Website visitor John Mead contributed his memories of Lew Spencer and California racing in the early 1960s.


I have found such nostalgia on your web site that I am sometimes in tears with the memories that your fabulous site recalls.

May I introduce myself. My name is John Mead - I was fortunate enough to live just outside Santa Monica in the years 1962 to 1965, and even more fortunate to have a Father who was a motor racing fanatic. In those years, like yourself, I was a formative teenager (12 to 15 years old) who became hooked on speed by being initially taken to Santa Barbara for an SCCA regional event. Nothing special, but enough to stir the loins as it were.

I now live in England and have done so since 1966. However, like many old racing enthusiasts, I surf the web for snippets of the good old days, and particularly of US West Coast motor racing. Fortunately I came across your fantastic site.

My Father has now passed away and so many of the great slides he took of racing in those days are lost forever. I still have the memories though, and if you can stand the boredom, I will recall a few highlights for a fellow enthusiast like yourself.

My folks emigrated to Canada from the UK after the war, and I was born in Toronto in 1950. Soon after, they moved to the States, and in 1956 moved to California. Dad was an aircraft engineer and there were many aircraft, missile and space job opportunities on the west coast at that time. He got one and it blossomed.

Being a staunch Englishman, he had to have an English car, which brought us into contact with Lew Spencer. In the time we were in the LA area, Dad bought a Humber Super Snipe and two Sunbeam Alpines from 'Lew Spencer Imports' and got very friendly with Lew and his wife. Dad and I used to go down to Lew's shop most Saturdays and I used to have to go sit in a Morgan or something in the showroom, while Lew and his Wife talked to Dad (I guess there were a few dirty jokes or something being said that weren’t fit for a teenager's ears!).

Needless to say, we got very close to Lew Spencer's racing activities with the 'Baby Doll' Morgans and later with the Sunbeam Tiger.

A little aside here - we had to take the Humber back to have a strange noise sorted (transpired to be piston slap) and while they had it, Lew lent Dad a Morgan for a week. I can vividly remember being driven by Dad along the coast highway between Santa Monica and Malibu on a glorious summer evening, and reaching my arm down thinking 'I could touch the road here'. Wow, just after going to my first race at Santa Barbara, now being out in a sports car - I think my life changed in that instant.

More race meetings followed at Riverside, Vaca Valley, Laguna, Seca, Candlestick Park, etc. and I was completely hooked on racing. It became my passion 24/7.

Soon after that I was fortunate enough to meet Ian Garrad of Rootes, and Phil Remington and Ken Miles from Carroll Shelby's organisation. I was also fortunate enough to be with Ian Garrad at the first race of the Sunbeam Tiger at Tucson Arizona. Phil, Dad and I were sitting in Phil's car when Lew Spencer had a puncture and spun. After the race Lew said 'I don't know whether I spun because of the puncture, or whether I spun and then got the puncture'. Lew never liked the Tiger very much and said 'it was a handful and you never knew what it was going to do next'.

My last memories of Lew were just after he had a nasty off at Laguna Seca in the Tiger and hurt his legs quite badly. As I recall, Lew was of Mormon faith which apparently forbids the use of antibiotics and pain killing drugs which can make things slightly dodgy for a race driver if it all goes wrong.

Well, Tam, I could go on and on here, but enough for now.

Keep this great site going, and if I can assist with recollections of the past please let me know. I'm so sorry I have no photos.

My very best regards,

John S. Mead"

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