PROWLER Tales, Yarns and Scoops
A Fun Collection of Prowler Cruising Stories and Tales
Pacific Coast Dream Machines - Half Moon Bay Airport... By Scott Curits - April 28,2001
Back Roads to LA... By Gary Myers
HOT PROWLERS and WARM PEOPLE…in an unlikely setting... By Gary Meyers
Hot Rod Heaven...and brunch too... By Gary Meyers
IF CRAZY HORSE HAD A PROWLER... By Gary Meyers
Jelly Beans at Badwater... By Gary Meyers
Learning to Herd Cats... By Gary Meyers
Livin’ LARGE… and Lovin’ it... By Gary Meyers
On The Way Home... By Jim Clayton and daughter Laura - Sunday, January 09, 2000
What it is Like Owning a Prowler... By Jim Clayton
A Cat Among Snakes... By Gary Meyers - November 2001
Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head... By Gary Meyers - January 2002
Rain, Rain, Go Away - Prowlers and Vipers Want to Play!... By Jane Horvath - January 2002
Pacific Coast Dream Machines - Half Moon Bay Airport...
By Scott Curits - April 28,2001
On Sunday, May 29, 2001 eight bright and shining Prowlers and one beautiful new Viper cruised onto the Half Moon Bay Airport grounds, paid our admission, gathered together and were shown to a prominent display area. There were over 2,000 entrants and 110,000 paid admissions (up from 85,000 in the year 2000).
The Dream Machine Show features virtually anything with wheels on or under it and includes such things as historic water pumps, steam engines, farm engines, motorcycles, pedal powered vehicles, and a motorized Stratolounger with a top speed of approximately 1/2 miles per hour. There were also tractor pull vehicles demonstrating their vigor, some with multi-engines. One Allison aircraft 24 cylinder engine pulled the sled the entire distance. Now that's TORQUE folks. And LOTS of the cars we all know and have loved in varying condition, both modified and stock.
The Flying Wing took to the air also. Wow! It did a low altitude takeoff and a steep climb out, a modified hammerhead turn, and then began a three circle fly by. This Northrup N9MB took thousands of hours, over an eleven year period of time, to rebuild and restore... then came the testing and FAA certifications. What a project! What a testament to the patience, skills and resources needed to accomplish such a project! Late in the day, after most of the people and vehicles had gone, the Flying Wing got permission to do a close fly by. Since the Prowlers had been positioned parallel and closest to the runway, we got an excellent view of the plane. We could even see the grin of the pilot. I had seen the four-engine version of this plane land and taxi to the hanger at Moffet Field when I was a kid, so to see this one fly was a nostalgic treat.
The only drawback to an otherwise perfect day was the wind. It was so strong that it actually ripped the moorings off the right side of one of those air-filled children's play jungles. Some fast-acting Dads rescued about eight or ten kids by leaping to hold onto it, bringing it back to earth, then throwing their bodies onto it to hold it down while the kids debarked.
Since I haven't been to a Dream Machine Show in years, I was amazed at the growth and good organization of this event. Late in the afternoon, Charlotte and I got to talk to Bob Senz, the show chairman. He said he was extremely pleased by the percentage growth in attendance over the previous year. He also stated that next year the Prowlers will get a corral, just as the Cobras did this year. Bob and I will get together from time to time during this next year, and it will happen. To this end, we do need a strong showing to events like this.
We have a true American icon (vehicle of stature). We need to make the vehicle known to the public. After talking to so many people at this show, we realize how many people think the Prowler is no longer being made. Some think it was only an idea car, is not available, etc.
Thanks to everyone involved in the organization of this event, particularly Phil and Jane who so tirelessly and carefully organize these wonderful Prowler get-togethers. It was a great day. (I only got to get away from the Prowlers for about forty minutes to see the rest of the show because we were swamped with people and questions even before the show opened. But, hey, how cool!)
Back Roads to LA...
By Gary Myers
THIS IS A TEST:
Which would you choose as your route to Los Angeles from the Bay Area?
(a) A well paved but wonderfully wandering road through beautiful rolling hills covered by a velvet carpet of new green native grass and wild flowers, OR
(b) Interstate 5, aboring, straight freeway.
If you chose (b) you might be the type of person that thinks chewing gum is exciting!
As confirmed “back roads” travelers, my wife and I decided to seek out the back roads in our most recent trip to LA from the Bay Area. And what a wonderful trip it was. Yes, it was longer, a comfortable 10 hours with stops for meals versus a harried 6 hours, but we arrived with many memories of the amazing country we saw.
It all started when we had to go to LA for business but also wanted to catch Larry Lord’s Prowler tech session at the Chrysler Specialty Vehicle Training Center in Ontario. Larry had lined up the Prowler/Viper training supervisor Bob Craighead, who was a fountainhead of knowledge about the Prowler. He gave us a great interactive, multi-media tour of the factory where the car is built and a tour of the special features of this unique machine. We also walked through the Mopar parts distribution center that ships $1 million of parts to California C/P/D dealers every day. Great session, Larry, and thanks to Bob Craighead for spending his Saturday with us. Larry, as I promised, I will not say a word about the alleged drag race between Bob’s Viper and the Paxton Supercharged Prowler…for a dozen Krispe Kreme donuts. But I will say that the Paxton car goes like stink, having had a few minutes in the cockpit.
One can begin a back road tour to LA from the Bay Area by leaving San Jose south on the Almaden Expressway/McKean Road, driving by Calero and Uvas Reservoirs to Hecker Pass Road. This is a beautiful little rural road that we have explored before. We elected to take 101 to Gilroy since the centerpiece of our back roads tour was California State Route 25. SR 25 leaves 101 south of Gilroy going through Hollister and then on to the Pinnacles National Monument. If you have time, there are many hiking trails- easy to difficult- to explore Pinnacles up close and personal. We only had time for a picnic lunch at the Pinnacles and a walk through the Visitors Center. The Ranger explained that the spires and crags forming the Pinnacles bore no resemblance to the surrounding, round smooth hills. These pinnacle rock formations are the remains of an ancient volcano, the rest of which lies almost 200 miles to the southeast. Sound intriguing? It is all part of the San Andreas Rift Zone created when two geologic plates separated millions of years ago.
After leaving Pinnacles, we had miles of smooth wide two-lane road, wandering through a beautiful valley …with no traffic. The sun shone on the wild flowers, the cattle grazed on the lush green grass, and the travelers were at peace with the world. The only sounds were of Scott Joplin’s ragtime music coming from a well-stocked CD player. It ended too soon at SR 198, where one could go east to Coalinga or west to San Lucas. We chose west where we followed 101 to Santa Maria, where we again went backroading, east on SR166. This beautiful, wide, two-lane-er goes over the Sierra Madre Mountains, but it has much more traffic since it links I5 with 101. It is designated as a scenic route, and we even spotted about 20 elk grazing next to the roadway.
At Cuyama we turned south onto SR33. This well maintained but narrower mountain road follows the Cuyama River up into the Dick Smith Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest. At the summit of over 5000 feet, we had snow in early March at the edge of the road and snow flurries in the air, although the road was clear. Here we experienced true mountains, with spectacular granite faces and tall timber. Then SR33 drops down into the town of Ojai, a beautiful little artist’s colony. From here one can take SR 150 and 118 though farm country to the north end of the San Fernando Valley, or do as we did, drop down to Ventura and take 101 into LA.
Yes, back roads do exist in the great state of California, and I heartily recommend them instead of the freeways. But in order to explore them; take a good set of maps, a patient companion, your favorite CDs, food and water. With the coming of spring, the best and most beautiful routes are just beginning to “turn green and blossom”. Of course, it helps to have a good excuse like a great Prowler event to encourage you to get out on the backroads. Happy Prowling.
HOT PROWLERS and WARM PEOPLE…in an unlikely setting
By Gary Myers
You are in the passenger seat of the Prowler sitting at the starting line. The starter drops the green flag and you are off into a sea of bright orange traffic cones, which mark the course. A quick kink to the left, past the starter, then a right turn. Oh no! It seems you’re coming too fast into a 90 degree left hander, but with a chirp of the front tires, the driver slows just enough to make the corner. A narrow gate is coming up and you are going too fast to make the gate. Furthermore the Prowler is impossibly wide to squeeze through that narrow gate of cones without touching them. Whew! With a deft flick of the steering wheel, the driver squeezes through the cone gate with only inches to spare on each side. Then into second gear, you go into the fastest part of the course, a sweeping left hander. Now the fronts are screaming for mercy, as the driver modulates the throttle to keep the front tires gripping, without losing the rear end to a spin.
You begin to relax your terrified grip on the seat. This is kind of fun. You feel the G-forces on your body. You are looking far enough ahead to anticipate the next elements of the course. You begin to appreciate the skill of the driver and the power of the Prowler. Next, a short straight is punctuated by two fingers of cones poking into the course. This element tests the accuracy of the line the driver has chosen. Then with another chirp of the front tires under severe braking for a sharp left hander, you see the starter waving the checkered flag. You stop the timing light and your wild ride is over. It has taken less than a minute but it seemed like an eternity and will be forever etched in your memory.
You have just completed a one lap tour of the autocross (AX) course that a few lucky Prowler owners -and passengers- experienced over the September 23-24, 2000, weekend. The Prowler owners were guests of the Porsche Club of America in an AX held at the Marina Airport, near Monterey, CA. The objective was to improve the skills of the drivers and test the handling limits of their Prowlers…in a safe environment. Sure there was competition with everyone trying to cut a half second off their times each run. But it was done safely with no damage to cars or drivers. Well, maybe there were some bruised egos when Larry Lord and Benjamin Aronson took TTOD-P (top time of day for Prowlers) on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
The motorheads were in heaven, getting tons of track time (5 runs each on Saturday and 10 runs each on Sunday). They felt the thrill of their Prowlers in a power drift and fought to control understeer in tight corners. The bonus of having 1500 hot rods and custom cars in Monterey for Cherries Jubilee just added to the excitement of the weekend. Yes, it was a great weekend. The weather was beautiful and sunny with a cooling ocean breeze in the afternoon. The women had lunch and shopping in Carmel on Saturday. But the memories will be highlighted by the camaraderie of the Prowler people-the conversations at dinner, the warm friendships formed around a shared experience. The Prowler people are truly warm, wonderful people.
Hot Rod Heaven...and brunch too
By Gary Myers
How would you like to visit the shops of the organization that helped shape hot rodding in the early ‘40s? Then would you like to visit THE definitive repository of drag racing history? The first place is the So-Cal Speed Shop where the first cover car for "Hot Rod Magazine" was built, and where today they build "traditional" rods for very discerning and wealthy buyers. The second place is the National Hot Rod Association Museum at the Fairplex in Pomona, CA. This is Hot Rod Heaven!!!!!!
It all started with the regularly scheduled Sunday brunch for the Southern California Prowler Club members on January 16, 2000. Of the approximately 14 people at the brunch, four where from Northern California; Bill and Toby Vanderbeek and Judy and Gary Myers. At the brunch we had the usual stuff-great conversation, standard food and poor service. Everyone has to eat and food is fuel-ok! But then Larry Lord, the SC for Southern Calif, kicked in some hi-octane fuel for us…the visits to So-Cal Speed Shop and the NHRA Museum. Thanks, Larry, for organizing this special day.
Joining us for brunch and leading the So-Cal tour was Tony Thacker, one of the partners in the shop. He drove the red Prowler that the factory had given So-Cal and that they had customized for the SEMA show in November. In addition to having the front bumpers removed and traditional round headlights installed, it had a very unique grille treatment. The horizontal slats in the stock grille were carried back about three feet into the side engine covers. The extended grille was about 6-8 inches high and reminded one of the ‘30s Packard. It was very classy and beautifully proportioned. Tony said that each grille slat was hand formed at the cost of many man-hours, yet they only had a few weeks to complete the whole car. The Prowler had many other traditional hot rod styling cues, e.g. old style rear view mirrors and a hood chrome strip. More and more of their work is for the factories, like this Prowler project. We saw a few of our 3.5 liter Prowler motors that So-Cal is modifying to develop after-market parts, which will boost horsepower.
One of the most interesting traditional hot rod features they offer is the drum-encased disc brake. They have a big old-looking vented brake drum into which they have built a modern disc brake. From the outside, it looks very traditional, but inside it has the stopping power of a modern disc brake. As Tony walked us through the shops, we saw a dozen project cars under construction. The average "custom built" hot rod, Tony said, goes for $300,000. They do the highest quality work, but charge for it.
The next stop for the Prowler caravan was the NHRA Museum. This modern 28,000 square-foot building houses examples of winning cars from 50 years of drag racing, alongside dry lakes, salt flats and oval track racers. The very roots of hot rodding come alive with the cars and the memorabilia on display in this elegant showcase. From Ed Iskederian’s ’25 T roadster, which appeared on the cover of "Hot Rod Magazine" in 1948 to Kenny Bernstein’s first-over-300MPH fueler, they all were there in an exciting display of the evolution of the sport. This is a must-see if you are in Southern California.
IF CRAZY HORSE HAD A PROWLER
By Gary Myers
On July 5th, 2001, 40 plus Prowlers lined up for a group photo in front of the Crazy Horse Monument. The sun was going down and the shadows were beginning to appear on the silhouetted face of the carved granite face of Crazy Horse, a half mile away and high on the mountain. The shadows played tricks with the huge 80 foot face of Crazy Horse. Was he shifting his eyes to the right to see the Prowlers? Was here a hint of green envy in his eyes as those dazzling mechanical marvels graced his grounds? How would he have looked in a Prowler instead of on his trusted Indian pony?
Well let’s get back to reality. Maybe it’s the euphoria of the trip that caused us to fantasize. The idea for a trip to see Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota came from the fertile imagination of Larry Lord. He and a few others fashioned a delightful mix of organized and free-lance tours, parades, fireworks and free time, culminating in the group photo and dinner at the Crazy Horse monument. Great people, sparkling machines and beautiful scenery headlined the four-day event.
Here is a sampler of the highlights the trip. The Black Hills are beautiful rolling, wooded hills in the SW corner of South Dakota. The gem of the Black Hills is the Custer State Park with its wildlife preserve of bison, elk, prairie dogs and wild burros. Wild flowers were in abundance as we cruised the narrow roads of the Park. The most interesting road was the Pigtail Bridges road—a winding, narrow road that curved back upon itself with curved bridges and tunnels that framed views of Mount Rushmore in the distance. The Needles road, with one-car wide passages through granite columns, was just made for Prowlers. Sprinkled through the Park were four quaint lodges, one of which served as the summer White House for both Coolidge and Eisenhower.
Coolidge inaugurated the work on Mount Rushmore in 1927, the most notable attraction in the Black Hills. This massive work was declared finished in 1941 after completion of the four presidential faces carved in the granite mountain. Total cost was less than $1 million, the current cost of a "fixer-upper" in Palo Alto. It was fascinating to see how a plumb line and giant protractor were used on the mountain to replicate the 1/12th size models that the sculptor had previously modeled in his studio at the base of the mountain. Over 90% of the carving was done with dynamite--removing up to 100 feet of granite in front of the now famous four faces. The 4th of July fireworks over the Homestake open pit gold mine and the two parades in Lead and Deadwood, featuring the 40 plus Prowlers, added spice to the event. After the final dinner at the Crazy Horse monument, a moonlight drive led by Donny and Donna from Crazy Horse to Deadwood put a wonderful exclamation point on the great four days.
A few of us from California and "GPS" John from Illinois returned home via a scenic route that is worth noting if the Prowlers ever gather again in the Wild West. From Deadwood, we made the short drive to Devils Tower, a 850 foot tall rock column with a flat top the size of a football field. Legend has it that 7 Indian maidens were saved by jumping onto a small rock that grew into the Tower, protecting them from a bear, which left his clawing marks on the side of the Tower as the Tower grew. We next visited the Little Big Horn battlefield where Custer made his last stand. Crazy Horse was one of the Indian chiefs who planned the battle, and it was very provocative to stand on the rolling hills of the battle site and visualize the forces engaged in that fateful battle. We drove over the beautiful Big Horn mountains, stopping for a quick look into the 1200 foot Big Horn Canyon, and then on to Cody for an overnight.
From Cody, some Prowlers went directly into Yellowstone Park, but some of us entered the Park via the Cooke City/Beartooth highway. This spectacular mountain drive is believed by your humble scribe to be the most scenic drive in America, with its many switchbacks, awesome view sites and glacier lakes. It was truly dazzling from our top down roadsters. Then we proceeded on into Yellowstone for a two-day stay, to see Old Faithful, Yellowstone Canyon, and all the wildlife and thermal basins.
South of Yellowstone, is Grand Teton National Park, home of America’s Alps. Again the weather was perfect for a top down Prowler tour along Jackson and Jenny Lakes, with the monster mountains almost near enough to touch. Staying two days in the town of Jackson, we took tram rides, saw moose, elk, eagles and tasted the genuine cowboy life of the Wild West. Homeward bound to California, we made one last stop in Utah to visit the Golden Spike Monument—the meeting site of the construction crews during the building of the first transcontinental railroad. We are sad to be home now from our Crazy Horse, wild west adventure, but the vivid memories will live on…until again we see Crazy Horse in his Prowler.
Jelly Beans at Badwater
By Gary Myers
From the bluff high above Badwater, you can see in the distance, a string of colorful jelly beans dancing and weaving along the narrow blacktop trail that skirts the dry lake at Badwater. The jelly beans suddenly stop and bunch up in a tight pack to explore the lowest point in the USA at Badwater, 280 feet below sea level. Then they string out again, bobbing and weaving down the asphalt trail along the dry lake. Then as suddenly as they appeared, they are gone. Is this a mirage? And what are those jelly beans in all their bright colors? Is this a trick the desert has played on us?
No mirage, no tricks, just lots of fun! That scene at Badwater was repeated time and again over the weekend of March 8-11, 2001, as 17 Prowlers (and their owners and companions) giggled, hooted and were amazed by the awesome scenery and great cruising roads of Death Valley. The cruising roads were the reason to go to Death Valley with miles of twisties, radical elevation changes and big sweepers, but the benefits of good food, great companionship, and a history lesson or two really made the trip a four star event.
But let’s start at the beginning. When Tourmeisters Phil and Jane Horvath put out the call for a Death Valley tour, many people questioned their sanity. But the Horvath’s were right-on! They also did their prep work with wonderful directions and many history and geological facts thrown in their Guidebook. The weather was good for top-down cruisin’, the mountains and valleys were spectacular and the great roads were nearly empty. We all met at Primm, a town at the CA/NV border on Thursday night. After a nice buffet meal, we set out to cruise the Las Vegas Strip. We caravaned the 30 minutes to Las Vegas and cruised all the way up and back down the Strip. We circled the Eiffel Tower and the Arc d’ Triomphe in Paris, saw a movie set being set up in front of the Desert Inn, went through the portico at the Mirage, and cruised past the famous dancing water show at the Bellagio. We saw as many flash bulbs popping at the Prowler parade as at the Strip attractions.
Friday morning found the Primm overnighters caravaning to Baker, home of the World’s Largest Thermometer, to meet the Southern California contingent, to have lunch, and begin the DV tour in earnest. North of Baker, we really got a feel for the desolate nature of DV. All one could see was sky and mountains vistas…. and not many gas stations. It was on this leg that we stopped at Badwater. After Badwater, the rainbow colored jelly bean parade drove through the Devil’s Golf course and then to Artist’s Palette, a one-way, paved and very narrow road. Artist’s Palette is just that, a fabulous mosaic of red, yellow, orange, green and brown hues on the surrounding hills. We happened to be following Jim Clayton’s new orange colored Prowler and its bright metallic burnt orange color contrasted so beautifully with the muted earth tones of those hills. What a sight, seeing all the jelly beans carefully execute their dance steps over the challenging path at Artist’s Palette. Then we were off to Furnace Creek Ranch for dinner and overnight.
Next morning, the 17 Prowlers all washed and shined, made quite a sight lined up at the parking lot of the Visitors Center. Our fashion consultant, Debbie Angell, made sure that the yellows were spaced out among the darker colors so to please the eye. Then off we blasted to Zabriskie Point overlook. Those willing to make a small hike were rewarded with an incredible view of the golden tones and contrasting shadows of the rippling ridges of the mountains in the post-sunrise light. From the top of the Zabriskie Overlook, the coiled string of colorful jelly beans looked tiny and insignificant compared to the magnificent surrounding mountains. Next we powered up to Dante’s View, directly above the Badwater stop of the previous day. At over 5000 feet above sea level, Dante’s was anything but an "inferno", as snow flakes swirled about our heads in the open cars. The only "inferno" was the Prowler heater, thankfully.
After a challenging and quick drive along well-paved, but narrow two lane roads, we arrived at Scotty’s Castle for lunch and a very interesting history tour. Construction on this extravagant mansion was begun in 1924…but never finished. Named for Scotty, a cowboy, prospector, publicity hound and story teller, it was owned and financed by Albert Johnson, an insurance millionaire from Chicago. Johnson and Scotty were true friends who provided interesting contrasts of personality; the former reserved and understated, while Scotty was very flamboyant. The Park guides shared with us a living history of the activities in the castle, told as if it were a day in 1939.
Leaving Scotty’s we toured Ubehebe Crater, a new crater only 1000 years old, and then on to Stovepipe Wells for gas and a rest stop. It was on this 30 mile stretch of open road that some of the lead machines boasted of high double digit speeds, and their drivers sported big wide grins at the rest stop. Out of Stovepipe Wells (don’t you love these names), we found some roller coaster dips where a few of the machines "caught air". One silver machine even left sparks behind as he landed. Speaking of flying, at the Panamint Springs rest stop, our next stop, we were treated to a real air show. Two F-18’s dove out of the clouds, skimmed the desert floor then did barrel rolls going straight up and out of view. They did this several times to our loud clapping and yelling. What a show--not even John’s blown Prowler was as fast as those F-18’s.
Finally, a tired pack of Prowlers headed home to Furance Creek Ranch for a wrangler steak dinner and lots of tall tales about the day’s events. Good food, good drinks and embellished tales capped a wonderful weekend. Yes, the Tourmeisters, Phil and Jane, really did know what they were doing, and thanks to them and their meticulous planning, we had a great time in DV. You can’t imagine all the smiles and thumbs up we encountered along the way. It was obvious there are many eye-candy lovers in Death Valley and Las Vegas and they really appreciated our jelly beans.
Learning to Herd Cats
By Gary Myers
Everyone I know who has had a litter of kittens or larger cats says, " you can’t herd cats". Well, I beg to differ! When the "cats" have pinched noses and four big black rubber paws, they can be herded---with dispatch. This variety of "cat" can be herded down a twisty set of curves with alacrity, while bringing big smiles to the "herder". Yes, our big "cats" can be driven hard and fast-taking precise direction from their owners regarding turn-in points, trail braking, late apexes, and under/oversteer.
To learn more about how I could "herd my cat", I dropped in on a local Porsche Club of America event a couple of months ago. This event was an autocross school that a friend of mine was attending to learn how to better drive his new Porsche. Professional PCA instructors, in a very safe environment, were schooling the student drivers of all ages and gender on the finer points of car control. The venue was the huge parking lot at Candlestick Park (3COM Park) in SF. Several courses were set up and outlined with rubber pylons. The different courses focused the student drivers on different car control situations: a tightening slalom, right angle corners with short straights between, decreasing radius sweepers, and one big course with a bit of everything. The course design held speeds to high second gear. With the large open space and only one car on the course at a time, there is no risk of body damage, either to the car or driver. A little rubber left on the track was the price of tuition for this school. The autocross is a wonderfully safe place to learn car control without the risks inherent in driving quickly on public roads.
It had been years since I had driven my Porsche in an autocross. Knowing the PCA insurance rules and the "Porsche only" attitude of the local chapter officers, I was content to watch my friend in his new Porsche learn the nuances of trailing throttle oversteer. I would have to be content to be only a spectator. That was until I started talking to Hank Watts, the Chief Instructor for the local PCA region and author of one the best autocross books on the market. Hank and I have known each other for over10 years since the days I was an instructor with him at the PCA big track events held at Sears Point and Laguna Seca. Hank was intrigued by my new and different "P" car. He poked around the car, looking at the suspension and looking under the hood. Suddenly a idea hatched in my head to capitalize on HIS interest in my car-"how would you like to drive the Prowler on the autocross course?" --I heard myself blurt out-"but only if I can ride with you, and then drive it myself on the course, too". His eyes lit up and we began to plot. During the lunch hour, all the students and their instructors would be eating and the course was empty. He would drive first since the course marshal would recognize his helmet and think that I was a student. After a few laps, we’d switch and I’d drive. YEA!!!
It all went according to plan. He got several hot laps and got to see just what the big Cat could do. He would scream down the short chutes, jam on the brakes and literally toss the rearend out to rotate the car around the inside front wheel so then he could get back on the power earlier coming out of the corner. With very little practice, he could take away the natural understeer (since the rear tires are so much larger than the fronts) and had the car drift through the sweepers. Then he would point and shoot the slow corners for a power induced, tailout oversteer. What fun it was riding with a truly accomplished pro. Now it was my turn to drive. I decided to left foot brake and really use the Autostick. Using both feet on the petals helped me smooth the transitions from braking to accelerating and the A/S was great fun and easy too. I was not nearly as quick as Hank, but I got a real feel for what the Prowler could do when pushed to the limits of adhesion. It is truly is a great platform for quick, smooth drivers to test their own limits. It "plows" a bit due to the disparity in tire size front to rear, but it is stiff with very little body roll and has lots of bite and directional stability.
Yes, through dumb luck and a quick question, I learned a bit more about how to "herd my cat" that afternoon at Candlestick. When Larry Lord and I were discussing my adventure, it occurred to us that more Prowler owners should have the opportunity to learn to drive their Cats in a safe controlled environment. Larry is a former NASCAR-Winston West driver who could show us how to slide through corners. Phil Horvath used to autocross his Porsche years ago. The three of us might be able to serve as instructors, if enough owners wanted to learn more about driving their cars. Please contact Larry, Phil or myself if you are interested, and we’ll see if an event like an autocross school could be staged. Until then, you’ll have to "herd your cat" all by yourself.
Livin’ LARGE… and Lovin’ it
by Gary Myers
Picture yourself and your spouse, snuggled down in the deep buckets of the World’s Flashiest machine, cruisin’ one of the most beautiful highways in America. Well, that is what we did last month in our yellow Prowler. We cruised down California Highway 1 from Carmel to Santa Barbara-the spectacular and rugged Big Sur Coast. The weather was warm and sunny, the top was down, and the curves were as sweet as the music coming out the big CD player. Yes, we were living large and really loving every minute.
Let’s start at the beginning. The excuse for the trip was to join other Prowler owners in the world’s largest gathering of the clan. We were headed down to Coronado Island, near San Diego, to attend a Chrysler sponsored vintage sports car race. Since the Big C had offered to buy us lunch and give us a T-shirt, we thought that was reason enough to drive the 1000 miles round trip to see and visit with other discriminating owners of the World’s Flashiest machine. Our plan was to leave Northern California on Thursday noon so we would drive the rugged coast road in the late afternoon thereby reducing the chance of encountering fog and motorhomes--two enemies of a cruiser. The plan worked. We enjoyed clear sunny skies and light traffic.
One of our favorite stops in Big Sur is Nepenthe, a restaurant/bar precariously clinging to cliffs about 1000 feet above the crashing surf. When we pulled in to the parking lot of Nepenthe, we were presented with the best parking space in the lot-next to the stairs leading to the establishment, wide enough and in full view. Through the trees a shaft of sunlight acted like a single, large spotlight, shining on our yellow machine. We couldn’t help taking several glances back as we climbed the stairs to the restaurant. What a sight-were we living large or what? After fueling our bodies with coffee and dessert, we went back to the car. As always, a crowd had gathered -"what is it, who makes it, is it new, it is the most beautiful car I have ever seen…". Feeling good, we were ready to challenge the curves down the coast, past the Hearst Castle and on into Solvang, a cute Danish community just North of Santa Barbara, for the night.
The next morning a busload of Canadians was hovering over the car as we packed. I use that term loosely since loading a couple of plastic bags into the Prowler trunk is not really packing, it is ‘tucking’. They all had to have their pictures taken with the car, and we left them amid cheers and thumbs up on the way to LA. The worst part of the whole trip was the fight through downtown LA traffic mid-day on Friday. Now I know where they send all the "bad little econo boxes and ugly sport utes". We broke free of the traffic in Orange County as we left I405 for the Pacific Coast Highway. The PCH is a beautiful urban road from Newport down through Laguna Beach to Dana Point. We lunched in Laguna, after which we strolled the streets looking in art galleries and craft shops. In Laguna, I had never seen so many small, little dogs that could drive. Most of the LOLs driving big Caddys and Benzs had their miniature dogs cradled in their laps. Maybe some safe driving tips are in order for Laguna drivers. We escaped without incident and sped on down to San Diego, top down, whipping the Autostick back and forth. We’ll show those dogs how to drive!
By now you have all heard about the largest, to date, gathering of the clan at Coronado. It was a great event, with good food on Friday and Saturday nights, good conversation about our common interests, and good vintage sports car races. Larry, Phil and Debbie deserve a vote of commendation for all their organizing efforts. Without them, the event would not have been successful. Those of us who were lucky enough to attend want to "do it again"; because Livin’ Large is what life is all about.
On The Way Home
By Jim Clayton and daughter Laura - Sunday, January 09, 2000
On the way home after the Palo Alto Brunch my daughter and I encountered the police. When we turned left to pick up I 280, there were three cops stopped at the light one turned and followed us. We had the radio on very loud and we thought we heard the cop from behind us. We turned off the radio and looked back at the cop. He got on his speaker and said did you hear me? We shock our heads no. He said, "I would ask you if you want to race, but I am afraid I would loose."
We gave him thumbs up and a wave. When we came to the freeway entrance we wanted I turned and waved goodbye, but he came the same way. Then at the next turn he went straight, after he chirped his siren to say goodbye. He had a big smile. Even the cops you run in to in a Prowler are great.
The end of a perfect day!
What it is Like Owning a Prowler
By Jim Clayton
What a drag it is owning a Prowler. Sometimes I wake up and just want to feel lousy, be in a funk, feel blah and just feel sorry for myself. I walk out and get in my Prowler just to look at the crummy world from an open-air point of view so I can see more warts.
Just puling out of the garage the neighbors come over to gawk and compliment me on how good my car looks. As I drive away, strangers stop and look and yell or wave as I drive by. Little kids pull on their mother's apron strings (as if any mother nowadays has an apron) when I drive by. Gray-haired old ladies stop and stare. It is a car that appeals to all ages and sexes. It just screams fun to most people. It is hard to ignore the waves, thumbs up, and hoots and hollers I get, but I try. How am I going to feel sorry for myself when every one envies my car?
When go in to get gas, and before I can get to the pay counter everyone is gathered around talking about the Purple Prowler by the pumps. By the time I get outside to pump my gas, there are people all over my car, looking at everything and asking questions about this and that. The T-shirt with the ten answers would be helpful. I don't know how many times I have answered those questions. Everyone is so bubbly and enthusiastic, smiling and nice. It gets harder and harder to keep a good funk going. Where are all the grouches I meet in any other car I drive?
I sometimes take my Prowler to work. I park it way off the street behind a chain link fence. Somehow people driving by see the back taillights and come over to look at my car. All day long I am answering "Is this your car?", as if I am not cool enough to own this car. One of the truck drivers who delivers some shipments to us smiled when he was looking at my Prowler. He is usually a grouch; I have never seen him smile. He said, "That car just makes you smile."
Driving along too I get no peace. People blow their horn, wave and even take my picture while I am driving. I was driving down a road and a car stopped half way out of a driveway blocking my drive down the street. I was all ready to give him a glaring dirty look when I got up to him. The car was filled with men who were all smiling pointing and waving at me. How can I glare at that?
You may be seeing a pattern here. How am I supposed to stay grouchy when all I run into are nice friendly people? If you want to be depressed and do not want some perfect stranger bringing you out of it . . . . DO NOT BUY A PROWLER!
James Clayton: 99P-0402-CA
A Cat Among Snakes
By Gary Meyers - November 2001You don't find these animals at your typical zoo!
The Snakes, better known as Vipers, were filled with race gas, their V10's were revving and their race-suited drivers were tightly coiled, ready to strike. But what's this? A lone Prowler is pawing the ground, lining up with the horde of Snakes. Doesn't he know that he is a cruiser, not a fire-breathing 450HP race car? He doesn't have the right "duds"; no racing slicks, no 5 point harness, and no roll cage. The one concession to appearances-he does wear a number. Will that make him feel like a race car?
The passenger notes we are doing over 100 MPH, but you are too busy looking for the Turn One brake markers and turn-in point to look at the speedo. You stab the brakes and hit the turn-in point and just touch the left side apex berm of a broad left hander, scrubbing off speed in this slightly uphill corner. Then over the hill, you brake and downshift to second gear and prepare for the "sweeper". You go in deep, then turn gradually creating a smooth arc to the very late apex, accelerating all the while. The tires scream for mercy, the whole car is shuttering and straining to fly off the track. Only the sheer will and skill of the driver holds the delicate equilibrium between a lurid spin and a controlled drift. Is this fun …or what!
But let's start at the beginning. The setting is Thunderhill, a big track road race facility in Willows, three hours North of San Francisco. The purpose of this zoo-like gathering of "animals of the asphalt" was to honor a talented young man, Brian Angen, who recently died in a boating accident. Brian was a rising young local driver who had grown up with Viper and Panoz owning friends and family. He was good-in fact he recently tested with the Panoz factory team at Sebring in an LMP900 car. His friends and family in the Viper Club set up a Memorial Scholarship in his name, and the Thunderhill event was the first big fundraiser for the Memorial. Maurice Liang, President of the local Viper Club, contacted Phil Horvath and invited Prowler owners to join in this event. Maurice, who owns two Vipers AND an Orange Prowler, was instrumental in extending the welcome to join their event and making us feel comfortable at Thunderhill.
I signed up, paid my money and crossed my fingers that the weather would be good. The event was scheduled for the Monday after the rainy, windy Thanksgiving weekend. But Monday dawned clear and sunny in Willows. The bright autumn sun warmed the track, the cars and the participants. But the warmest greetings came from the Viper Club hosts. In addition to Maurice, Bill Todd organized the event and kept it on schedule so that all drivers got tons of track time. Terri Angen, Brian's mother, obviously still mourning the loss of her son, was a wonderfully warm hostess and registrar. It was great seeing Jane and Phil Horvath show up at the track to help my wife, Judy, as pit crew. As a reward, or perhaps as a punishment, Phil had a couple of run sessions as a passenger with me in the Prowler. Maybe next time he'll take off his hubcaps and run his Prowler, but for now he is content to work and ride.
Big track driving events are not for everybody. While this Thunderhill event was low-key, relaxed and super-fun, it could be a daunting experience for the novice driver. Big sweeping corners, elevation changes with blind corners and high speeds usually appeal to only the hard-core speed freaks and adrenaline junkies. Lower speed events, such as Autocrosses, may offer better venues to learn car control to test car/driver limits for the casual driver. But our Prowlers are designed to be driven and driven hard. This event proved that they are tough enough to endure the test of the track and fast enough to pass a few Vipers. The road--and the track--always beckons, so drive those Cats. Maybe the Snakes will invite the Cats for another event at the zoo?
Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head… By Gary Meyers - January 2002 Like Butch Cassidy's title tune, the rain drops kept falling on our heads, our cars, and the TRACK. The track, in this case, was the world famous Laguna Seca racetrack, nestled in the hills behind Monterey, California. The date was January 2, 2002, and even Butch Cassidy might have expected it to rain at this time of year. But for the group of Prowler and Viper owners lined up in the pits awaiting their chance to lap this famous facility, the rain was not a welcome sight. Now we know what it might be like to "race in the rain", but wait, we are getting ahead of our story. Let's start at the beginning of this soggy tale. A hearty band of Prowler and Viper owners met at 8:30AM at the Krispy Kreme donut store, the caloric and fat headquarters for Mountain View. These stalwarts were set for a backroads cruise from Mountain View down to Laguna Seca. Off we went into hydro-plane heaven, slippin'and slidin' down two lane roads past Uvas Dam, over Hecker Pass and through the artichoke fields of Castroville. The countryside was beautiful, just turning green from the recent rains. The traffic was light and everyone was in surprisingly good spirits, given the wet weather. At 11:30AM we pulled into the paddock at Laguna, right on time to run our laps during the lunch break for the motorcycle group that had rented the track for the day. This is an impressive facility, with the track elevation changes, the grandstands and bridges. The Skip Barber open wheeled formula racers were all lined up awaiting a new class of student racers. The Barber students in their Neons were practicing accident avoidance maneuvers, and the Barber Vipers were lined up ready to have a go at the autocross course. Our line of 14 Prowlers/Vipers was an impressive sight, too. Many of the bikers and student drivers came over check us out. Just after noon, we were let out onto the hot pit lane and then onto the front straight, with instructions to take it easy for the first few laps. Five motorcyclists had gone "down" in their morning session, and they did not want any "incidents" with our group. We only had one Viper spin with the application of too much torque exiting Turn 3. The accumulated rubber and oil, together with the water, made the track quite slippery. Many of us experienced "tail end waggle" exiting Turn 11. Some could even feel the front end "wash out" under heavy braking in the sharper turns. Going up the hill towards Turn 8, it was foggy and quite slippery at the turn-in point for the infamous CorkScrew. However, as we pulled back into the pits after our laps in the rain, both drivers and passengers were sporting big wide grins. Is this fun, or what?! For less than $2 per lap, this was very cost-effective fun, too. All cars were photographed on track by Greg Wutke, and those photos should be available for purchase at www.planitphotos.com, username: lagunaseca, and password: racer1. All participants were given handouts showing the racing line and brake points for each corner, and a story about Laguna Seca at speed by Maurice Liang, President of the Northern California Viper Club. Tests will be given on the handouts at our next Laguna Seca lapping event J. At the end of our lapping session, everyone was hungry, so off we went to Baja Cantina, a delightful, funky restaurant in Carmel Valley. This place is noted for its collection of auto memorabilia. For instance, an original full race Offenhouser engine was mounted just behind our table. There were signed pictures of famous drivers, old driver suits, and a ton of old CanAm pictures and posters. A person could spend hours just browsing the walls and ceiling. Oh, yes, the food was good, too. As the lunch party broke up and people drifted outside to the parking lot-now a rain-free zone-many new friends were made and old friendships renewed. As one participant put it, "the cars are cool, but the people are warm and friendly". This event was definitely one to be remembered, and no one reported that his or her car shrunk due to the rain. Rain, Rain, Go Away By Jane Horvath - January 2002 Unfortunately, the rain didn't go away but it didn't stop us from getting together for some fun. Gary and Judy Myers had put together our first outing of the New Year and what a great time we had. It was January 2nd and Prowlers and Vipers started arriving at the Krispy Kreme Donut's parking lot in Mountain View. 10 Prowlers and 4 Vipers headed out on a great cruise to our final destination of Laguna Seca. Several cars met us at the track. This was the first time for many of us driving our cars on a track - what a great first - LAGUNA SECA! I even let my son, Todd; drive my Blue 2001 Prowler on the track, quite an experience for him. Because it was raining and the track was slippery the pace was moderate. There were a few spinouts, but nothing serious. Oh, I forgot to mention Phil's 360 on Highway 5 on the way down. Luckily he came through fine with a newfound understanding of what hydroplaning can do. It was great having Viper people join us. Hopefully we'll be doing more events together. This was a great event and I hope Gary and Judy will be able to do it again when the weather gets warmer. Thanks for making it a great day - I know Todd really enjoyed it! Me, too!
Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head…
By Gary Meyers - January 2002
Like Butch Cassidy's title tune, the rain drops kept falling on our heads, our cars, and the TRACK. The track, in this case, was the world famous Laguna Seca racetrack, nestled in the hills behind Monterey, California. The date was January 2, 2002, and even Butch Cassidy might have expected it to rain at this time of year. But for the group of Prowler and Viper owners lined up in the pits awaiting their chance to lap this famous facility, the rain was not a welcome sight. Now we know what it might be like to "race in the rain", but wait, we are getting ahead of our story. Let's start at the beginning of this soggy tale.
A hearty band of Prowler and Viper owners met at 8:30AM at the Krispy Kreme donut store, the caloric and fat headquarters for Mountain View. These stalwarts were set for a backroads cruise from Mountain View down to Laguna Seca. Off we went into hydro-plane heaven, slippin'and slidin' down two lane roads past Uvas Dam, over Hecker Pass and through the artichoke fields of Castroville. The countryside was beautiful, just turning green from the recent rains. The traffic was light and everyone was in surprisingly good spirits, given the wet weather.
At 11:30AM we pulled into the paddock at Laguna, right on time to run our laps during the lunch break for the motorcycle group that had rented the track for the day. This is an impressive facility, with the track elevation changes, the grandstands and bridges. The Skip Barber open wheeled formula racers were all lined up awaiting a new class of student racers. The Barber students in their Neons were practicing accident avoidance maneuvers, and the Barber Vipers were lined up ready to have a go at the autocross course. Our line of 14 Prowlers/Vipers was an impressive sight, too. Many of the bikers and student drivers came over check us out.
Just after noon, we were let out onto the hot pit lane and then onto the front straight, with instructions to take it easy for the first few laps. Five motorcyclists had gone "down" in their morning session, and they did not want any "incidents" with our group. We only had one Viper spin with the application of too much torque exiting Turn 3. The accumulated rubber and oil, together with the water, made the track quite slippery. Many of us experienced "tail end waggle" exiting Turn 11. Some could even feel the front end "wash out" under heavy braking in the sharper turns. Going up the hill towards Turn 8, it was foggy and quite slippery at the turn-in point for the infamous CorkScrew. However, as we pulled back into the pits after our laps in the rain, both drivers and passengers were sporting big wide grins. Is this fun, or what?! For less than $2 per lap, this was very cost-effective fun, too. All cars were photographed on track by Greg Wutke, and those photos should be available for purchase at www.planitphotos.com, username: lagunaseca, and password: racer1. All participants were given handouts showing the racing line and brake points for each corner, and a story about Laguna Seca at speed by Maurice Liang, President of the Northern California Viper Club. Tests will be given on the handouts at our next Laguna Seca lapping event J.
At the end of our lapping session, everyone was hungry, so off we went to Baja Cantina, a delightful, funky restaurant in Carmel Valley. This place is noted for its collection of auto memorabilia. For instance, an original full race Offenhouser engine was mounted just behind our table. There were signed pictures of famous drivers, old driver suits, and a ton of old CanAm pictures and posters. A person could spend hours just browsing the walls and ceiling. Oh, yes, the food was good, too.
As the lunch party broke up and people drifted outside to the parking lot-now a rain-free zone-many new friends were made and old friendships renewed. As one participant put it, "the cars are cool, but the people are warm and friendly". This event was definitely one to be remembered, and no one reported that his or her car shrunk due to the rain.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
By Jane Horvath - January 2002
Unfortunately, the rain didn't go away but it didn't stop us from getting together for some fun.
Gary and Judy Myers had put together our first outing of the New Year and what a great time we had.
It was January 2nd and Prowlers and Vipers started arriving at the Krispy Kreme Donut's parking lot in Mountain View. 10 Prowlers and 4 Vipers headed out on a great cruise to our final destination of Laguna Seca. Several cars met us at the track. This was the first time for many of us driving our cars on a track - what a great first - LAGUNA SECA! I even let my son, Todd; drive my Blue 2001 Prowler on the track, quite an experience for him.
Because it was raining and the track was slippery the pace was moderate. There were a few spinouts, but nothing serious. Oh, I forgot to mention Phil's 360 on Highway 5 on the way down. Luckily he came through fine with a newfound understanding of what hydroplaning can do.
It was great having Viper people join us. Hopefully we'll be doing more events together.
This was a great event and I hope Gary and Judy will be able to do it again when the weather gets warmer. Thanks for making it a great day - I know Todd really enjoyed it! Me, too!