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Second to None

Second to None




There is a growing segment of automobile racing known as Dwarf Car racing. Dwarf cars are replicas of American automobiles manufactured from 1928 through 1948. The un-politically correct title of Dwarf car is due to the requirement that the cars are restricted to being 48 inches or less in height, 38 inches or less in width and a mandatory 73 inch wheelbase. They can only be powered by four cycle motorcycle engines of 1220 cubic centimeters, or less, and the rigidly monitored construction requirements assure that they are lightweight, fast and look like go-carts with bodies pounded out of scrap metal. It also assures that they are really fun to drive.

In the past, Evergreen Speedway located in Monroe, WA, occasionally hosted Dwarf car racing. On one of these occasions I had the pleasure of driving in an exhibition race. The TV show that I produce, “Vintage Vehicle Show”, was filming an episode about these cars and the track promoters thought it would be a great promotion to have me drive during the evening’s halftime intermission. I’m always willing to suspend concerns for my personal safety when it comes to having fun and/or producing an exciting episode of the show.

Dwarf car driver and owner Kurt Wilson was kind enough to allow me to utilize his car. The 1200 cc Suzuki powered 1932 Ford Coupe imitation was rated in second place nationally, so I was fortunate to be in one of the best cars available. Explicit instructions were given by Kurt to follow, and not attempt to pass, the only other car on the track, another Dwarf car driven by a racing veteran. It was lucky for the other guy because it’s a sure thing that I, with my total lack of experience, would have trounced him thoroughly and ended up in the winner’s circle covered with kisses from the trophy girl. Kurt had radio contact with the other driver and a signaling system was set up between the three of us. Kurt would be standing by the track at the straightaway, and I was to give him one of three hand signals when I drove past him; right hand thumb up if I wanted to go faster, thumb down if slower and my hand going from side to side if I wanted to get the heck off the track. These hand gestures were radioed to the driver in front who would, depending on these gestures, speed up, slow down or meet me back in the pits and make chicken clucking noises at me.

OK, let’s light this candle and blast off.

My first impression was that this car was really fast. It accelerated rapidly and I, being such an expert, drove it as fast as I could. These cars are engineered exceptionally well, and this is manifested, in part, by the feeling that the car was riding on railroad tracks. There was no slipping and sliding; it dug in and took off.

My competitor was squarely in my sights as if he were on the wrong end of a WW2 dogfight. You’re mine, Mr. Fancypants race car driver, and I’m about to shoot you down. We’d completed one lap and I was going to signal to Kurt what I was really made of. He saw my thumb up signal and radioed my impending dogfight victim of my desire to go faster. That was the last time I saw the other car or driver. He shot off like I was standing at a bus stop and he was flying by in a Messerschmitt. I pushed the little Dwarf car as fast as I dared but to no avail, the other guy just disappeared somewhere over the horizon.

I was sure that I was traveling at speeds of well over 2,000 miles an hour. Kurt later said my top speed was 85 mph. I made about six laps of the track before Kurt signaled that my brief career as a race car driver had come to an end. The other driver was already back in the pits and had been there long enough to have dinner, shower and catch a little TV in his trailer before I’d completed the same number of laps as he had. There was no trophy girl with pursed lips waiting for me. Well heck, what did anyone expect? The last race that I’d participated in was aboard my Schwinn Black Phantom while racing Ronnie Petersen who was piloting his sister’s Huffy Disney Princess bicycle. Do you have any idea how humiliating it is to get beat by a creepy girl’s bike? It's about as humiliating as it is to finish last in a Dwarf car race.

Hey, wait; I was driving the second car to finish the race. That means I came in second place in my very first auto racing event. Not bad!