Sunday, November 25, 2007

a ROCKIN' note of irony in a Britney Spears video

(above) Britney headed for a parking lot fender-bender (courtesy YouTube)
Britney, joy ridin' with a gal-pal in L.A.
Lo, the many ways in which automobiles and celebrity rock stars factor together. This just in from Paris (France, not Hilton):
"Luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton has won a lawsuit that alleged a Britney Spears music video violated counterfeiting laws by showcasing a pink Vuitton-upholstered dashboard.
"A Paris civil court ordered Sony BMG and MTV Online to stop broadcasting or marketing the video for "Do Something" in any form, and fined them 80,000 euros ($117,000) apiece, a spokeswoman for Paris-based Louis Vuitton said Monday (Nov. 19). The ruling was handed down last week.
"In the opening scenes of the video, Spears appears in the driver's seat of a hot pink Hummer floating on make-believe clouds. One shot shows fingers drumming on a dashboard covered with what looks like Vuitton's "Cherry Blossoms" design: dark pink blossoms on a pale pink, weblike background, embossed with the "LV" logo.
"The court did not find Spears herself guilty but ruled that Sony BMG and MTV Online were guilty of violating counterfeiting laws. The ruling said the video constituted an "attack" on Louis Vuitton's brands and its luxury image, the spokeswoman said.
"It was not immediately clear how the ban would be enforced or whether the companies would appeal. Louis Vuitton, whose signature handbags are a prime target of counterfeiters worldwide, has fought vigorously through French and other courts to protect its trademark goods."
At this time, we won't go into the details of Spears running a red light with her kids in the car, or address the many YouTube videos of Spears buying a Mercedes out in Van Nuys, or her infamous parking lot fender bender (also for all the world to see) or her earlier wielding an umbrella to attack a car, or whatever. Nevertheless, however tenuous, the connection's still there: rock, rockers, rock stars, and cars. It's all good. Peace out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

a fine ROCKIN' toy show down at Centennial Hall and a shout-out to friend and mentor Tom Snook

(above and below) a bea-u-tiful unrestored Keystone Packard-model wrecker

(above) one of the show's highlights: the Hubley #5 racer
(above and below) the Cadillac of toy trucks:
the Smith-Miller L-Mack California-style dump truck
(this, along with several below, are the re-creations of Fred Thompson)
I have this myself in red, black and silver;
only problem, it's so BIG, where do you display it?

(above) Fred's newest: the P.I.E. "dromedary"-box tractor
pulling its classic, silver-ribbed trailer
P.I.E. stood for "Pacific Intermountain Express"
(above) one of the great original Smith-Millers:
the Hollywood Film-Ad GMC beacon truck. The GMC's and L-Macks you
see here are from the earliest Smith-Miller dies, along with the B-Macks
and the Miller-Ironson Autocar-styled cabs too.
(above and below) another Fred Thompson special, the L-Mack logger
All the details are just so incredible. A real man's toy.

(above) the legendary L-Mack Mohawk tanker
(above) the trick is truck-spotting (like train-spotting).
here, lurking, is a spiffy cast-iron Arcade Bell Telephone truck pulling a pole-pup
(above) look in the weeds and ye shall find . . .
a gorgeous wooden truck-puzzle, under plastic-wrap
(above) the find of the day for me, a Lumar (Marx) scooper-dump with great lines
this is what people dream about: unrestored pieces with beautiful age-patina,
everything there and working, but best of all . . . played with and loved
(above) a magnificent crawler-shovel, restored
(above) a Buddy L shop crane, from the '30s, restored
(above) many years ago Tom Snook took me under his wing,
taught me what to look for at a toy show.
Tom had one of the greatest collections ever in the US,
but now he's letting many key, much-loved pieces go, sadly.
Here's some of which he was displaying this weekend.
(above and below) one of Tom's prize pieces:
the oversize Japanese tin International cement mixer made by SSS
you could look for 50 years and not find one as clean,
without dents, and in original paint. YUMMY!

(above) Tom Snook's surfacing company handled jobs throughout the East Bay,
(the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area, generally in the Concord corridor).
This Kenworth, by All-American Toys, always reminded Tom of his equipment.
(above) a hand-crafted R.G. LeTourneau-built scraper, a "Tournapull."
I have one just like this in my collection, originally from Tom's,
with the proud lettering TOM SNOOK SURFACING
(above) a gorgeous hand-crafted Allis-Chalmers scraper
(above) here's Tom Snook! I think we were both laughing when I shot this pic.
Thanks, Tom, for years of fun collecting . . . and the knowledge you've provided.
Tom Snook and I met several decades ago, at a toy show, possibly like this one at Centennial Hall in Hayward, CA. As you can plainly see, Tom's getting up there in age and his health is compromized. But he'll be the first one to tell you that he's had a great life collecting toys, being a fine Dad and Gran-dad, the proud owner of a fine construction company with many haulin'-ass trucks, graders and suchlike, along with classic cars, and, best of all, a (reasonably good --this said with love) husband (considering how insideous this toy passion thing is) to the wise and wonderful Ms. Velma Snook.
Tom decided to mentor me in toys, seeing that I had a passion for trucks and construction equipment. My earliest childhood memories are playing with Doepke graders and sand loaders in my backyard sandbox and at pre-school back in Englewood, NJ. When it comes to trucks and construction equipment, I wear my heart on my sleeve. As does Tom. But the thing about Tom, he's willing to share his knowledge. And I soaked it in. We almost pulled off a book about it all, for Motorbooks (publisher of ROCKIN'), called THE WORLD OF AUTOMOTIVE TOYS, but in the end the task of setting up so many photo studios at so many collections besides Tom's, put a temporary halt to the project. But the slides and captions are all tucked away, in hopes that it will once again be green-lighted. Then you will see what a fantastic collection Tom assembled. I hope this happens while Tom's still with us, 'cause he deserves this book big time.
At its height, Tom had a collection that surpassed 50,000 pieces. It might well have been 75,000 pieces, there were so many shelves brimming with the best pieces (along with a gazillion un-opened and stashed away boxes above and below grade) at his studio workshop in Crockett, CA, very close to the Carquinez Bridge. It's no longer there, having been sold off in small bits and large chunks. At this past weekend's show, Tom and his long-time friend and helper Randy were exhibiting for sale some of the last great pieces he'd held onto. Like . . . that incredible, impossible-to-find-in-that-condition SSS Japanese tin International cement mixer. I mean, sheesh. I could look at that thing for days.
OK, on one level, what a shame Tom couldn't hold onto everything. But on the other hand, he's had nearly all the great pieces at one time or another. Sometimes you have lots of toys and life's grand, and other times it's about finding happy homes for some, or even many of them. That's the way the game's played. And Tom Snook, bless his great heart, was--and is still--one of the top men that's ever strapped on pads to play in the big arena. In many ways it's just like collecting rock posters; heaven and heartbreak, all along the trail. Dark alley-ways. Sun-lit plazas. It's always about education and discovery (oh, and having just enough cash at the time).
Tom's taught me so much, it's almost subliminal now. I can walk a toy show like this and within an hour point out the top 25 pieces. And he showed me that you ALSO meet many wonderful people at the shows, like Jim Dugger, like Andy Prezioso, like Niall Malcolm (also a rock and roll friend). So I say to anyone fresh in the game: keep on the hunt always, hone your eye, play the Internet for information only (don't be a sucker), know what you're looking for, keep watch over your pocketbook, and try to come home with something every time . . . something that's meaningful to you and only you. It also helps to have a forebearing significant other. And shelf space.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More of those good ROCKIN' automotive gig posters (from the US, Canada, and Europe)

(above) by Dirk Fowler, Lubbock, TX (letterpress print) . . . Cadillac Ranch, baby!
(above) by Burlesque of North America, Minneapolis, MN (screenprint)
(above) by Martin Gossi, Switzerland
(above) by Ed Fotheringham, Seattle, WA
(above) by Jay Ryan, Chicago, IL (screenprint by The Bird Machine studio)
(above) by Jeff Guh, Brooklyn, NY(above) by Chris Hosner . . . killer photo!
(above) by Buddy Lee Roth, Canada (screenprint)
(above) by Aesthetic Apparatus design studio, Minneapolis, MN (screenprint)
In the continuing search for great rockin' automotive-themed gig posters, I've come across these in the last several months. Great stuff! See earlier blogs for other wonderful pieces. You could fill a book with these alone . . .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SEMA part four: the Blastolene Bros' ROCKIN' Odyssey

(above) owner and fabricator Randy Grubb and the Blastolene B702
at SEMA Show, Las Vegas, 2007
(above and below) an eyeopener, for sure, even among eyeopeners

(above) yrs truly (middle), reflected in Blastolene
(above and below) the V-12 GMC engine that beats within the B702

(above) an example of the size truck the V-12 engine powered
(above) the B702's engine was pulled from an airport rescue truck
(above) ready for install: 650 lbs of torque
(above and two below) fabrication by Randy at his Oregon shop

(above and below) the B702 was an unusual centerpiece
at Gordon McCall's annual high-rollin' Monterey Airport event

(above) sittin' pretty at The Quail event which followed
(above and two below) Blastolene's earlier Big Bertha, rockin' around the seacoast

(above) Bertha, powered by a Seagrave fire truck engine
(980 cu. in. OHV V-12, now fed by propane; she takes 25 quarts of oil)
The engine was build to sit running at a fire scene 24 hrs a day,
days on end, when needed.
(above and two below) Bertha, during fabrication

(above) what was Bertha originally, a 1941 Seagrave fire truck similar to this one;
note that the tractor's grill, hood, and cowl were retained.
(above and two below) The Blastolene Special, at Jay Leno's 'garage'

(above and below) The Special made its debut
at the 2002 Goodguys show in Pleasanton, CA

(above and below) The Special, during fabrication.
It started with a M47 Patton Tank V12 engine (1950-1955),
1800 cu. in, all aluminum, air cooled, overhead cam.
The engine alone cost the U.S. gov't $100,000 to produce in 1955.
She takes 17 gallons of oil, 1000 hp w. 1500 ft. lbs of torque

(above) Blastolene Bro. Rodney Rucker's Sneaky Pete,
which completed the 4,600 mile "Great Race" across America
(consuming $8,000 worth of gasoline);
you saw this in my earlier blogs from the Goodguys Pleasanton event
Once again I came across the Blastolene B702, this time outdoors at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. I introduced myself to owner and fabricator Randy Grubb, and later asked him to e-mail me some information about this very rock & roll sexy thang, which he was kind to do:
"The inspiration for the car comes from a lifetime of loving cars. My fellow Blastolene Bro. Michael Leeds and I studied, built, and hot rodded cars our whole lives. When we met ten years ago, we had so much in common. Michael is the designer of the three Blastolene cars I've built. The B702 is our 1930's euro-style roadster. We conceived it to be an elegant, refined french-curve car.
"This one was built in my one-man shop in Oregon. I have 6,000 hours in building this 20 ft. long and 2 in. shy of 8 ft. wide, approx. 4,800 lp car. Yes, the name comes from "B" as in Blastolene and "702" from the GMC V-12's 702 cu. in. The engine came out of an airport rescue truck that was rebuilt by the U.S. gov't in 1981, and has very low hours. I looked for a year to find this motor. It's solid sounding but not loud. It's got a nice V-12 smoothness but growls when you step on it. It made its debut at McCall's, then went to Quail, then Goodguys, and there it was at SEMA, where we met. Now it's gone to the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles before it's auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, AZ in January."
As noted at (and paraphrased from), "Michael Leeds and Randy Grubb are remembered from one of the classic filmed episodes of the television show Monster Garage. They turned a 158-in. long Peterbilt truck chassis into a two-wheeled motorcycle patterned after the famous choppers Jesse James churns out at his West Coast Choppers shop. However, the two convinced James that a tricycle, or trike, would be more likely to hold the weight of the Cummins engine and still stand upright.
"Leeds and Grubb are successful artists in their own right, but their first biggest brush with notoriety initially came from a car they built called the Blastolene Special. That car started liife as a weapon of war--the V-12 engine came from a M47 Patton Tank--and was designed to attract the attention of one person, that being Jay Leno, car aficionado, collector, and talk show host.
""Randy had it in his mind: 'I'm going to sell this car to Jay Leno.'" Leeds remembers. Grubb did just that, after arranging a contact through Leno's chief mechanic. Leno was intrigued by the project and called Leeds' cell phone. The deal was eventually consummated, the car was delivered (note: see photos above), and that led to their appearance on Monster Garage."
You can read some very insightful writing about the Blastolene experience at Here's one small excerpt (again, paraphrased) about their building the Blastolene Special, using the tank engine referenced above:
"The following week, I (Michael Leeds) received a phone call, it was Randy, "guess what I got??" came this smug voice over the line, "AN M47 PATTON TANK ENGINE!!" he screamed, talking so fast I could barely understand him. "It's so BITCHIN' you're not going to believe it." Actually, it was two engines procured from an ex-marine military vehicle collector in Coos Bay, OR who shortly after this transaction ran himself over with a half-track. These were extra engines that went to a tank that he'd sold and the new owner didn't want.
"Shortly thereafter, I was up at Randy's priming the two huge four-barrel carburetors. STAND BACK! The magnetos were out of time and we over-primed the motor. A gut-shaking roar and thirty-foot flames shot up into the cool calm of a Grants Pass twilight. The motor ran beautifully, and neighbors from a mile radius around showed up cringing and holding their ears. Randy stood there with the biggest ear-to-ear shit-eating grin I think I ever saw.
"We sat around Randy's garage late into the night brainstorming and sketching ideas of what his car might look like (using this great big engine). What we do is FUN, building in massive scale. It's about building hot rods, but out of ten-ton semi-truck parts and such. What we were doing was entering a whole new world, un-charted territory, creating a whole new category of street rods. It was on this night that the Blastolene Brotherhood was born. The idea was of a brotherhood of autonomous individual artists and craftsmen who would encourage each other's creativity. Our projects would embody an essence and spirit of free creative exchange, and help each other along the paths we would take."
For more in-depth information about the GMC 702 V-12 engine, I commend you to the discussion at A sample: "this is the KING of GMC's gasoline engine family, the power-laden 702 "Twin-Six." It makes words like durability, performance, and operating economy take on a whole new meaning. It's true truck horsepower, giving tremendous torque at low r.p.m., and it takes on the biggest jobs with an easy-stroking effort. The V-12 digs into grades and requires far less gear shifting to keep in step." This goes on for many intriguing pages.
there are some cautionary words to be spoken about this particular powerplant, so Blastolene Bros. . . . beware: "The 702 V-12." noted one of the resident experts, "was a factory-built truck engine, actually built with a lot of V-6 parts. But the block, crankshaft, and camshaft were one-piece V-12 units, exclusive to the V-12, with four V-6 351 heads and exhaust manifolds. It had an odd distributor at the rear of the block with the dual points under a metal cover, and two 6-cylinder distributor heads, rotors, caps to fire all twelve cylinders. The downfall of the 702 V-12 was that loooooooong, spindly crankshaft. Most of these engines died from a broken crankshaft."
And one trucker completed the story with this reminiscence. "Yeah, I remember lying in bed at night as a kid, hearing the old Wilson Freight trucks leaving their terminal late at night. Wilson had a fleet of trucks with that motor. They had their own unique sound. I kind of miss hearing them."
But, all is not lost, good sir, just head on down to the Petersen, or Scottsdale in January for Barrett-Jackson, and there she'll be . . . the glorious 702 V-12, merely encased this time in a supremely well done grand illusion of ROCKIN' sensibility, thanks to the Blastolene Boys.