People in racing do superhuman things, even if they’re ordinary in background and comportment. They weld, bend, grind and wrench on the cars they create, using skills handed down from an eternal past. They compile stunning accomplishments using grit, resilience and intellect. And occasionally, they make tradition, a heritage of winning, that outlives them. In the world of pavement Modified racing, the great postwar revolution that combined cutdown stock cars with weekly short tracks, that was the odyssey of Lenny Boehler. His very ordinary back-road garage in East Freetown, Massachusetts, turned out cars that were visually unassuming but mechanically potent, first doing battle with hired guns in the hot seat at Bay State locales such as Seekonk and Norwood. A phalanx of big names from the glory years of Modified competition, men like Bugs Stevens, Fred DeSarro, Leo Cleary and Ron Bouchard, won big races in Lenny’s car all over the northeast. And when lymphoma claimed Lenny in 2001, his family soldiered on with a new roster of drivers in Ole Blue, as Lenny’s number 3 cars have long been known, still winning races. After 65 years of fielding winning Modifieds, the story of Lenny and his family is finally being told.
It may escape you initially, but the title of this book, The Soul of a Modified, is entirely apropos. Unlike some people in Modified racing, the Boehler family never enjoyed a bottomless bank account, but Lenny and his descendants selflessly poured themselves into making his cars fast. My friend Lew Boyd at Coastal 181 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which published this volume, knew Lenny intimately, but lets the people who lived with him, worked with him and drove for him describe his unassuming, but unshakable, determination to win. In 210 softcover pages, Boyd makes it plain that even though the patriarch has been gone for close to 20 years, his family’s dedication has kept it strong in this wild, costly, fanatically supported regional motorsport, running up front with a new generation of stars including the late Ted Christopher, Eric Beers, Bobby Santos III and current NASCAR Cup stalwart Ryan Preece, among others. Part of racing’s ethos, its truth, is that if you can get up and fight after being knocked flat countless times, you can indeed enjoy success, and even a measure of immortality. Rest assured, this book will leave you both impressed and inspired. Just released, it retails for $29.95. You ought to read it.