April 26, 2015
Vermont Visit Yields Trip To RPM
One of the joys of visiting my daughter Jessica and her husband Christian in Huntington, Vermont is my two grandchildren Caleb and Soren. Another adventure for me is to visit interesting automotive businesses.
Some of you may recall in an earlier episode I described my visit at Vermont Sports Cars in Colcester, Vermont. These are the folks who prepare Subaru for David Higgins in the Rally America Series and two Subaru in the Global RallyCross Series (GRC). Drivers of the GRC cars are Sverre Isachsen and Buddy Lasek with Travis Pastrana racing in selected events in 2015.
This year I returned to Restoration & Performance Motocars (RPM) in Vergennes, Vermont. The owner/founder, Peter Markowski, was delivering a couple exotic cars to Rhode Island and his son Steve was in Europe attending a rally so I interviewed a couple of RPM employees.
First one may notice the lack of signs at RPM. On a casual cruise on Monkton Road you may motor by the two beautiful red New England style barns and have no clue about the contents. The first building was erected in 1986 and has seen several expansions since to keep up with the demand for Markowski’s skill with primarily Ferrari.
Markowski got his start when as a teenager he made the acquaintance of Peter Mills who was a retiree. Mills owned a 1950 Ferrari 275 S/340 Barchetta chassis and engine number 0030, which he sold in 1961 for $500 in exchange for Markowski getting Mills’ collection of Packards, an Alfa Romeo, and Austin Healey running.
It took two years to accomplish this task. Markowski now owned a very tired Ferrari. The youngster fought the temptation to put a 289 Ford with a five-speed in the Ferrari.
With the help of Dr. Dick Cardoza,a Ferrari expert, the blown 12 cylinder engine was gradually put back together. Markowski for the next 37 years drove the car at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen eventually selling it in 1999. He was recently re-united with the car at the RM Auctions at Amelia Island, Florida.
My tour of the metalworking building was led by relative newcomer Garrett Holler from nearby Addison, Vermont. The 23-year-old has been working at RPM for the last nine months.
Holler said, “I have always been a fan of cars, metalworking, and paint work. I heard a rumor about this place, that they were looking for a metal guy so I went out on a limb and asked and it worked out.”
“I was working at a Dodge dealership for the last 4 or 5 years before I worked here. It’s a great place to work, a lot of cool cars. You’ll be working and a Ferrari or Lamborghini will go by. There is no other place like it and its only 10 minutes from my house.”
Holler got his start at Vergennes High School. While in school he took the Industrial Design and Fabrication course at the Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury. He attributes some of his success to instructor Douglas Atwood.
“Anything you wanted to learn he would find a way to teach it to you,” said Holler. “We got to work on a lot of cool projects.”
Currently one of his projects is a Ferrari Daytona from Texas. The front of the Ferrari was smashed when the owner hit a deer. The car was shipped from Texas to have its front end restored.
He is also working on an Alfa Romeo 2500 SZ one of only 55 remaining of the 90 that were built. Another project car he is working on is the 55th Ferrari ever built.
Interning this school year is Mount Abraham Union High School’s Gabriel Doane from New Haven, Vermont. The high school junior is working at RPM as part of his career pathways program. He was polishing the trim for a Porsche 911 the day I was at RPM.
He has worked as a blacksmith and hopes to combine his metalworking interest as a blacksmith and sculpting metal into a job someday. Doane serves as a blacksmith demonstrator at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum during the summer.
Vergenne’s Nate Barcomb serves as the head mechanic on the cars after they are brought up from the metalworking shop. He does his work in the original barn.
“I work on everything, a general mechanic,” said Barcomb. “I oversee the shop up here and keep everybody motivated.”
“I worked at a modern car dealer for six years and then came down here because I was friends with the family and they gave me a call.”
“My father’s side of the family had a body shop in Burlington. My grandfather has been doing it for 60+ years. I tinkered with it during high school. I went to automotive school after high school then started at a car dealer. I went to Baran Institute of Technology in Hartford, Connecticut.”
When asked what his most interesting project was, he paused for a few moments and replied, ” We restored an old Ferrari race car last winter. That was one of our most challenging projects. The 225 S was a non-runner, non-driver when it got here. We had to make it go down the road so it was very challenging.”
They did such a good job that the car was entered at the world-famous Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance in California. Barcomb continued saying, “It went to Pebble Beach. It ended up really nice and well done. It was an amazing week long event. The day they have the Concours at the golf course there was every kind of crazy car you could come up with. Overwhelming!”
Barcomb showed me the more than two dozen cars in various stages of repair or in storage. They included a Ferrari owned by an undisclosed NASCAR team owner and another Ferrari V12 owned by the founder of NAPA Auto Parts. Sprinkled into the mix were a couple Lamborghini Countach, Porsches, Lotus, Alfa Romeo that won the 1939 Millia Miglia, the fifth Ferrari ever made and more.
I want to thank the Markowski family for opening up their doors to me and allowing me to see one of the finest collections of exotic cars I have ever seen.
Crazy Horse Racing
Upon my return on Wednesday to Northern Maine from our Vermont visit I needed to turn around on Friday to head back down to Portland for the Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference on Saturday.
Early in the week I called Judy Green at Crazy Horse Racing and asked if my brother Bob, Curt Wilcox and I could tour their race shop on Friday afternoon. She graciously said okay as long as we knew she would be giving the tour since husband Mitch and son Mickey were out straight working on customer race cars.
Located on Route 26 only a short distance from Oxford Plains Speedway, Crazy Horse Racing was larger than I had anticipated. The family owned race shop had a well stocked sales area, surface plates, fabrication area and two large assembly areas. There were eight Super Late Models (SLM) in there when we visited.
Immediately upon arrival we met 2002 Oxford 250 winner Scott Robbins who was working on his race car. Robbins is the only 250 winner to finish second the year before winning the 250.
Chris Coolidge of Norway was there working on his #72 Super Sate Model. We also were fortunate enough to be there when Spencer Morse was there working on the ASPIRE Oxford Hills Middle School #0 SLM. Despite it being school vacation, he was assisted by eighth grader Luke Mowatt from Norway. Luke is one of the many middle school students involved in the collaborative project between the school and Crazy Horse Racing I reported about in an earlier episode.
Both Morse and Mowatt brought me up-to-date on the progress of the project and reiterated their desire to attempt to make the 2015 Oxford 250 in August. It was a pleasure to see the confidence with which they spoke about the project and its goals. You cannot help but be impressed by this program.
Sponsor Time at Maine Indoor Karting
After leaving Crazy Horse Racing we made our way to Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough to meet with my sister Sue Bell, brother-in-law Jeff Bell and niece Kate Bell as well more family. I was blessed to have my grand daughters Lila and Lydia Cole show up with their Mom, my daughter, Erika.
My brother and I raced in five different races pitting our skills against a variety of relatives. In the end I won three races and Bob two. We set 3rd fastest and fifth fastest times for the day and had a great time with the family. Kate has been saying she was going to beat me at MIK and did race very well finishing second in her last race.
Loring Timing Association “Spring Thaw” Land Speed Race
The Loring Timing Association took a bold step hosting the first land speed race of the year at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine this past weekend. The event drew over 30 entries as racers from as far away as Wisconsin came to shake off the winter cobwebs and try out new components in preparation for more races this summer and fall.
“DAS Bullet” streamliner from Sudbury, Massachusetts ran 206 mph thus setting fastest speed for the event. Local racer, Carl Theriault, ran 195 mph before melting some pistons in his 331 cubic inch Ford Mustang on Sunday.
Despite intermittent rain and cool conditions racers made as many passes as they wanted to help dial-in their set up as well as troubleshoot potential problems before the “Maine Event” July 23-26, 2015.
I was unable to get to the “Spring Thaw” race until after church early Sunday afternoon. What I did see was the very nicely done streamliner of Victory Motorsports from Dale, Wisconsin. The streamliner is powered by a 122 cubic inch Ford Pinto naturally aspirated engine.
The team hoped for 200 plus with the car but due to a variety of issues were unable to attain that type of speed. The team also brought their 1972 Datsun 240 Z which I was unable to get the speed that they ran with it. Victory Motorsports will be concentrating on El Mirage and Bonneville the rest of the 2015 season but may be back in 2016.
Spud Speedway Drivers Meeting
Drivers and crews interested in racing at Spud Speedway in 2015 are urged to attend an informational meeting May 9, 2015 at 2 pm at the Caribou Rec & Wellness Center on Bennett Drive in Caribou. Promoter John Albert will be discussing all aspects of the 2015 season so you will not want to miss it.
Let’s Go Racing
Soli Deo Gloria