Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Perfect Sportscar

In the photo, I'm the whelp in the middle. My sister, Beverly, is standing and my younger brother, Michael, is front. He now looks much older than me proving it really is the mileage.

The car was called "The Shingle" by the men who built it. In the Fifties, we lived on Monte Sano Mountain, a hill on the edge of town that once had a resort for the northern wealthy to escape the heat but enjoy the charms of the South. We lived across the street from the site of the hotel long since burned to the ground and then only a chimney remained. The photo was taken down the street a few blocks and the house is still there. We lived in an old rock house that is also still there. The car is in a museum somewhere up north. I don't know where. I was away at college when Dad finally sold his proudest work to make bills.

The Shingle was infamous. It was the second car of two my Dad built with his neighbor and friends who were exceptional ex-Army Missile Command and when the photo was taken, NASA scientists. Dad had customized cars to run 'shine, and these guys got on like a house on fire. They wrapped the engine in special thermal blankets developed for heat shielding. The instructions to the driver was simple: put the pedal to the metal and leave it there. The car was a rolling wing and the air over it held it on the track even in curves. At the experimental track in Courtland, they would infuriate the Europeans who could not believe this 6'5" hillbilly was beating them with a piece of tin junk and a Crosley engine. The secret sauce was the two smiling men at every race wearing coveralls like my Dad and drinking coffee from his special thermos, both of whom would also help send man to the Moon in the next decade. Boys with toys.

Life as a kid was fascinating.

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