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"
Racing Devins -- 1