The Last Checkered Flag: Syd Silverman

Syd Silverman, owner and chairman of Vintage Motorsport magazine from 1990 – 2012, and a staunch supporter and participant in the preservation, presentation and celebration of motorsports and its history for nearly four decades, died on August 27 in Boca Raton FL. 

Though his profession was publishing, his passion was automobile racing. His life after the sale of Variety Inc. was focused on collector cars, historic auto racing and Vintage Motorsport, which he acquired in 1990. During that time he assumed role as publisher of the Allard Register for number of years, and continued to serve as sponsor for our newsletters (Syd was the reason there are no dues required to join the Allard Register!).

Syd caught the car bug at an early age, from working as a gas jockey and grease monkey at a local garage in his hometown of Harrison NY. His affinity for British sports and racing cars was spurred by his first sight of a yellow & black Allard J2X in a New York showroom. He rekindled is love of sports cars and road racing in the mid-1970’s at Ferrari club track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen, and he purchased his first vintage race car, a Hemi-powered Allard J2X in 1978. 

After selling Variety in 1987, he turned his attention to expanding and utilizing his growing collection of vintage racecars, which he campaigned in vintage race venues across the US. He organized two Allard reunions in 1982 and 1985, and played a key role in supporting the Allard gathering at Laguna Seca in 1990.

Syd continued to actively participate in vintage racing until 2007, and sold controlling interest in Vintage Motorsport to his son, Michael – also a longtime vintage racer – in 2012. He is survived by his second wife, Dr. Joan Hoffman; four children, daughter Marie Silverman Marich and sons Michael, Mark and Matthew.

The Last Checkered Flag - Bill Pollack

It’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to the last of the great Allard racers. Bill Pollack took his last checkered flag in July 16 at the age of 92. Bill was born on July 7, 1925 in New York to Lew and Helen Pollack. The family moved out west when Bill was ten, as his father became a noted Hollywood songwriter.

Bill lived a life of adventure throughout his youth – riding his horse all over San Fernando Valley, joy riding in bulldozers, and getting into all sorts of mischief. He joined the Army Air Corps at the age of 18 where he learned to fly in an AT-10, and then graduated to B-24, B-26, and B-29 bombers. Bill never made it overseas and he was sent home after the atom bombs were dropped on Japan. He had hoped to turn his flying experience into a job with TWA, but that was not to be. Bill’s father fell ill and he went back to Los Angeles to be with him. During that time, Bill started courting the love of his life, Bobbi Jean Yoder and he started college at Loyola.

Bill found his next love in 1949 – in the form of a brand new red MG TC. However his family’s limited budget forced him to be satisfied with of a used TC. This car awakened the racer in Bill, and he was in the right place at the right time. The Southern California racing scene was in its infancy and the early drivers became fast friends who would later become legends – Roger Barlow, John Edgar, Johnny von Neumann, Jack Early, Al Moss, and Phil Hill. Much like the AT-10, the MG served as Bill’s trainer before he transitioned into some faster wheels.

Bill heard through Al Moss that a guy named Tom Carstens from Tacoma, Washington had bought an Allard and wanted to go racing as an owner. Bill called Tom and somehow convinced Tom that he would be the perfect driver for his J2. In reality Bill had never actually driven an Allard, but he had ridden in an Allard, for a test drive around the block with Allard distributor Noel Kirk. Bill was lucky to connect with Tom, as he and his team really knew how to prepare a thoroughbred sports racing car.

On May 27, 1951, the world was introduced to Tom Carstens’ gleaming black Allard J2 #14 – and driver Bill Pollack – at the Pebble Beach Road Races. Ironically, Bill was only introduced to #14 the day before during the test drive when he punched it and almost drove it off of HWY 1 into the Pacific Ocean. What power! Bill easily won the race and continued winning at Reno, Pebble Beach again, Golden Gate, and Madera.

Bill and #14 finally lost to Phil Hill at Pebble Beach in 1953. The car was experiencing trouble with the left front brake which limited Bill to third place. After the race, Bill and mechanic Charles Drucker took the car out to diagnose the problem when an axle snapped, sending #14 and its occupants into a pine tree. Bill and Charles survived, but #14 was a ‘goner’. Bill and #14 were so famous that Auto Sportsman Magazine eulogized the end of this racing partnership (August ’53, see below). From there Bill moved on to successfully race Jaguars, Ferraris, Alfas, Corvettes, and Maseratis – along with a variety of specials. Bill was good and he could have been great, but he had a family that he loved, and he enjoyed his life as an amateur racer.

While #14 was deemed a ‘goner’ – this part of the story does have a postscript. David Brodsky found #14’s remains sometime in the 1980’s, and gave the car an accurate and painstaking restoration. He thus proceeded to re-introduce it at the 1989 Monterey Historics with none other than Bill Pollack at the wheel. Bill also given the honor to serve as pilot for this iconic Allard at the 1990 Monterey Historics, when Allard was the featured marque.

As a child, Bill used to build elaborate racetracks for his toy cars in the dirt of the family ranch. Bill later got to live out one of his childhood fantasies when he was asked to design the new Willow Springs Raceway just north of LA in 1952. Bill’s family revealed that he later admitted he didn’t really know what he was doing. The course was basically limited to where they could get the bulldozer to on the various hills around the track. Willow Springs may not have the prestige of Laguna Seca or Watkins Glen, but it’s believed by many to be one of the best tracks in America – and its layout has never been altered. 

Bill worked a variety of jobs relating to advertising and marketing. He actually got his start in advertising with the legendary Pete Peterson who hired Bill to do advertising for the new magazine Auto Speed and Sport. One of Bill’s racing connections liked what he had done for the Cal Club and other media, so his old racing buddy Jack Nethercutt hired Bill as Vice President of Marketing at Merle Norman Cosmetics.

Bill’s advertising experience must have led to a passion for writing. Over the years, Bill has written numerous short stories and two books. The first book was the self-published novel, “Tanager” – about a whale and a man fighting to save the world. You would be forgiven if you have never heard of this masterpiece – when asked about the book, Bill’s daughters laughed for a good minute. The second book, Bill’s autobiography “Red Wheels and White Sidewalls: Confessions of an Allard Racer” is a must read. This book is an absolute joy to read and it gives a lot of insight into Bill’s amazing life, his humor, 50’s sports car racing, and of course #14.

Sometime in the 80’s Bill, along with Art Evans and Phil Hill, created a non-club called the “Fabulous Fifties”. This unofficial group brought together the racers, mechanics, owners, and enthusiasts from the 1950’s Southern California sports car racing scene and beyond. They would gather periodically at a variety of interesting automotive locations around the LA area and Monterey to bench race and tell tall tales. Allard Register historian Bob Lytle allowed my dad and I to attend some of these events as long as we didn’t make damn fools of ourselves. As a 20 year-old, mechanical engineering student with aspirations of becoming an automotive engineer and Allard racer – I was in heaven!

It’s interesting that Bill really only raced an Allard six times. However those six races had quite the impact on Bill and his life. Bill was a good husband to wife Bobbi, loving father to daughters Mellette and Leslie, friend to many, businessman, author, and story teller. But for most people, he will be known as the guy that raced the black Allard with red wheels and white sidewalls*.

God Speed Bill!

*Why did the car have white sidewall tires? Post WWII, most tires were made from hard, artificial rubber. Prior to WWII Tom Carsten’s bought a warehouse full of white sidewall tires for his travelling salesmen (Tom owned a successful Pork company in the Pacific Northwest). These tires were made from soft, natural rubber which made them very grippy – it was one of the team’s many secrets to their success.

Auto Sportsman, August 1953

Auto Sportsman, August 1953

Auto Sportsman, August 1953

Auto Sportsman, August 1953

The Last Checkered Flag - Alan Patterson

It's with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Alan Patterson, an Allard enthusiast of the highest degree. Alan was one of very few Allard owners that could say that they were an original owner. Allard acquired his first Allard, J2X-3072 from Motorsport, Inc. out of Pittsburgh, PA in 1952. He actively raced this car from new, running at Watkins Glen starting in 1954 and then over the years all over the world (see video from Alan racing at Monte Carlo below). Although Alan has owned and raced several other cars over the years; Allard's were always his true love. In addition to 3072, he has also owned another J2X, a J2X Le Mans, and most recently a Clipper and Sydney Allard's GT Coupe which he raced this past year at Monterey. On Friday of race weekend, I had the pleasure of driving around the Laguna Seca roads with Alan in the GT - I even got stuck in the car for 20 minutes after the door latch on my side failed - requiring me to contort my way over the roll cage and through the drivers door - much to the delight of Alan!

In addition to being an Allard enthusiast, Alan was a great guy. He was always happy and ready with a story. At the races, he was always putting around the pits in his green Mini Moke - he even loaned me the keys a few times to take my family around Laguna Seca.

One of Alan's greatest achievements was co-founding the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in 1983. Over the years, the PVGP has raised over $4 million since then...a fact that brought a lot of joy to his heart. Racing must be a genetic trait in the Patterson Clan. In 2016, the Patterson family boasted six family members racing in the PVGP!

Alan was 85 when he passed on June 30. Plans for Alan's Memorial Service are still being finalized. We hope to post a more formal remembrance as more details are known.

Cheers to you Alan and I hope you are having a blast racing the Guv'nor up there!

John Fitch, The Last Checkered Flag

On Wednesday October 31, automotive legend John Fitch took his last checkered flag. John was born on August 4, 1917 in Indianapolis, Indiana. John was a renaissance man when it came to automobiles...he not only raced them, he was a mechanic, built succesful specials, invented new technologies, track proprieter, and safety pioneer. John was perhaps best known for his racing career where he raced MG's, Cunninghams, Maserati's, Jaguar's, Corvette's, Formula 1, and an Allard.

In 1951, John was invited to race in the inaugural General Peron Grand Prix in Buenos Aires. There was only one problem...he didn't have a suitable car. John talked his friend Tommy Cole into selling him his wrecked J2 (#1514) for cheap. John straightened the chassis, pounded out the body, bled the brakes, and then kissed his very pregnant wife goodbye as he left for Argentina. Two other Allard owners were entered, Fred Wacker and good friend Tommy Cole in his new J2. John led the race from the start with his only serious competition coming from Wacker who finished a lap down in second. It was John's first win and it earned him a seat at Le Mans with the Cunningham team later that year.

To learn more about the life of John Fitch, click here to visit his Wikipedia page. The photo above was taken of John at the 2002 Monterey Historics where Corvette was the featured maque.

Al Moss Remembered

When you say “Moss” to motorsports aficionados, the name, “Stirling,” or “Sir Stirling” comes to mind. But for those who collect, restore or refurbish classic cars, it’s just as probably “Moss Motors.” Al Moss established and developed the company that became the largest supplier of classic and sports car parts. When many older cars would have had to be scrapped because repairs were possible without parts, Moss came to the rescue.
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Ted Turner, The Last Checkered Flag

Ted Turner, son of Tom and Yvonne Turner, passed away unexpectedly on June 6, 2012. Longtime Allard owners will remember Ted’s father, Dr. Tom Turner, who was the major Allard cheerleader in the US until he passed away 20 years ago. Ted accompanied his father to racing events and assisted him in the restoration and maintenance of his many cars. Ted was actively involved in working with his father in the collection, restoration and racing of Allards throughout the late 1980’s and early ‘90’s.

Ted’s interest and enthusiasm for Allards continued after Dr. Tom Turner’s sudden passing in 1994, as he supported and assisted his mother, Yvonne as she continued to campaign Tom’s beautiful and infamous flathead powered J2. Other Allard owners have since come to appreciate Ted’s assistance as he has continued to share items from his father’s extensive Allard archives and parts bins.

Ted graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ted was an Adjunct Professor of Biology for Dallas County Community College District at El Centro College and Brookhaven College.

Ted is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner; 2 sons, Jerry Turner and J.T. Turner; a sister, Anne Turner Rhodes and a brother, Bob Turner.

Al Moss, The Last Checkered Flag

We just received news that Allard distributor Alan 'Al' Moss just passed away at the age of 80. Al was a legend in the West Coast sports car scene...ever heard of Moss Motors? It's tough to even start describing Al's amazing life. Not only was he an entrepenuer, but he was an absolute character and jokester. I am honored to have had the brief chance to get to know the man...enjoying several long phone calls reminicing about Allard's and the people that raced them. We'll come back soon with a more fitting tribute to this legend.

The photo above is of Al Moss sitting in Hastings Harcout's J2X in front of Ak Miller's shop.

God speed Al.

PS: The Allard Register was honored when Al passed on all of his Allard correspondence to us. To read some of it, just type 'Moss' into our search bar.

Bob Lytle, Remembered

 

Ardent Allard enthusiast, archivist, historian, ambassador, and accomplished racer – and my good friend – Bob died on December 13th with his family by his side.

I first met Bob several years ago at the Monterey Historic Races. It did not start as a face-to-face meeting, because my first view of Bob was his long legs sticking out from under his J2X. “Hi Bob. It’s Andy.” I said. “What’s going on?”

“Damn diff is coming loose. Pass me the nine-sixteens, will you?” Greasy fingernails were followed by several beers and a long chat.

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