Category Archives: About

How This Blog Came To Be- Part 3

Jerry Orr leading the pack at Lake Phalen. Notice the different driving styles based on drive wheel location.

While participating in an auto cross event held at Brainerd International Raceway during the summer of 1970 I met a man named Jerry Orr. At that time Jerry was the president of the International Ice Racing Assocation. The IIRA held a series of races during the winter in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and southern Ontario.

He told me about how much fun it was, and how much I’d learn about car control, race strategy, and car preparation. Mostly he talked about the fun.

I decided that I would give it a try with my trusty NSU.

The IIRA ran 3 classes broken down by engine location and drive wheel location. The fastest cars were front engine/front wheel drive. There was also a class for front engine/rear wheel drive, and rear engine/rear wheel drive. These were further divided by engine size, making a total of 6 classes.

The rules governing tires were very strict. You were allowed to run studs, but only 13 studs per foot of tire circumference. But there were studs, and then there were studs. Needless to say, the studs you used were a critical factor in how fast you went.

Regular street studs were not competitive. A tire shop in St. Paul, who were also running a Corvette in the series, had developed a conical stud that worked much better. They had a lot of power to put onto the ice, so they worked hard at developing the studs, and then selling them to the other racers.

My arch nemeses, the Archer brothers and their Renaults.

The NSU would run in the rear engine/rear wheel drive class, along with an assortment of VW’s, Simcas, and a couple of Renault Dauphins driven by a pair of brothers named Archer out of Duluth.

At that time there were fairly large fields, and the races were 2-3 hours long. My first event was in Brainerd, and it was cold! How cold was it? Air temp was -25, and wind chill was -35. We left our tow vehicle running all night outside our motel so we would be sure to get to the event on Saturday morning.

This is the starting grid from the event at Brainerd in 1971. Quite a mix of cars. Notice the studs on the out-turned wheels.

The NSU was air cooled, and in the interest of weight savings I had removed what little heating system it had to offer. I regretted it that day! I finished 3rd in my class and won $15 which about covered my gas bill driving to the race.

I ran in Duluth (DNF), and the biggest event every year, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival race on Lake Phalen. This race always drew big crowds. We had been running the NSU with a single carb, and decided to switch to the dual 38 mm Webers from the autocross engine.

Jerry Hanson was very successful in any type of racing he ran. Here he is at Menominee, WI in 1971. Lots of understeer.

What a difference that made! I was able to motor by the Renaults down the straight, and that caused the Archer brothers some apoplexy. Unfortunately these carbs also had a problem with icing up and I ended up DNFing while running second.

The start! Just follow the taillights in front of you and hope he stays on track.

That spring I sold the NSU, something I still regret.

Here’s a link to the current IIRA web site. To get an idea of what this racing is like, take a look at some of the videos.

How This Blog Came to Be- Part 2

My father had always been involved in the local SCCA club, participating in and supporting their various activities. In fact, the first meeting of the Land-O-Lakes Region of the SCCA was held in our family living room.

Here I am at Farmington Airport watching my Father's FV compete. 507 alert!
Here I am at Farmington Airport watching my Father’s FV compete. Taken in the early 1960’s. I still have the movie I shot that day.

In the early 60’s he began campaigning a Formula Vee out of his VW dealership. The car was driven by a young, up and coming local driver named Jerry Hansen. Jerry went on to have considerable success, holding the record for the most SCCA national championships ever won.

I got to go along to the races, and was soon completely a-gog with racing. All I could think about doing when I got older was being a race car driver.

Here's the start of the 500 mile race at Road America. Can you guess the year?
Here’s the start of the 500 mile race at Road America. Can you guess the year?

One of my favorite events we went to every year was the June Sprints at Road America. We typically went back for the 500 Mile race in the fall as well. This venue quickly became my favorite track to watch races at.

After getting my drivers license I began to compete in some local auto crosses. Occasionally I was given permission to use one of the used cars from my Father’s lot.

At one event I was able to use a boxy BMW 4 door sedan that went like heck. It was a TiSA he had taken on trade. More on this car in another post.

My brother and I watch the races held around the old Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis.
My brother and I watch the races held around the old Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis.

Another ‘fringe’ benefit was that I got to drive some of my Father’s cars. Occasionally some pretty interesting cars landed in our garage, including a pair of Porsche Spyders. The first was a 1955 550 RS. The other was a 1960 RS-60. I’ll be doing a post on my experiences with these cars later.

When I turned 18 I bought an NSU 1200TTS that I auto crossed for a few years. The car was quite quick, and often vied for FTD at these events.

I also used this car to begin my formal racing career, which started on ice.

How This Blog Came to Be- Part 1



I am fortunate enough to own and race several vintage BMW’s. These include- a 1935 BMW 315/1 Special known as the “Willis Wonder,” a 1961 BMW 700S, a 1965 BMW 1800Ti, a 1972 BMW 2002, and a 1973 BMW CSL from the championship Luigi BMW team from 1976-77.

Let me tell you a little about myself and how I got to this point in my automotive obsession.

I was born in Minnesota, longer ago than I will admit to. All the while I was growing up my father owned car dealerships of one sort or another.

His first dealership sold British motor cars- MG’s, Allards, Morris Minors, and Jaguars. I still have vivid memories of riding in the back of Morris Clubman wagons with all that beautiful wood and shiny chrome.

A dealer sticker from my Father’s VW dealership.

In the mid-50’s he took on VW,. It was just at the time that they were becoming popular. He had a great deal of success with them, and soon dropped the British cars, all except Land Rover, which still sold well in Minnesota. He also added Porsche to his line-up. He sold this dealership in the mid-60’s, and at the time it was the largest servicing VW dealership in the country.

After selling the VW dealership he became the midwest distributor for BMW. His territory included MN, ND, SD, IA, WI, and IL. He spent his time traveling throughout the mid-west signing up dealers for this ‘new’ German marque.

The importer, Max Hoffman, had a reputation for cutting out his distributors once they had a dealership network up and running. His reputation was well earned, and soon my father was left with just his dealership outside of Minneapolis.

This is the service area from my Father's BMW/Mercedes dealership just west of Minneapolis. It was taken in the mid-1960's.
This is the service area from my Father’s BMW/Mercedes dealership just west of Minneapolis. It was taken in the mid-1960’s.

At this dealership he handled BMW’s, Mercedes, and Land Rovers. Other lines came and went, including Renault, Peugeot, Jensen, and NSU. He ran this dealership until the mid-70’s when he retired and moved to a ranch in Idaho.

During these years I was always around his dealerships working as a lot boy, working in the parts department, or wherever else I could. I became a pro at cleaning off cosmoline from the new cars and doing PDI’s.

Hanging around my Father’s dealerships also gave me a chance to drive some pretty fun and exotic cars- Cobras, Vettes, Sunbeam Tigers, Porsches, MBs, all the BMWs, Jensens, and even Wankle powered NSU Spyders. It was a great time to be a young man growing up  around cars!

More to come in my next post.