On Tiger Tales & Other American Folk Lore
By Darrell Mountjoy
Okay, so here it is, the short version: Yes, yes, yes and YES! It's true, all true· well, most of it anyway. The long version? Well, that will take a bit longer, but okay.
Let's see. The only reason I got it is because Sharon doesn't like open cars and, since six of our eight cars are "open", I only did it to please her. Uhhh, how about· Since it's turning out we seem to be having "pairs" of cars, like the Thunderbirds & the Broncos then I had to get a "mate" for the street Tiger. Besides, they're the same color. Makes sense to me.
Every year Kieth & I go up to Monterey for our annual "fix" on cars, what with the Historic races at Laguna Seca, the Concorso Italiano, the Concours at Pebble Beach and now two auctions. We always stay with our friend, Joe, who is certifiably over-the-edge with cars as well.
This year is different, though. There just happens to be one of the Le Mans Tigers that's going to be offered at auction. Whoa, do you know how rare that is? It's like unobtainium or chicken lips or Chinese take-out with white bread. Pretty rare. One of three cars ever made and one of the two that actually raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1964? And the styling: drop-dead beautiful and brutal at the same time. The coupe body is simply breath taking. Salacious and seductive. Hand made at Brian Lister's shop in early '64, its curves in aluminum and steel are ones that most women would envy. Purpose-built, at a stance it looks like it's flying. 162 m.p.h. down the Mulsanne Straight with its original 260 motor, oh yeah!
Back to real time, Sharon & I sit down
and talk. We set our stop-lines, walk-limit and get everything else in order.
Sunrise on Thursday we meet at the hanger. A kiss from our wives and Kieth &
I are off to play in the land of chrome, glitter & race gas.
We land at Salinas, meet Joe, and head for Fishermans Wharf in Monterey where the auction cars are on display. We wade through the rubble of Jags, Ferraris and Astons to find the Le Mans Coupe. There it is, under a tree. With a quick once-over it passes the first stop-line with checkered flags. It's going across the block on Friday.
Friday, after playing around at the Concorso Italiano, we head for the Wharf. The coupe is lot #72 and we want to be there in plenty of time. We get situated and wait. After what seems an eternity, the coupe roars onto the stage and the flurry of the auction begins. With my heart in my throat the hammer drops, people are pushing paper at me and the coupe is whisked off to it's secure parking for the night. Can this be true? Am I the successful bidder? Yes
YES! What a rush!
Needless to say there wasn't a lot of sleep that night. The next morning the three of us scurry back to the Wharf to see if the events of the previous evening were real or only one of my fantasies. Joe & Kieth need to be there to help guide me along, as my feet aren't yet touching the ground. With the paperwork wrapped up, we head off to the garage to collect my crown jewel.
There it is! Small & pug; it's sitting in the corner; daring anyone to come and try to mess with it, begging anyone to come and play. I climb in, take a moment to pay homage to those responsible for this treasure and those who have gone before me, and slide the key into the ignition. With a twist of the wrist this cat instantly springs to life. What a sound! The Weber-charged, straight-exhausted roar of the small block Ford in a concrete parking structure satiates everything around.
We load the car on the trailer and take it back to Joes where it'll stay with his stable until I can make arrangements to bring it home. It'll have good company; mostly Fords, except for that
We've got obligations at the track but Joe & Kieth are pushing for a small excursion. Who turned on the electrical main? I hand the keys to Joe & he & Kieth go off around the block. I stay back at the house and listen to the sweet roar of the motor. Then it stops. Damn, it must have run out of gas. I had noted it was almost empty when we unloaded it form the trailer.
No such luck. Joe and Kieth had switched drivers for the return trip. Two turns away from home something happened. Kieth lost control of the car and went off road into some heavy brush. Thank heavens they're okay, although stunned, and the car missed a nearby oak tree.
After some head scratching we get the car back on the road and to the house. Joe pulls out the soap, a bucket and the hose. We give it a well-deserved bath and put it away. What a day!
The next morning we take a closer look at the car. Yeah, it has a couple areas thatll need tidying up. But then I know Steve Alcala. With his magic the car will be better than ever. Kieth offers to buy the car. Me give up this dream? I don't think so!
We've gotta get to the track. Joes going to stay behind. Since he was wearing shorts the day before, he's now tap dancing with a whopping case of poison oak. I think he really wants to stay back and drool over my new prize. Oh well, that's okay.
At the track we don't seem to be able to connect with anyone. We know lots of people who are supposed to be there. Time is short and soon we have to leave for the airport. We swing into Alcala-Sakai Tiger Headquarters but no one is there. Damn, whom can you brag to if not to your friends? We scribble out a note and push onward. Finally, in the last row, over by the Trans Am cars we bump into Dan Walters who'll be driving one of the T/A Camaros. Dan asks if we know who bought the Le Mans Coupe. I pull the keys out of my pocket and just hold em up by my Cheshire Cat Grin. Guess I wasn't too articulate but, hey, it got the point across. Besides I think I was still in disbelief that I really owned one of three Le Mans Tigers!
What a rush! What a weekend! It's a good thing the Historics only happen once a year. Two years ago we got Joe in trouble and a month later he ended up with a 78 Ferrari 328. This year I ended up with the Le Mans Coupe. In two years, hmmm, what do you think Kieth will end up with?
The Coupe is home now, thanks to Ramon Spontelli and his trailer, getting used to its new stable mates. Sometimes in the evenings, when it's quiet, I go out into the garage, pull the covers off and just sit there and listen to the cars. Under the lights their forms are so beautiful. Each one tells stories of its past. They have a lot in common being Ford or British or both. Once in a while, when it's really, really quiet, I can hear the faint roar of the Le Mans crowd.