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By Car Brand Experts

Editor’s Note: Now and then, a pause can be beneficial. This week provides that opportunity (i.e. hitting pause during the chaos). Here’s a unique, unfiltered message from The Autoextremist, offering a glimpse into his extraordinary life. In The Conversation, a revisit of one of the final “exemplary” BMWs, the 2025 M4 CS awaits. Our Selection for Song of the Week is “She’s So High” by Tal Bachman. In Deep Thoughts, Peter continues his intriguing series “The Racers” with Part VI, focusing on America’s inaugural World Champion, Phil Hill. Lastly, in Quick Recaps, INDYCAR results from the recent road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the French MotoGP from Le Mans with insights from AE Special Contributor Whit Bazemore, and IMSA action from Laguna Seca. Let’s go ahead! -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Being the passenger, I am a Technicolor Dream Cat enjoying this whirlwind of existence. I’ve encountered quite a lot, perhaps more than many. Enchanting happenings. Resounding moments. Swift occurrences. 

Once, I gazed at a ghostly tornado finger hovering above in Flint. Its presence was foreboding and immensely frightening. Tragically, many lost their lives that day. However, a few years later, I beheld my first 707 soaring in the skies. It exuded grandeur and might. The Jet Age had begun.

I acquainted myself with horsepower, side exhausts, and shiny surfaces, and willingly got entranced. Corvettes and 409s, GTOs and Starfires. And the perpetual allure of Sting Rays. Always, Sting Rays. Amidst all this, I procured and revamped a Bug go-kart, underwent a thorough Mac 6 engine overhaul, decked it out in vivid orange, and spent a season thrilling the neighborhood. I labeled it the Orange Juicer Mk I, experiencing firsthand the adrenaline rush at 60 mph so close to the ground. It encompassed everything, all the time. 

It was pleasant. And challenging. And speedy.

Woodward wasn’t merely a location. It embodied Life. In spurts from 0 to 100. Vibrancy surged by night. Roaring engines, brags and challenges permeated the atmosphere. Drive-ins redolent of burnt rubber and French fries. Girls flirted and flaunted. Boys leaned and crouched. Eager for a better view. Riding beside my brother, it was a realm beckoning me. 

Subsequently, cruising with The Maestro, Bill Mitchell – our neighbor – in the original Sting Ray racer, considering it ordinary but recognizing its extraordinary essence. Yet, I absorbed it all, realizing it was just the start. Mako Sharks, Monza Super Spyders, GTs; XP-700 Corvettes and XP-400 Pontiacs. The list was endless. Each sight mesmerizing. Each experience captivating. The grass seemed greener, the sky bluer, and the sounds enthralling.

It was pleasant. And challenging. And speedy.

Then arrived the Cobras. Graceful and diminutive beside the Corvettes. A different kind of rapid. Blazing, neck-snapping speed. A leap of two car lengths at the start. Open-top roadsters hunting for competition. The scent of English leather and burning rubber shoes during midnight Cobra runs. Truly, there was nothing quite like it. 

Soon after, the call of road racing beckoned. My brother Tony’s racing school at Watkins Glen in June of ’64. In a Tuxedo Black Sting Ray personalized by Zora and his crew, equipped with straight pipes awaiting installation upon arrival. Progressing on Goodyear Blue Streaks throughout. The Glen Motor Court awaited, but the real thrill lay on the track. That Sting Ray surged forth, with Tony emerging as the fastest on the scene. There was no turning back at that instance.

It was pleasant. And challenging. And speedy.

Next in line was an “A” Sedan Corvair that we towed ceaselessly. Starting at our local Waterford Hills raceway, journeying to Nelson Ledges, Mid-Ohio, Lime Rock, Vineland, Grayling, and even a 12-Hour endurance race at Marlboro, Maryland. Yet, that was only the warm-up. 

True fruition emerged in 1967. We placed an order for what ultimately became the first among a mere 20 427 L88 Corvette Sting Rays produced that year. The day we visited Hanley Dawson Chevrolet in Detroit to witness the fierce Sting Ray for the first time remains etched in memory. Freshly unloaded from the truck, it was a sight to behold. A spontaneous hop inside confirmed suspicions: a wild, uncontrollable beast. Over a weekend, we disassembled it, affixed a roll bar, installed American Torq-Thrust racing wheels, and added OK Kustom headers. A few additional enhancements later, we embarked on our inaugural SCCA Regional race in Wilmot Hills, Wisconsin. In “A” Production. A 427 Cobra made an appearance, but paled against our Super Sting Ray. Tony clinched victory convincingly. This marked the start of a racing spree: Mid-Ohio, Road America, Blackhawk Farms, Nelson Ledges, Watkins Glen, Daytona.

It was pleasant. And challenging. And speedy.

Everything altered thereafter. Owens/Corning Fiberglas emerged as our sponsor. Races expanded in scale. Twenty-two consecutive triumphs in “A” Production, with twelve 1-2 finishes alongside teammate Jerry Thompson, who later secured the National Championship in ’69. Subsequently, major endurance contests with GT class victories at Daytona, Sebring, and Watkins Glen. Ventures in the Trans-Am series during 1970 with Camaros, and in 1971 with ex-Bud Moore factory Mustangs. Culminating in the storied Budd-sponsored Corvette in 1973, where Tony secured pole position at Sebring for the all-GT 12-hour race that year. 

These were fleeting instants frozen in time, yet indelible. Splashing myself with water post a gasoline spill during a pit stop at Marlboro. Stirring awake in the semi’s cab on Ohio Turnpike at midnight en route to Lime Rock, witnessing my brother fast asleep as we veered off the left shoulder towards the median. I yelled. We averted disaster. Nonetheless, such scenarios were common back then. Days without respite preparing the cars – to the brink of exhaustion – followed by loading up and journeying to the next race. The cycle was incessant. 

Then arrived the infamous Pontiac street race in 1974. The track posed hazards, with scant protection from haybales and guardrails for drivers and spectators alike. Mid-race, a driver obstructed Tony, forcing his Corvette into haybales, triggering a barrel roll launching the car 20 feet into the air, eventually colliding with a light pole. Ironically, that pole’s impact averted disaster, preventing the car from plowing into a crowd of at least a hundred spectators. Witnessing a glimpse of his car spiraling down Wide Track Avenue, I sprinted towards the upheaval, only to witness a fiery explosion. Dashing to the scene, I found my brother sprawled on the ground. He had escaped in the nick of time, moments before the car erupted in flames. Subsequently, it surfaced that a person storing the car in Florida had removed the fuel cell’s check-valve “for weight reduction.” Imbecile. 

Needless to say, it marked a somber day, particularly when a misinformed reporter contacted one of my father’s GM PR staff – my parents were outdoors with the PR team – asserting that Tony had perished in Pontiac. My father’s aide prompted my parents to rush to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac immediately, fearing the worst. Thus, I stood witness at the hospital, beholding the pallor on my parents’ faces upon arrival. Leading them to view my brother on the gurney in the corridor; conscious yet battered,In excruciating pain. Both my parents and I felt a sense of relief.

That was just one chapter in my whirlwind journey through life’s colorful twists and turns. Once, we crafted a prototype ’69 L88 Corvette roadster (all in black, naturally) dubbed the “Daytona GT,” with plans to market customer versions. Essentially, it was one of our racing vehicles with added creature comforts. We even secured a spot to exhibit it at Cobo Hall during the Auto Show. However, the demands of overseeing the racing team caused us to shelf this project. Eventually, the Corvette was reassembled to meet the stringent OCF racing team specifications, given a trippy paint scheme, and sold to a Lufthansa pilot in Germany who used it to dominate local and national racing competitions. Before all that unfolded, I was tasked with maintaining its functionality and taking it for runs. Needless to say, I cherished that responsibility and gleefully rattled the neighborhood with its roaring engine during my “exercise” outings.

It was exhilarating. Challenging. And lightning-fast.

Eventually, I took a detour and was spellbound by the Porsche 911. I purchased a pre-owned ’75 911S and pushed it to its limits across various terrains. Once, I lost control at 100 mph on a two-lane road, as the recently graded shoulder scattered dirt onto the road during a left turn. I managed to halt just at the brink of a 20-foot drop. Remembering the infamous rush from East Lansing to Ann Arbor undertaken in the late afternoon, where I maintained a speed of over 100 mph for almost the entire duration of the journey. I reached my destination in under half an hour, a memory as vivid today as it was back then. Fleeting yet enduring instances.

During my advertising career, there was a week spent filming commercials at the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Short on professional drivers, I assisted with driving and tore through the track for the shooting. As if that wasn’t extraordinary enough, NATO jets utilized the vast expanse for practicing high-speed, low-level maneuvers. Just how low? We could distinguish the markings on the pilots’ helmets as they swooped over us at treetop altitude. A week filled with a high-octane blend of speed that continues to linger vividly in my mind.

The moral of the story? I remain a Technicolor Dream Cat navigating the kaleidoscope of existence. This article merely skimmed the surface of my experiences. There’s much more to narrate, and the journey is far from over. I’m nowhere near reaching the end.

It was thrilling. Demanding. And lightning-fast. Certainly.

And that concludes this week’s High-Octane Truth.

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The Autoextremist. March 1976, East Lansing, Michigan. (J. Geils called; he wants his look back.)



Editor’s Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on “Next 1 Entries” below. – WG


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