Willow Springs -- 1965

Southern California's high desert raceway looks much different today!

From Martin Hill:

"My late roommate is towards the front on a Ducati Diana. Born and raised in Topanga Canyon he and another Ducati racer decided to race up the canyon early one Sunday morning on their road race bikes. Matt Sweet knew these roads like the back of his hands and unknown to him a couple of days before they did surgery in the road and had it tore up with gravel. After you come around a fast corner you arrive at the mess at full chat.  He did, and he was first in line to go over the lane and straight under his ex-neighbors vehicle with kids in it. He died. 

My other roommate and I had been angered with him over some bad stuff and at the time he was trying to cut the draft, We went to the lab but never saw a body to identify. His mother who owns Zora's on San Vincente Blvd. came for his things and told us the wrong date for his funeral. We at the time thought he was alive and it was another trick to stay out of the service so we never were going to go to his funeral as we thought he wasn't there. 

Long dumb story. Horrible waste. He was a peculiar person.  He walked into back door at Shelby American when they were welding on the first ever set of trumpets and they could not guess why one side is closer to the firewall behind the driver in front of the Cooper Cobra motor. In a snap he said the pistons are offset on one side and not exactly oppossed and any "Al Unser" should know that.

They marveled and let us wander around the race shop at night. He was a very daring talent. Rallied a '54 Ford 4-door because it was all he had at the time.  Did Great.  We all ruled Sunset together. After that I never raced up Topanga again."

From "Wil"

"I was suffering from nostalgia this morning and had a wild memory of the old "West- wood" days in L.A.   I had a wild impulse to search on "Matt Sweet willow springs" in memory of the first guy that made the mistake of letting me ride his MC.   Matt was totally obsessed with MC racing and his little desmo Ducati.  The day we found out about his accidental death is still in my memory.  He was a pretty good self-taught mechanic and who knows what he might have got up to over the years with his intense energy and passion.  Since that time I have owned several MCs, starting with my first bike, a Norton 750 P11, and ridden quite a number of "round the world" miles.

I worked with Matt Sweet at Art Litvak's old Texaco station on Westwood blvd in 64-65, and moved with Art out to his spanking new franchise at Ocean Ave near Pico.  Davy Babler (from Wisc?) and his local sponsor Becker, had a garage in the alley behind the Texaco Station where he kept his "California Woody" AA fuel slingshot dragster.  Dave was one of the first dozen or so fuelies to break the 7 second barrier along with his arch rival and nemesis "Pegasus", owner's name of which I have forgotten.  I pit crewed and push-trucked for Davy at several important races.  

I too meandered around some of the custom and racing shops in Venice including ad hoc visits to Carol Shelby's place and a short stint working for Galpin Ford.  Needless to say the job didn't last after sneaking Shelby Mustang coupes out from the back lot for some unauthorized free lance "rallye" driving around Mar vista / Culver city.  Those cars were "Factory Tested".  Quite a giggle.  

That was the period 1965-70 when migration to Calif was of eastern USA industrial region kids and families who wanted the year round spring weather, the job opportunities and the enlightened (for that time) artistic and business culture.  Since then we have seen a reverse flow of the descendants of that golden era fleeing away from the "golden state" to find jobs and freedom and escape the Leftist cultural and ethnic degradation and economic collapse of Calif.  Quite an interesting 50 year "tide" cycle.   I gave up on Calif in 1992, and now live in a small town in Indiana. 

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