The TACH Report: Phill Hill Joins F-1 Breakfast Club, Plymouth Prowler, New Women's Racing League

2 September 1998

The Speedway Restaurant and Bistro in Newport Beach, CA opens its doors at 4 a.m. on F-1 telecast Sundays, and the GP race nuts jam the place. For last Sunday's demo derby from Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, 100 bleary-eyed race fans turned out and fixed their tired eyes on one of the 82 TV sets in the restaurant. No booze at that hour, but good vittles. Driving in from Santa Monica to watch the race with his buddy John Lamm (Road & Track's super photog), was former World Driving champion Phil Hill. It made the early morning event memorable, as Phil clinched his driving title for Ferrari at Spa many years ago.

The weekend marked the Speedway Restaurant and Bistro's first anniversary, and it was a celebration. The parking lot contained several cars from Dick Marconi's (Vitamin king and racer) car museum for kids, including Dick's Ferrari challenge car, Brian Redman's ex F-5000 beast, and a Formula Atlantic. Off road race cars were also on display, including Rod Millen's Pikes Peak winning truck, a 800 hp Toyota Tacoma. Rod attended the celebration, as did First Lady of Racing, Linda Vaughn, who signed Hurst posters. The place was jammed Friday and Saturday nights, and some of the staff had to return at 4 a.m. to open up for the F-1 gang who arrived in a variety of Porsches, Vettes, Viper, Alfa and a Ferrari F-50. It's the hot setup for racers.

Nothing can bring a smile to ANYONE'S face quicker than the bright (Prowler) yellow Plymouth Prowler. Everyone loves the Prowler. Kids run to see it, hot rodders give it a thumbs up and ask if we want to run for pink slips, old guys think it's a newly made '32 Ford roadster, and women throw themselves in front of it. Everybody wants a ride, asks questions, and smiles as soon as it comes into sight.

Even though this $41,000 two-seater has no trunk, a semi-harsh ride, and a Hollywood personality (you gotta like to be noticed), it is sort of practical. Power is a 3.5 liter V-6, not a fire breathing V8. It's tame. The trans--to everyone's amazement--is automatic, but it's a slush box with 'auto-stick'--that's the most fun gear box you can find west of the Porsche TipTronic. Comfortable seats with a couple of adjustments. Power steering, power windows, and air conditioning update the hot rod personality, and modern four-wheel disc brakes help it to stop . . . NOW! Naturally, the canvas top is manual (it's about the size of a large handkerchief), and it fits snug when up and disappears when down. The front fenders turn with the wheels. The exhaust is tuned for a glass pack burble. To further differentiate the roadster from its 45 year old look-alike cousins, the Prowler has air bags, a CD changer, and cruise control. EPA mileage sucks (17 city, 23 highway), but as Stirling Moss once said about cars and racing, driving this thing is the most fun you can have in a car with your clothes on.

American LeMans series Executive Director Bill Donaldson announced the creation of the Women's Global GT Championship series. There will be eight races in 1999 on road courses, and the series will be headed up by former Indy driver Lynn St. James. The cars will be identically prepared Panoz Gts. Sounds like fun.

QUICK TAKES

  • NASCAR's Michael Waltrip is out of a ride. He said bye-bye to the Wood Brothers
  • Who is going to pay the $50,000 fine that CART levied against Alex Zanardi for punting J.J. Lehto into Michael Andretti's car at Mid Ohio?
  • Ford is trying to buy Kia Motors at a fire sale.
  • BMW is on a crusade to take on 10 additional black car dealers for their line.
  • The New 1999 Mercury Cougar is a hit and is selling well.
  • Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA will host the California Hot Rod reunion October 16-18. (626) 914-4761
  • The Route 66 Rendezvous takes place in San Bernardino, Ca, Sept 12-13 909 889 3980

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel

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