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BOOK REVIEW: RED WHEELS AND WHITE SIDEWALLS - CONFESSIONS OF AN ALLARD RACER

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Mar 12, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Book Review

RED WHEELS AND WHITE SIDEWALLS: CONFESSIONS OF AN ALLARD RACER by Bill Pollack Carpinteria, CA: Brown Fox Books, August 2004 Paperback; 224 pages 6w x 9h ISBN: 1888978147 $23.95

Review by HAROLD OSMER

Ford Mustang Stamp

Bill Pollack can stand in front of a crowd and give a 30-minute speech about any given topic. Select sports car racing as the topic, and you could spend the better part of an afternoon with him. Fortunately for us, Pollack's penchant for storytelling translates well into pen and ink, making Red Wheels and White Sidewalls a wonderfully entertaining book. Pollack spent most of his youth in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. He joined the Army Air Corps after graduating from high school and learned to fly. WWII ended just as Pollack completed his bomber pilot training. After "flying these monsters and defending our nation from the Japanese attacking San Antonio," he was discharged and sent home. Given America's optimistic outlook, Southern California's wide open spaces, and a beautiful new bride, Pollack did what many young men did - he bought himself a sports car. The red MG TC had right-hand drive, padded leather dash, and "the fold-down windshield was perfect for Cokes and popcorn at drive-in movies." Road trips along the twisting roads of California helped fuel his passion for driving. Pollack weaves his personal tale of speed trials, competitions, and close calls in a well-practiced, casual manner. His professional racing career lasted from 1950 through '58 where he drove Maserati, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Tom Carsten's Cadillac-Allard, in events from Goleta to Santa Ana, Riverside to Willow Springs, Pebble Beach to Torrey Pines. He knew and raced with the likes of Phil Hill, Ken Miles, and Dan Gurney. Pollack graciously devotes an entire chapter to the women racers of his day. Those were unique times. He recalls his first minutes behind the wheel of an Allard: "The final moment was here and I pushed the button. The roar and sheer brute power that filled that building was mindful of my flying days and the R-2800 Pratt and Whitney that powered the Martin B-26. The car shook, the garage shook, Carmel shook and I shook. It was with the softest of touches and lightness of foot that I eased out of sleepy Carmel. Three-inch straight pipes ran back from the headers and the exhaust pressure alone would knock a person over." As you read along, one can well imagine sitting in a garage or under a shade tree listening to the man speak in reverential, passionate tones about his racing years. I will freely admit to ignorant bias when it comes to 1950s sports car racing and the cars of that era. Don't be too harsh, though, I didn't take my first breath until two years after Bill Pollack hung up his racing goggles. I'll also admit to not knowing much difference between any of the alphabet-soup European sports cars that old folks spend so much time reminiscing about. But after reading Red Wheels and White Sidewalls, I have come away with a much greater appreciation for the people, cars, and excitement generated by the 1950s Southern California sports car racing scene. Red Wheels and White Sidewalls recounts one man's journey, and someone else might well tell the story differently. But they'll be hard pressed to tell it in a more interesting, lively manner. Red Wheels and White Sidewalls: Confessions of an Allard Racer by Bill Pollack Published by Brown Fox Books, August 2004 224 pages, soft cover, 80+ photos $23.95 order via (800)450-7949 www.brownfoxbooks.com or www.amazon.com

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