Small Wonders

My first trip to Islip Speedway at just a week shy of my 12th birthday in May of 1959 was memorable on lots of levels. I got to see my first race driver hero Axel Anderson actually drive his new car the Root Beer Special that I had only seen sitting still on a trailer in a gas station in Patchogue for the last year or so. I also got to root for a new hero, Jimmy Hendrickson in his Flying A car that just amazed everyone in the stands and must of drove all his competitors crazy as he passed them up not once, not twice but three times in the course of 25 laps around the tiny 5th mile oval. I also got to visit the pits and see the cars and drivers up close for the first time. It was a pivotal day (I had only been to the the races at night before and things were a little different in the sunshine) because I'm sure I left there with my mind made up that driving one of these brightly colored contraptions was in my future as soon as I was old enough. But the kid in me was also nurtured somewhat when I got to visit the concession stands. It was there hanging up in the rafters, where I saw something that has always stuck with me.

There must of been two dozen of them on a string like top shelf prizes in a carnival that you know you never are going to win, yet you'll spend your last dime trying to. Tiny little plastic replicas of the cars with the right colors & numbers of the ones I had just seen out on the track. They were individually hand painted by someone with a steady hand. The ones for sale however on the counter for the princely sum of 25 cents were all solid colors with generic numbers molded in. I laid my two bits down and took home a light blue one with I think number 25 on it. It would be 40 some years later when I wrote my first racing book Long Ride On A Short Track that the cars I thought were unobtainable were actually available on order for a mere $1.00. You paid your money and picked up your little treasure the following week. ( A great way to get you to come back!) I don't recall them offering these hand painted custom jobs at Riverhead the track I actually wound up racing on in 1965.

When I visited Marty Himes at his museum for the first time in July of 1994 as part of my writing the book, he gave my then 10 year old son Erik a handful of these little cars in various colors because that's the kind of guy Marty is and when it comes to stuff like that "Nobody has more stuff" Well needless to say Erik's Dad still has them!

In the days that followed during the year or so it took to write the book I would wind up building 1/25 scale model cars into the ones that would appear on the cover , along with my own #43 cars, but did not give a thought to decorating the little gems hat have been sitting in my room for these past 13 years.

I built three from the cover Al De Angelo's Ace of Spades , Jimmy's Flying A and Axel's Root Beer Special /The orange # 43 "Stand By Me" sedan was a surprise gift to me in 2006 from Chris Rohan a book reader and you can read about what inspired him to do so here

A few weeks ago (June of 2007) while doing my routine research on E Bay under the search term of Patchogue, I found one of those little concession stand cars all painted up and it wasn't just any old car either. A few e mails with the seller and I learned that he saw it on my book and thats what inspired him to build it. Needless to say I really wanted to get it, but there was already a bid in on it and in typical E Bay fashion it came down to the wire with my holding my breath and hoping my bid would hold up. Turns out it did and I was soon opening a cardboard box a week later with this little gem inside.

Not only did Tom "PLAIN CHEESEBURGER" Miller do a superb paint and lettering job, he detailed out the interior and engine compartment too. Funny thing is when he saw my 1/25 model he apologised for painting his too light a shade of blue. I had to tell him not only was the handle he uses "PlainCheeseburger" to sell his models on E Bay an Axel Anderson phrophecy ( IT WAS AXEL'S FAVORITE FOOD) but the fact is, the Root Beer Special was originally Light Blue in 1958 ! Axel repainted it Royal Blue in 1959.......... You can check out Toms other models he sells here

There Is Axel Taking The Checker At Islip In1958

Well I was delighted with my new small wonder on my shelf and it didn't take long before my own gears started turning and I was eyeballing the other cars Marty gave Erik back in 1994

And where does it stop you ask? Well Marty who has a pretty good supply of the very last of these cars that were manufactured from 1949 on till the 1980's, is sending me one to make the Ace Of Spades out of and the last one I have here in Nashville is well just like its owner/ driver.....a no brainer.

Photo Taken Late Saturday Afternoon July 14, 2007

Sunday Morning : July 15. 2007


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