournalist, published everywhere from Autoweek to the Atlantic Monthly, and an SCCA Nationals-level road racer before he conceptualized the concours. Bill now holds the Amelia Island title of Chairman Emeritus, the concours having been acquired by Hagerty earlier this year. The automotive world is full of good people like this and it’s cool to see one of the best recognized so prominently,

Indiana Sprint Week expands to eight-race 2022 schedule

Non-wing Sprint car racing is treated the same way in Indiana as high school basketball, as a nearly religious experience. That’s why any serious race fan with a week or so to kill needs to seriously consider the experience of Indiana Sprint Week, in which the United States Auto Club‘s best hammer at a different Indiana speedway each night, flinging clods like bullets into the summer evening sky. The points-paying week-long ISW championship has traditionally encompassed eight tracks, but that’s about to change as ISW books in an eight-stop showdown next year.

Ty Garl’s photo for USAC makes clear just what ISW delivers every night. The 2022 run is set for July 22nd through 30th. The new stop on the tour is the new Circle City Raceway, located at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, which opened to rave reviews last year and is operated by Indianapolis Speedrome promoter Kevin Garrigus. The all-dirt ISW includes stops at Gas City I-69 Speedway, Bloomington Speedway, Kokomo Speedway, Lawrenceburg Speedway, Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt and Indiana’s only half-mile dirt track, the historic Action Track at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Terre Haute.