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Archive for July, 2010

Who Was the Best Pilot I Ever Saw ? ~ 50 Years of Badass California HotRodders • A Gallery

California has long been called the Birthplace of Hot Rodding…

In his Book, The American Hot Rod, Iconic California Hot Rodder Dean Batchelor illustrates that, while the ‘Classic Hot Rod’ may have been a ’32 Deuce Roadster with a Hot Flathead, the Real California Hot Rodders knew of, Appreciated & were Enthusiasts of all types of MotorSport – Sports Car Racing, Dry Lakes, Motorcycling, Drag Racing, and all that entails. Mind you, NASCAR had not even been founded on the beach at Daytona when Mr. Batchelor and many other California Hot Rodders were going about  the Business of Speed ~ so here, an ongoing Gallery of Images of some of the most Badass Hot Rods and the Californians that Shape the Sport ~

Dean Batchelor • SoCal Speed Shop '32 Roadster, Muroc Dry Lake 1948

Although there are so many California Men & Women that define the term ‘Hot Rodding’, there are a few that have excelled far beyond their original California HotRod Roots to become International Icons of MotorSport. Santa Monica, California Boy Phil Hill was the First (of only 2) Grand Prix Formula 1 World Champions for the United States ~ Considered by many to be the Pinnacle of MotorSport. Phil Hill accomplished this in 1961. Long Associated as a Driver for Ferrari the Iconic Italian Scuderia run by Notoriously European Elitist Enzo Ferrari. For Phil Hill to be recognized as one of the Drivers in an Era Completely Dominated by European Drivers & Teams, to win Grands Prix, much less the World Championship in that atmosphere is a True Testament to Phil Hill’s Driving Skill. In 1960 he won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, for Ferrari, The first Grand Prix win for an American driver in nearly forty years, since Jimmy Murphy won the 1921 French Grand Prix. His Primary Career Victories are Simply Astounding for any MotorSports Driver in any form of the Sport ~

One of the Most Talented, Winningest & Versatile California HotRodders Ever ~ Dan Gurney.

As a driver, Gurney scored Practically Countless Victories in the sports car races at Daytona, Sebring, the Targa Florio, the 1000 km at the Nurburgring and Le Mans. He won four World Championship Grand Prix races, in France, Belgium and Mexico, three additional Formula 1 races, seven USAC/Indy Car road races and five NASCAR 500 Stock Car races. He was twice runner-up in the Indy 500. Gurney has the distinction of being the only U.S. citizen in the 100 year history of Formula 1 racing to win a World Championship Grand Prix in a car of his own construction.

Dan Gurney in the AAR Gurney Eagle ~ The First American to Win F1 with an American Car of his design ~ 12 Jun 1966, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Dan Gurney’s All American Racers is the only constructor in the U.S. that has designed and built a winning F1 grand prix car, The Gurney-Weslake Eagle. A variant of-winning Indianapolis 500 car and a winning sports car. The All American Racers’ factory team employed 66 drivers winning 78 victories, the “Indy 500,” 83 pole positions and eight Championships.

Dan Gurney & Harry Weslake- Developers of the First American Engine to win at Formula One ~ Brands Hatch 1967

Dan Gurney ~ FIA 289 Cobra, Targa Florio 1000KM Italy 1964

Ken Miles & the Shelby King Cobra, Riverside 1964 ~ One of the Best, Ever.

Drag Racing Legend ~ SF Valley Boy, A Teenage Don Prudhomme in the Tommy Ivo 4-engine Dragster. Early 1960's

One of the First Women to Excel in MotorSport ~ Shirley Muldowney • AA Top Fuel Dragster, 1968

The HotRodder’s Hot Rodder ~

Legendary California Hot Rodder Mickey Thompson

In the 1950’s & 60’s of California HotRodding, there really were no Corporate Sponsors or Big Paychecks. Guys like Mickey Thompson built what they had and ‘Run What They Brung’ to Pursue Speed, often with very little budget. Mickey Thompson built, ran and financed a Succession of Successful Hot Rods in Drag Racing, Off-Road and his Pursuit of the Land Speed Record at Bonneville.

He developed a brilliant career as both a driver and an Innovative Automotive Technician; later as a designer, manufacturer and seller of racing and performance equipment. In addition to being a Drag Racing Champion, Mickey Thompson set more speed and endurance records than any other man in automotive history. He is credited with designing and building the first slingshot dragster in 1954, moving the seat behind the rear axle to improve traction when the existing racing tires proved unsuitable.[1] A change so momentous in the Sport, it would not happen again until Don Garlits introduced the Rear-engined Dragster in 1971.[2] Thompson also was noted for being the first manager of Lions Drag Strip near Long Beach, California in 1955.

In his long career, Thompson raced everything from stock cars to off-road vehicles and engineered numerous competition engines. He went into the performance aftermarket business in the early 1960s and then, in 1963 he created “Mickey Thompson Performance Tires” that developed special tires for racing including for Indianapolis 500 competitors.

MT~Prepped for the Carrera Panamericana Mexican Road Roace, 1954

Thompson founded SCORE International in 1973, a sanctioning body to oversee off-road racing across North America. He and his wife Trudy formed the “Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group” (MTEG) which ran an indoor motocross and off-road vehicle racing show and competition that brought the sport from the back-country terrain to stadiums in the heavily populated metropolitan areas.

One BadAss Calf. HotRodder ~ Mickey Thompson & 4-Engine, 400 MPH Challenger I, Bonneville 1960

The Fastest Man Alive…

Fastest Man on Wheels ~ Craig Breedlove & Crew with Spirit of America, Bonneville Salt Flats, 1963

The Spirit of America

Incredibly Driven California Hot Rodder Craig Breedlove was Driven to Pursue his Quest as Fastest Man Alive in 1962. In Pursuit of the Land Speed Record ~ Breedlove set out to Build and Field the Fastest Car on Wheels, The Spirit of America. Breedlove was and Is to This Day so Incredibly Driven to Build the Ultimate Bad California Hot Rod, he built it in his garage, simultaneously putting on suit & tie while pursuing Big Financing to Keep his Project Alive and meeting with Suits from Goodyear and Shell Oil. In a Succession of Cars, Breedlove Won & Lost & Won Again his Quest for Fastest Man on Wheels –

The Spirit of America was the first of the modern jet-propelled record breaking cars, built with a narrow stream-lined fuselage, three wheel chassis, and most significantly turbojet engine. Like most of the other competing vehicles the engine was ex-military, the first Spirit had a General Electric J47 engine from an F-86 Sabre and was tested at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1962, where difficult handling resulted in failure. Before trying again a new stabilizer was added and a steerable front wheel.

Breedlove set his first record on September 5, 1963 at Bonneville, the first man to set an average speed of over 400 mph during a land speed record.[1]

With 5,000 pounds of thrust, The Spirit wasn’t just pretty, it was fast. On Oct. 5, 1963, clocking a two-way average of just over 407 mph, Breedlove brought the land speed record back to the United States for the first time in 32 years. He broke records with Spirit of America until October 1964, when, at more than 500 mph, his chute snapped off. The car overshot the track, smashed through some telephone poles, skipped across a saltwater pond and sank like a stone. Breedlove walked away wet, but unscathed, and with a record — 526.28 mph. He’s the only driver to nearly drown while setting a land speed record.


Risky Business at over 400MPH ~

A new Spirit was built over 1964-65 to attempt to beat Arfons, dubbed Spirit of America – Sonic I a four-wheel design with a much higher rated GE J79 engine originally from an F-4 Phantom, the same type as that used by Arfons’ Green Monster. Competing for the LSR over several years with Arfons ended with Breedlove setting the record at 600.601 mph (966.574 km/h) on November 15, 1965, a record that stood until 1970. The Sonic I is currently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum, California.

After a lengthy break from world records Breedlove began work on a new Spirit in 1992, eventually named the Spirit of America Formula Shell LSRV. The vehicle is 44 ft 10 in long, 8 ft 4 in wide, and 5 ft 10 in high (13.67 m by 2.54 m by 1.78 m) and weighs 9,000 lb (4 t), construction is on a steel tube frame with an aluminium skin body. The engine is the same as in the second Spirit, a GE J79, but it is modified to burn unleaded gasoline and generates a maximum thrust of 22,650 lbf (100.8 kN).

The first run of the vehicle in October 28, 1996 in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada ended in a crash at around 675 mph (1,000 km/h). Returning in 1997 the vehicle badly damaged the engine on an early run and when the British ThrustSSC managed over 750 mph (1200 km/h) the re-engined Spirit could do no better than 676 mph (1088 km/h). Breedlove believes the vehicle is capable of exceeding 800 mph (1,200 km/h).

Breedlove sold the Spirit of America Formula Shell LSRV to Steve Fossett, holder of many sailing, ballooning and other aviation records, and the car was undergoing rebuilding in hopes of some preliminary shakedown runs in late September 2007 at Bonneville. However, Steve Fossett went missing in early September 2007 while scouting for alternative land speed record venues in Nevada, and his body then later recovered.[2]

To Be Continued…


One of the Earliest of the New California 'Funny Cars' ~ Doug Thorley, "Chevy II Much", 1966


Beach City Chevrolet Fuel FunnyCar 'Vette, 1969 ~ Evil HotRods & Evil Girls are 2 of a Kind, Long on Horsepower, Long Legs & Hard To Handle. Totally Worth It.

Too Hot to Handle ~ Tom Pre-'Mongoose' McEwen in Evil Handling Mid-Engine Hemi-Cuda, which would soon Wind Up Shiny Side Down, 1966


LEVI’S 501 XX ~ California Denim • 1850-1971

When One Thinks of a Fashion Icon ~

Names Like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren or Yves St. Laurent Come to Mind.

However One Claim to Fashion & Function Fame is in a Class of Its Own…

…Made in California Of Course ~

The LEVI’S 501 XX Denim Jean

No Matter When you Grew Up, or Where You Live, in America or Japan or Australia or Europe, whether you are an Octogenarian, A Hippie, A Baby Boomer, Cowboy, Biker, Yuppie, or just Plain Old You, There’s a Pretty Good Chance you’ve got a Pair of Levi 501’s. Or You’ve had some – or You Want Some. You might even have some on right now ~ Like I Do. My Favorite Version, although not to Wear Personally, are Without Question the Daisy Duke Variety, but we’ll get to that later.. It all started ‘Way Back in the California Gold Rush Days ~

According to the Guinness Book of World Records the Most Valuable Denim Jeans are an original pair of Levi Strauss & Co 501 XX aged over 115 years old which were sold to a collector in Japan for $60,000 through eBay in 2005. The seller reports that the rather dusty jeans were found in a mine in the Rand Mining District, on the Mojave Desert in California. They are covered in candlewax from the candles the miner was using to light the tunnel he was working in and were found with a paper bag with the name of a mercantile store which operated between 1895 and 1898 in the town of Randsburg. The pants have a buckle back with suspender buttons and cloth label indicating they are size W34 x L33.

Send ’em Over to Federico~ A Bit Big but Those Will Fit.

In 1853, the California Gold Rush was in full swing, and everyday items were in short supply. Levi Strauss, a 24-year-old German immigrant, left New York for San Francisco with a small supply of Dry Goods with the intention of opening a branch of his brother’s New York dry goods business. Shortly after his arrival, a Gold Prospector wanted to know what Mr. Strauss was selling. When Strauss told him he had rough canvas to use for tents and wagon covers, the prospector said, “You should have brought pants!,” saying he couldn’t find a pair of pants strong enough to last. San Francisco Was A Rough Town in 1850. Gold had been discovered all throughout the Hills to the North in Places like Sutters Mill & Vallecito. Prospectors Invaded John Sutter’s Land, leaving him Powerless to Fight them Off, as they came by the hundreds, tramping through his Fields and Streams. Fortune Hunters from Far & Wide showed up from Everywhere. Immigrant Miners thought they would simply Bend Over & Scoop Up the Nuggets. The work turned out to be a lot Harder Than That, Dirty, Wet & Exhausting ~ Day After $6. aDay.  Tough Going & Hard on the Gear.


1895 Pair of 501 XX LEVI'S found in a Mineshaft in the Mojave Desert • eBay price-$46,047.


So Young Levi Strauss, being of an Enterprising and Sound Practical German Mind, was Selling Merchandise to the Miners. For Years he sold All Manner of Dry Goods he imported from the Family Business on the East Coast. In late 1870 Jacob Davis, a Reno, Nevada tailor, started making men’s work pants with metal points of strain for greater strength. He wanted to patent the process but needed a business helper, so he turned to Levi Strauss, from whom he had purchased some of his fabric. So Levi Strauss, knowing a Good Garmento Opportunity when he saw one, Partnered Up with Jacob Davis to form Levi-Strauss & Co. They began manufacturing LEVI‘S brand Overalls for the Populace of Miners, Muleskinners and Mercantile-Minders. People didn’t wear no Belts in Those Days, it was Suspenders or even Rope or Whatever to hold your Britches Up, so Levi put Big ‘Ol Buttons on the Front & Back to Strap Yerself In.

Levi had the stout, rough canvas made into Waist Overalls. Miners liked them, but complained that they tended to chafe. He substituted a Twilled Cotton Cloth from Nimes, France called “Serge de Nimes.” The fabric later became known as Denim and the pants were nicknamed ~


The Rest is History

Levi was In The Apparel Business. Everybody for Miles Around wanted a Pair of His Britches. They Weren’t called 501’s yet, and they Weren’t really even Pants, but more of a Pull on Overall Style to wear with suspenders. The earliest pairs weren’t even Blue but more of a Potato Sack Brown color, with the Cut to Match. Fashion followed Function, but not for Some Time to Come.

In the California 1880’s ~ It was a Lot More about Git ‘Er Done than How Do I Look?

LEVI'S HQ 14-16 Battery Street San Francisco, Since 1880

• On May 20, 1873, Levi-Strauss & Nevada Tailor David Jacobs received U.S.Patent No.139,121.
This date is now considered the official birthday of The ‘Blue Denim Jean’.
• Also in 1873, Levi Strauss & Company began using the Iconic Chevron pocket stitch design. Levi and Nevada tailor Jacobs co-patented the process of putting rivets in pants for strength.
• The ‘Two-Horse Brand’ Label showing a team of horses trying to pull apart a pair of pants, was first used in 1886.
• In 1890 the firm assigned its first lot numbers to its products, and the famous number “501” was assigned to the riveted pants. In that year as well, Levi Strauss & Co. was formally incorporated and issued 18,000 shares of stock in the company to family members and employees.
• A second back pocket was added in about 1901 and belt loops appeared in 1922—the pants would sport both loops and suspender buttons until 1937.

This Pair of ‘Dead-Stock’ Buckle-Back LEVI’S 501’s from 1917 have never been worn & are worth Many Thousands of Dollars ~Iconic Chevron Single-Needle Stitching and ‘Fold-Over’ Label

Levi-Strauss & Co. entered a New Era in a New Century…

One Big Nasty Setback ~ The S.F. Earthquake & Fire in 1906

Levi-Strauss had already Been in Business for 30-Plus Years at the Turn of the Century ~ He had Built His Company Up from a small Dry Goods store into a Company with virtually No Competition and he had Worked Hard. Levi died on September 26, 1902 at the age of 73. He never married, so he left the business to his four nephews, Jacob, Sigmund, Louis, and Abraham Stern, the sons of his sister Fanny and her husband David Stern. He also left bequests to a number of charities such as the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum. Levi’s fortune in 1902 money was estimated to be around 6 million dollars. He was buried in Colma, California.

Herd Quitters ~ Charles M. Russell ~ Circa 1900

The ‘Blue-Collar Worker’ & The Dungaree ~

Levi had Created an Incomparable Product without Equal, so who should decide to Follow Farmers, Cowboys and Workers All Over America wearing LEVI’S Work Wear to produce the Absolutely BulletProof Wearable Durability of LEVI’S Denim ? The U.S. Military. The U.S. Army & Navy adopted Denim in Varying Weights, calling their gear Dungarees. Blue Denim work clothing was adopted as Standard by the Army on 11 June 1919, replacing brown work clothing used before. The top was a jumper style pullover, the trousers had five pockets — two front, two hip, and a watch pocket. In 1933 a one-piece work suit (coveralls) was adopted in blue denim for use by mechanics, drivers, machinists, and others in similar roles. This was in addition to and did not replace the two piece work uniform. These blue denim coveralls were used until replaced by herringbone twill (HBT) one piece coverall in 1938.

The First 'Big E' • 1936 LEVI'S Series1 XX Single-Pocket Jacket ~ $$


A Burgeoning Business Taking Hold Further South in California would Make Levi-Strauss a Household Name ~


1930's ~ LEVI'S Invade Hollywood

John Wayne wearing Original-style LEVI'S Waist Overalls ~ Circa 1936

LEVI'S Pearl-Button Rodeo Shirt~1938

1930’s Hollywood Cowboys Like Gary Cooper, Tom Mix & John Wayne Put LEVI’S on the Map ~

The Big E • 1936

The Red BIG E Label Showed Up to Help Identify the LEVI’S Brand from Further Away ~

In 1936 LEVI'S Started Sporting the BIG E Tag ~ This is a Slightly Newer Series 2 Jacket.

Roy Rogers & Dale Evans ~ Paramount Ranch, 1938

LEVI’S got on The Style BandWagon with Some Fine Western Duds to Complement the Jeans. Amazingly, Levi-Strauss Products were only Available West of the Mississippi Before the 1950’s.

Ladies & Kids got in on The Act with their Brand of Koveralls, or essentially Overalls. While These were Fine for Work, Some Ladies preferred a More Stylish Look, And LEVI’S Delivered~ In the Late ‘Thirties Cowboy Couture was All the Rage in California.

As The Forties Approached, The Depression & Dark Clouds of War Over Europe meant Soon it would be Time to Stop Singin’, Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get Back to Work…

Bib Overalls, which came into prominence during the Great Depression. Farmers, Carpenters, Railroad and Factory workers adopted Bib Overalls as their Uniform during this period, which became a Symbol of America’s Fighting Spirit as the country struggled to rebuild itself afer the devastating Stock Market Crash of 1929. During World War II, American Fighting Men took their favorite pairs of denim pants overseas, While the Ladies Went to Work on America’s War Machine ~

1941 Series II 'Buckle-Back' 501 XX

Levi’s Carried On through the Wartime 1940’s ~ But it Was really in the 1950’s the Brand would Hit Its Stride ~ as now LEVI’S would be Available Nationwide for the First Time…Just as Brando, James Dean and a Host of Other Rebels Without a Cause Dawned on America…

Postwar Paradise PinUp Norma Jean Baker in a Pair of late 40's 501XX RedLines, 1948

In 1947, Rusetta Coupe Club members Bob and Dick Pierson of Inglewood, California ran their Now Utterly Priceless ’34 Ford 3-Window Coupe at the Dry Lakes. It was their daily transportation—their mother thought it would be a safe car for them to drive—eventually, over the ensuing years they sneaked it up to 140.40. It was no longer their daily driver.

For the 1950 Dry Lakes Season at El Mirage, they stood the Hot Rod World on its ear when they figured out how to chop the top, lay back the windshield and yet still meet the SCTA’s 7-inch windshield height regulation. Powered by a Bobby Meeks-built, Edelbrock equipped Flathead Merc, The Pierson Bros. 2D coupe consistently ran 150 mph.  The car ran at the Dry Lakes, the Drags and at Bonneville ~ Standard Racing Uniform ~ LEVI’S BIG E 501 XX

The Most Iconic, Poignant And Touching Film ever Starring the Legendary

LEVI’S 501 XX Denim ~

The Misfits, 1960

Hollywood Images such as these are what give the LEVI 501 its Classic Legendary American Status Today ~

Starring Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable with a Screenplay by Arthur Miller & Directed by John Huston ~

The Misfits is A Touching Film, Painfully Desperate & Obvious each is Near their End in the Film & In Life…The Photographs by the Incredible German Photographer Ernst Haas need no Further Dialogue ~

The LEVI’S ‘BIG E’ 501 XX Denim Jean & Jacket Would Go on for Another 10 Years, until 1971 ~





California Couture Biker Gear de Rigueur ~ LEVI 501 XX Jacket & Jeans, cutoff the Sleeves, Add Hells Angels Colors & Biker


501’s Starred in Thousands of Told & Untold Episodes Across America, with Rock N’Roll, Romance, HotRodders, Tragedy, War, The Hell’s Angels, Hunter S. Thompson and Cowboys, Farmers, Families, and Kids Growing Up Everywhere… Maybe Just Like You.

For My Friends Always, Wallace & Jill ~ Federico


Ravishing Raquel Welch ~ 1967. No, Those Aren't 501's but...



John Wayne & The Sands of Iwo Jima 1949 ~ Happy 4th of July America

John Wayne & Real-Deal WWII Marine Veteran John Bradley~"The Sands of Iwo Jima" 1949

Also appearing as themselves are 1st Lt. Harold Schrier, who led the flag-raising patrol on Iwo Jima, Col. David M. Shoup,

later Commandant of the Marine Corps and recipient of the Medal of Honor at Tarawa,

and Lt. Col. Henry P. “Jim” Crowe, commander of the 2nd Battalion 8th Marines at Tarawa, where he earned the US Navy Cross.

Saddle Up & Move Out !

Stryker’s squad fights in the battle for Iwo Jima, witnessing the iconic flag raising on Mount Suribachi.

The flag used was the actual one raised on Mount Suribachi after the battle. It was loaned by the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia

Steve McQueen & America Take on the World ISDT • East Germany 1964

The International Six Days Trial is considered the Olympics of Motorcycling ~ and Rightfully So. An Endurance Contest of Six Days’ riding over Extremely Challenging Terrain & Weather by 5-man teams from Many Countries of the World. The Trials are a True Test of Man, Machine, Skill, Endurance and Reliability.

Going for the Silver Vase ~Mssrs. Steen, Bud Ekins, McQueen, Coleman & Dave Ekins after Day 1 • East German ISDT, 1964


International Six Days Trials

East Germany

Must Be Rough • McQueen Styling It around England on a Brand New Triumph street TR6 from the Meriden Factory ~ Just prior to the '64 ISDT

The ISDT was first held in 1913 at Carlisle, England. It has occurred annually, apart from interruptions due to World War I and World War II, at various locations throughout the world. Up until 1973 the contest was always held in Europe. In 1973 it travelled for its first overseas jaunt the United States. Since then it has been outside Europe more frequently: twice in Australia (1992 and 1998), once more in the USA (1994), Brazil (2003), New Zealand in 2006 and Chile in 2007.

3 Members of the ISDT Team from Wales with Ariels ~1934

The event has attracted national teams from as many as 32 different countries in recent years. Over its long history the rules and conditions have changed to keep in step with the developments in the sport, but it remains a supreme test of rider and machine. Over the six days and upwards of 1250 miles a rider must contend with strict rules about time allowances and restrictions on mechanical replacements, carrying out his or her own track-side repairs. One must not arrive at a Prescribed Checkpoint either too early, nor too late, and doing either necessitates a penalty or deduction of Points from a Total Given at the Outset of the Event. Rider & Machine must carry all requisite spare parts, tools and equipment as required and needed for each day’s ride on their motorcycle. If a Team Member receives Assistance of Any Kind during roadside repair, even as much as being handed a tool by an onlooker or a Sip of Water, that Rider will be Disqualified from the Event. The Remaining Team Members must carry on Without Him.

McQueen & One of the World’s Most Famous Motorcycles • Triumph ISDT TR6SC

In 1964, Iconic Motorcyclist First ~ Steve McQueen~ Actor Second, was chosen along with 4 of the Best American Off-Road Riders of the Day to Represent the United States in the 1964 ISDT in East Germany. His Teammates were Brothers Dave & Bud Ekins from Hollywood, John Steen and Cliff Coleman.

Californians All ~

Bud Ekins • One of the Greatest & Most Famous Motorcyclists ~ Ever

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bud Ekins was the undisputed “King of the Desert” and offroad races, with wins at all the major races including the famed Catalina Grand Prix in 1955, where he took almost 10 minutes off the race record time. He won the offroad Big Bear Run in California three times, most memorably in 1959, covering the 153-mile course over half an hour ahead of the second-place rider, despite getting a flat tire and breaking a wheel.

Ekins competed in seven International Six Days Trial (ISDT) events in the 1960s, winning four gold medals and one silver — all on Triumph motorcycles. His Now Revered North Hollywood Shop has long been the California Holy Grail of Moto. He travelled to England prior to the ISDT and prepared the Triumphs for the ISDT alongside the Meriden Factory Techs, 4 650’s and one 500CC. Bud Ekins was also a founder of the famous Baja 1000, making record runs Down the Baja Peninsula-and Back.

In 1962, McQueen asked Bud Ekins to do some stunt riding for the filming of The Great Escape. Ekins was in Germany working on the film, and it was at the end of shooting that he and McQueen came up with what is arguably the Most Famous Motorcycle Stunt of All Time. Ekins – being the Master of All Things Triumph and through his Previous Supreme ISDT Performance was charged with arranging delivery of the 4 Brand New TR6SC and T100SC models collected from the Triumph Factory in Meriden for the ISDT Competition…

The Great Jump • 12 feet vertical and 65 Feet on an archaic 300+ lb. Triumph 650, 1962

Bud Ekins Won 4 Gold Medals and a Silver

in ISDT Competition

Bud Ekins prepping a stock-looking Triumph 650 for an early Baja 1000 • circa 1968

Dave Ekins in 1959 • wearing no doubt the earliest Honda jersey in the U.S

According to Dave Ekins, McQueen managed to get Paramount Studios to pay for the trip by hiring his racing teammates as ‘bodyguards’ accompanying Steve to the European premier of his new movie, “Love with the Proper Stranger.” Dave E. won the Bronze Medal in the ISDT riding a much smaller displacement Triumph 500 while his Mates were All Aboard 650’s, and Flailing About at the Finish. Ekins went on to earn a second ISDT gold in Sweden in 1966 riding a Zundapp. He then won the Bronze in the West German ISDT in 1969 despite a broken rear axle.

Dave Ekins rode in 5 ISDTs in total ~ That’s a Lot of Endurance, Reliability & Skill.

The Competition

Belgian Joel Robert carrying a Broken Silencer • Riders were not allowed to accept any help for repairs and had to Stay on Course & Time At All Costs to Win, Place or even Finish.

Within a Few Short Years the Belgian rider Joel Robert would become World 500cc Motocross Champion- An Absolutely Grueling Sport at That Level ~ Robert was a Completely Dominating Rider. The Sort of Competition the Americans Rode Against. McQueen & Co. were certainly Riding on Par.

McQueen out the Gate/Day 2 ~ Gunning it in the Rain on Cobblestone

For 1964, the ISDT would take place in the Communist Eastern Bloc during the height of the Cold War. On September 5, 1964 in a packed hall in Erfurt, East Germany complete with a large picture of Lenin, McQueen ~ in what has been reported as one of the proudest moments of his life – carried the ‘Stars and Stripes’ for the US team at the opening ceremony…


18/03/10 –

Mr Oriol Puig Bulto, President of the FIM International Technical Panel, was a experienced off-road rider during the Sixties: he took part in nine International Six Days’ Trial events between 1962 and 1970. He was in Erfurt in 1964.

He recalls:

Oriol Bulto ~ Riding for Germany in the 1964 ISDT

In Erfurt in 1964, I remember well the American team with Steve McQueen, the Ekins brothers and other riders. They had a lot of helpers, press people, cameramen, etc., and many american flags everywhere. They were doing spectacular rides the days prior to the start, going up and down and doing fast side slides with their big Triumph twins. A real show…
I met briefly Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins, they were nice people, very accessible and ready to share experiences and fully enjoy the event. In my opinion, all members of the US Team were good riders, very much used to ride in the desert and in dry terrain but not so much in the muddy sections through the woods and hills of central Europe.
Also, they were riding too ‘crazy’ for a six days event, crashing too much. I remember seeing Steve and some other members of the US team riding with torn mudguards and bent handlebars, and also with bruises in their faces. The best known members of the team, Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins had to retire on the third and fourth days after several heavy crashes. But other members got Gold and Silver medals.

I never met again Steve McQueen, but I had the pleasure to meet Bud Ekins in May 2007 at the ‘Legend of the Motorcycle, Concours d’Elegance’ in Half Moon Bay, California, where I was acting as a Judge and Bud was the Honorary Judge. Bud was in serious health condition but we had the opportunity to remember together ‘those old glorious times’, few months before he passed away in October of that year.”

And So it Went ~ Cliff Coleman achieved 3rd place in the 750cc class and Dave Ekins gained 5th place in the 500cc Class that year. Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen both crashed out on the third day, Ekins with a broken ankle. The Steve McQueen bike has been rediscovered and is now owned by Sean & Catherine Kelly of Johnson Motors, a Re-created Apparel Biz in Pasadena, California very much in the Tradition of  The Esteemed California Triumph Motorcycle Dealer of the Same Name – that Mssrs. McQueen, The Brothers Ekins, Steen and Coleman frequented in their Days of Glory in 1964 ~

The BadAss California HotRod Boys Took On The World’s Best ~

“She’s Just a Cheap Imitation of Lana Turner” ~ The Legendary L.A. Formosa Cafe’ • 1929

Everybody’s Gotta Eat ~ even Hollywood Royalty…

At one Time or Another, just about All the Hollywood Stars have rolled up their sleeves to go to work at The Lot. In 1934, When The Legendary Formosa Cafe’ opened – The Lot was known as the Warner Hollywood Studios, the sister lot to the main Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank. But the Lot was around before that, being one of the Oldest Studios in Hollywood, and so was a little Red Train Car luncheonette across Formosa Avenue. And by then, Like All Proper Hollywood Stars & Legends, the Lot & the Luncheonette had already Re-invented Themselves ~

The Lot Began Life in January of 1920, when Hollywood’s Hampton Studios opened a spacious new building and backlot to house their growing production company, and moved their operations to Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue from their former home on east Sunset Boulevard. Hampton Productions, now long gone & forgotten, was an early pioneer in Hollywood film making; their movies starred, among others, William Desmond and H.B. Warner.

Shortly thereafter, the studio was bought by the First Couple of Hollywood, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.They named it Pickford-Fairbanks Studios. Together, they turned out such HollywoodLand Film Classics as “Robin Hood” and “The Thief of Baghdad.” The First Hollywood Power Couple.

United Artists ~ Mssrs. Fairbanks, Chaplin & Ms. Pickford, 1925

In 1928, along with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, Pickford and Fairbanks formed and founded United Artists, prompting Charlie to leave his Chaplin Studios nearby on La Brea for this new locale.

A few years just before all these Hollywood Happenings were Taking Hold – in 1925, an Enterprising Former Prizefighter Fella with the Distinctly Chinese name of Jimmy Bernstein came to town. Jimmy wrangled himself an abandoned L.A Pacific Electric Red Line Train Car & plopped it down near the corner of Formosa and Santa Monica Boulevard, directly across from The Pickford-Fairbanks Studio.

One Red Car please ~ What Holds 90 Years of California History, Hundreds of Hollywood Stars, Legends & Stories ?

Jimmy named his Red Car Joint the Red Post and Started Serving Up his Little Luncheonette to the Hard Working Hollywood 9 to 5 Stars, Studio Folk and WannaBe’s a short walk across Formosa from the Studio.

The Studio Star Machine grew and Business was Good. Chaplin, Norma Shearer, Douglas Fairbanks & Co. began an Exotic Hollywood Happy Hour Escape Exodus across Formosa that soon outgrew the Red Post.

Prizefightin’ Jimmy had to Expand. Along with his Fledgling but Booming Business, apparently Jimmy had a Penchant for the L.A. Ladies of Asian Persuasion. So, he added a Dining Room, Bar and Kitchen and faster than you can Say Sayonara to the Red Spot, he changed the name of the joint to Formosa Cafe. The Hollywood Studio Gentry took to the expanded version, Tradition Took Hold and the Red Spot Train Car became the Formosa Star Dining Room, as Celebs Big & Small brought Jimmy autographed 8×10 Glossies he Decorated his Dining Room with…for the next Several Decadent Decades ~

Jimmy’s Red Spot Luncheonette Gets a Hollywood Makeover ~ The Star Dining Room

The ‘new’ (if you can possibly imagine it ever was) Formosa Cafe’ was a Small, Dimly-Lit Cantonese Cave of Coolness with a neon sign on Santa Monica Boulevard. Inside, A Cavalcade of actors mingled (& mingle still) easily with lighting technicians, stage hands, writers and cameramen, without tourists or high-powered producers talking mega-deals. Indeed, the Credo of the Formosa was & is Low-Key.

Across Town, enter one New Los Angeleno, an emigre’ from China named Lem Quon. Master Quon came to the United States on a cargo ship when he was 12, joined his parents who had already come to Los Angeles, and began working for his father in Tuewfar Lowe, one of a handful of Chinese restaurants in the city.

The Formosa 1940’s & L.A. Noir ~

By Now just about Every Star under the Hot Hollywood Sun had made their way into the Formosa. Indeed, one could write All Day listing a Who’s Who of Legends, The Faded & Forgotten Failures & Successes & Formosa Fortunes Made & Lost  ~ Perhaps a Young Eastern Visitor to Hollywood, with its Extras, Excesses and Extra-Curriculars said it Quite Well…

“The Truth About Hollywood”, [Drugs, Alcohol and Sexual Morality]

It ought to be possible to write sanely about the morals of Hollywood. It will be well to keep in mind the purpose of the slightly bewildered but resolute statesman who said “I will go to the end of the road, let the chips fall where they may.” Recollection of the well known limerick may also be useful: “Said the Reverend Jabez McCotton, ‘The waltz of the Devil’s begotten.’ Said Jones to Miss Blye, ‘Don’ Mat you mind the old guy; To the pure almost everything’s rotten.’ ” I went to Hollywood, to find out the truth, good and bad. I talked with actors, directors, producers, screen writers, extras, merchants, doctors,ministers, bankers, detectives, performers, extollers, denouncers, newspapermen and women, publicity men, housewives, onlookers, lenders, spenders and others of high and low degree and varying standards of veracity. I sat with the heads of official agencies investigating the Taylor murder, the traffic in narcotics and bootleggers.

I watched movie people at their work and their frolics ~

Thoreau Cronyn • NEW YORK HERALD ~ March 19-April 2, 1922

Into this Extra-Exotic Era of Hollywood Excesses,

Enter Master Lem Quon~

Quon joined the Army during World War II and worked as a cook. Returning home, he worked briefly as a cook at the Shanghai-Gin, and when it lost its lease, he moved to the Formosa and while he worked the Kitchen, Bernstein Worked the Bar.

In 1945, Quon became Bernstein’s partner. “I ran the kitchen and he ran the front,”

Quon told The Los Angeles Times, in 1993.

And Thus Begins The Classic Noir ’40’s Era of the Formosa & Tales of Legend ~

• The Formosa Cafe’ – Black Dahlia Connection ~

It is from 1940’s HollyWood Leading Man Franchot Tone that we get our closest near-glimpse of the Notorious Black Dahlia ~ Ms. Elizabeth Short in Hollywood, in those moments when her Still-All-in One-Piece shadow falls over a still extraordinary film called Phantom Lady made for Universal in 1944.

While Tone was making this film, he encountered Elizabeth the Soon-to Be-Dahlia at the Formosa Café. According to his later testimony, Tone asked her what she was doing there: “She said she was waiting for someone, and I said, ‘Of course you are, you’re waiting for me!'” He then told her that he knew of contacts in Hollywood who were looking for girls with her kind of looks, and offered to take her to meet him. In reality, he was simply taking her to his own apartment. “I thought it was a pick-up from the start,” he recalled later; “she came with me so easily, but to her it wasn’t anything of the kind.” His attempts to seduce her were firmly rebuffed, so he gave her some money and sent her home in a taxi: “There was something sad and pathetic about her.”

• When L.A. Mobster & Doomed Envisionary of Vegas Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel’s half-century – old safe was opened the other day at the Formosa Cafe in Hollywood, where Siegel once had an office, it was . . .(According to Modern-Day owner of the Formosa Jimmy Quon, Ben Siegel Did have a Safe Stashed in the back…)

• The Formosa served Cantonese Cuisine under the gaze of 1,000 photographs of film personalities–Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lucille Ball, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Pearl Bailey, Elvis Presley–and Lem Quon knew them all. He had his favorite anecdotes, such as billionaire Howard Hughes borrowing $20 to pay a debt to a drinking buddy.

• Lana Turner once danced in the aisles, Elvis Presley came to drink beer late at night, a Drunken Lee Marvin was thrown out and a sotted Rudy Vallee was once driven home by the staff. The Waitresses remembered Clark Gable as a lousy tipper, & the Costumed Cast Members of the “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Dynasty” lunched on Sub Gum Pork and Chow Mein. Quon arrived at work one morning, upon entering the Kitchen confronted by a Hungover & just Slept-over John Wayne – who calmly asked him how he liked his Eggs ~

After All The Stories & All The Formosa Lurid & Likely Tales of Iniquity, perhaps in True Hollywood Fashion, No Better View of the Legendary Cafe’ Than This some 60 Years Later ~ By Hollywood Itself, A Classic Example of L.A. Art Imitating Legend ~

The Formosa often played host to real-life L.A. Gangster Johnny Stompanato and his famous lover, Lana Turner. Stompanato’s gangster boss, Mickey Cohen, and organized crime chief Bugsy Siegel were both Formosa regulars, and had their own “back room” for private meetings and card games. Cohen’s arrest for tax evasion in 1952 is the starting point for L.A. Confidential but probably the ending point for the Secret Back Room.

In 1976, 1920’s PrizeFighter Jimmy Bernstein Passed to the Big Barroom in the Sky, and after 30 Years of Formosa Partnership, Lem Quon became Sole Owner of the Formosa. In 1991 The Formosa, along with Quon, Bartender Lindy Brewerton, serving drinks since 1942, and 2 Formosa Waitresses with Tales of Serving Hollywood Royalty since the 50’s, successfully fought off Warner Bros. Studios, who wished to demolish the Formosa and build a Parking Garage… Instead Quon and Cafe’ Regulars, calling themselves Friends of the Formosa, got the restaurant declared a Los Angeles Cultural and Historical Landmark and the Formosa was preserved like an Ancient Embalmed Chinese Lady.

The newest source of reference for this Legendary Tale is from 1993.  Federico can attest the Fabled Formosa is Definitely Still A Dark Den of Hollywood Royalty ~ He was there last week, in 2010. Formosa Boss Man Quon married twice and lost both wives to cancer, the first in 1955, the second in 1976. He is survived by Jimmy Quon; who now Carries The Torch of Formosa Tales and runs the Joint, William Jung, three stepdaughters and several grandchildren.

The Cafe’ that serves up Cantonese Cuisine amid a Gallery of close to 1000 glossies still has that Star Attraction. Lem Quon’s first scrapbook, which is locked away for safekeeping, includes greetings from Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Clark Gable and other Hollywood Heavyweights ~

“L.A. is so ephemeral — there are not many places like this that gather that kind of ambiance and history,” said Teresa Grimes, preservation officer with the Los Angeles Conservancy, a private preservation group…

Paul Joyce ~ Formosa Cafe’. 1994, acrylic on canvas

… “Nothing is really sacred. Nothing is here for a long time. We should be protecting not only our architectural resources but our cultural resources.”

Detective Ed Exley :

“A Hooker cut to Look Like Lana Turner is Still a Hooker…”

Detective Jack Vincennes :

“She is Lana Turner”.