COMING BACK TO THE CARLISLE CAR MEET, FALL 1984 . . .
Over the winter and into the spring of 1984, the coming fall event in Carlisle would periodically come forward from the back burners in my mind. I had to head to Carlisle that fall with an offering of merchandise that would, first, be attractive enough to attract the players that showed up, and secondly, but most importantly, not be returning home again with me at the end of that weekend!!
Taking automobiles would not be my first choice as the event had its own substantial automobile sales “corral” and the cars generally on offer were American collector cars. I didn’t feel there was much of a buying audience at Carlisle for post-war European sports cars.
Between the antique tin toys, the vintage tether racers, and the vintage motorcycles, the latter seemed much the wisest choice.
I already had more than a handful of quality European motorcycles on hand and the motorcycles I had actually sold had done quite well dollar-wise.
I had pushed out the edges of my advertising. For some time I had advertised in Hemmings, both seeking and selling, but it was selling the motorcycles that turned the spigot wide open.
My motorcycle advertisements on both the wanted and selling side became more and more verbose.
On the buying side, I implored you to test me on my liberally worded statements of:
“Absolutely Highest Prices Paid!!” for top quality European Motorcycles!! I then ran through a good many of the most desirable makes and models, urging any potential seller to call!!
On the selling side the copy to lure you into considering my such and such Norton may well have started with an elaborate account of rising on a perfect Sunday morning just after dawn and drilling you through 70 or so miles of deep country roads, with you and the Norton as one, rocketing through the rich green farmlands, soon to run along a winding road bordering a swift running creek, and finally turning back into the countryside for more, and finally coming to the edges of that small town that had the great old, “real” stainless steel diner.
The first time I put one of those epistles together the gal at Hemmings was like:
“Really . . .??”
“This ad’s going to cost you some serious money . . .”
With her utter lack of enthusiasm, she very nearly knocked the wind completely out of my sails, but I ran the ad and the motorcycle sold very quickly.
But those ads gained more and more interest and subsequent sales as time went by.
And then along came the:
THE VERMONT “FARM” BOYS . . .
One early winter day in December, I got a telephone call from a guy with a heavy New England accent, asking about a BSA Spitfire that I had advertised. I could scarcely understand what he was saying as there was heavy metal music and three or four extra voices coming down the line. You quickly got the impression these were real “no nonsense” motorcycle guys.
Slade was his name and he had singled out one mean motorcycle from my inventory. The BSA “Spitfire” was BSA’s idea of a big displacement off-road motorcycle. It was a roughhouse bike. I needed Slade to tell me that was just what he wanted.
He sounded like the kind of guy you didn’t want to have angry with you . . .
“Slade, are you familiar with a BSA Spitfire?” I asked
“Oh, hell yeah, my buddy Glenn over to “Montpealiuh” got one. It’s meaner’n a snake. So, I’m wantin’ to get me one . . .”
I swore the heavy metal music volume went up and the “background” boys were really hootin’ it up at that point.
A man with half a brain would have wound himself straight off that call right about then.
But, not me, I told him how much the bike was and then it really got interesting . . .
“There’s four of us that really like motor bikes. Can we come see what you got . . .?
“Uh, yes . . . we can set an appointment and have a look or I could send you a full set of color photographs.”
(“. . . Please say to send the photos . . .”)
“Nah, we’re all farm boys, so we’ll come on down. We usually finish up around midnight so we’ll just jump in our truck an’ drive on down. Can you open your shop pretty early for us?
“Uh, yeah, what’s a good time for you guys?”
(. . . and the band?)
“. . .’bout seven, seven thirty in the mornin’. You OK with that?”
So I just kept goin’ deeper and deeper.
Sure, that was terrific and we set the appointment for the following Tuesday morning.
As you can probably tell by now, for sure, there are times when my picnic is short a few sandwiches.
I had a week to sort out what the hell I’d done . . .
“All four of us are farmers and we usually finish up a day by midnight . . .”
They didn’t leave a number and there was no way for me to call in those days and try to unwind the deal! The ensuing week went by very slowly.
But then that Monday night, before their Tuesday arrival, an early, sizeable snowfall got underway with the weather guessers calling it a big one. Certainly appeared it was building to be a good sized snowfall here in Philadelphia, even though it was just very early December.
Still, I slept fitfully and was up at 5AM. I checked, and hallelujah it had snowed to beat the band and was still coming down lightly.
There was no way they were coming in this weather!
Was there . . .??
At 6:30 AM I went out and opened our garage shop just to keep myself from going nuts. I started the heater, dusted off the bikes for the fourth time in the last twenty four hours.
Then of all things I took the photograph shown below . . .
Caption: THE “FARMER’S” SHOWROOM . . .
Yeah, there are a hell of a lot of bikes in that photograph!
I haven’t been exactly straightforward with you about the number of motorcycles I had purchased up to that point. My reticence must stem from my mother’s intense dislike for motor bikes. In earlier chapters you may recall that Mother suffered no end of motorcycle shenanigans, and no, when she came to visit us currently, I didn’t invite her out to shop . . .
Don’t strain your eyes. In the picture there is a Ducati 250 Desmo, a ’66 Triumph TT, a Triumph Thunderbird, two more Triumphs, the “subject” BSA 650 “Spitfire” and finally peeking there in the corner of the shot, an MV Agusta 750!!
How about the goofy signs I had done up in my shop showroom?! And notice all the photos are “tight” skipping the overall view of the “facility!”
Anyway, Manfred Hecht had recently decided to really lighten his load of bikes. I was quick to snare anything he’d had a hand in, and fortunately my shy little “WANTED” advertisements really were working pretty damn well.
HOLY CROW, THEY’RE HERE . . .!!
While I was fluffing my clandestine motorcycle purchases another time, a dirty white extended van slid through the snow to a halt in front of the house. Slowly it backed into the drive hard up against the shop door.
I was simply standing inside still as a stone as I watched four lean country “farmers” rolled out of each door of the van. They were all dressed in black, all laughing like crazy.
They all looked like the very roughest characters out of Dickens darkest London.
I prepared to meet my maker, and tentatively opened the shop door and barely squeaked out a greeting.
The “farmers” burst into the place and went bananas. They couldn’t believe so many cool bikes were in one place, let alone in a small Cape Cod home garage in a suburban neighborhood.
I’ll never forget . . .
“Hey man, what the fuck?? Where the hell did you get all this stuff??”
He turned to the others and with a sweeping gesture encompassing the motorcycles said:
“Who wants some of this?”
(. . . Okay, right, then I saw what was comin’ straight down the pipe. They were simply going to take whatever they wanted, waste me, and roll on out of there! It wasn’t 8AM yet!! . . .)
Two more piped up and said they saw somethin’ for themselves.
The “lead” farmer turned to me and said: “We run with cash if that’s good for you . . .”
( . . .Fuckin’ A . . .)
“No, cash is fine,” I squeaked out.
“We’re good hard workin’ farmers and we love motorbikes!” said the lead guy.
Now I was totally with them! “What kind of farming you fella’s do?”
Without skipping a beat the lead “Farmer” tells me:
We grow weed, you know marijuana, all over New England in farm field “tractor turnarounds.”
I knew exactly what he was talking about. A number of years ago I plucked the carcass of a 250GT Ferrari out of a tractor turnaround in Lancaster County,
We fixed the prices on the four motorcycles and they started digging through all their clothing, boots, etc. One went back to the truck to get more money.
Suddenly, the back door of the shop opened and there stood my wife Marilyn. I really had to hand it to her. She never flinched at the sight of the “farmers” and the cash all over the place. The gnarliest of the group had just pulled of his boot and a puddle of cash lay all around his gnarly foot.
Marilyn merely asked if anyone would like coffee and shot a look at me that said maybe you can tell me later this morning what was going on out here!!
So, at close to 11 in the morning, I sent my new friends, “The Farmer’s”, on down the road and I was left with a stunning pile of cash!
“Don’t forget to call us when you get in more cool bikes! . . .
And I did, for a number of years . . .
THE CHILDREN’S FERRARI & MASERATI GRAN PRIX CARS . . .
In the early spring, I got a call from an estate manager in Lower Merion, a township just down the line from where we were. He wondered if I had any interest in two electric children’s racers. He had been told that one them had been built at the Ferrari factory for the child of a very important customer. That certainly was not the case, and then I was told . . .
They were quite “shabby” to quote him.
“I may possibly have an interest, as long as they are essentially “all there.” I said.
“You best come have a look . . .” The manager said.
Of course, Ferrari enthusiasts will always perk up when they hear about a children’s Ferrari. You hoped it would be one of the marvelous aluminum Testa Rossa’s that appeared rarely, carried a great deal 0f lore as to who actually built them, and Enzo’s fiery reaction to their very
So, I went to have “a look” and the two wonderful little children’s cars were indeed quite shabby, yet one could see they were very well built. They had the proper “look” of both a Ferrari and a Maserati Gran Prix car of the fifties.
High quality fiberglass bodies, real wire wheels with knock-offs, clever frames with protection to prevent a child putting a foot wrong while underway, and high quality electric motors.
I was still wandering through my “farmer’s pile of dollars, so:
“I can’t imagine what I’d do with these two, but how much are they?” I asked . . .
“The boss said he’d like fifty dollars each, but he said if that was too much he would like an offer. . .”
(. . . Maybe, for the first and only time in my life I stepped aside of Bruce Meyer’s great “Never Lift . . .” philosophy. . )
“Fifty is fine . . .” I said getting straight out of the throttle!!
“The Ultimate Enthusiast and Great Friend, Bruce Meyer!”
After all, I was hoping to take the cars to Molin Body Works in Wayne and have them refurbished which would not end up being an inexpensive venture!
Since I still had plenty of that farm cash, I made an “after hours deal” with two of the best: Harry Tidmarsh to do the chassis and body work and Bob Barber to put down the paint!
Tidmarsh’s work has been extensively reviewed throughout these pages. Simply without peer.
Bob Barber was, and remains today, simply one of the very finest automotive painters in America. His Paintworks in Stowe, Pennsylvania has produced prize winning finishes worldwide. This sounds like a commercial, but unless you live within two blocks of “Mick” Jenkins or “Junior” Conway, I expect it is just that.
Now, I didn’t say that either one knocked out their craft in just a few days. But as you can see the children’s Ferrari and Maserati turned out splendidly!
Bob Barber & Harry Tidmarsh, Maserati & Ferrari
The spring had come and gone and we were suddenly on top of Labor Day with just a few weeks until we’d be doing Carlisle.
I paid Bob Barber and Harry a “pretty penny” and took the two, the Ferrari and Maserati and placed them amongst the motorcycles, etc. that we’d be taking to Carlisle.
Less than two weeks before the event, I was walking through the Lancaster County Farmer’s market and I came upon a vendor whose booth had the most appealing hand painted 18 x 24 posters - simple Red and blue lettering on white background. Hard to describe, but they had pizzazz!
The vendor gave me the information about the artist, Marie Houpert, who it turned out lived within a few blocks of where we lived. She agreed to do our show signs and continued to do so for many years. I miss her still.
Marie knocked out our signs for Carlisle, we rented a Penske truck, and Dick Miles set about installing anchors in the truck for the multitude of wheel chocks and hundreds of pull along straps I’d purchased for the substantial number of motorcycles we were taking up to Carlisle, along with the Ferrari and Maserati children’s cars.
What you see below are a number of photographs of our first “set-up. Pretty heady stuff. . .
Look at this final image with Marilyn and me. . .
No, I wanted to “enjoy it”! Needless to say, I took a good bit less further down the road!
And, I’m no better today: if I put a prized item out for sale, and someone says “I’ll take it”, there is still a bit of a bite to it. . .
We went on to have a great week at Carlisle, selling quite a number of motorcycles, including a Vincent Black Shadow.
In selling that Vincent, I learned a bit of a lesson.
Thursday had been a non-stop great day. Sales were good and I met many new people. It was sunny and very warm. The next day, I was meeting a gentleman who was coming from the Chicago area specifically to see the Vincent Black Shadow.
Just after five Thursday evening, Dick asked me if I wanted a beer. The day was nearly done and I said “Sure, thanks!”
That beer tasted good and I just about inhaled it. Dick handed me another which I consumed at a more leisurely pace.
It was late. I was essentially blitzed, which was okay until a voice said:
“Hi, are you Kirk?” I nodded and he extended his hand and said:
“I’m Peter Townsend. I decided to fly in today. Is that the Vincent right there?”
(Whoa, Peter, you’re not supposed to be here until 10 tomorrow, and I’m pretty much cockeyed from two beers. . .)
Well, I pulled the edges back together, and yes, I did get the Vincent sold to Peter. Fortunately the Black Shadow was a spectacular, completely correct example.
Lesson learned. No drinks until the doors are locked at night.
HERSHEY BLUE FIELD 1984
The following week at Hershey, I joined Dick in his spaces and learned what it was like to be “set up” on the Blue Field.
All this in a terrific couple of weeks!!!
THE RETURN OF THE CONNONBALL FERRARI 365 GTB/4
In the mid eighties, I began to attend the Barrett Jackson Classic Car Auctions held in January of each year in balmy Scottsdale, Arizona. Even in those earlier years, the sales were simply amazing.
In December of 1985, I received a telephone call from a really pleasant guy named Joe Gulrich.
Joe was the current owner of the Ferrari which had won the Gurney/Yates Cannonball Baker inaugural Sea to Shining Sea race which I had owned at the time of the race.
Joe said he had restored the Ferrari and it was for sale. He thought I may have an interest.
I told him we were coming to Scottsdale and I’d come to L.A. first to have a look. My friend Will Barclay and I took a ride and found Joe and the car in a modest suburban neighborhood. There was another gentleman there also.
There it was! I was slightly let down. Maybe it was a mild case of “you can’t go home again”. . .
I looked the car over. The paint finish was terrific. All of the subtle changes we’d made were still intact: the radiused leading edge hood corners, the four goofy government reflectors were still in a trash can.
But wait, where was the ugly rear radio aerial that was a horrid little lump, high on the right rear quarter of all Daytona’s? What I was looking at was simply a flush circular opening, like a tiny gas cap.
“Who painted this car?” I asked Joe.
“Bill DeCarr in Los Angeles”, he said.
I knew Bill DeCarr. He had started with George Barris and had gone to work with the legendary Herschel “Junior” Conway.
I asked Joe to show me how the radio aerial worked. When Joe raised it, I saw that DeCarr had removed the “golf ball” base, welded a tip on top of the mast, and shaped it to the contour of the rear quarter. Very clever.
I returned from my admiration for everything that was incorrect about the car. . .
(. . .what was that again, Kirk?)
Finally, I asked Joe how much the Ferrari was. . .
At that point Doug Mockett stepped in and said the car was $78,000.
Well, in the mid-eighties 365 GTB/4’s were generally worth $50,000.
In the back and forth of all automobile sales, certain things may come to light. . .
In this instance, it became abundantly clear that Mr. Mockett had almost certainly funded the project and was expecting a healthy return with the fabled Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash winner!
I told the two of them the car was great. But let me think about it, blah, blah, blah. So we left and headed over to Scottsdale for the auction.
As usual, the sale was a grand exposition of all things automotive; actually it had broadened into offering almost any high line item you could think of: watches, jewelry, art, automobilia, etc.!
That year we had rented a golf cart since the auction was simply impossible to fully cover on foot.
It was the Friday morning of the sale. There were loudspeakers outside so you could hear the bidding on each automobile.
A Ferrari 365 GTB/4 came on the block. I had seen the car in the tent the day before: nearly new in appearance, with under ten thousand miles, in a dazzling Ferrari red with an unblemished tan leather interior.
We were down on the lower field. I stopped the golf cart to listen to the bidding.
The bidding rose quickly to $45,000 then fifty, then slowed considerably. They had probably stalled at the reserve.
I started to drive off in the cart, but then the bidding lit up again 50-60-65-70-75, then the bidding jumped to 85 then $100,000!!
The auctioneer really was banging for $110,000, then imploring the bidders for $105,000. It went on long enough that I thought the auctioneer may have run the car “off the money.”
Suddenly he snared the $105,000, and then in two thousand dollar increments the Ferrari marched up to a final sale price of $123,000!
The place went crazy! Huge round of applause. They announced that a vice president with Ford Motor Company had bought the car.
“We need a phone!” I said to Will as I wheeled off to call Joe Gulrich to tell him that, going against my better judgment, I had decided to knuckle under to his high price and buy the Cannonball Ferrari back, and we’d wire him the money, hoping he hadn’t somehow heard about the auction result.
Needless to say I had no peace or rest until Monday when the monies landed with Mr. Gulrich & company . . .
OH NO, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BRING THAT UP AGAIN, ARE YOU??
There’s no need to continue to prattle on and on about whatever happened with that silly little scrap of a 1929 Alfa Romeo that I traded to Luigi Chinetti for what turned out to be the “Cannonball Daytona”.
Why, it was nothing more than a supercharged Mille Miglia factory team Alfa Romeo in bits and pieces.
Well, if you’re going to carry on endlessly about it, here it is in today’s world . . .
You’re right, it really is terrific isn’t it? Massimo Amenduni is the consummate Alfisti. The last photograph of this chapter really says it all.
Massimo with a marvelous smile and his ever present wild eyeglasses. The beautiful young Lady with him is (. . . I believe I’m correct with this. . .) the granddaughter of one of the Alfa Romeo 1929 Mille Miglia factory team drivers who actually wheeled this particular Alfa!!
And, that little string of numbers strung down the cowl is each year that the Alfa competed in both the earliest races up through the current events!!
So, there you have it! Actually everyone won in that deal. Massimo and Bruce McCaw, (the current owner of the Cannonball Daytona), carry on, both driving thoroughly great Italian automobiles!
In 1975 she went out on a date with a “busted” guy, rode with him for four more years through his horrifying divorce which ended up being the worst one in recorded history, married him, gave him $100 when all his money had been absconded, stayed on the trolley for the ride through all manner of automobiles, motorcycles, antique toys, tether racers, ad infinitum . . .
Look again; money can’t buy a smile like that!
The moment we began to off-load the children’s cars, a man asked how much for the two of them. I said a very healthy number. He pulled out a wad of cash and paid me for them.
“Don’t take them out of your truck. Cover them up. I’ll send someone for them shortly.”
Yes, they were sold at my asking price, and yes, they had made a good deal of money. . . but no one would see them!
I have been guilty of this type of reaction all the way back to the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B in 1970
that had just come off the truck having travelled from Australia to Colorado and then to me. Bill Serri offered me $28,000 for the car against my cost of $9,000.