Volume II, Issue 10, Page 1

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CAR GUYS

hose in the age bracket will understand with a recognition that’ll warm you up quicker than bolting three fingers of gin, no ice. Right, that isn’t a Corvette I’m slouching towards. It is a quickie self-portrait over Ted Dzus’ (“zoose”) Viper. It was between beers in his garage, the big room that doubles as a large-screen TV pit and is bordered by a big sectional couch, a big table to put your feet on, and a mini-fridge holding cold ones right by the side. It was raining. We couldn’t go out and do anything that had to do with cars. You understand.

William Dzus, Ted’s grandfather, invented the Dzus Quarter-Turn fastener, first used and popularized by WWII aircraft with body panels that had to screwed tight to the fuselage in a hurry or released just as fast. Ted came up in the ‘60s, was a drag racer of some repute, and he spread the efficacy and the simplicity of his father’s fastener to the drag racing legions. The Viper is one of his cars. I don’t see a Dzus fastener on it anywhere.

There’s a low-mileage black-on-black 500SL in the other garage, not the special cool car garage. When Carol lets us, sometimes we use that to get around in. The utility wheels are a black Lincoln Town Car. Sometimes Teddy shows me Long Island in that, mostly when our brains are rotten from last night’s alky and too much bullshit. Sometimes we take the Viper, a rendition lately under intense scrutiny. Its thrummy V10 has a Paxton supercharger and was the prototype engine for the blower development phases. Figure the motor gets 700hp at the flywheel now, but I have yet to experience Teddy decking the throttle in this holy bitch. Maybe he does when there’s no one in it but him. His latest project is about swapping the T56 for an overdrive automatic as to more easily manage launching and traction issues of the silver lightning bolt.

He’s got this tube-frame school-bus yellow ’50 Merc custom that Ol’ Dad Gray Baskerville snickered in his ear one time. Ted didn’t forget. Gray told him that’s the car he should do because nobody does them anymore (and that they typify the age bracket Teddy’s struggling desperately to capture). Fukabuncha Tri-5 Chevys and 1st-Gen Camaros, don’t care if I ever see another one of those, ya know? Yeah, a fiberglass ’50 Merc with a Vortech-supercharged Shafiroff 540 and a Gear Vendors (6-speed) would be a lot more interesting. Maybe we should sit down right now, have a beer, and discuss this.

Ted Dzus and I go back to the mid-70s. This was after a lot of his drag racing stuff with the company was over. He built some hairy race cars, most of them small but destined and capable of the noxious power he put into them, and a couple of equally hirsute double-duty machines. All of them exhibited craftsmanship, thought, and whimsy. You’ll have to understand that the time I’m talking about and the events that came out of it were just like society is today, but nobody yapped about it half as much. Now, everybody today wants to spit up that sound bite, no matter how inane. A TV crew on every greasy curb in America has shown them what to do. Common sense surely seems to have abandoned them. Back in the day, we just got quietly hammered.

One fall day in the ‘70s I was at Ted’s to shoot his Modified Production Vega wagon, tunnel-rammed small-block, 4-speed, the whole nutty schmeer. Beforehand, we’d sat at Herman’s, one of his neighborhood haunts. We ate, we drank, we ate some more. We burned rubber over to a strip-mall gin mill managed by Geraldo Riviera’s brother. He fixed us up right with a six-pack of Kamikazes. In less than an hour. Then we went to a park to shoot the car.

Suffice that I had to shoulder a tree in order to focus the Nikon. I didn’t feel confident about the “shoot.” A couple of days later, the contact sheets proved my woozy suspicions. A pitiful few exposures were in focus. The rest of the sheet looked like I was pressing the button with my eyes closed. That was in the mid- to late 70s. I’d left the drag racing world for one where I got a new car to drive (sometimes two) every week. I stayed in that realm for more than 20 years.

The HR Power Tour ran the eastern seaboard from Mass to Florida a couple of times. The next thing I know, it’s 1998 and I’m in a motel lobby in Suffern, NY, waiting to meet a bunch for dinner. Across the floor I spy Ted’s head, bobbing in conversation. No mistake. It’s Dzus. Then he sees me, his face lights up. We collide. Friendship renewed. We trampled the country together for a week for the next 10 years, mostly on PT. Whenever possible, we’d caravan. There were always cocktails after five. Sometimes we yelled at the crowd. Sometimes we yelled at the shoddy service. Sometimes we yelled at one another. And so it is with a couple of very fortunate (read guardian angel) miscreants in their 60s who never really got beyond the age of 18. Not insurance salesmen. Not real estate wanks. Not school teachers. Car guys