Last week, two tiny Lancia Ardeas (one owned by the late Martin Swig and driven by his sons) participated in the 2013 California Mille. (The kickoff a week prior was covered by Michael T. Lynch in VeloceToday.) The other Ardea was entered by Judy Stropus, a legendary figure in the car community, and her co-driver Chuck Schoendorf who has previously written about Le Mitiche Sport in Italy for VeloceToday. Below, a brief introduction of both drivers, a report from the perspective of each one, and a photo story. [Ed.]
Judy Stropus Reports
Probably best known as a professional timer/scorer in the early days of the sport, Judy Stropus has worked with top teams such as Penske Racing in Can-Am, Trans-Am and at the Indy 500; Bud Moore Racing, Porsche, BMW, and American Motors. At the same time she has operated her own PR firm, JVS Enterprises, representing major clients such as Chevrolet and BMW. She was awarded the 2008 Jim Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association and is a member of the Road Racing Drivers Club, the Madison Avenue Sports Car Driving and Chowder Society, and the Public Relations Society of America. She has raced a Chevy Monza, Porsche 914, Maserati Bi-Turbo and a VW in SCCA racing, as well as a Frazier-Nash and a 1954 OSCA Maserati in VSCCA competition.
When I purchased this quaint – call it funky – 1952 Lancia Ardea from Donald Osborne in Palm Springs last year, I really had no idea what I would do with it until it returned to my home in Ridgefield, Conn.
Actually, I’m not sure I even knew what I would do with it once it arrived there, but I couldn’t resist. Who wouldn’t want a right-hand- drive car that is kind of a cross between a PT Cruiser and a Citroen 2CV (Deux Chevaux) with a left-hand, non-synchro five-speed gearbox, a 903cc, V4 engine and a whopping 28.8 horsepower?
Initially I had it shipped up to Campbell, Calif., near San Jose, with the intention of using it as transportation at the Sonoma Historics in May, where I would be working with Steve and Debbie Earle at Sonoma Raceway. Instead, I learned the 2013 California Mille would be run in April-May and decided it might be fun to enter the event in my new acquisition. Since numerous Ardeas ran the original Italian Mille Miglia every year from 1947 until 1953, it was clearly eligible. So, I had my friend Jerry Woods of Jerry Woods Enterprises prep the car for what I expected to be a long but fun and challenging 1000-mile trek through the hills, wine country and ocean roads of Northern California. Jerry, a longtime Porsche expert, whose garage is full of dozens of Porsche race cars from all generations, was able to do a masterful job of prepping the Ardea, which of course he’d neither seen nor heard of before.
I enlisted as a co-driver my Connecticut friend Chuck Schoendorf, a Lancia owner himself. This was probably the best decision I ever made, as Chuck took to the car with a soft heart, as he clearly loves all things Lancia, owning both a 1938 and a 1942 Aprilia. In anticipation of the Mille, he and I traveled earlier in the year to Campbell to check out the car and log some miles to develop a to-do list with Jerry. From past experience on short tours in Chuck’s Aprilia, I was confident he knew how to deal with that notchy little gearbox and click it into all the gears, which he did with style, some force, a bit of crunching, and great aplomb as we struggled to scale steep and twisty uphills. One sign actually read “16% grade”! I, on the other hand, still need some time to master the gearbox without leaving minuscule metal shavings in the transmission fluid!