Here they come: Mecum heads to Kansas City for the 28th year

If you like cars from the past, and you’re willing to spend some money for quality examples of them, you’d do well to acquaint yourself with Mecum Auctions of Walworth, Wisconsin, for which I’ve occasionally I’ve done some writing. If you need to establish Mecum’s bona fides, all you’ve got to do is consider the fact that founder Dana Mecum is now the leading force behind the club dedicated to the racing cars created by the brilliant Harry Armenius Miller that utterly dominated American motorsport 100 years ago. Anyone who respected Harry Miller’s got serious cred by our definition. Mecum sells a lot of quality cars of all stripes, and is about to do it again by hosting its 28th annual auction at the Kansas City Convention Center, which is set for December 2nd through 4th.

A significant part of the Kansas City sale will be a private offering known as the From the Stampede Collection, which, as you might guess, consists of Ford products, specifically 16 tuner-modified or otherwise unusual Mustangs. Here’s an example of an obscure but undeniably rare specialty Ford. The lot is a fifth-generation 2008 Mustang GT/CS, the revived California Special option package that recalled the 1968 original GT/CS via its faux side scoops and partially blacked-out trim. This is said to be one of 253 such GT/CS examples finished by the factory in Grabber Orange, and further distinguished by a black and tan interior combination. It’s upgraded with a Roush hood scoop, BBK tubular headers and exhaust, the same Brembo brakes used on the Shelby GT500 and a full K&N induction package. To paraphrase the song, you gotta get there.

Welcome to JDOW; here’s the kind of news we cover regularly

It’s really gratifying that this ongoing discussion about the world of cars has gained some readers of late, and I thank my pal Brian Caruso, who generously shared the story of his family’s museum of American motorsport in Las Vegas, with us recently. Welcome, everyone. This is a quick-hit narrative of noteworthy things going on where cars, and the life that revolves around them, are concerned. Jim Donnelly On Wheels is generally updated a couple of times a week or on an as-needed basis as breaking automotive news dictates. You never know what you’re going to find in this dialogue because, honestly, I usually don’t know myself until I get behind the keyboard. From that point, anything goes. The conversation often, but not always, involves new products. Here’s an example, with a unique twist once you consider the source. Lincoln, an acclaimed brand with some undeniable identity issues, is resurrecting a magical name from its storied past. What’s unexpected is that the new Lincoln Zephyr was introduced in China, and is aimed exclusively at that staggeringly huge automotive market.

Lincoln today debuted its first locally-produced sedan – the all-new Lincoln Zephyr – in China at Auto Guangzhou. The highly anticipated Zephyr highlights the future direction of Lincoln’s design and intelligent technology, and is expected to contribute to Lincoln’s growth in China.

The Zephyr is Lincoln’s first locally produced automobile intended exclusively – word chosen deliberately – for the Chinese market. And it’s not a hybrid or EVs, but instead a passenger car that’s precisely tuned to buyer tastes in the sprawling Chinese market. Over there, large luxury sedans are very much a buyer favorite, as evidenced by Buick’s longstanding success in China, along with Rolls-Royce and Bentley; just saying. This is a full-size car, larger than any sedan Lincoln has recently offered in the United States, such as the Hermosillo-built MXZ, which went out of production last year. The Zephyr will ride on a modified version of the Ford global C2 platform, which will underpin the fifth-generation Mondeo sedan and stateside, the likes of the four-door Ford Bronco Sport. Introduced at the Auto Guangzhou show, the Zephyr will be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A 27-inch touchscreen – no misprint – that takes up the entire dashboard will be standard. Will the Zephyr come here? Given Lincoln’s current all-SUV domestic lineup, probably not, at least in this form.

Subies storming central Florida

Finding yourself in central Florida, loving the sunshine but bored stiff by the Mouse? Here’s the solution, especially if you’re into All Things Subaru. A yawning regional show and strut, Subiefest Florida, will be cranking it loud this weekend in Lakeland, southwest of Orlando. Subiefest has a firmly established reputation for doing cutting-edge fun, with Subaru Technica International putting the all-new 2022 WRX GT and BRZ on display for would-be shoppers.

Subaru cars, sand, sun and supporters of the cause in great numbers. Sounds like a winning plan to us. Among the good stuff planned are an all-Subaru car show and a gear store – plastic only accepted – where you can load up on Subie swag. The date is this Saturday, and basic admission will be $20 at the gate. The location is the SUN ‘n FUN Expo in Lakeland.

A racing family’s successes

A recent assigment from Speed Sport was to complete a soon-to-be-published retrospective of Phil Walters, an exceptionally talented postwar American racer who started out on Northeast bullrings under the pseudonym Ted Tappett, and who walked away from the sport for good following the 1955 spectator bloodbath at Le Mans. Walters made his rep in Midgets when they were the dominant craze in American motorsports, running seven times a week, or more, just after the war. A big part of Walters’ stardom was linked to his time driving the gorgeously turned-out Midgets of the Caruso family, originally from Long Island but now based in Las Vegas, where Brian operates a machine shop, and invites visitors to tour the family’s racing heirlooms that are gathered upstairs.

Here’s what you’ll find upstairs. On the left is the legendary Caruso Kurtis-Offenhauser Midget, here lettered as it was raced by “Iron Mike” Nazaruk, the combat-decorated ex-Marine who was fatally injured in a Sprint car at Langhorne Speedway. Tappett also drove the car, as did one of Midget racing’s true immortals, “Bronco Bill” Schindler, the one-legged star from Long Island who also met his end in a Sprint car. Arrayed to the right are a collection of smaller-bore Quarter Midgets.

In this alcove are several Midget engines, including a couple of Offys and a downsized Ford V8-60 flathead, One of the crankshafts on the table has a special history: The family patriarch, Mike Caruso Sr., lightened it by slicing away some of its counterweights before Schindler hustled the Kurtis to quick time while qualifying for a race inside the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1946. Schindler won 53 major Midget meets aboard the Caruso car in 1947, then backed it up with another 53 wins the following year. Counting in his prewar victories, the legendary Schindler ultimately owned an estimated 200 Midget triumphs with the Caruso family, an astonishing record.

Here’s what we really like. The big car on top of the display case is a quarter-scale model of Jim Rathmann’s winning Offy-powered Watson roadster from the 1960 Indianapolis 500, the model formed from a mold created by racer and artist Bob McCoy. The 1960 race, marked by a titanic battle for the win between Rathmann and Rodger Ward, is considered one of Indy’s greatest. If you’re just as amped by this stuff at us, and planning to hit Sin City, give Brian a call at 702-871-4300 to arrange a tour. In the meantime, check out the family’s full history in motorsports by clicking here. You can also go here to learn about the specialty fabricating services they provide.

Bob Bondurant, 1933-2021

It wasn’t enough that Bob Bondurant was a tremendously good racer with both two wheels and four. He taught a lot of other people, ranging from outright wankers to Hollywood glitterati, how to drive quickly and safely. By his own estimation, about half a million of them. The founder of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, who hustled everything from flat track motorcycles to a brief stint for Ferrari in Formula 1, Bondurant died this week at age 88 outside his adopted home of Paradise Valley, Arizona. Besides being the United States’ most prolific instructor on high-speed driving techniques, Bondurant was part of the pantheon of truly great American road racers as professionalism was propelling that once-dilettante activity, demonstrating his chops in the hot seat of both competition Corvettes and Shelby Cobras.

Aside from his other accomplishments, Bondurant achieved racing immorality by being the first and only American driver to bring home an FIA world championship by winning seven out of 10 international races aboard the legendary, Peter Brock-designed Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe in 1965. The previous year, he’d shared a Cobra with Dan Gurney that won GT class honors at the 24 hours of Le Mans. Still earlier, he copped 30 out of the 32 races he entered in Corvettes between 1961 and 1963. Bondurant’s instructional career got underway in 1966, when film director John Frankenheimer hired him to teach basic racing skills to star James Garner as Grand Prix was being filmed. A near-fatal crash in a Can-Am race at Watkins Glen led him to establish the Bondurant school full time, which counted everyone from weekend hobbyists to corporate security specialists to Hollywood’s best among its clients. Bondurant, we assume you realize, is the guy on the right in the school photo. You could probably fill an NFL stadium with the number of drivers whose lives his training likely saved.

Acura harkens back to glory by rebooting Integra sport compact

Have you spent a lot of time thinking about Acura lately? No? You’re not alone, and Honda intends to do something to improve the profile of its halo brand, which some people may have believed has vanished entirely. The revival of the NSX supercar essentially came and went. You gotta do something, and Acura’s response has been to plan the reinterpretation of a magical nameplate. Acura is indeed planning to reboot the Integra compact, which first debuted in 1986 to accolades that frequently termed it the world’s most capable, albeit somewhat pricey, Honda Civic.

Like its famous Reagan-era namesake, the 2023 is indeed another hot hatch, with a total of five doors and the first factory-turbocharged engine in Integra history, namely an overhead-cam 1.5-liter unit with Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing. Something that’s becoming a definitely departure in today’s automotive world, a six-speed manual transaxle, will be one of the revived Integra’s offerings. The paint color, Yellow Pearl, is a holdover from the NSX to keep things noticeable. When it debuts next year, the 2023 Integra is expected to begin at around $30,000, continuing its status as Civic derivative with elevated performance cred and accommodations.

Historic race cars eagerly sought for Targa 66 vintage gathering

Brian Redman is a Continental road-circuit icon, his long resume topped by four victories in the 1,000km of Spa, a pair of outright wins at Sebring and a historic run to triumph on the back roads of Sicily in one of the Targa Florio’s final runnings. He’s also a Florida resident and one of vintage racing’s strongest supporters, evidenced by his annual Targa Sixty Six gathering. The latest edition is set for February 11th through 13th at Palm Beach International Raceway in southern Florida, with the social aspect of the gathering set nearby amidst the specialty shops and eateries of Palm Beach Gardens. Each running of the Targa Sixty Six encompasses three supervised track days plus a tony awards dinner at the host hotel.

A whole host of racing icons from the past have served as guest speakers and instructors during the Targa Sixty Six. Vintage race cars, which can be anything from veteran Formula 1 equipment, as above, to an Austin-Healey Sprite with a roll bar and taped-over bugeye headlamps, are loosely grouped by performance and the capabilities of their drivers. Other than that, there are really no limits on speed or passing on the track. Check out the website to get your old crock registered and book lodging from the block of hotel rooms that are already reserved.

Daytona racing museum captures historic preservation award

The award is called an ISHY, and in the world of preserving sports artifacts for future generations, winning it carries considerable weight. The ISHY Award is bestowed by the International Sports Heritage Association, and it’s been presented to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, located at Daytona International Speedway. The award salutes excellence in presentation on the part of sports museums, collection and halls of fame, regardless of size or attendance. The MSHFA was specifically recognized for the display cases prepared to honor each of the hall’s 2020 inductees, whose enshrinement was delayed by the pandemic. One of the honorees is MSHFA staff photographer Thomas R. Miller, who photographed the cases so the ISHA could evaluate the materials.

This particular case recounts the career of team owner Rick Hendrick, one of the 2020 inductees, who just won the NASCAR Cup championship thanks to the historic performance of Kyle Larson. Similar displays honored the Class of 2020’s other members, including pioneering NASCAR champion Red Byron, flat-track motorcycle star Chris Carr, early motorsport publisher Floyd Clymer, IndyCar star and official Wally Dallenbach Sr., 1963 Daytona 500 winner Tiny Lund, six-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion Jacky Ickx, off-road titan Ivan “Ironman” Stewart and the legend of 1960s Gasser drag racing, “Ohio George” Montgomery. Full disclosure, I proudly serve as an elector to the MSHFA, which is open daily and located in the speedway’s Tickets and Tours Building.

Pastrana produces yet another ARA rally title for Subaru

Travis Pastrana, the extreme sports superstar and former regular in the NASCAR Gander RV Truck Series, has studded his motorsports crown yet again by claiming the 2021 American Rally Association season championship for Subaru, cementing the iconoclastic Japanese automaker’s status as a genuine player in global motorsports yet again. Specifically, the 2021 title marks the sixth such accolade for Pastrana, and his first ARA crown since 2017. Pastrana and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino rocked the rally world by winning four ARA events – three of them consecutive – aboard a WRX STI entered by Subaru Motorsports USA and prepped by the fine folks at Vermont SportsCar in Milton, Vermont, near Burlington, which is Subaru’s performance partner for the ARA schedule.

As the photo makes clear, ARA performance rallies can hold their own with World of Outlaws Sprint cars or NHRA Top Fuel when it comes to all-out purity and pure muscle. VSC builds the Subaru rally fleet from the ground up at its surgically clean assembly facility, machining engine blocks, cylinder heads and crankshafts from billet aluminum, totally trick stuff that allows them to wring an honest 600 horsepower out of a Subaru flat-four design. Pastrana and Gelsomino’s teammates at Subaru Motorsports USA, Brandon Semenuk and John Hall, had an event win on their way to third in the overall ARA standings. Subaru has won a stunning 16 overall rally titles since 2006.

Investor megabucks chasing an electric future in Rivian IPO

Rivian, the California-based EV startup, may have delivered barely 150 new electric pickups since the firm was launched in 2009, but hold on, because the finances behind its first issuance of stock make clear just how thoroughly the coming of electrification has upended the auto industry in this country. In yesterday’s initial public offering, Rivian put 153 million shares on the market at an opening price of $78 per share. As The New York Times has been reporting today, the equity markets immediately boosted each share to $106.75 when actual trading commenced. That would put Rivian’s potential market capitalization at more than $90 billion, outstripping the value of both General Motors and the Ford Motor Company, which have produced a couple of hundred million vehicles over more than a century between them.

If this seems a little strange, consider that Tesla, which is considerably further ahead in terms of deliveries but is still definitely an automotive newcomer, is capitalized to the tune of just about $1 trillion following its own stock issuance. The teachable lesson here is that investors are willing to bet big – really, really huge – on future profitability on the part of these newcomers. And Rivian, which is beginning to roll out its R1T pickup shown here, is heavily financed by both Ford and Amazon, the latter of which has placed an order with Rivian for 100,000 new electric delivery vans, to augment the blue ocean of hightop Ford Transit vans that are now a fixed part of the landscape. Rivian’s consumer vehicles will also include an all-activity SUV.