Sunday, July 27, 2008

2006 Seattle Roadster Show

RuSport Champ Car Star Justin Wilson's "Hero Card" from the '06 Seattle Roadster Show. (The Tomaso Collection)
There seems to be several overlapping themes to this weekend’s Indy Car race Up North, Eh? As originally today was scheduled to be the 25th Anniversary of the Portland Champ Car race, which had been moved from its traditional Father’s Day weekend.

(Saturday, March 4th, 2006)
Thus it was with great irony that I’d been so insistent upon attending the Seattle Roadster Show, as it had been a long, long, long time since I had attended a ”Detroit Iron” Hot Rod show… In fact I think the last “Juan” was a World ‘O wheels show held in the Seattle Center; Pre-Key Arena and LONG before some “Oakie Horn Toad” had STOLEN away our Seattle Supersonics… But I digress!

Yeah, back then I had truly wished to make the event for two separate reasons; First of all to meet Justin Wilson and get his autograph… As after all it’s NOT everyday that I have the chance to rub elbows with a Formel Ein Piloto! Secondly, because I’d never been to an event held at the then newly opened Quest Event Center

Clyde and I met Kevin and Terry for breakfast in Sea Tac before “moseying” to Downtown Seattle for a “Boyzs” outing at the BIG car show. Pulling into the nearby parking garage, it was a good day to head there. Since “MUH-Nuher’s” (Seattle Mariner’s) tickets were on sale and parking was FREE.

We entered the Roadster show around 11AM and immediately made a “bee-line” towards the Champ Car display to meet Justin Wilson, where I suppose I should not have been surprised to notice that absolutely NO ONE was there… As this was just one more sign of the Zeppelin von Champ Cars impending “Death Star” implosion!

Yet, after entering our names in that year’s contest for a Long Beach Grand Prix weekend for 2, we sauntered over to Justin “BIG UNIT” Wilson, who was standing ALONE!

Justin stuck his hand out and greeted us warmly, as I quickly realized just how tall the lanky BRIT was… OH MY (FREAKIN’) GOD! I’m “HOBBS-SNOBBING” with an ex-Formula One driver… “HOLY SHIT!” As I’d first seen Justin piloting the Jaguar at Suzuka in 2003. Where he’d started the season with Minardi before running the final 4 races for Jaguar, prior to loosing his ride in F1, while Terry asked: “Are you signing things?” Justin’s “handler” (Security? Champ Car DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ SECURITY!) replied, “in about 5 minutes,” so, as “Just the two of us” stood there side-by-side, I decided this was my big chance to “talk smart” with Justin. I turned to Justin and in my best Robin Miller impersonation asked him…

TOMASO: Are you going to BEAT Tracy this year?

T: How did you feel about Portland last year? It looked like you were dominating the race before your engine failed… (Justin did DOMINATE the entire weekend, fastest in practice, Pole position & then simply walking away from the entire field before his “Feurd” (Ford/Cosworth) Lump went KABLAMOE! Letting go right in front of me in the Festival chicane just past the halfway point of the 2005 race)
JW: There’s nothing you can do about it, so you just go on and try to put it out of your mind.

T: I was very glad to see you win Toronto…
JW: Smiling.

Then Justin’s handler” returned, handing me a brochure for the upcoming Portland race… I already have my tickets, I responded…

T: Are you going to do any more testing before Long Beach?
JW: Yes, we’ve (RuSport) got a test planned for next week.

T: Sebring?
JW: NO-We don’t like Sebring, we’re actually going to a new track, and I think PKV may be there also?

T: Who’s your main competition this year?
JW: Bourdais, Tracy & Allmendinger (Justin’s teammate)

T: What about Bruno? (Bordais teammate)
JW: It’ll be interesting to see how Bruno does after his accident (Bruno broke his back last year at the Indy 500 & has just returned to testing)

T: And what about Servia? (Bruno’s replacement last year)
JW: I haven’t heard if he’ll be racing this year?

T: How many cars do you expect for Long Beach?
JW: I don’t know? I think about only half the teams have announced their line-ups

T: Do you worry about the competition or just worry about yourself?
JW: I just concentrate on myself and hope to do the best…

Then Justin walked over and grabbed a card and signed it for me. Thanks! Here, how about another “Juan?” Although I could have stayed there the entire day and talked Justin’s ear off… The other 3 Musketeer’s in my party had long since dispersed and Justin seemed non-committal about continuing our conversation, so I thanked him once again and wished him further success…

“I hope you win some more Champ Car races this year!”
Surprisingly, “Chump Carzs” was ACTUALLY PROMOTING its upcoming race at Portland; in what was to be one of the Zeppelin von Champ Car’s last round trip voyages…

Catching up with the Boyzs, we began looking at the smorgasbord of show vehicles… Unbeknownst to me, the Seattle Roadster Show was now in its 7th year with OVER 300 vehicles on display, as we blew past a few rods, then stopped to look over a 1963 “KUH-NAID-IUN” Split window Corvette, with its turbocharged big block claiming 700bhp, past a nice ’55 Thunderbird and a few others before Clyde asked if we wanted to go upstairs?

There were more cars along with a plethora of “Choppers” and a model contest upstairs, as Kevin was trying to be funny by saying: “Hey Tomaso, look at the Mustang.” Looking towards where he was pointing, I turned and said: “Kevin, that’s NOT a Mustang, it’s a Beetle!” With Kevin laughing, I studied the Beetle more closely and replied: “I think it’s a ’74 Super-Beetle?” Kevin then pointed out how the entire rear seat was consumed by speakers… Before we meandered quickly through more “Detroit Iron,: as Kevin became my “point-man,” reading the various car placards. Kevin pointed out a “Khebbie” Nova SS, a Shebelle, Impala, etc. We stopped and glanced over the late model “Mod-motor ‘Stang,” (Silver, 4.6 liter V-8 with after-market wheels) before passing a “Chopper” that was so bright you needed shades… “High Bling Quotient;” a la Unique Whipes. (Completely chromed, on mirror’s with spotlights)

Then we headed towards the staircase back down to the main floor. Halfway down we stopped to stare at the sea of “eye-candy” below, where Kevin said: “There’s my boat!” (Kevin is a water ski fanatic thanks to Clyde) The Roc’s “Miami-Vice” cigarette boat was being pulled by a Ford F-650! (Later we overheard “some-Juan” muttering ‘bout how the Pizza biz must be doing OK, eh? The Roc also owns their own Helicopter! And makes some really tasty oven fired pizano’s)

Walking downstairs, we gravitated towards the bright banana “Hertz-Doughnut-Fly Yellow” rocket ship jumping out at us. It must be a Corvette? It was the AWESOME Z06 with the monstrous 7.0 liter 427cid V-8 peeking out from underneath the hood. The front snout looks “Ferrari-ish,” with rounded corners and oval-esque covered headlights… This has to be the “BADDEST” production ‘Vette to date… Pre 2008/9 ZR1, as it’s simply all business with a magnesium roof and a top speed of 198mph! Yet, for something different, in the rear trunk was an oval racetrack with 4 cars on it.

While Kevin & I meander through more cars, I had to stop at the Cobra racing car. It was the yellow #96 Alan Grant chassis and it was “Sweet!” While stopping to gaze at ‘Ol Number 96, Clyde disappeared on us… So the three of us perused more “Chebbie’s,” another Nova SS, Shebelle, etc. A few Bel Airs’, “Juan” turned into a drag racer with a 502cid V-8 “shoe-horned” into it.

For some reason the 62-63 “Feurd” T-Bird seems to be a popular hot rod… “Juan” had custom flames on it along with another “ride from Overhaulin” featuring the most stunning airbrushed Indian artwork… With Kevin being drawn towards another Overhaulin “pimped” ride, while I was enamored with the mini armada of 3 Dodge Viper GTS coupes.

One was red, with the other two in dark blue and all three had the twin white stripe treatment, with one of the blue Viper’s having race numeral’s on the door panels… While I was busy admiring the Viper, I overheard somebody say in mock disbelief: “Is that a Pinto?”

Then Kevin came over and said: “Hey Tomaso, Guess what that is?” A Pinto… Surprisingly this Pinto actually looked”nice.” The silver Pinto had been lowered & customized, including after-market chrome wheels… As I’d previously thought it was impossible to soup up a Pinto!

Then Terry spotted Clyde and soon it was just Kevin & I. Although Kevin likes “Kebbie’s,” at least he seemed fixated upon the row of 12 Corvette’s. Starting with the yellow Z06, we looked over the many early ‘Vette’sc including: 2 ’63 Split windows, ’56 convertible, a very sweet, plain Jane white ’65 Sting Ray, ’78 T-Top & ’89 T-Top…

While checking the Vette’s out Kevin asked me if I noticed anything wrong with the “souped-up” Beetle. Yes… The engine’s in the front! There were a pair of front engine Beetle Drag Racer’s…Afterwards, we found Clyde & Terry, Clyde said he needed to go outside to get some fresh air.

So the 3 Musketeer’s returned to viewing countless more “rides.” We checked out a 426 Hemi Charger and more Late-30’s rods with Corvette V-8’s stuffed inside their engine bays. While I had to stop to check out the silver ’98 Saleen S-281 convertible, across the aisle was a ’67 Shelby GT-350? White with blue stripes, but I didn’t have a chance to look it over too much as Kevin blasts past each car.

Then what I presume was the first of two “replicar’s,” Kevin spotted a wild 427 Cobra. The midnight blue chassis had the entire front half of the body raised into the air to expose the big block and I had a hard time with this car since it appeared that the hood was opening in the wrong direction, with the inside of the engine bay painted in Mystic paint.

Later we stumbled upon a second dark blue 427 Cobra. It had to have the largest exhaust side pipes I’ve ever seen. (5” diameter?)
Walking around some more, Kevin stopped at the empty table to get the “Big Swag’s” (Monster Garage) autograph, while Terry said he wanted to sit down since his back was hurting him, so we decided to leave instead.

On the way out we passed another yellow ‘Vette, this time a ’78 with a blue nitrous bottle installed between the seats. Then we blew past a late ‘60’s (1969?) Torino in brilliant blue with a big block packed under its bonnet…
Kevin then drove me home, and after dropping me off I decided to look over the cards that Justin Wilson had autographed. In what seems to be a NEVER-ending cycle of mildly bad karma… The cards were gone, SHEISA! As I’d carried them inside my 2005 G. I. Joe’s program I’d brought along for the entire day… Yet apparently they must have slipped out during “Juan” ‘O the countless times I was bumped into while not moving fast enough through the throng’s of onlookers… Thus, I’d just have to get it again later that summer at Portland during the Friday driver’s autograph session, eh? (Portland: June 16-18, 2006)

Overall it was a very well done car show, far bigger then the last “World ‘O Wheel’s” event I went to many years ago,