My pick for Racer of the Week is Scott Gamlen, from Saint James City, Florida. I was introduced to Scott at an open mic jam he hosted in the Bay Area that I was invited to play in the backing band for in 2008. He is without question the most dynamic, talented and engaging front man I've ever played for, and I enjoyed several years of playing in his great band here in the Houston area, along with the area's finest musicians that he hand-picked for his group. Getting to know him, I have found that he not only is a musician, songwriter and performer of great quality, but he has a fascinating life that I'll touch on in my segment tonight.
Scott's current ride is a1965 Mustang convertible which he named Sally. It was originally a 6-cyl car, and the previous owner "restored" it to Mustang GT specs in 2010.
It had a 289 A-code V-8, Toploader 4-sp trans, new springs, shocks, sway bars, bushings, GT badges and stripes, and Styled steel 15 x 7 wheels. The car had been repainted in original Twilight Turquoise Blue.
Scott got the car in 2014 and replaced the engine with a 347 crate engine (bored and stroked 5.0), with aluminum intake and heads, Holley 600 cfm carb, hyd roller cam, 400 HP, 400 TQ. Additional improvements are 4-wheel disc brakes, rack and pinon steering, T-5 5-speed o/d trans, Hydraulic clutch, a 9 in Currie rear end with 3.50 Tru-trac gears, 225/50 r 17 tires on 17x8 alloy wheels, and 2.5 in Magnaflow exhaust.
The car has a lot of performance goodies, but no scatter shield or roll bar so it is strictly a street rod. It looks spectacular, sounds good and runs and handles really well, it's all the hot rod he needs...
While he was at it, he had his wife Linda's truck restored to pristine condition as well. It's a 1996 Ford 150 XL, with a 300 ci, big six, making 150 hp. It used to be her work truck until Scott had it restored and painted to match Sally. It's a beauty; looks good sitting next to Sally at the cruises and shows, too. Needless to say, it's not a mulch hauler any more!
When Scott was 18, he purchased a '31 Model A roadster with a 312 Y-block engine. The car was poorly engineered and executed, still had the vintage Ford 3-speed and closed, torque-tube drive line. He blew up transmissions on a regular basis, and he kept several spares on hand. It eventually got to where he could change one in about 20 minutes!
He took the car to Island Dragway and ran it in B/SR. He had to flim-flam his way thru Tech: no scatter shield or roll bar. He found somebody in the pits with an extra roll bar, bought it for $25, and tack-welded it to the frame. Tech insp was a fluid concept in those days. He proudly painted on his number with white shoe polish and drove to the staging area. The launch was good, but the trans gave up on the 1-2 shift: no ET, end of outing. As every teen-age knucklehead knows, The answer to any performance problem is... More horsepower! Scott installed a Paxton supercharger on the 312. He could now destroy a transmission with out even shifting and soon ran himself out of transmissions. So...No more racing for the Model A.
Since the Roadster was not robust enough for racing, Scott found a buddy, Bradley, with a Flathead powered 1950 Crosley station wagon who was looking for a partner. It was a cool little car, well-designed and built. They raced it in D/A and took it to shows. It wasn't very quick, 13's, as he recalls, but it was very appealing and fun. They were cleaning and prepping the car in Bradley's garage for a show after a race weekend, which is a very labor-intensive and frustrating process, as we all know. Scott left late Fri evening, planning to return Sat morning to pack up for the show. When he returned the next morning, the garage looked like someone had thrown a grenade in there: stuff everywhere and bullet holes in the body and differential.
Scott said Bradley had numerous virtues, but not among them was impulse control. He had been detailing when frustration and anger got the better of him. Out came the 357 Magnum to slay the enemy. Mission accomplished. He killed the car. And the partnership. Scott decided any future collaborations would be with some one less volatile.
Fast forward to Spring 1963. Scott was pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at Duke University. He was in the engineering lab one afternoon working on a force vector problem with weights, strings, and pulleys. He was interrupted by a familiar cackling sound... a slingshot dragster slowly idling by. He ran out, flagged the guy down and introduced himself. He had acquired Connie Kalitta's 1950's original "Bounty Hunter," sans engine, and installed a 301 Chevy in it. Scott decided the dragster offered a more practical and entertaining solution to force vector problems and abandoned the string and pulleys and went drag racing again.
They went out to a local mom and pop drag strip to dial the car in. It was way out in the country: county road to farm road to private dirt road with a hand-painted sign that said "Drag-strip". The dirt road gave way to 1500 ft of asphalt that constituted the track. That included the staging area and a 1320' strip. The shutdown area was dirt: challenging when arriving @150 mph with only rear brakes During the week when the track was not being used for racing, some of the locals would do their testing there. Sox and Martin had their '63 Z 11 Impala there one day when Scott's team were testing. The dragster ran low 10's, 150 mph, decent for C gas dragster at the time, but Camaro times these days.
Scott doesn't remember racing the car or what he did with it after he left. The university did not recognize his practical engineering work as germane to his degree and he was not invited back for his Sophomore year.
He then turned his attentions to road racing and bought a Formula Vee, single seat, open wheel, tube chassis, 1200 cc VW engine. He had a good time SCCA racing at Lime Rock, Bridgehampton, Watkins Glen, entry-level racing at big-boy tracks. After two racing seasons, the military called: Scott was to report to Naval Air Station Pensacola for Flight training.
Airplanes filled his need for speed and he quit racing of any kind for 10 years. After Scott's military service, he got a job at Southwest Airlines as a commercial pilot.
By the late 80's Scott had enough discretionary income to pursue road racing again, this time with a Formula Ford from the Skip Barber racing school. No need for a car, or trailer, or mechanic. Just show up and drive a fully prepped race car at some iconic race tracks including Riverside and Sears Point. He was racing at Riverside as the bulldozers were turning it into a housing development. Kinda sad.
Scott actually took a couple of months off from work so he could go racing. He raced 6 times in the Skip Barber series and managed to crash at Bridgehampton, breaking the car and a couple of ribs. After contemplating the expense and pain involved, Scott "retired" from racing for good and contented himself with racy looking and sounding cars.
By the time I met Scott Gamlen, he had retired from his aviation career and was concentrating on creating music with his band "On-Time Airline". I was proud to be a member. I still wear the t-shirt and the hat, and I'll never forget his good nature towards everyone and the fantastic times we had together when he lived here in the Houston area.
Scott and Linda, we wish you good luck, safe racing (if you ever do it again), and the best of times in the future!
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Last edited by WildcatOne
on Mon Mar 26, 2018 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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