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The Story of the Alpine Movie stars

Discussion in 'Rootes Racing' started by spmdr, Feb 6, 2020.

  1. spmdr

    spmdr Donation Time

    As Paul Harvey would say, "the REST of the story"


    Road Racing Sunbeam Alpines in So Cal from the '60s.


    This is a (shortened) story(s) fit for "History Detectives"....

    When I look back over the series of events, it's hard to believe!

    ...Something like fact is stranger than Fiction.


    My involvement starts, or should I say: "Once Upon a time..."

    I was at Dale Akuszewski's Sunbeam shop back in 1993.

    I met Jeff Kanavas who had an early (S2) Alpine he wanted to sell.

    As usual, he bought the Alpine thinking he could use it as a parts car for his Tiger.

    He ended up keeping only the head light trim rings and the 8 spoke American wheels.

    (The Early Alpines share almost nothing with the later body Tigers)

    The Alpine was rough cosmetically but complete, with the engine apart.

    Jeff said he bought the Alpine from the original owners son.

    Jeff also said the Alpine was raced back in the '60s, my interest was piqued!

    I looked over the Alpine and parts and concluded the parts and car matched the story.

    There was no rollover bar, but there were holes that one could use to mount a 3 point Bar.


    I got the phone number of the original owner, Dr. John W Coddington, he had moved to someplace like Montana.

    John told me he was an SCCA Track Medic for years and he wanted to try the Race driving himself.

    John bought all the Rootes parts he could get, listed in the "Performance Tuning Guide" for his S 2 Alpine.

    John also told me He and the Alpine were in a Movie that he had never seen.

    Fast forward a few years and at one of the Cobra Club or LA Shelby Club events, I saw "THE MOVIE"!

    There it WAS, the Alpine IN the Movie! Unbelievable but true!


    The Movie was about 3 rookie Drivers starting to become SCCA RACE Drivers.

    One of the rookies, Mark Waco, was driving a Shelby GT350 Mustang (THE Shelby connection, VERY fortuitous!, Unbelievable, but TRUE!).

    The other rookies were Mary Means in a Bugeye Sprite AND Dr. John W Coddington in the Sunbeam Alpine.

    The Movie was made in 1967 and the copy I saw was a VERY poor quality first edit, From 16MM film, put on VHS Tape, several copies ago.

    The Movie was produced to be a one hour TV feature complete with narration, Bongo sound track and commercial insert "spots".

    The movie followed the rookies through a driving school at Willow Springs and their first Race at The Santa Barbra Road Races, Memorial Day weekend 1967.

    The Movie doesn't have a formal Title, but the narrator refers to the "Weekend Racers" quite a bit, so there it is...


    Fast forward several more years and I finally had the Alpine painted, had a replacement Roll bar made and installed a fuel cell,

    in preparation for Vintage Racing. I had been Vintage Racing a Sunbeam Tiger on and off for years and the Alpine was off the radar screen

    in storage for a lot more years.


    Fast forwarding yet more years, (and yet again another story in it's own rite begins, but they are interconnected!).

    Tom Sakai and I were waiting to go out on the track and setting on the grid at Willow Springs Raceway when a father of a friend of a Tiger guy

    came up to me and asked if I knew anyone who wanted to buy an Alpine Race car? The more he talked about the car, the more intreeging it was.

    And then he said it was in the "Love Bug" movie! (That Movie THING again! Unbelievable, But True!)


    Tom over heard about the Alpine and was thinking it may be the perfect car for his doughter to get into Vintage Racing.

    Tom was interested in buying the car when the seller decided not to sell it. Several weeks went by and the guy decided to sell it again.

    In the mean time I had done my homework about the Alpine in the "Love Bug" Movie. It had been a LONG time since I had seen the movie

    and I knew there were a lot of Race cars in the movie. Going through the movie, clearly there was an early Alpine in it.

    But what car was it? None of the info I found pointed to the Alpine for sale, with the exception of it painted the correct color and being an early car.


    Tom and I went to look at the Alpine and it clearly was an Alpine that had raced in the early '70s. And it had a Racing Log book starting in 1972.

    The car also came with a "Pink Slip" and Registration from 1965. The name on the Title was Pietro Fiala,

    not a name found anywhere near the "love Bug" info. Also, none of the Log book info matched any "Love Bug" info.

    The claim of the Alpine being THE one in the "Love Bug" movie was, as they say in Court, "Hearsay".

    Tom bought the Alpine clearly knowing it had race history and with hope it was THE "Love Bug Alpine", but no proof.


    I continued to research the "Love Bug Alpine" and the car Tom bought. Part of the mystery was (and still is, to a limited degree)

    the picture in the Log Book of the Claimed "Love Bug Alpine".

    It was clearly Number 69, but in the movie, the Alpine was clearly number 67. My research brought me to Corb Flick,

    an Alpine Racer for several years in the '60s and into the early '70s.


    I first met Corb on one of his trips to Redlands CA, to visit old friends.

    I later went to visit Corb at his "off the Grid, for 40 years" Hideaway in, what I call, "The Sherwood Forrest" of Northern CA.

    Corb knew all about Pietro (Pete) Fiala and the guy who drove Pete's Alpine a lot of the time, Chuck Willis.

    Now Charles (Chuck) Willis is a BINGO in the list of "Love Bug" drivers! And Corb had ALL the proof in the form of a Scrap book he kept about his Racing.

    Also in Corb's scrap book is the info on the "Weekend Racer" of John Coddington, another BINGO.

    I finally had Race paperwork on the "Weekend Racer" Alpine.


    Some of you may have seen the picture of Corb in Alpine #69 and Chuck in Alpine #67 in a turn together at Santa Barbra.

    Both cars are painted the same "Chianti" Maroon. In that picture, you can clearly see the unique inside rear view mirror,

    that still lives with the "love Bug Alpine" of Tom Sakai. The mirror was off the car but in the pile of parts that came with it.

    Corb raced that Alpine until he hit the wall in turn 6 at Riverside in the early '70s.

    Corb scrapped the #69 Alpine and built another Alpine to race.


    So what are the odds of 2 Alpines that raced together back in 1967 coming together some 50 years later?

    I would say, you guessed it... Unbelievable, But True!

    DW
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2020
    alpine_64 likes this.
  2. alpine_64

    alpine_64 Donation Time

    Nice history and story dan. Thanks for sharing.

    So the weekend racer originally had the american racing silverstone wheels.. Were they staggered and magnesium?
     
  3. spmdr

    spmdr Donation Time

    When I picked up the Alpine ( '93), I saw the set of 8 spoke wheels in a stack, but didn't look close at them.

    In the Movie, the car had 2 8 spoke wheels and 2 stock wheels.

    P1090280.JPG
     
  4. jdoclogan

    jdoclogan Platinum Level Sponsor

    Dan,
    You had me with the words "History Detectives" and "Racing Sunbeam Alpines." There is such a magical richness when anyone can enjoy the pathway to understanding the history of any automobile. Particularly the first person stories.
     
  5. spmdr

    spmdr Donation Time

    Seeing it appears some pictures previously seen/linked on this forum are no longer available, I add this John Wilson picture.

    As referred to above.

    P1070169.JPG
     
    puff4 likes this.

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