Cars 'n Stars: Ganassi And Vasser In Rose Parade, Chrysler Coronado Classic Car Caper, Newport Beach Historic Car Auction

25 November 1997

It was vinatge racing at Monaco, U.S. style, along San Diego, CA bay. From all appearances it was a big success, especially when the feature race for REAL Trans Am cars ended in a dead heat. There was no press/media set-up for the race weekend, so we couldn't obtain crowd estimates or race info and winners. We bought a program, however, and jotted down the names of the cars/drivers who appeared to get to the checker flag first in the six heats.

The Steve Earle/HMSA engineered event, sponsored by Chrysler in conjunction with the Holiday Bowl (Plymouth), took place on picturesque Coronado Isle at the Navy Air Base--on the water with a great backdrop of 150 sail boats, yachts, jet skis, and two huge aircraft carriers (the KittyHawk and the Constellation).

The 150 historic race cars entered were Steve Earle certified and represented the cream of primarily west coast based 1949-1971 racers. One race featured $2 million in Ferraris in just TWO cars--a 1962 GTO driven by Tom Price, and a '61 250 SWB piloted by Jeff Kline, who overhauled Price a few laps from the finish. The cars went doorhandle to doorhandle and looked a Sebring replay.

Other races saw a whole bunch of Cobras doing battle with each other, with Phil Gallants much travelled 427 winning over Don Lee's similar snake and Rob Walton third in a Cobra Daytona Coupe .. . a rare car.

From a historical correctness standpoint, all of the races featured exciting grids, and none more so than the 10 lap heat that pitted Wal Mart CEO Rob Walton, '61 Birdcage Maserati, against zillionaire (he was on NBC last week telling about his $10 million pre-nuptial agreement) John Mozart, 5400cc Lister Chevrolet. Walton won and Mozart was nipped on the penultimate lap by Craig Huenstrom's 2 liter BMW.

One heard/saw three C-Jags go at it, and race No. 1 was taken by an Aardvark in the hands of Don Racine over Bill Watkins. Arnolt Bristol and John Anderson won over Peter Giddings' half-million dollar Aston Martin DB3S. Glen Shaeffer's Allard was a rocket ship in the back straight of the 1.6 mile, 7 turn airport course.

Fittingly the wrap-up race was for the Trans Am cars, and some other marques such as BMW and Alfa Romeo. Three cars were certified former Trans Am titleists. The start saw the ex-Mark Donohue Sunoco Camaro driven by Tom McIntyre take the lead, then lose it to Fred Galloway's similar Chevy. Galloway was then overhauled by metal re-finishing mogul Ken Epsman, ex-Follmer Mustang. We don't know who won at the checker, but will give our nod to Epsan who was getting up a head of steam.

Neat event. Chrysler had a swell display of their new products, the workers/ushers/information givers obviously had all taken the Roger Penske/California Speedway ettiquette course--they could not have been nicer to the confused multitude who kept trying to find their way to the grandstands (very limted) and trams to the parking lots.

Carroll Shelby was present, and rumor had it Briggs Cunningham was on the bridge at some point. Phil Hill drove a few exhibition laps. It was deja vue in spades . . . not an Austin Healy Sprite to be seen anywhere, but lots of Porsches, Maseratis, Sunbeams, Lotuses,Sting Rays, AC Bristols, Alfas, Elvas, Siatas, Lolas, Morgans, Jaguars, and an El Caballo (yes, a REAL El Caballo).

Chip Ganassi, head of the Target sponsored CART racing team will join his star driver, 1996 champion Jimmy Vasser, on the Target float in the Rose parade that precedes the grand daddy of all bowl football games, the Rose Bowl, werein the University of Michigan will destroy the Washington State Cougars. Look for a Target flowered be-decked Reynard-Honda.

Other Target team driver, 1997 champion Alex Zanardi, was to appear on David Letterman next week, but a scheduling problem (pronounced, "I'm staying in Italy a little longer") ensued, and he will be rescheduled . . . maybe with David's race partner Bobby Rahal.

Dan Kruse put on a rather subdued version of his winter Newport Beach classic car auction at the Hyatt Newport over the weekend . . . after all it IS near thanksgiving. Kruse offered some interesting cars for bidders, including two that did not bring their reserve: the Dukes of Hazard #07, 1970 Dodge Charger; and John Lennon's 1968 Mercedes 280SL. The bidding for each stopped under 20 grand, and the owners wanted much, much more. A 1957 Mercedes 300SL roadster went over $150,000, but the owner wouldn't take less than $190,000. Dan and company will be back at the Hyatt in the spring with 300 classics to peddle.

BMW, North America has just published a catalog of lifestyle accesories: luggage, apparel. bikes, mugs, watches, etc. It's fabulous. More info at bmwusa.com

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel

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