Bob Long, A Canadian Racing Legend

by Jeremey Sale

Bob Long is a legend in Canadian racing circles having raced almost continuously since the 1950s! Now, in VARAC circles, a few of our guys started racing in the fifties but I would bet none of them has done lately what Bob has, which is to turn in a lap time of 1:25.60, he did this in 2016 at the age of 79! He has raced everything from a Mini, Camaro, Mustang, MGAs, Formula Fords, Xpits, (pronounced “speets” btw) plus a Mallock with Rotary Mazda engine.Bob Long 2

I checked an old (Dec, 1967) Track and Traffic of mine and found an article quoting Bob Long as saying F4 is “for someone who wants to race competitively without spending a fortune”.  There was at the time a price limit on the cars set by the FIA, which would bring the cost after shipping, duty and taxes to about $2,300. (In case you are wondering the wonders of the Internet tell me that would be about $17,000 today.) In the article Bob said that he had always been concerned about the cost of racing discouraging many novices and had been looking for a class that wouldn’t require a lot of money to be competitive. He went to Europe in January of 1967 and visited a number of manufacturers. He drove a Suzuki powered 250cc car around the Castle Combe race track and decided to import Johnny Walker Racing Ltd machines through his firm A and E Motors.

Chris Haley is a long time friend/crew/racer with Bob and he very kindly contributed the following notes.

“Bob started racing in 1958 at Green Acres with his partner Bill Steele, driving a Morris Minor with a 60hp Ford flathead V8 installed. There were lots of little issues with cooling and so on, and as they went along it worked out thBob Long 4at Bill became the driver and Bob more the mechanic.  In the early sixties they designed and built a tiny sports racer that they called the “Curloo”. It was powered by a 6 cylinder Mercury outboard motor and had “tiller” steering setup like a motorcycle.  This car would pull the front wheels off the ground in third gear! But it was only raced a couple of times by Bill.   In the mid sixties Bill decided to stop racing, so Bob didn’t race for a year or two. Later on he happened to be reading a British automotive magazine in 1966 that had an ad in it for a small formula car made by Johnny Walker
.   He went over to look at them and test. He ended up ordering one for himself and one for his friend Jim Johnston, and so the first Formula Fours came to Canada. They started out with 250cc Suzuki Hustler motors, and as I remember, over the years moved to a Honda 305cc, a 650cc Triumph Bonneville (this is about the time I got involved in about 1970), 750cc Honda 4, 750cc Suzuki 2 stroke (water buffalo), 750 Kawasaki and different versions of the Suzuki 750cc GSXR.  The Three Quarter Litre Association (http://www.formulafour.com/history.htm) came to be around 1970 and since that time Bob has won the association championship at least 14 times, the CASC F4 championship at least 5 times, CASC Regional Overall Points Championship twice and the LASC (London Automobile Sport Club) speed championship countless times!

Currently, from my research, Bob is the only active driver in CASC to have raced continuously in seven decades, from the 1Bob Long 3950’s to the 2010’s.   By this I mean he has raced at least once in every decade in this range.  I have known Bob since 1965 when I met him through my father and then worked for him as a shop cleanup boy in the late 60’s, early 70’s.  I raced for him in the early 70’s when he had two F4 cars and I have crewed for him continuously since 1986, although he has had the odd year off when he may have sold a car and not had the next one ready. There were also a couple of forced retirements in there for medical issues. Oh yeah, by the way, he will be 80 on July 20, 2017 and unless he has a problem over the next couple of weeks when he goes for his medical, he plans to race again this year!”

Gary Allen of VARAC recently chatted with Bob and the audio can be found on the VARAC website here:

My Experience As a TV Star

“My Experience As a TV Star”
by Ed Luce’s 1968 Lotus 51A Formula Ford

You know how they always say “the car is the star” in vintage racing, right? Well, this summer I had a chance to be a star off the race track for a change!

No sooner had we returned to Kingston from the double race weekends in Pittsburgh, than Ed Luce (my driver) was contacted by Ted Michalos, who had been in touch with a set decorator who needed to source a ‘vintage F1 race car’ for a commercial being filmed in a week’s time. As if one of those high-maintenance divas could have pulled this off. You know that type, all big noise and fast moves – real ‘Broadway musical’ – while this was going to require some restraint and subtlety for the small screen.

Unfortunately for the set decorator, the weekend scheduled for filming was also the BARC race weekend at Mosport and most of the more local cars were thus unavailable or uninterested. As we weren’t going to be competing that weekend, Ted wondered if we might be interested in appearing in a TV commercial!

After a lot of next-to-last-minute calls, it was decided that we would go to Toronto for a two-day ‘shoot’, where I was to be driven by a professional driver in a Nissan commercial. (You know how the fine print under those TV commercial scenes always says ‘professional driver on closed course’? Well, this was one of those scenarios.) I was to lead a parade of unusual vehicles up a suburban street, where a new Nissan would avoid backing into us thanks to its ‘driver assistance’ aids…

Ed Luce for VARAC Vintage Racing

Of course, I’m no F1 race car but, as I said, a high-strung performer like that would not have suited this task at all. Fortunately, at a glance I look a lot like pretty much every other competition car that Lotus made in the mid 60’s, and I can idle along as low as 20 mph.

I spent a couple of days in make-up, first having my usual suite of CASC-OR, VARAC, etc. decals removed and my badges covered. (When making a commercial they don’t like having any other company’s logo’s, trademarks, names, etc. in shot. I suppose it’s a combination of not having license to use those insignia and not wanting to give anyone else free advertising.) Then I had a ‘flame job’ applied to accentuate my nose – already one of my best features.

Ed Luce for VARAC Vintage Racing

Ed’s concerns about the noise levels of my un-muffled exhaust were rendered moot by the appearance on-set of an immense Peterbilt 389, a ’34 Chevy rat rod with straight pipes, and an honest to goodness M60-A3 ‘Patton’ main battle tank. 12 cylinders of barely muffled, air-cooled, twin turbo Detroit diesel make quite a racket on a city street. But a little three-wheeled Italian ‘Piaggio Ape’ delivery scooter probably made the most noise/bhp of anybody there. How can a single-cylinder air-cooled engine make so much noise? By revving flat-out to keep up with the blistering 29 mph (top speed!) pace dictated by the M60, that’s how.

The low speed of the filmed parade was a problem, as expected. By the end of a few takes, my fluid temperatures were soaring due to a lack of air through my heat exchangers, and my clutch was aching from being slipped pretty much constantly to keep speeds down so that the tank could keep up. Thanks goodness for my relatively high ground clearance, as there was construction on the route around the block and we had to maneuver over some of those 1-1/2” steel plates they use to cover open tank traps in the street. (The tank just backed down the set after each take anyway. Those babies don’t corner well!)

The film crew did camera shots from the front, camera shots from the rear, camera shots from on top of the tank, camera shots from down low on a golf cart driving up the sidewalk beside us, and camera shots from the perspective of the stunt kitten playing in the street. We must have stampeded up the street over a dozen times each day before the director was happy.

In between takes, every little kid in the neighborhood wanted to sit in the driver’s seat and have their picture taken. Lots of happy locals may have helped to smooth things over and make up for the noise and dust. And Ed got to talk to quite a few people about VARAC, vintage racing, how wonderful Formula Fords are, etc.

Ed Luce for VARAC Vintage Racing

“Aaaaand – ACTION!”

As part of the crew for this experience my driver Ed got to learn a bit, helping with what my regular crew Dorothy does routinely – helping the driver into the car, steering wheel on, belts on, connect battery (wait for the director to say “camera rolling” to start my engine), switch over to internal battery. Then grab the starting battery and run into the bushes or down a driveway to get the heck out of shot while we stampeded up the street on cue.

After two days of shooting, it was back into my trailer (every film star has a trailer, don’t ya know). While this was all fun, I can’t wait until the next race weekend for a chance to blow the carbon out of my cylinders and to stretch my legs!

The V.A.Y Special Rides Again

Some recollections by Gary Magwood with Jeremy Sale

While wasting time on the world wide web the other day I saw some chatter about the quirky “V.A.Y. Special”, which had appeared on Bring A Trailer.com. Some VARAC members may remember Mike Rosen racing the car with VARAC at Mosport. I knew that it had gone on to the Excited States and I have seen various ads for it since. On asking Gary Magwood about it he said, “Actually, I know quite a lot about the VAY Special. I bought it in the early 60s. It was built by Vic Yachuk (hence V.A.Y.) to compete in the recently established Canada Class (an attempt to allow home builders to build and race cars utilizing production components).”

VAY Special 1964

We asked Gary where he had acquired the car…

“I found the car behind an old gas station on Dundas West in the winter of 1963. A guy had bought it a year earlier but whacked it a couple of times and lost interest. The trailer that came with the car was just two lengths of highway guardrail welded to an axle/hitch assembly… very primitive but it worked really well!”

So now you had a car to restore and a race license to obtain…

“Yes, I rented a garage in behind a motorcycle gang’s house in Etobicoke, I shared it with two Brits who were converting a DKW-­‐ powered Canada Class single seater into a sports racer. They also had a modified Austin A-­‐35 that we all used to get our CASC licenses! Unfortunately the damn thing was so slow going up the back straight at Mosport, we almost had to downshift going up the rise to corner 8! The only consolation was that Graham Hill had raced one in his early years!”

So what was the VAY like when you got it out on the track, Gary?

“When I first raced the VAY in 1964 it had the original bodywork and an Alta overhead converted Morris Minor engine. The engine preUy much self-­‐destructed every weekend, to the point where Bob Hanna’s Autosport dealership ran out of Alta parts!”

“Anyway, realizing the VAY’s power unit needed upgrading and that the bodywork was quite primitive, I undertook to rectify both problems. Getting married generated enough cash (a story unto itself!) to purchase a Sprite engine and gearbox. I even signed up for a welding course to learn how to braze steel tubing. I removed all the crude sheet metal fenders and other “lumpy” bits. The resulting, self-­‐ designed cleaner bodywork was aluminum, riveted to a new fabricated frame, the “core” centre section was left alone. (Above) The result was definitely lighter and more powerful.”

VAY Special

How long did you have the VAY, Gary?

“I raced the VAY for two years: the first year with the original Alta overhead conversion for the flat head Morris Minor engine and body configuration; the second year with a 998cc Sprite engine and tranny in my “flying shingle” design. It was a very stable and fun car to drive, but by the time I had the new engine and bodywork, Canada Class designers/builders had realized that single seaters could be built to the CC specs. That made all the two seaters obsolete in short order and needless to say, earning any points in CC races was now a pipe dream. “

VAY Special

“However, I did wire it and mounted lights to enter the 6 hour Sundown GP at Mosport in 1965. (See photo above) After a few minor dramas the now re-named BS&T (Blood Sweat and Tears) Special finished the race. I later sold the car to Bill Bovenizer. That’s how I recall it anyway…” Gary .

PS. Bill Bovenizer ran the car in 1967 and then sold it to acquire a Lotus 51.

PPS. Pit Signals contacted the new owner, Dave Gibson, a 944 Racer for the past seven years, competing with the 44 Cup series and winner of three championships with NASA Mid-­‐Atlantic in the German Touring Series. He plans on shaking the VAY down early spring at VIR or Summit Point and hopes to be ready for a Pittsburgh and Indy trip by June. He says “he is truly honoured to be the current caretaker of a piece of Canadian Motor sports history.”

Main Photo Credit: Bob Harrington