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Gone Racin' - Me, Kathy, and the Car

Gone Racin' - Me, Kathy, and the Car


Biography and photographs by Jim Calzia

 Collage of The Car at the 2014 Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival.  That's Me in the upper right.

Collage of The Car at the 2014 Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival. That’s Me in the upper right

     My name is Jim Calzia.  I was born August 7, 1947, in Newhall, California.  My Dad worked for the Southern California Edison Company, so we moved many times while he climbed the corporate ladder.  I lived in Newhall until I was 7, then we moved to Soledad Canyon (before it was called Canyon Country or Santa Clarita) and I went to Sulphur Springs Elementary School near Solemint Junction.  From there, we moved back to Newhall, then on to Ventura, California, where I went to Junior High School.  I finished Jr High in Ventura and then moved to Culver City, California (near Santa Monica) where I graduated from high school in 1965.  Two things stand out from my high school days.  First, Culver City is not far from LAX and Shelby American.  I spent as much time as I could there, drooling over those 289 Cobras and later the GT 350s.  I never had any money, but it was fun to drool.  Second, and most important, I met Kathy Tate in the 11th Grade.  She was born and raised in Culver City, so she knew everybody and was most popular, and she was BEAUTIFUL!  I could not believe my luck, here I was friends with one of the most popular and the best looking girl in high school, and she liked me! Kathy asked me to the Backwards Dance in September of 1964 (our Senior Year) and we were inseparable after that.  There are many pictures of us in our Yearbook, and many of our friends knew we were going to be a couple forever.  They were right; Kathy is the best thing that ever happened to me in my lifetime.
     Both Kathy and I went on to college after high school.  She pursued a degree in Nursing, and I was interested in Geology.  About two years into college, however, our instincts and passion took over and we were married on April 6, 1968.  Scott, our first son, was born in October of that year and our lives changed a bunch for the better.  We were going to school at San Diego State, but decided to move to Long Beach where we could finish our degrees.  Kathy had to take leave from her studies to care for Scott; I worked nights and weekends at an ARCO Station, and went to school during the week. It was a most busy time, but I have good memories of those years and the friends we made.
     I graduated with a Batchelor of Science (BS) degree in Geology in 1970 and went on to USC for a Master of Science (MS) degree.  By then, Scott was 2 years old and Kathy was comfortable leaving him with a babysitter, so she went back to school and got her BS in Nursing from Long Beach State in 1974.  After finishing my course work at USC, I was hired by a consulting company to study earthquakes and earthquake damage in the LA area.  I got my MS in Geology in 1974 and was hired as a geologist by the US Geological Survey in November of 1973.  Kathy, Scott, and I moved to Sunnyvale, California near the USGS’ Western Region Headquarters in Menlo Park, in 1975; we have lived there ever since.
     Kevin and Chris, our other two sons, were born in 1977 and 1979, respectively.  It was GREAT to have three sons because it meant I could relive my childhood (baseball, hiking, camping) and play with all their modern new toys.  I am sure Kathy would have loved to have a daughter, but she had no problem keeping up with all of us.  In fact she showed us many a way to do things differently and better.
     All of the boys went to college and earned their degrees.  Scott has a BS in Mechanical Engineering; he is now a Director of a Silicon Valley electronics company. Kevin has a PhD in Polymer Chemistry and works for a startup in the Boston area making biofuels from algae and sunlight.  Chris has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from San Francisco Academy of Art and is writing screenplays in the LA area.  Somewhere during all that time, I got a PhD in Geology from UC Davis and continued to work for the USGS; Kathy worked as a School Nurse in Santa Clara Unified School District.  Scott and Kevin married and each have two children, which means Kathy and I are grandparents four times over!  Life is GOOD!
     I got bit by the Racing Bug in high school when I lived just up the street from Shelby American.  I wanted to be a race car driver right out of high school, but like I said, I had no money, so off to college I went.  After getting married, family, and mortgages, Kathy and I finally started making enough money for me to buy a car and start racing in the late 1980’s.
     I have owned and raced Porsches since 1970, including a 1962 S-90, a 911S (featured in the May 2001 issue of Excellence magazine), and a tribute to the Martini Porsche RSR that won the 1973 Targa Florio (photographed in the July/August 2007 issue of Vintage Motorsport). I entered the 911S in Porsche Club of America’s time trial and club racing series as well as NASA, SCCA, and most recently Historic Motor Sports Association (HMSA), General Racing, and SVRA vintage events such as the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and Sonoma Historic Motorsport Festival.  Some people thought I was crazy to take a ’73 911S and convert it into a race car, but as I explained then, it’s my car, and I’ll do with it as I wish.  In 1994, I went off at Turn 1 at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California, right through a catch fence and into a ditch, and pretty badly damaged the front of the car.  I was okay, but the car was kind of beat up.  I took that as a sign that it was time to change the car.  I took all the heavy stuff out – the seats, the body panels, things like that – and made it a very lightweight car; that’s why it was featured in Excellence.  I did the planning but Paul McCain and Cameron Woods, both in Santa Cruz at that time, did all the work because I am a lousy welder and a worst fabricator!  I weighed every part that came off and went on the car, the object being that if that part wasn’t light, and didn’t help make the car faster, it didn’t go on the car.  The result was a racing Porsche with a curb weight (including five gallons of gas) of 1,850 lbs!  Couple that with a 300+ hp race motor and the thing is a ROCKET that turns both left and right!  The list of parts and what they weigh is still available on the Early 911S Registry website (search What’s it Weigh).

Calzia’s 1973 Porsche 911S lightweight at speed, ThunderHill, 2002
     I raced the 911S lightweight in NASA and SCCA Vintage events for several years.  At one NASA event, I was the meat in a Porsche GT3 sandwich that nearly evolved into a major wreck.  I figured NASA was getting too intense, so I went vintage racing.  I started with the lightweight car and kept it pretty much the way it was, but--I had trouble getting into vintage events because the car was too new to be vintage, and did not have European race history.  In fact, no European history, but--it does have U.S. history! There were some issues with that, but with time, the vintage cut-off date allowed 1973 Porsche 911s, and the vintage racers began to realize that I would not be a rolling hazard and cause major problems.  HMSA rules say that if you build or restore a car to a point-in-time, it is HMSA eligible.  Their point-in-time rule states “…the engine must be of the original type and specifications as homologated when the car was produced.  Cars must run on wheels of the same type and size as were made available from the manufacturers at the time.”  The rules go on, but you get the point.  The bottom line: if the car accurately duplicates a point-in-time during the car’s history, then it is HMSA eligible.
      And that’s exactly what I did.  First I duplicated the car that won the 1973 Targa Florio.  That is the car you see on the Targa Florio thread on the Early 911S Registry Web site.  I had a lot of fun (and press) with that car, but also got a lot of gripes from other vintage racers that my car was not a real race car!  So I had to figure out how to keep everyone happy and still stay within the vintage racing rules.  I knew the 1973 Martini Porsche race team used a training car that was not a race car.  The training car, known as E42 by the race team, was built on a 1972 911 chassis and was not intended to be used as a race car.  It was used during practice by the drivers to learn whatever course they were at, and as a test car for new bits and pieces for the race cars.  The light bulb went on, and I decided to duplicate E42, the training car from the Martini Porsche race team!

Me, Kathy, and The Car with a new paint job and a few other things , 2005
      The original E42 was taken to the 1972 Tour de Corsa, as well as the 1973 Nurburgring and Targa Florio.  It was not raced at the Tour de Corsa or Nurburgring, but it did race at the Targa Florio.  A guest driver wrecked two of the three race cars during practice for the Targa: he totaled one by wrapping it around a tree, and rolled the other. As a result, the race team had three entries but only two race cars, so E42 was pressed into service.  A day before the race, the race team pushed E42 into their garage (actually a barn rented by them for the race), and replaced the 2.7L RS motor with the race engine from the totaled race car.  They also changed a few other things.  For example, the livery on the hood does not match the livery on the ducktail.  That’s because during practice, E42 had a T (for Training) painted over the Martini stripes on the hood.  The race team could not paint out the T because they still had to show the Martini stripes to keep their sponsor happy, so—they swapped out the hoods between E42 and the totaled race car!  Also, all the sponsor stickers on the left side of the car don’t match those on the right!  Finally, the seven in number 107 was not quite lined up with the other numbers.  It’s more evident on the left side than on the right, but it is not quite aligned on either side.  Again, that’s because the team had to convert the training car to a race car in a barn and patch it together very quickly; the mismatch and misaligned livery is the result of their rather accelerated, less than careful work. Nonetheless, the training car that was never intended to be a race car finished 6th overall in the Last Targa!  That kind of proves the old ad: “All Porsches are race cars,” doesn’t it!
      Currently, my lightweight 911S has’72 bodywork because that’s the way it was raced in 1973.  The car has a 3-liter RSR motor with twin-plug ignition, high butterfly throttle bodies, and mechanical fuel injection; it makes about 315 bhp at 8,000 RPM.  It has a 5-speed transmission with race gears for Sonoma and Laguna Seca.  The suspension includes coil-over adjustable shocks and adjustable sway bars front and rear as well as brakes from Porsche’s 917.  During the 1973 season, the Martini race team used the homologated torsion bar suspension with “helper” springs mounted around the shock absorbers.  The torsion bars were used only because the Group 4 (Special GT) rules required them, but—as the ‘73 season wore on the torsion bars were removed and replaced by springs.  Herbert Müller, one of the Martini team drivers, noted that with the springs, the RSR “…starts to be a racing car.”

     I have made several other changes from the original E42.  The oil filler door on the right rear fender was left off the car, and the oil tank was moved to the smuggler’s box. The battery and fire bottle are on the passenger’s floor.  I put all of that weight to one side and forward a little bit to try and help balance out my weight.  It’s not enough, but it’s close and it works well.  The car has a 15-gallon fuel cell, but that’s standard safety practice for vintage racing.  I use HRE 9x16 inch wheels with Fuchs centers and 23.5/10.5x16 Goodyear slicks in front, and 11x16 HRE wheels with 23.5/11.5x16 Goodyear slicks in the rear.  The slicks provide a lot of grip, but I can still get the car to slide.  There are a lot of 1974 and 1975 RSRs in my run groups.  I don’t see them sliding much, and they have pretty much the same power.  I’m told my rear tires are the same size as the front tires on a ’74 and ’75 RSR.  Maybe I need bigger tires!
      One other thing, my car has the Mary Stuart Tail.  It is made of sheet aluminum on an English wheel, and is mounted directly to the chassis through the fiberglass fenders. The Martini Race Team mounted the original Mary Stuart Tail to the fender; it pushed down on the fender, not the tub.  My way works better!  If I take the MS Tail off, I can feel the difference.  E42 did not run with the MS Tail at the Targa Florio, but--because my car is the training or test car--I can do anything I like!  I use the MS Tail at all vintage races.

Mary Stuart Tail on Calzia’s Porsche RSR, 2007
      In addition to the racing, I am writing a book, Production to Prototype: The Porsche Carrera RSR and the 1973 World Championship of Makes, with Norbert Singer, Porsche race engineer from 1970 to 2005, and a member of the Motorsport’s Hall of Fame.  I have been to Porsche Archives five times since 2005 and have finished collecting all the info that Singer and I think we need for the book.  Two excerpts are already published in The Esses, the official magazine of the Early 911S Registry; a third will be published in 2015.  I have one more chapter to complete, then the book comes out and everyone will know more about the 1973 Porsche Carrera RSR then they probably will ever want to know.

Calzia (L) and Norbert Singer at Porsche Archives, 2005
      My life with rocks and cars changed significantly on July 1, 2009, at 6:14 AM when Kathy passed away from complications of breast cancer.  I can’t speak for the boys or their families, but for me two things happened.  One I retired from the USGS after 38 years.  My Branch Chief knew Kathy and me well enough to know it was not good for me to sit at home and stare at the walls.  So--the day I retired, the USGS made me Geologist Emeritus which means I keep my office, computer, etc, etc, but I get to do whatever I want.  If you get a chance to do something like that, I highly recommend it; retirement is GREAT!  Second, racing is not such an important part of my life anymore.  I have tried to figure out why; I still enjoy racing and my racing buddies, and they have taken very good care of me, but—I just don’t have someone to show off for anymore.  I continue to race with HMSA and SVRA and work on The Book, but now all that work and preparation for a three-day race weekend has become somewhat of a chore. 
     Unfortunately, I have blown up two engines in the last three races, and my crew and I cannot figure out why.  It’s the same cylinder (no. 5) that fails.  Maybe it’s some simple misalignment or mismatch of parts, but—no convincing diagnosis to date.  Maybe I’ll convert the race car to a hot rod, and drive up and down I-280 looking for Corvettes!  No matter what, it’s all good and I’ll continue to do the best I can as long as I can.  Kathy would have it no other way!


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