By Pete Vack
VeloceToday is often about connections, for ours is a small but happy world. The recent publication of the new Dalton Watson book, Augie Pabst, Behind the Wheel reminded the Editor that a friend here in Williamsburg, Dave Rex, had a once owned a fiberglass special called the Comet. While reading Bob Birmingham’s excellent book, a photo appeared of Pabst in a fiberglass special called the Comet and activated the aging synapses. Sure enough, as a quick email to Dave confirmed, it was the same car. Concurrently, the Editor went through his photo library, and found that he also had his own minor link to Pabst, which is recounted below.
Like Augie Pabst, Dave Rex was also involved racing at Elkhart Lake. In 1966, Rex bought a 1964 Corvette from an insurance salvage company and built it into a competitive race car. In his first wheel-to-wheel race in this car Dave Rex butted heads with Tony DeLorenzo, famed for his ultra fast L-88 Vette. In 1968 Rex won the B Production Class at the Road America June Sprints.
So Rex was not only familiar with the Pabst legend but obviously very familiar with Road America. When the Comet C-3 became available, he went for it. “Ten years ago fellow vintage racer, Dennis Shoff, and I were pleased to discover the Comet at a race shop at Virginia International Raceway. We liked the idea of an American Special with a Corvette engine, 4 speed transmission, Glasspar body and lots of documented race history”
Dave Rex, however, is six foot two. “What we didn’t realize was the body had 7″ cut from the doors to shorted it enough to fit on the MG TD chassis. A tight fit for me! When we took the Comet to the Amelia Island Concours we had a crowd around the car all day including famous race drivers who where very interested in the car.”
Alain Rueede now has custody of the Comet. He sent us an update on the car. Wrote Alain, “The Comet in its actual condition (with period correct exhaust system with the old style small bomber-seat that was covered with the original leather of the Porsche seat and a reproduced but correct steering wheel.”
BOOK SIGNING Augie Pabst: Behind the Wheel 11:00 a.m. Friday, May 13th Augie Pabst will attend a book signing 11:00 a.m. at the Elkhart Lake Road America Paddock Shop. Books will be available for purchase.
The Editor’s connection
Dave Rex both and I are originally from the Midwest and both of us spent a good bit of time at Road America, where I too, found a connection to Augie Pabst. I was lucky enough to see Harry Heuer and Pabst race the all-conquering Meister Bräuser Scarabs at Elkhart Lake. My father took this shot of both cars next to the 18 wheel transporter, which was one of the first such to be used exclusively to transport race cars. Pabst drove number 1 to victory on that Saturday June 19th, 1960.
A similar team of Chevy engined race cars were made on a shoestring but nevertheless often gave the Scarabs a good run. John Staver was from our hometown of Virginia, Minnesota and led this team of Devin bodied Echidnas also seen at RA that year.
Dick van der Feen gave the Staver team their due in a detailed article entitled “Three Who Thought Things Through” (John Staver, Ed Grierson and Bill Larson) in Sports Cars Illustrated. There was an Italian connection as well. John’s father Byron was the lucky guy who found the Costin-designed 450s Maserati coupe and had it set up for the street.
Again making the trip to Road America in 1963, we watched a different Pabst as he struggled with the Mecom Lotus 19. His old teammate Harry Heuer, now in the Meister Bräuser Chaparral 1 easily won the main event.
Meanwhile, his ex-teammate Harry Heuer went on to win the main the Chapparral 1 (the last stand of the front engined sports racers.) Having been too successful, audiences were getting confused about which beer company was doing the winning, Pabst or the Peter Hand Brewery. Headlines like “Pabst Wins Blue Ribbon” didn’t go down well with board at the Peter Hand Brewery who was funding the Meister Bräuser racing effort, and Augie left the team at the end of 1960.
On the other side of the transporter we found another nice item. The price and parking meant that it was probably owned by someone in the team, maybe Heuer himself. I do recall seeing the painted cracked and lifted on the hood air intake, possible as a result of a carb fire. An Italian mis-connection?