FTDX-3000 Hints and Kinks

Click on station photo for full size image


I have owned and used an FTDX3000 for a number of years. The radio has great stability and sound. It has worked just fine for me. The 3000 also has a few quirks. Like most modern radios many of its features are hidden in nested menus and I sometimes get confused. So, along the way I have written all sorts of helpful notes in my user manual. Each time I have a problem and find the solution I record it. I will share some with you. Let me know if you find any of these of use. Please note that I am using the first release of the manual. There may be page number differences from yours. My manual appears to be the same as the online PDF version.


Problems & Solutions

Problem: Upon power up the VFO-A transmit (TX) light blinks constantly and there is no receive audio.
Solution: Check microphone for key down / open mike. That usually solves it.

Problem: Long hang time when switching from TX to RX (receive).
Solution: Turn off the DNR.

Problem: S-meter in receive mode is stuck; no movement.
Solution: Turn off squelch

Problem: Scope freezes.
Solution: Perform full reset as per page 7 of manual.

Essential Settings I use for Win4Yaesu Suite:
com= port 4
#37= USB On
#38= 38400 Baud
#40= RTS Disable (set to Off)

Problem: Radio goes into transmit mode for short time (few seconds)
for no apparent reason.
Solution: VOX is on. Turn it off (wonder how that happened?)

Problem: While monitoring your transmitted signal you hear noise and
your voice is almost inaudible.
Solution: Squelch is on. Turn the control all the way clockwise.

Problem: your hear audio feedback on your transmitted signal when you monitor it. Your SWR is low or nonexistent.
Solution: Turn off the separate amplified speaker that is connected to your computer.

Problem: VFO-B window shows “Clarifier” and the VFO-B/CLAR switch does not change it back to VFO-B.
Solution: Does the main window show the frequency but not “VFO-A”? If so press V/M button to get into VFO mode. That should solve the problem. It may also kick you to another band. Just change back to the band/frequency you desire.

Problem: No monitor signal while in SSB mode.
Solution: Turn off the CW break-in, BK-IN if the switch is glowing orange (p.19)

Problem: While switching from SSB to CW and back you notice that the frequency changes. This is due to it reflecting zero-beat offset. It is not an error. It is designed to make CW listening more pleasant.
Solution: You can prevent this frequency discrepancy by changing menu item no. 064. (see p. 81)


Manual References:
Adjust the clock: page 27
Monitor playback level: menu item no. 15
How to Zero-Beat a CW signal: page 81, “CW Spotting (Zero-Beating)”
Explanation of Scope functions: p. 40-41
Using Speech Processor: p. 68
CW Decode: p. 89
Clock Settings: p. 27

Remote Control Keypad Functions (FH-3)

Functions: p. 30-31
Voice storage: p. 70-71
CW storage: p. 84-88
Text storage: p. 105, 107
Audio Playback: p. 44


Menu Items I (KE1RI) found useful:

007 Dimmer VFO, p. 113
008 Dimmer Backlight p. 113
009 Dimmer TFT p. 113
017 Keyer Type p. 114
031 Antenna Select p. 115
033 NB Level, p. 115
035 Monitor Level, p. 115
036 RF SQL VR, p. 116
042 Quick Split Freq, p. 116
043 TX Time Out Timer, p. 116
061 CW BK-IN, p. 118
064 CW Freq. Display, p. 118
067 Data Mode, p. 118
075 Data In Select, p. 119
084 FM Mic Gain, p. 119
086 RPT Shift (28 MHz), p. 119
087 RPT Shift (50 MHz), p. 119
103 SSB Mic Sel, p. 120
124 Scope Mode, p. 122
125 Scope Mode, p. 122
126 Scope Auto Time, p. 122
128 Center Span Freq, p. 122
151 CW Dial Step, p. 124
155 SSB Dial Step, p. 124

 I suggest that if you find these suggestions helpful, pass them around to fellow FTDX-3000 users. I have one final suggestion. If you want total control of the radio and to get the most out of it I highly recommend that you download and try out the Windows for Yaesu Suite (Win4Yaesu) app by Tom Blahovici, VA2FSQ. Get the trial version first and try out every feature. By the time you are done you will most likely be eager to make the purchase (very low price for what you get, including great personal support from Tom).


The FTDX3000 shares the desk with SP-20 , AL-811H amp, IC706, HQ-170, & R-46B speaker.

Click on above photo for full size image.

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Flea Market Finds at the Vintage Radio & Communications Museum of Connecticut

Bing Crosby demonstrating the 1946 Philco model 46-1201 radio / record player. Today this item is often referred to as the Bing Crosby radio.

I have an addiction to old radios, especially anything that was manufactured in the 1923-1950 period. That may seem like a long time to some folks but when you gain senior citizen status 25 years is a blink of the eye. This love of old radios is tempered by the limited display space that I have in my home. I am at the point where I am very selective when it comes to buying a new radio. Although there is always room for another ‘small’ radio I am somehow attracted to the larger models. A rough count of the full-size consoles in this house (and garage and shed) comes to about 11. Just in this room (second floor radio shack) there are 5 console radios, two of which reside in the closet. The only surprise is that my wife has not tossed the radios and me out by now.

So, it is no surprise that I enjoy attending radio flea markets. Most of the events I frequent are either in Connecticut or Massachusetts. Rhode Island has very little in the way of antique radio flea markets (although we do have a great wireless and steam museum). And you can forget about eBay. Radios on eBay usually have inflated prices and descriptions. Even if you do find something reasonable the shipping for anything bigger than an All American Five table model is very costly and hazardous (many are damaged during shipping).

This is where the Vintage Radio & Communications Museum of Connecticut (VRCMC) comes in. This is a wonderful museum that has an enormous collection of radios and other communication-related technological wonders. They also hold regular flea markets to help raise funds needed to run the museum. During the cold months the events are inside (limited space) and during warm seasons (April, June, September) they are outside (plenty of space). This year I attended the first Spring event that was held on April 13, 2021. It was a great success!

I prepared for my 1-1/2 hour trip by first contacting museum volunteer John Bayusik. John is in charge of deaccession (disposing of items that the museum has an excess of). I asked John about a particular radio model that I was interested in. It was the 1946 Philco model 46-1201, sometimes known as the Bing Crosby radio because it was so heavily advertised by Bing. The last time I went to an indoor flea market at VRCMC the museum was selling one of these radios since they already had a restored one on display. I did not buy it. Later, after finding out about some of its unique features I regretted my decision. I asked John if he would check to see if there was an excess 1201 in storage. If there was I was interested in buying it. John quickly got back to me and said that he checked and he did have one. He would show it to me when I arrived. The radio he showed me looked pretty good and I felt confident that I would be able to bring it back to life and make it look presentable. The deal was done and I am grateful to John for his assistance.

The Philco 46-1201 plays the AM radio if you rotate the selection knob to the right. If you turn it to the left the record player is activated. Pull out the lower tray and insert a record and close the door. The tone arm will move over and instantly begin playing. Open the door and the record will stop so you can remove it and insert another.

The Philco 46-1201 is a very interesting radio. Notice the finger slot in the lower front panel. Pulling on that panel makes it drop down. Then you feed a 10″ or 12″ 78 rpm record into the exposed slot. Close the door and the record begins to play. If you prefer to hear the radio just turn the function control (on the right) to the right and the radio comes on! It is similar to an early CD player. This will be another fun radio to get going. Notice the black grill cover. That is not correct. It should be a yellow basket weave pattern. I can feel the original grill under the black replacement. I will have to deal with that. Maybe the underlying grill is in good condition? Time will tell.

My next stop was to check out the vendors that were all braving the 34° “Spring” weather. It was only 8:00 AM and so most of us dressed well. There were about 20 different vendors, a nice turnout for this event. I saw quite a few quality ham radio receivers and transmitters. Hammarlund, Hallicrafters, and even Collins were represented. My focus was more on antique radios and test equipment. And yes, there was a good selection of those items too. The museum even had a few of its radios for sale. One did tempt me (1930’s, nice cabinet, complete, inexpensive) but I am just running out of room to place a console. I had to stick to my plan of downsizing (not getting rid of radios, just buying smaller ones).


The first item that I went for was a nice wooden Peerless speaker in the shape of a cathedral radio cabinet. The owner was nice enough to loan me a battery so I could test the field coil (I forget to bring leads and a battery). I could not coax any static sounds out of the speaker. Chances were that I would have to replace a coil or the entire insides. The owner asked me to make an offer, I did, and he accepted it. Two happy folks. Upon getting the speaker home I took it apart and noticed some wires were not connected. I still don’t have it going but I will repair it one way or another. The nice surprise was that I found that this is a kind of cone speaker as can be seen from the above photo. This will be a fun project.

Next I noticed an interesting piece of test equipment. I have been experimenting lately with a vintage Tektronix 564B oscilloscope that dates back to 1969. After learning a little more about oscilloscopes I realized that I needed a function generator to make the scope more useful. I was looking for a Heathkit model IG-18. I like Heathkit equipment and the IG-18 was able to generate both sine and square waves. Well, the second table I visited at the flea market had that very item. It appeared to be in nice condition. The owner said it worked and he had it priced at $35. I thought that was a little high and so I offered him $20. We settled on $30 and now I have a nice unit to complement the oscilloscope.

Just when I thought my bargain day was over I noticed something interesting. It looked like one of those typical 1940’s combination record player/radio combinations. I was attracted by the cabinet and front dial, both in pretty good condition. Upon further investigation I found that it was also a Philco from 1946, the same year the model 46-1201 was produced. This radio was a model 46-1203. It was offered at only $10! I asked the vendor if all the parts were there and he promptly turned it on its side so I could see the vertically mounted chassis with a full complement of tubes. Sold! After getting the heavy player home I found out that this was the first Philco with a fully automatic record changer. The nice cabinet wood is actually faux wood (made with a decal) that is walnut burl on the top and standard walnut on the sides. I have been working on fixing up the cabinet with stain and paint-based permanent markers. It is coming out fine. I can’t wait until I have an opportunity to begin the electrival restoration of this fine example of 1940’s technology!

Features of Heathkit IG-18

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One Thing Leads to Another, Part II (1941 Buick)

If you read part I of this story you would know that my overall goal is to make my Buick safer and better looking. It is getting there, slowly. I will try to make this episode a bit shorter than usual because as one friend has said “You use too many words”. He is right.

After removing the instrument panel I just let all the gauges suspend by their very substantial wires while I addressed various issues. The ammeter was removed with the intention of replacing it with a NOS unit that came with the car (box and all). I found that the needle on the old meter was fused to the meter face where the face had warped. Rather than mess with repairing that I decided to just put in the new one. While removing the gauges I had the battery disconnected. Each time I wanted to test something I reconnected the battery for the duration of the test only. I installed the new ammeter, again attached the battery ground lead, and tested the ammeter. It worked great! When I started the car the meter moved to the plus side indicating that it was charging. Then it slowly returned to center position as the battery was fully charged. After the test I turned off the engine and began to remove the temperature gauge. Unfortunately I forgot to disconnect the battery. As soon as I moved the instrument panel sparks flew all over the place from the area of the ammeter. I was startled so badly that my hands immediately flew upward and in the process I knocked the needle right off the new ammeter. After hours of trying to solder or glue the needle back on I gave up. I got out the old meter and pried its needle away from the face so it could move freely and then reinstalled it. At least it looked better. To my surprise I found that the old meter now worked showing a little charging on startup and quickly going back to center.

1941 Buick water temperature gauge

New water temperature gauge, shielded capillary tube, and sensor that screws into the block. The old sensor (the brass end that looks like a cartridge shell) is at this point still stuck in the block.

Next was the water temperature meter. I removed the old meter and cable and easily installed the new one in the dash. After routing the shielded cable through the firewall I needed to next install the sensor end in the block. Unfortunately the old sensor was stuck. Just a short stem was sticking out from the center of it and no amount of tugging would make it budge. What to do? I bathed the old sensor in PB Blaster every day for over a week and each day I tugged on the stem with some long-nosed locking pliers. It did not move. Next I drilled holes near the center of the sensor and squirted more Blaster in. I even put a large nail through one hole and tried to pry the piece out. Nothing. So, I continued to spray and tug twice a day. Then one day I noticed that the stem was now slightly above the hole the sensor was inside. This made me tug even more and finally the thing let loose. I took photographs. I looked at it, walked away, and then came back and looked again to make sure that it really had come loose. Then I installed the new sensor, connected the battery, and started the car. It worked perfectly. The temperature slowly rose and then leveled off at exactly 180 degrees and held steady. How many ways can you spell the word HAPPY? The lead photograph above shows the piece that was extracted.

The speedometer was next. The old cable unscrewed easily from behind the speedometer head. Unfortunately this was not the case for the end attached to the transmission. I could not even see it, never mind remove it. As I slid under the left side of the car to get at the transmission I quickly became wedged in place before getting close to my goal. I had to jack up the car and crawl under again. I used 3 heavy duty stands and blocks under the front left wheel. This time I traced the cable with my hand and found it attached high up on the left side.

1941 Buick replacing speedometer cable

The cable directly below the spring is the speedometer cable. You can just about see the fitting that screws into the transmission. The larger cable is the parking brake cable. This was a very tight squeeze under a jacked up car.

Slight pressure from a slip wrench loosened it enough so that I could unscrew it the rest of the way by hand. I lubricated the new cable with white grease and screwed in the transmission end. Although it did not work well at first (I routed it at a slight angle since the replacement was a bit too long) it now works much better after placing it in the original path that avoids any turns. After about a week of driving I can now get the car up to about 60 mph without any wild gyrations of the speedometer needle. Unfortunately the odometer still does not work. I may get a new speedometer head from a friend and thus solve that problem.

I put the instrument panel back in place. Rather than putting the nuts back on the studs of the panel I used small grommets. They hold it pretty good for now and will just pop off when I am ready to continue. Before putting back the radio I installed the fresh air vent and gasket. Unfortunately I made a mess of the gasket. Bob Degoursey helped me remove the old gasket. He properly prepared and glued everything in place and used blue masking tape to hold the vent down while the seal cured. He did a great job! It is so good to have friends who know what they are doing around a car. There are plenty of them in this club!

What about the “One Thing Leads To Another” part? Well I broke one pushbutton on the radio while reinstalling it. A complete set of new knobs will cost $100 unless I can find some nice used ones. The heater hose under the dash fell apart when I moved it. I need to order that since it is a specialty item (not at your local NAPA store). Now that the instruments (except the clock) are sorted out I needed a new wiring harness. I ordered the harness from RI Wire and received it in about 3 weeks time. I have not installed it, though. Why? My engine compartment is looking a little messy with all that green paint worn away. The plan is to mask the engine parts and spray paint the firewall and other areas in the engine bay. That means I have to get some paint mixed and put in rattle cans (there is an auto paint shop in Coventry that will do this) and apply it in the springtime when it gets warm again. The usual morning temperature when I started this project was about 75°. Now it is 25° F.

I have labeled the wiring harness and have a good idea where everything goes. Springtime is going to be very busy.

Too many words? Oh well.


1941 Buick wiring harness from Rhode Island Wire Service

Two photos have been stitched together to show the entire engine/dash instruments/lights harness. I added the paper tags so as to better understand what goes where.

The photos in the gallery seen below provide additional details. Click on a photo to enlarge it.

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One Thing Leads To Another

I have trouble starting a new project. The problem is that whenever I start something new there are already 4 or 5 other projects left behind in an unfinished state. I have a tendency to begin things and then move on. I always intend to come back to complete a job but it just takes so long to return. Something that should take 2 weeks ends up stretching out to 2 years before it is finished.

That’s the way it has always been with the Buick. A lot has been accomplished; but, most of it is unseen improvements. Brakes, pumps, suspension, fuel delivery; they have all been improved or upgraded. Now I am looking at gauges that don’t work and wiring that is in such bad shape that on a couple of occasions I have experienced shorts and burnt wires. I have decided to upgrade the wiring, dashboard appearance, and whatever else crops up.

What’s needed here? Working gauges, new instrument panels, floor insulation and mats, steering wheel restoration, new door and kick panels, and restoration of the woodgrain.

I began a couple of years ago by replacing the glove box door with a much nicer one that I bought many years ago. That replacement door came along with an instrument panel that was also much nicer than the one in my car. I never installed it. The reason of course is the difficulty of removing the old panel. It is held on by 5 long studs and nuts. The instruments are attached to the gauge panel by an additional 8 nuts, speedometer cable, oil pressure sensor cable, and temperature sensor cable. Then there are all the wires going to the gauges; wires that often have their original cloth insulation frayed or missing entirely.

I finally decided to continue the project because so many things were going wrong. The ammeter does not work. A close inspection reveals that the plastic panel it is mounted to is warped to the point that it prevents needle movement. The water temperature gauge does nothing and so I have no chance of being warned of an overheating problem. The sensor is broken off at the block and part of it remains in the block. The speedometer works OK up to about 55 mph. Then it begins to bounce all over the place. According to my speedometer I have cruised down route 95 at over 100 mph (not so). Likewise the odometer has been stuck on 80,241 miles since I bought the car 16 years ago and the trip odometer has also been stuck and does nothing.

Step one was removing the front seat. Otherwise there is no way to contort my old body so I can fit under the dash and still walk away.

The radio and an ashtray came out first. The radio went to my shop bench to await restoration. It works, but poorly. I then removed the starter switch, which was in my way. Buicks don’t have a starter switch. Mine does because someone bypassed the vacuum switch on the carburetor. I have since put in a new carburetor with a good throttle/vacuum switch. I will have to connect it now. The handle that operates the fresh air vent was not in my way but now I could clearly see the linkage that I need to remove in order to install a new gasket under the vent. I was only able to do that job after consulting the AACA pre-war Buick forum and asking for help. I also had to remove the knurled knob that controlled the trip odometer. It would not come off even after I removed its center screw and hex nut. Back to the AACA board where I got advice to hold the shaft tight with pliers and pull real hard. That did it. Not only did the knob pop off but now the trip odometer worked! I promptly reset it to 000000 miles.

The five screws that hold the panel to the dash have been removed and I can pull the panel away about 1-1/2”. Now the fasteners holding the instruments have to be removed.

Finally on to the studs that hold the instrument panel on. They are long so I had to invest in some nut drivers that had hollow shafts that would allow them to get to the nut. There is almost no room under that dash to get at the studs, especially from straight on. It took me days to free it. I used a combination of open and closed wrenches and socket wrench with and without swivel end. Sometimes I just used the socket by hand since there was no room for a wrench. Each removed nut was then attached to the corresponding stud on a spare instrument panel so I could keep track of my progress. When I hit the number five I attempted to pry away the panel. It would not budge! Finally I looked under the dash again and noticed that there was one more nut where I had supposedly already removed one. How did that get there? Well, I removed that last nut and then pried away the panel using screwdrivers and a specialized seam opening tool that I used to use on Macintosh computers. Meanwhile I replaced the fresh air vent gasket (remember that). I’m not too happy with that result. I don’t get along well with adhesives.

Finally the instruments were all revealed! Now it is on to stage II, replacing the faulty gauges, sensors, and speedometer cable. If I get carried away I will probably buy a new wiring harness and install that. I also plan to practice wood graining, steering wheel restoration, and other stuff. One thing leads to another. I think I see a visit from the Gaslight Boys in my future.

(To be continued, I hope)

Click on any of the  photos below enlarge them.

  1. Needle nose pliers and seam tool used to extract knob (popped off in this photo)
  2. Spare instrument panel used to track removed nuts
  3. Some of the tools used to remove the panel
  4. Most screws removed; just need to free remaining gauges
  5. Instrument panel removed; now time to work on gauges
  6. Old panel above and better condition replacement below


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Netflix Recommendations : Watch More, Search Less

Here are some of my most recent favorites found on Netflix. Just in case my description is too brief for you to decide whether or not to watch the title I have linked many of these to trailers that will help you decide.


Star Trek: Voyager (2000)
This is my all time favorite Star Trek Series. I am presently on season five and still going strong. The episodes are expertly crafted and the characters are well portrayed. Voyager is science fiction with heart and style. And for those of you who like to know more, the IMDB website has all sorts of detail about the show and the cast. The photo I picked for this show says something about my excellent taste.



Anne with an E (2018)
This series is an adaptation of the book Anne of Green Gables. It is one Netflix production that the whole family can watch and enjoy. Don’t expect this series to be exactly like the book. There is conflict. Fortunately there is also a great sense of joy for life that pervades the production. For those who watched the first season and have been waiting for the second, it is here now!



Chruchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits (2018)
During WWII Britain developed a new type of guerilla warfare group much like our special operations units. The recruits were trained quickly and then inserted behind enemy lines to do as much damage as they could. Recently all of the top-secret training information for this mission has been released. This TV show takes modern people and puts them through the same training as was done in the 1940’s. Very interesting. I could not find a trailer for this show but you might like to see a documentary video about the original people who were in this service.

Nowhere Boy (2009)
This drama presents the early life of John Lennon. He was given up by his mother at a young age and thereafter raised by his aunt. This is a very well done biography about a gifted artist. Great movie!

Kodachrome (2018)
Ed Harris and Jason Sudeikis star as father and son who get together for one last road trip after a long period of avoiding each other. Although this is a story that has been overdone recently I found Kodachrome to be engaging and worth watching.

Small Town Crime (2017)
The film revolves around an ex-cop whose life is on the skids. He was booted off the force for reasons that are not revealed until late in the movie. He wants to be a cop again but it’s not likely that he will be given a chance. He happens upon a dying woman and is compelled to investigate her murder. It all gets very violent and bloody from there on. This is for those who like action and are not put off by excessive violence.


Brain on Fire (2016)
A young lady who has a great job at a newspaper suddenly begins to experience severe medical problems which begin to destroy every aspect of her life. The story is based upon actual events. This medical mystery kept my attention.

Kill the Irishman (2011)
An Irish-American laborer comes head to head with organized crime and its invasion of labor unions. He responds by creating his own criminal operation. Great story, over the top violence.
Ray Stevenson stars as Danny Greene. For the Christopher Walken fans in the audience you will find him here too.

The Boy (2016)
Very creepy horror movie. A young woman is hired to be the nanny to a doll. It is weird. The story does not break new ground … I’ve seen films similar to this before. It is fun.



Johnny English Reborn (2011)
I loved the first Johnny English film and couldn’t wait to see another. This comic action film stars Rowan Atkinson, best known for his portrayal of Mr. Bean. Atkinson fans will not be disappointed. Fabulous fun!

The Sniffer (2017)
This is a Russian language detective series. It is about a consulting detective who uses his ultra sensitive sense of smell to solve crimes. The dialogue is minimal so don’t worry about the subtitles. The shows are done with a good sense of humor. Watch one every once in a while. The formula plot can be a bit predictable.

Close Range (2015)
A very macho former military man is recruited to save his kidnapped niece. After much bloodshed and explosions he is successful. Then the really bloody stuff begins. This one does not have any significant pauses in the action. Scott Adkins is the hero.

Blue Jasmine (2013)
The rich and fortunate sister is dethroned and loses it all. She goes to live with her sister who has a much different lifestyle and social status. It’s been done before but this one is engaging.
Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her role in this often funny Woody Allen film.

Father Brown (2017)
Watch this British series from the beginning. Father Brown is a Catholic priest in postwar Britain. He has a knack for solving crimes and annoying the police. The series is based upon the writings of G. K. Chesterton, a famous Catholic (convert) apologist. The first four seasons of the series are great. It tends to lose its punch by the 5th.



Kill Me Three Times (2014)
This is another great Simon Pegg dark comedy. So well crafted … so much fun … fair amount of violence … you won’t want to get up for snacks during this one.

Death in Paradise (2017)
A British detective is yanked out of London and sent to manage a small police department on a Caribbean island. This is a detective mystery that is done with a good sense of humor. The episodes follow a formula that does not change much. I watch the show once in a while for a light change of pace.



Singularity (2017)
John Cusack and Carmen Argenziano star in a science fiction thriller that pits man against machine. This one is full of action and surprises.

That’s it for now. Have fun watching Netflix. If you have some favorites please let me know and I may add them to my next list. You can comment by clicking on the comment field. If it does not show just click on the blog post title and it will appear.

And of course I encourage you to publicize this blog on Twitter and Facebook … buttons provided below.

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The Buick Goes to a Wedding


What does one do with a 76-year-old car? I drive mine to various cruises and car shows. The condition of my 1941 Buick is such that it will never win any awards but it does attract an abundance of curious people. I think they like to see something that comes from a time before they were born, a relic that represents the style and flavor of the 1940’s. If you are into film noir, this is the car to be seen in. The body of the Buick has curves and details that originated with designers who were playing to an audience that admired the art deco style. They were not building to government safety standards or fuel efficiency as is presently done.

Probably the ultimate compliment to an old car enthusiast is when one of his children requests that he use his car to chauffeur them on their wedding day. This car has been on a program of continual mechanical improvement since I acquired it in 2002. By 2006, when my eldest daughter married, it was still prone to frequent breakdowns; although, I had made some safety improvements. She wisely hired a beautiful limousine and had a great time. My second daughter took a different approach; married on an island beach she made her getaway in a dune buggy, appropriate for the location and short travel time.


My son, our youngest, and his fiancé have been part of a new trend among those who have entered professional disciplines in the last decade or so. They have a special admiration for the simpler times of their grandparents and parents. She collects antique cameras, vinyl LP’s, and vintage clothing. He is a devotee of old 8mm movie cameras, antique printing presses and ornate typescript reminiscent of the gilded age. And so I was both flattered and anxious when my son’s fiancé asked me the question during a May breakfast at The Classic Cafe in Providence’s Federal Hill. Would I be so kind as to drive them on their wedding day? I of course accepted immediately. I had about 4 months to work out any remaining bugs.

It just so happened that this summer I used the car more than ever before. I attended car club events (WPRAACA), cruises, and car shows. As a result the car developed problems that I never saw coming. First there was the perpetually leaking brake master cylinder. I had to do something about that. I was at the point where I was checking the fluid (and often adding fluid) almost every time I took the car out. With the help of friends Tom Link and Bob DeGoursery we removed the brake cylinder. I sent it off to Apple Hydraulics and had them do a full rebuild including resleeving. The next problem to crop up was the loss of first and second gears due to a linkage problem that The Transmission Shop corrected. Smitty’s in Coventry installed a new muffler to replace the one that had a hole in it. And finally my long ago rebuilt fuel pump began to leak. Off to My Classic Car Trader in NJ it went.


After I replaced the fuel pump I thought I was in the free and clear. I decided to do a test run of the bridal route with my son as navigator. The only date we could get together was about 3 weeks before the big event. Everything went off without a hitch until we arrived at the 50 mile mark, just minutes from our two final destinations. We were in heavy traffic all day and had just stopped at a light on Metacom Avenue in Bristol. The car stalled. All my attempts to restart it failed. I quit while the battery was still strong and my son and I pushed the car through the intersection and into the 3-foot wide breakdown lane. I removed the air cleaner and opened the top butterfly valve. I also removed the sight screw in the front carburetor and poked the float. It was fully up and gas leaked out. Now it was just time to wait. A police officer offered to help if we were not able to get it going and I thanked him. I confidently predicted that it would be rolling in a short while. A nice local resident also stopped by. He offered to return with some tools if we were still stranded after he finished his run to a local store. We just sat on the grass along the sidewalk and waited for the car to cool down. It looked like vapor lock. After 40 minutes I cranked the engine once more and it started! Off we went to the next location, Colt State Park. I did not turn the engine off. Finally we moved on to the last stop, Herreschoff Marine Museum, the planned site of the September wedding. I thought we were in the free and clear when while backing up in the museum parking lot I heard a great bang and shudder from below the car. I had not hit anything. It was just a huge backfire. At this point we suspended our planned lunch at a local pub. I took my son back to my daughter’s house in Cranston where his car was parked and I went home. The 110 mile round trip was over. My confidence in the car was shattered.


What to do? I consulted with the experts, Tom Link and Bob DeGoursey the Gasslight Repairs guys. They suggested I use a little heat shielding of the fuel line and then go for it. I put in the shielding using shield tape and some real nice high temp tubing that Bob gave me. I also installed a new oil-cooled ignition coil (Don Oster and John Leite suggested this) and replaced the radiator cap that was not locking properly. I was still having misgivings. At this time I also discovered that my lower control arms were shot and were the likely cause of my steering difficulties. No time to replace them! I went so far as to research if any classic cars were available for hire. Don Oster offered to help with his car; but, I knew I had to do this alone. At one point I called my son and told him that we might have to use plan B, me driving my son’s new Subaru. He was OK with that but I could tell from his voice that he was disappointed. When my son later informed me that his friend Nick, a fellow RISD graduate, would be willing to follow us in case of a breakdown I decided to take Tom’s advice and ‘just do it’.  During the weeks previous to the wedding I was a nervous wreck. I won’t go into all the details but I had firmly decided that if I ever made a successful trip to the wedding in the Buick Roadmaster I was going to celebrate with more than two Narragansett beers!

Well, the big day came and the car performed flawlessly. The only small problem was when they asked me to back it onto the cobblestone wharf for a photo shoot. It was dark by now. Recall that a 4,500 pound  ’41 Buick has no power steering. My son’s new father-in-law, Nick, volunteered to ride shotgun. I got it backed onto the wharf but the last few yards of positioning the car were rough. Those cobblestones just grabbed the tires and the normally hard steering now felt like I was trying to drag a bag of rocks through 6 inch deep mud. Nick reached over and added his strength to the wheel and together we positioned it just where the photographer Matt wanted it. Later that night I parked the Buick next to the museum and my wife drove us home in her VW Beetle (she is the designated driver). We picked up the car the next day. It was trailing spent cat food cans and covered with colored paper streamers. The windows were soaped with ‘just married’ and drawings of cats (my new daughter-in-law loves cats).

Benefit Street in Providence. Try driving a Buick Roadmaster in that neighborhood!

It was a great wedding in so many ways but my son and daughter-in-law made it extra special by trusting me to deliver them safely and stylishly in the old Buick. I am forever grateful to them and my WPRAACA buddies who provided encouragement and technical assistance. I am also much relieved that the wedding of my son Alex and his new bride Liz is the last one where I will be required to do anything more stressful than have another beer.


(Note: All photographs are courtesy of Matt Ferrara Photography; click on images for enlarged view)

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Netflix Picks, 32 of Them!


Do you ever have difficulty finding a satisfactory movie or series on Netflix? Those gems do exist. The problem is that you may have to preview five or six horrible films before finding something that doesn’t beg you to dump it after torturing you for five minutes. That’s how much time my wife and I allow most programs we find on Netflix. Some folks have the five second rule for eating food that drops on the floor. We have the five minute rule for determining if we will continue with a Netflix selection.

So, assuming that you might be in a similar situation, I have compiled this short list of items that we have recently watched all the way to the end. They are not all terrific but most of them will catch your interest. I’m sure you don’t want to spend 90 minutes watching something only to remark during the closing credits “That was an incredible waste of my time!” Trailer links to You Tube are provided for most items. The trailers will open in a separate tab/window so you can easily navigate back here to continue down the list. And after you watch a movie please post your own review here in the comments section.

Travelers (Netflix Original series)
Science fiction series with plenty of twists. Very well acted and worth your time. Hopefully additional seasons will be coming to Netflix. Trailer Link

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix Original series)
Neil Patrick Harris is the strange and mean uncle who inherits three orphan children. The series is done in a strange surreal intense color. It also has a narrator who appears in the foreground of most scenes. I’ve only watched a few episodes and the jury is still out on this one. I think it is going to be a winner, though. Trailer Link

Harry and the Hendersons (movie)
What a great film for the entire family! John Lithgow is his usual wonderful self. Let this film bring you right back for an authentic ‘80’s experience. It’s way better than the TV series was. Trailer Link

Midsomer Murders (British series)
Great British murder / mystery series. John Nettles is the star for most of the seasons. He leaves the show late in the series. His replacement is unfortunately not up to the task.
Trailer Link

The Crown (Netflix Original Series)
My wife loves this one. It you enjoy stories of royalty and the attendant intrigue, this is for you. Especially well done and accurate.  Trailer Link

King Arthur (movie)
Mostly well done adventure story that delivers on action and keeps the gore down to a reasonable level.  Trailer Link

Agatha Christie’s Poirot (British series)
David Suchet does a wonderful job of bringing Hercule Poirot to life. The series does a very good job of delivering a period piece that is true to Christie’s novels. The episodes usually proceed at a relaxed pace; but, that is exactly what you should expect. Enjoy.  Trailer Link

Burn After Reading (movie)
1h 35m, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt. Dark Comedy.
Mostly well acted comedy that turns quite dark.  Trailer Link

Asperger’s Are Us (documentary)
31 years as a science teacher cured me of documentaries. There are exceptions of course. This is one. Follow the lives of four young men who live in the Boston area. They all have been diagnosed as having a level of autism that clearly indicates that they were born with Asperger’s. Watch the video to understand and be entertained.  Trailer Link

Always (movie 2h 2m)
A great Steven Spielberg film that features Holly Hunter, Richard Dreyfuss, and John Goodman. Adventure, romance, and ghosts all wrapped up in one.  Trailer Link

Fireplace and Melodies for the Holidays (Mood, 2h)
Watch a fireplace crackle for two hours. Put it on as a joke or to make for a romantic environment to read in. Holiday tunes included at no extra cost.  Trailer Link

Heartland (Series)
Seven seasons of a popular current Western. Good clean fun and family values are the emphasis. My wife loves this. I leave the room when it is playing. Recent episodes are currently running on live TV.  Trailer Link

Canada’s Worst Driver (Reality TV)
Friends and family nominate folks to attend a driving school for the clueless. These people are unbelievable! I only watched the first show in the series. That was enough for me; although, it did hold my interest. You may want to become a regular.  Trailer Link

Keeping Up Appearances (British Comedy Series)
Hyacinth is hilarious. She keeps poor husband Richard in tow and her neighbors in fear. Watch it while you still can. The word is that Netflix will pull it on Feb. 1, 2017.
Trailer Link

The OA (Netflix Original Series)
Science fiction, drama, and horror at its best. This is something that Stephen King wishes he wrote! Only one season. I hope they bring this one back.  Trailer Link

Stranger Things (Netflix Original Series)
This is chilling science fiction at its best. At times a bit gory. Only one season here. It is rumored that another season in on the way. Don’t miss it. Definitely in the ‘binge watch’ category.  Trailer Link

Hugo (Family Movie)
Martin Scorsese did a great job on this one. Comedy, drama, and heat, it is all here. Wonderful photography too. It is listed as a kid’s movie but adults will enjoy it too.
Trailer Link

The Good Neighbor (TV Movie, Drama)
Plenty of suspense in this one. It does not top my charts but I think that most folks will enjoy seeing it. Just don’t watch any copycat movies (they exist) because a new story line can get old fast.
Trailer Link

Sing Street (Movie, Irish)
1980’s kids who are beset by bullies rise above it all. Pretty good. Give it a chance.
Trailer Link

Nanny McFee (Movie, Children)
Watch this with your kids and you will all love it.  Trailer Link

The Little Prince (Netflix Original Movie)
Children (maybe 8 and up) and their parents will enjoy this. Great graphics. It’s the same story you once read in French when you took French back in the ‘60’s.  Trailer Link

Henning Mankell’s Wallander (Mystery, Detective, Foreign Series)
One of the best detective series ever. Very melancholy. The subtitles are done well and you quickly forget you are using them. There is also a BBC version of this same Swedish show and it is done equally well. When you are done with all that you can read the novels that the story is based upon.  Trailer Link

Department Q (Foreign Miniseries, Mystery, Detective)
The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith.
Don’t mind the captions. You will watch these quickly one night after the other. Brooding and difficult detective is demoted to the ‘lost cases’ department. To the dismay of his boss he begins to solve decades old crimes and demands a big budget. Intense!  Trailer Link

I.T. (Movie, Suspense)
Pierce Brosnan is the wealthy businessman who unknowingly unleashes a maniac on his family. Watch him overcome all odds! Not his best, but pretty good.  Trailer Link

J. Edgar (Movie, Dark, Historical)
Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his best performances as J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the F.B.I. Very well done!  Trailer Link

Fannie’s Last Supper (Documentary)
Folks in Boston prepare a supper exactly the way it might have been done in 1896. A supper for the rich. This was so historically correct that it took over a year of planning to pull it off. A rewarding film that we enjoyed. Fannie Farmer was real!  Trailer Link

Ghost Team (Movie, Comedy)
This is a sort of stupid nerd comedy that is filmed somewhat like a documentary. Well, let’s just say I got a kick out of it. I hope you will too. Give it a chance.  Trailer Link

Spectral (Movie, Adventure)
Engineer helps the military defeat an invading force of aliens. Old story. Heavily dependent on special effects (not the best); but, it was pretty good. You may like it.
Trailer Link

A Christmas Horror Story (Movie, Horror)
Get to see this one while it is still around. Ridiculous premises, nasty gore, and just plain fun. I hope you never meet a Santa like the one in this film.  Trailer Link

Bad Ass (Movie, Crime)
A fun revenge flick.  Trailer Link

Compulsion (Movie, Drama)
Wealthy kids decide to pull of the perfect murder. You will be pulled in.  Trailer Link

Snow Day (Comedy)
The kids rule when school is out due to a snow storm that closes the entire town. Chevy Chase and Chris Elliott star. Fun!  Trailer Link

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The TV that Followed Me Home

My first photo of the mysterious Zenith entertainment center, top of the line stuff for 1951. All I had on hand was an iPhone camera!

My first murky photo of the mysterious Zenith entertainment center, top of the line stuff for 1951. The trash in the lower left turned out to be Photofact Folders that had suffered the abuse of resident mice. All I had on hand was an iPhone camera!

Moving can be a terrible experience. I’ve only done it twice in the last 40 years. The first time was after one year of marriage. The second time was 33 years later. Guess which move was easier.

We got to the point where many things were sold, given away, or dumped. I don’t wish the experience on anyone, especially someone who collects big old radios like I do.

Duffy, a friend of mine who is also a radio collector (accumulator), recently made the move from Rhode Island to Tennessee. He had a basement and a garage full of old radios and TV’s. He could not possibly take them all. He had no inclination to attempt to sell them, especially since they would have to go to someone who can repair them. Those kinds of collectors are fewer than you might think. Duffy told me that most were working when they went into storage. When he offered to give me a radio or two I readily accepted.

Some of the radios were cute little things. Most were massive (as in it takes at least two people to carry them down to the basement). Included in the massive group were an E. H. Scott Allwave Deluxe and an RCA Berkshire. I’ll write more about them in a future post. This story is about the one I did not want to take. It’s a Zenith model H3267R entertainment center.

The model H3267R is a huge mahogany cabinet that contains an AM/FM radio, a Cobra-Matic turntable, a 12” speaker, and a 16” porthole-style television. It was in Duffy’s garage. It apparently was home to a number of itinerant mice for a number of years. They left their calling cards everywhere. I went to look at it even though I was not very interested in taking it home. I found a massive but strangely interesting piece. The nice condition of the cabinet and the round TV screen reeled me in. Duffy and I attempted to lift one end of it. It did not budge. If I was going to get this thing home it would have to move 20 feet to the entrance of Duffy’s garage and then 3 more feet straight up to get into my truck. There was no way we were equipped for the move. I told Duffy that if I decided to take it home I would come on another day when I could bring some helpers. Well, I did return after Duffy had moved. I came back alone but this time I brought tools and a two-wheel hand truck. I removed every piece of electronics from the unit. This reduced the weight considerably. Then I tilted it onto the hand truck and wheeled over to my pickup. First I tilted one end onto the tailgate and dropped the other end on top of a big 2-foot tall plastic bucket. Then I was able to lift the bucket end and slide the cabinet into the truck bed. The power supply, record player, TV, and radio were all loaded up and off I went. I managed to reverse the procedure at home and get the console stored in my shed where it now awaits restoration. I hope to at least clean up the cabinet and get the power supply, radio, and record player working. I’ve never worked on a TV before. This should be fun. I don’t know a flyback from picture tube restorer.

The photo gallery below will give you a better idea of what this curious relic of the 1950’s looks like. In those days TV’s were in real wood cabinets that often had doors. I remember the one we had back in 1954 (I can’t recall the brand, I was not yet reading ). It had two doors that opened to reveal the TV screen. I don’t remember if it was round or rectangular. Well, now I have a round one, AKA  a porthole screen. Now where can it fit in our house? I think I’ll ask my wife. On second thought I’ll put that conversation on hold.

Note: Clicking on a photo will open a window with an enlarged view.

I believe that yellow thing dangling by some wires is a picture tube booster. It is a sure sign that this tube was failing.

I believe that yellow thing dangling by some wires is a picture tube booster. It is a sure sign that this tube was failing.

This photo does a better job of showing the entire console. I used Photoshop to remove the distracting background.

This photo does a better job of showing the entire console. I used Photoshop to remove the distracting background.

Note: Clicking on blog title will reveal comment form at end of post.

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Lee and Evel – Chapter 1 , Beginnings

Lee at Home
Memoir Disclaimer

The dialogue and events portrayed in this work are the recollections of Lee Ratliff as he related them to the author. Conversations and descriptions have been presented so as to make them interesting and understandable. They are not intended to represent word-for-word accuracy.

We have attempted to be as accurate as possible; but, as this work consists of memories and opinion rather than documented facts, there may be historical errors.

What makes a person interesting? It’s their life story, everything that they have experienced. It has been my fortune to meet many people, all of them interesting. Every individual I meet has done things I never did, been places I only heard of, and told stories that I love to listen to. Their tales span the decades and include the intrigue of a Soviet defection, emigration to a new country, surviving a suicide bombing, brushes with death, serving under General Patton, performing biological research, and searching for the Titanic. My friend Lee Ratliff has a story too and he is not at all shy about sharing it. His tale is one that has proven to interest more than just his friends. That’s because he spent three years working for another interesting person, Evel Knievel.

Lee is a soft spoken gentleman whose life began in Missouri. By the time he entered high school his family had moved to Wichita, Kansas. Lee considers Wichita his home town. High school was followed by six months in barber school and another 18 months as an apprentice. Lee didn’t have much time to practice his newly acquired trade because he was drafted in 1960 and spent two years in the army (actually a little over two years; Cold War tensions in Berlin was cause for an extension). The army is where Lee learned to type messages into a radio teletype machine at a rate of 45 words per minute and to decode and send Morse messages at 18 words per minute. Those messages went out over transmitters that easily lit up a nearby fluorescent lamp (not plugged in to anything, just acting as a tuning indicator) and could melt pencil leads left near the antennas. Years later Lee would translate this military experience into a lifetime hobby, amateur radio. His federally licensed call is K1LR.

Lee returned to Wichita after leaving the army and he continued with barbering for a while. His interest in all things mechanical led to a position with Cesna Aircraft where he began as part of a team that riveted (as in very hot pieces of metal) thin aluminum to airplane wings. In spite of managing to destroy an entire wing all by himself Lee was moved on to the tool and die department where he learned to make stamping dies and assisted the designer of a new kind of die that greatly reduced the time required to make a headliner stringer. Lee’s mechanical skills were improving all the time. Additional experience was garnered while working at North American Rockwell in Tulsa making parts for Boeing. Lee’s next move in the aerospace industry was to Kaman Aircraft in Moosup, Connecticut.

Lee eventually returned home to Wichita. That’s where he developed his love for motorcycles. If there were goings on in town that involved motorcycles, Lee was drawn to it. Back when he started out as a barber he had his own 1958 kickstart Harley Davidson CH Sportster that he built from parts. He later ordered a new ’68 model at the same time as his brother, a Harley-Davidson salesman, did. Lee’s bike was the faster of the two! So Lee was the right person at the right place when Bob Knievel, AKA Evel Knievel, came to town.

It was October of 1971 and at that time Evel was driving his own show truck. The diesel truck pulled the equivalent of two 31 foot trailers on a sliding fifth wheel. The length limit in most states was 55 feet. Lee tells me that Evel could have applied for an exception but he wasn’t the type to be bothered by such details. He would prefer to evade, elude, and confuse the law whenever the opportunity presented itself. Evel was looking for a driver and crew person when he pulled into Wichita and Lee being a person who always hung around motorcycles just happened to land the job. Lee had never driven a large truck before. Apparently Evel didn’t mind. Lee’s enthusiasm for anything relating to bikes was good enough for him. The next major stop for the show was Portland, Oregon. At one point along the way Evel invited Lee to the cockpit of the big Kenworth. Evel and Lee drove the oversize rig together, Evel in the role of teacher. When they had traveled about ten miles Evel felt so confident in Lee’s newly acquired skill that he left the cab and took off.

This is the big Kenworth rig that Lee drove. The cab and the box behind it are one unit and contain Evel's dressing room. The trailer in the back contains ramps and vehicles.

This is the big Kenworth rig that Lee drove. The cab and the box behind it are one unit and contains Evel’s dressing room. The trailer in the back contains ramps and vehicles. The massive side-opening doors were added at Lee’s suggestion. They made loading and unloading much easier. The original trailer had a canvas top and opened to the back only.

Where did he go? His wife Linda always followed the truck in the family Corvette. Evel got in the Corvette with her and off they went over the mountains to the next venue in Portland, Oregon. Lee would meet and hook up with them later when he arrived with the big truck that carried all the motorcycles and jump ramps. Lee made it to Portland and there he assisted with the setting up of ramps. Regrettably that jump at the Portland Memorial Coliseum was not the success that Evel was looking for.  According to Lee, Evel wasn’t quite as self-assured as he looked to his fans. It was essential that he display confidence in his ability to make fantastic jumps, but that does not mean that he didn’t have doubts. Lee remembers that jump. Just before making his final approach Evel remarked to Lee “That looks like a long way”. It was his way of saying “I’m not sure if I can make this one”. Lee’s response was a simple and sincere “It sure is.” Evel did not make the jump. He came down hard and skidded. His hand became caught in the clutch lever and he ended up with a broken hand. There would be no more jumping for a short bit while Evel recovered.

After the crash at Portland the decision was made that the crew would head for Butte, Montana, Evel’s home town. Evel was dropped off in Butte to spend some recovery time in a trailer house next door to his grandmother. Evel made it to Butte without incident. The same cannot be said of Lee and Jack Stroh, a crewman who worked with Lee. There was the little problem of a mountain range and snow along the route. The Lookout Pass crossing between Idaho and Montana was the route that Lee took. Lee found it rather easy climbing this section of the Bitterroot Mountain segment of the Rocky Mountains with the big double rig. He was more concerned about the descent. He had seen all the warning signs at the base of the mountain that displayed the ominous warning:


Lee ignored the signs, not by choice so much as by circumstance: he didn’t have any chains to put on the tires! Have you ever started down a snow-covered hill and begun to slide down in your vehicle towards the cluster of stuck cars pointing in all directions down below? You might hit another car or maybe even a telephone pole. Not so bad. But what if nothing but a shallow ditch stood between your truck and a drop of thousands of feet off a mountain? That slightly different scenario is exactly the one that Lee faced on his way to Butte. While descending the snow-covered mountain road, he turned a corner and headed down a steep section of the narrow highway. Unfortunately the rear trailer continued to make the turn after the cab was pointing in the right direction. He headed down with his tail end poking out over the almost nonexistent shoulder. At the base of the incline were several stuck cars. Blocking the road was his fellow worker Jack Stroh who was driving a Ranchero. One passenger car was also jutting out into the road from the ditch it was stuck in. Fortunately, by tapping the lever-controlled trailer brakes, Lee was able to slow down just enough so that Jack was able to get out of the way at the last possible second. The passenger car was not so lucky. The trailer just barely caught it as it went by. That was an interesting start to a new career.

Lee and Jack did finally make it to Butte where they stayed at the local Holiday Inn. Butte was a frequent destination for the troupe since, as mentioned above, Evel had family there. Lee’s most interesting memory about Butte dates back to August of 1972 when he visited one of the world’s deepest mines, the Kelley Mine.

This is the certificate that was given to Lee upon completing his descent into the Kelley Mine. Evel worked there at one time.

This is the certificate that was given to Lee upon completing his descent into the Kelley Mine. Evel worked there at one time.

This was a very deep mine owned by the Anaconda Company. Lee took a ride down an elevator to the bottom of the main shaft, a total depth of 3,900 feet! It wasn’t especially warm down there but it sure was windy. That was due to the numerous ventilation fans that were so strong they almost took your pants off when you stood near them. Lee still has the memento card he received that day for being the only member of the traveling show to venture into the mine. (The mine was old hat to Evel since he had once worked there.)

Lee and Jack stayed in Butte for a short time and then headed off to Twin Falls, Idaho where they would continue the preparation for the well-advertised jump over the Snake River. The event was scheduled for July 4 (it actually was delayed until September 8, 1974) and it required a lot of work to get the exhibition area ready. The men erected a chain link spectator fence around the approach to the cliff so as to contain and protect the crowd. Each fence post was cemented in the ground. Lee remembers that period as relaxing duty since Evel was not around. Evel had a way of micromanaging every project. He would also make sudden demands that his employees drop whatever they were doing and go off on another errand or project. It’s difficult to accomplish something in such an atmosphere and that explains why Lee and Jack felt just fine cementing fence posts into ground with no supervision.

Jack Stroh (left) and Evel standing in front of the Ranchero.

Jack Stroh (left) and Evel standing in front of the Ranchero.

This might be a good place to say a bit more about Jack Stroh who worked with Lee. Jack was already working for Evel when Lee joined up (Mike Draper, another driver, signed on about a year and a half later). Jack and Lee performed much of the setup work for jumps. They constructed the ramps and parked the cars or trucks that Evel was going to jump. Jack also did stunts, sometimes filling in for Evel (more about that later). One of Jack’s favorite acts involved standing in the way of an onrushing  motorcycle. At just the right moment Jack would jump in the air with just enough height so as to clear the vehicle that passed underneath him. He was a sort of human tunnel. At one point Jack was injured and unable to perform the trick. Evel decided that he would fill in for Jack. Jack cautioned Evel that he had to jump at just the right time. If he went too soon, a natural impulse, he was likely to be hit. Evel did several practice runs with him jumping as the motorcycle passed to his side. Jack was observing from the stands and he became concerned that Evel had his timing off and was going to get hit. Jack came down from the stands and told Evel “You are jumping too late. You are going to get hit”. Evel responded with “Get back on in the grandstands. I know what I’m doing. I was the one who showed you how to do it.” Evel being Evel he failed to heed Jack’s warning. Evel jumped a split second later than he should have and was struck by the oncoming motorcycle. Lee recalls that this was typical of Evel’s temperament. He seemed to think that there was only one way to do something, his way. He listened to the advice of his crew members but rarely acted upon it.

There was plenty of long haul driving involved when working for Evel Knievel. Lee remembers the year Evel was in New York City and was invited to ride in the November, 1973 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Evel’s bike was in Los Angeles, CA. He called Lee and Mike Draper and told them to deliver that bike to New York pronto. The men put the motorcycle in the back of the 1972 Ford Ranchero and started out. Much of the trip involved driving through blinding snow at night. Lee remembers that it was so bad they had to get out of the car frequently and scrape the snow off the headlights. They made it and Evel was the star of the parade!

Of course there were many other extended drives like the time Lee made it from Chicago to Santa Cruz, CA in a 23 hour straight run. It was 1972 and the next scheduled jump was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. The plan was that Evel would head out to California and, as he told Lee, spend some time in Santa Cruz. Lee would be driving the trailers at a much slower rate. The first stop on the trip west was Flagstaff, Arizona. According to Lee the Knievel show seemed to almost always pass through Flagstaff as a waypoint whenever traveling the West and Midwest.  After arriving in Flagstaff Lee used what he thought was a current roadmap to plot his path to Santa Cruz. He came up with what looked like a good shortcut that took State Highway 58 over the mountains and down into the flatland in the Bakersfield area.  The map, unbeknown to Lee, was long outdated. Although the journey began with mostly flatland, it quickly turned into numerous hairpin turns on mountain roads. As much as he wanted to Lee found it impossible to turn around and choose a different route. The first mountain was put behind them sometime during the day. But by nightfall the crew was climbing a second ridge line that was chock full of sharp curves that resembled a giant seesaw. The progress was very slow! The next day the Knievel caravan once again found itself on the other side of the mountain on a relatively level landscape. The road soon turned into a nightmare as the lane narrowed so much that only one vehicle would be able to pass at a time. The road was full of extremely sharp switchbacks. Lee had all he could do to hug the mountain side of the road to avoid going over. The turns were so sharp that he had to negotiate them with a jackknife-style movement to nudge the huge rig around them at a speed of only one or two miles per hour. All was going smoothly until they came upon the Salinas River Bridge. According to the posted warning sign the bridge had a ten ton limit. Lee’s load far exceeded ten tons. Turning back was not an option so it was decided that the pickup and the Ranchero would go over first. They made it over the mostly steel and cement bridge without incident. Now it was Lee’s turn to haul across with 62 feet of trailers behind. Lee eased the rig onto the bridge so as to ‘test the water’ as they say. Nothing gave so he proceeded to floor it. He went across as fast as he possibly could and that speed carried him safely to the other side. A piece of cake. The crew stopped at the next truck stop they saw on the other side and they related their recent accomplishment to the locals in the diner. Their response?

One trucker commented “No you didn’t!”, “They haven’t fixed that road since the earthquake.” When the local guys asked Lee why he would take such an obviously poor route he replied that his thinking had been that “It was on the map, so it must be good”.

The Knievel caravan finally pulled into Santa Cruz. They immediately headed to the local Holiday Inn in search of Evel. No Evel. They couldn’t find him anywhere. The next morning they called all the Holiday Inns down the road and finally located him in Santa Clara.  It seems that Evel meant to say “Meet me in Santa Clara” rather than “Santa Cruz”.  It’s a good thing they took the shortcut.

Santa Clara was just a stopping off place before the big jump at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. One of Lee’s jobs in San Francisco was to set up the jump ramps.   Every time Evel set up at a new venue all of the ramps had to be precisely positioned. If they were not perfectly straight it became a safety hazard. While Lee and the crew worked to properly place the ramps Evel would supervise. Today we would use the term micromanage. He would direct them to move a foot this way and then a few inches that way over and over to distraction. This was heavy work involving forklifts. It took quite a while to satisfy Evel’s sense of perfection. Lee finally came up with a solution when they were preparing for the jump at the Cow Palace. He went out and purchased a chalk line and used it to lay out the exact center of the ramps. The ramps were placed so precisely that if you stood at the top you could see that blue chalk line showing through the cracks between the center boards. Evel was able to see this too and as a result he no longer supervised ramp setup since he couldn’t argue with precision. Everybody was happy about that outcome. A unique feature of this jump was that ramps were also placed in a main aisle among the spectator seats in the grandstand. As crew chief Lee supervised as a long ramp was built over the stairway from the top of the stands right down to the field. This ramp (Evel called it the ski ramp) was so steep that if you stood on it in crepe-soled shoes you would slip right down. If you look closely at videos of that jump you will notice that a two foot tall curb was also constructed alongside the ramp.

Lee with the Harley. This photo was most probably taken inside the Cow Palace.

This was so as to prevent Evel from catching the bike or his foot on one of the chair arms that lined the aisle. When Lee rode a 10 speed bicycle up to the top of the construction site to inspect the ramp one of the crew said “I’ll bet $50 that you wouldn’t ride that bike down the ramp!” Lee’s impulsive response was “Give me the $50.” The man who offered the bet gave Lee a Western Union money order. Lee asked him for cash but the money order would have to do since it was all the guy had. Lee took the money order and slipped it into his shirt pocket. Lee had no choice now but to prove his boast just as Evel would if in the same situation. He immediately rode down that ramp to the bottom without incident. It was an easy, though a bit hairy, $50! (Lee later offered the money back to the gentleman but he declined the offer).

Lee and Evel will be presented as a series of six chapters. If you want to be notified at the time of additional postings you may subscribe to this blog and thus receive an email when they appear. The “Subscribe” button is at the bottom of the column to the right of this article. Your email will not be disclosed to anyone! Lee and Evel is the property of the author and other than short quotes no person is authorized to distribute, copy, or otherwise publish the content.

(Note: Comments Welcome – If a comment field does not appear at the end of this story, please click on the title of this post, Lee & Evel – Beginnings, as it appears at the top of the page. Then the Comment Field will appear)

The Evel Knievel Museum in Topeka, Kansas will be opening in June, 2017 is now open!  Click the link and check it out. You can also take a pre-opening tour if you go to the website of Melissa Brunner who is on the staff of W1BW. You will see a search box in the upper right. Just type “EVEL” into the box and you will be presented with several videos that make up a tour of the museum.

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Lee and Evel – Chapter 2 , Early Venues


Evel’s staff consisted of a core group of people when Lee was working for him. We have already mentioned Jack Stroh, Mike Draper, and Evel’s wife, Linda. Another essential and valued employee was Butch Wilhelm . Butch was a midget. He provided much of the comic relief for the shows. He had his own mini bike with which he also jumped over lines of trucks. The difference was that the trucks he jumped were Tonka© Trucks. Butch took his job quite seriously and it was always his goal to jump those trucks successfully.

Butch with a young lady who was a groupie of the Evel Knievel Show. She posed with several of the guys.

Butch with a young lady who was a groupie of the Evel Knievel Show. She posed with several of the guys.

Failure was not an option. Unfortunately it was not very difficult to convince Butch to take a drink once in a while. That was OK so long as it wasn’t before a jump. Just before one jump a visitor appeared in Butch’s dressing room. It was a police officer who was determined to share a little Wild Turkey with Butch. At first Butch declined and explained that he had a jump coming up. But the cop was convincing and the both of them did share that drink. Unfortunately Butch shared another drink shortly after with Evel who was not aware of the dressing room sortie. It came time for Butch’s jump. He didn’t quite make it and as a result he went down hard (Lee describes it as “He went splat”). That did not deter Butch. Against the advice of all he refused medical attention and insisted on doing the jump over. He did it over and once again “went splat”. It was even more serious this time and Lee tried, without success, to force him to get in the ambulance and go to the local hospital in Cincinnati. It appears that Evel was not the only one of the troupe to be injured regularly.

If you were not an official part of the Evel Knievel Daredevil show there still were ways to be part of the action. Lee tells me that every time the group would arrive at a new city there would be a need to hire additional help. These temporary workers were extremely eager to be part of such a popular attraction. Some of the men hired would assist in the erection of ramps. Others might perform some warm-up stunts or just ‘hang out’. On occasion some of these folks would tag along from city to city hoping to land a more permanent position. In February of ’72 (we’re backing up in time a little here) Evel performed in Chicago and while there he met Roger Reiman. Roger was a motorcycle racer. He competed in something called Flat Track and was a Grand National champion. Flat Track was popular back in the 1970’s. The races would be ¼, ½, or 1 mile long, often on dirt tracks. He also participated in the 200 mile Daytona race. Roger observed carefully when Evel performed as Roger was also adept at doing difficult turns and jumps.

Evel enjoying a light moment with Flat Track ace Roger Reiman (on the bike). They are at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA.

Evel enjoying a light moment with Flat Track ace Roger Reiman (on the bike). They are at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA.

On one occasion Lee, who was responsible for the mechanical maintenance of Evel’s bikes, noticed that the tachometer cable on the motorcycle was broken. Lee mentioned to Roger that he needed to run out and buy a new cable immediately so the bike could be repaired. Roger remarked to Lee “Don’t bother. He doesn’t use the tach anyway!” So Lee just reinserted the cable shield to make it look good, though not functional. Evel proceeded to make some more practice runs up to the side of the ramp. As usual Evel asked Lee if the speed appeared to be fast enough to make the jump. Lee told him that he was not going fast enough. Evel’s response was “I was taching 8,000!” Lee and Roger just looked at each other with a knowing smile. Later Lee removed the tachometer altogether. It was just an unnecessary piece of equipment. Evel never commented about the missing tach.

Lee recalls that before leaving Chicago that February of ’72, he and Jack Stroh decided that it would be a good idea to sample the local cuisine. They had heard that Chicago was famous for Bar-B-Q so they took the Caddy wagon for a cruise along an area called ‘the loop’. The boys found a promising place somewhere deep in the city but unfortunately they had to continue by it because there was no available parking for their jumbo ride. They ended up parking some distance away, got out and began walking. Their sense of direction was a bit confused at this point so they stopped a local guy and inquired “How much farther to the Bar-B-Q joint?”

The helpful pedestrian, who happened to be black, answered “It’s just a little more down there.”

They found the restaurant and feasted on some of the best food Chicago had to offer. They were the only white guys in the place, this being a part of town that was primarily black. Upon returning to the auditorium the guys eagerly informed everyone of the great restaurant they had been lucky enough to find. Evel’s bodyguard was a bit surprised that they made it back in one piece. His comment was “I wouldn’t even go down there with a gun on.”

He continued “Since you asked directions that’s probably what saved you.”

Detroit, Michigan is a cold city in March and that’s where Lee found himself in 1972. It was a typical show: two performances on Friday, three on Saturday, and the final two on Sunday. The public performance is not what sticks out in Lee’s mind, though. He does have a clear impression of a very interesting man that he and Evel met that weekend. There was a knock on Evel’s door and the man on the other side of the threshold immediately offered Evel an irresistible proposition: “I have just the thing for you. A three-wheeled jet bike.” The character was E. J. Potter, otherwise known as “The Michigan Madman”.

This is probably a good place to introduce you to E. J. He was known for installing regular automotive V-8 engines on motorcycles. He found it quite impossible to fit any kind of transmission between the motor and the wheels (he tried) so he just went without it. He would put the rear wheel of the motorcycle up on a stand and then start the engine. The wheel would immediately spin at an alarming speed. Then he would mount the monster and direct an assistant to drop the stand. Off he went like a rocket. If that wasn’t crazy enough he added a little zip by running his creation on nitromethane fuel! He once got going on a strip that quickly ran out of track. No problem. He hit the kill button to stop the engine. Unfortunately the excessive speed (and lack of any cooling system) kept the engine cranking due to dieseling. Potter bailed when the bike entered a plowed field. It is believed to have reached a speed of 160 mph before impacting a tree.

Lee and Evel inspected the jet bike that was outside in a trailer. It was powered by a J-44 jet engine (as in from a jet airplane). Evel was in love with it and made the buy. Madman left Evel with a few words of advice: “When you give it the gas it veers wildly to the left. And when you shut it off it veers wildly to the right.”

Lee was justly afraid of the thing. “When it was running you could hear the turbine blades scraping inside the jet. If one of them came off the whole thing would explode and become shrapnel.” says Lee. Evel rode the jet bike as an attention getter before shows. Expect to see the jet bike appear again later in this narrative.

Evel had a reputation as a shock and awe sort of guy. He could not be satisfied with the same old daredevil jumps at each new venue. He realized that he had to add variety, uniqueness, and a level of suspense that would ensure sellout crowds. He had to be unpredictable. This was no easy task but he was the guy who could meet the challenge. Early in his career he would jump over just about anything, not just cars and busses. He had once jumped over a den of rattle snakes and two mountain lions. That went well, even when he fell in the midst of them. Why not try that again with a little twist? The promotional material for the 1972 Plymouth, California show promised that Evel would jump 200 rattle snakes and two mountain lions. Now that was a nice twist. If the snakes didn’t bite him the mountain lions would. Lee tells me that the snakes arrived in a screened box and they were stored in one of the trailers. They stunk real badly and so did the trailer after they took up residence. Now the mountain lions were another story. According to Lee, Evel knew darn well that he was not going to be able to get the lions even though he had already publicized their part in the act. That didn’t present much of a problem. Evel just got on the telephone and called the local Humane Society. He disguised his voice just in case someone there had seen his show before and he proceeded to lodge his complaint. “That guy Evel is going to jump a pair of mountain lions. You can’t let this happen!” he told the person who answered the phone. He was assured that the matter would be looked into. Shortly thereafter the Humane Society made Evel a visit. They insisted that the lions (remember, there were no lions) not be included in the show. Evel reluctantly agreed. When the first night of the show arrived he made an announcement to the crowd: “I need to let you all know that I will not be jumping those mountain lions, although I was very much looking forward to it. Unfortunately someone complained to the Humane Society and they threatened to close us down if we included the lions. But, we still have the rattlesnakes!” That’s how you keep the fans happy. He manipulated the media, Humane Society, and all those paying customers.

There was a lot of preparation that went into that Plymouth jump, as there was for all jumps. As mentioned earlier, Evel would often hire extra crew members at each city to help with the construction of ramps and other chores. The Plymouth jump was no different. Gene Sullivan (AKA Sully) was a temporary worker and jumper who Evel had hired to work under Lee’s direction. Gene followed the show for a few cities in the hope of landing a permanent position. Lee’s concise evaluation of Gene was “He wasn’t good help”. Gene was more interested in promoting Gene than doing actual work. When they arrived in Plymouth Evel was still nursing a broken collar bone from the previous stay in Detroit. The plan was that if Evel didn’t feel up to the jump he would let Sully do it.  Well, Evel did make the jump as described above. There was still work to do though when the shows were over. All the ramps and equipment had to be packed back in the trailers. Lee had a crew of five, including Sully, whose job it was to load the trailers. While the heavy lifting was going on Sully spent the time doing wheelies in the dirt with his motorcycle. Some of the other guys stopped what they were doing and just watched Sully who refused to do any hard labor. Lee complained to Evel and Evel promised that he would speak to Sully. He did not want to can him. After talking with Sully Evel came over to Lee and told him “I spoke with Sully and he is going to do better.” “Alright, but I don’t think so” was Lee’s response. “He will” said Evel.

It took a lot of work to get the trailer loaded with vehicles and ramps. Everyone lent a hand, at least everyone was supposed to.

It took a lot of work to get the trailer loaded with vehicles and ramps. Everyone lent a hand, at least everyone was supposed to.

Lee and John Lancaster, Evel’s pilot, continued to load the trailers. Lee told John “When this stuff is in we are off.” The other workers continued to watch Sully cavort with his Triumph which as it happened was not street legal (among other things it had no lights).  Lee and John finally closed the trailer. This left Sully with no means to get his bike back to town without being arrested for driving an unregistered vehicle. A couple of sympathetic sign painters tried to get the bike into their pickup but the cap prevented it from sliding in far enough. The painters asked Lee to open the rig up so Sully could get the bike in. They said that Sully was “over there crying.” There was no way Lee wanted to do over what he had just completed. He only relented after the painters offered to load the Triumph onto the rig themselves. Once again Lee had to complain to Evel about Sully. Evel fired Sully and he was never seen again. Poor workers or people that somehow made offense (real or imagined) to Evel were rarely give a second chance as Sully was. Lee remembers one guy who was riding in the truck with Evel when he made some kind of criticism of Evel. Evel immediately braked to a stop, threw out the man and his bags and said “You’re fired!” It was that quick. People knew that if they were going to remain part of the show they should never talk back to Evel. Most of the workers were afraid of him. Even some close family members were intimidated by him.

The crew frequently went out to eat and drink together. Pictured here from left to right: Butch Wilhelm, Evel, Lee and Mike Draper.

The crew frequently went out to eat and drink together. Pictured here from left to right: Butch Wilhelm, Evel, Lee and Mike Draper.

By June of ’72 Evel’s Daredevil show was becoming increasingly popular and the demands on his staff were also increasing. One day Evel called Lee over and told him “You need a helper, someone who can also drive the big rig.” It just so happened that Lee’s brother was a Harley-Davidson salesman in Wichita and he knew a guy who could drive a truck. He also used to work in the parts department for the dealership. His name was Mike Draper and he was still living in Wichita. Lee gave Mike a call and offered him the job. Mike quickly jumped on board with the Evel caravan. Lee arranged to meet him in Wichita and from there they drove on to Atlanta, the next venue on the program. Lee recalls an event that he thinks may have taken place during that ride to Atlanta. Mike was driving and it was at nighttime. As described earlier the rig consisted of a cab with flatbed (32 feet long) hauling a trailer that was another 30 feet in length. This obviously exceeded the 55 foot limit that was in effect in most states. On this particular run they were detained at a toll booth. The attendant who stopped them said “You look too long!” and he ordered Lee to help him measure the truck with a tape measure.  Before getting out of the vehicle Lee and Mike had already allowed the 5th wheel to slide forward and thus shave off a few feet. Lee held the tape at the front of the truck and the attendant walked in the darkness to the back with the other end of the measure. While the man was walking to the back end of the trailer Lee began to walk towards the back also, the hand holding the tape stretched out in front of him.  Lee managed to shave just a bit over 5 feet off the total. When the toll operator got to the end and yelled out his measurement Lee immediately released the tape and started to walk towards the back, thereby increasing the chance that his subterfuge would go undetected. It worked! They measured under the limit. The attendant’s response? “It sure looks a lot longer than that” he said. “Yeah it does, doesn’t it” Lee agreed. With a final “On your way” from the toll man the Evel Knievel daredevils narrowly avoided the law, this time.

The Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta was to be a mixed blessing. While in Atlanta Lee picked up a new motorcycle for Evel. It was still a Harley-Davidson XR-750 but with one radical innovation. The fully cast iron engine was replaced with a new unit that had an aluminum alloy head. Lee was glad to see the heavier XR-750 leave the scene. His poignant testament to the older model: “It was a turd.” Immediately after taking possession of it Lee took off with the new bike and put it through its paces. The bike had no tachometer so he had to estimate the best points to make shifts. The usual technique was that Lee would sense when the bike had reached the peak of its power curve and then at that point shift into second. Unfortunately this bike peaked sooner and at a much higher rev than Lee was used to with the old cast iron head Harley. Just as Lee was about to upshift the front wheel lifted and took off. That was an unexpected scare. Now it was Evel’s turn. He was doing a practice run during the show when he approached the ramp at high speed. He had been forewarned by Lee about the idiosyncrasies of the new XR-750. The key to a successful jump is to hit your maximum speed at the base of the ramp if you want to remain in control. The curve peaked too soon for the man used to the clunky old cast iron bike. The old bike had a smooth and even transition to maximum power. The new one was sudden. Evel became airborne as he shifted just a bit too late and the bike “spit him out”. The result was a disastrous fall that among other things broke his back. The ever-ready ambulance was put into service and whisked him off to the hospital. Lee and his crew remained at the scene of the mishap, Lakewood Speedway, where they needed to secure the equipment and prepare for a show that had to go on the following day. Fortunately Evel had hired a backup, Bob “Wicked” Ward, a local Alabama man. The city cops who Lee and Mike were friendly with didn’t have much confidence in Wicked Ward. They predicted that he would crash as he always did. Evel gave instructions to Lee: “I want you to help him. Just don’t let him use my bike.” Ward made the jump successfully but he did almost crash. His hands left the handlebar upon impact with the landing ramp but he somehow got them back on the bike and landed OK.

Now it so happens that across from the hotel in Atlanta where Lee and other crew members were staying there was a hamburger joint that was frequented by a number of local motorcycle cops, the same ones mentioned above. They had let Lee know that they would love to have a private meeting with Evel. Lee had previously promised them that he would arrange a meeting after a performance. As a result of the accident the meeting had been abruptly put on indefinite hold. On the day following the accident Lee got a phone call from Evel who was still in the hospital. He asked Lee to bring over some of his clothes. Lee agreed, rounded up the clothes and put them in the Cadillac limousine that the local Caddy dealer had loaned them. Then he and Mike put in motion a bit of fun. Mike got in the driver’s seat and Lee sat in the back. They drove across the street to the hamburger place and approached the cops. Lee made them a proposition when he said “You guys never got to meet Evel. If you all give us an escort to the hospital I’ll get you in”.  That did it. Two cops trailed behind the Caddy, their lights flashing, and one led in the front in his city-issue Moto Guzzi. It was quite a parade and you can bet that bystanders were truly curious about whom that obviously important person in the back seat of the Cadillac was. Lee and Mike loved every minute of it!  After parking the limo in a no-parking zone, Lee and Mike went to Evel’s room with their police entourage. They found Evel in the middle of telling a joke to his visiting golf buddies. Lee did the introductions and there was a lot of hand shaking going around. You could tell how thrilled the cops were by the big grins on their faces. Oh, and about the illegally parked limousine, it seems it was never ticketed. The Atlanta police knew how to treat guests to their city.

It seems that the police escort to the hospital inspired Lee and Mike to have more fun with the limousine as long as they still had the use of it. Once again Mike drove while Lee sat in the back. They pulled up outside an Atlanta restaurant and parked directly in front of the street-facing windows. Mike got out and opened the door for Lee and escorted him inside to his table. All the while the curious restaurant patrons were paying close attention to the unfolding drama. Lee could hear them whispering to each other “Who can that be?”, “That guy must be really important” and other similar comments. Mike left the place and moved the car to a nearby legal parking spot (you can press your luck only so far) and then walked back to have lunch with Lee. They departed in the same manner, Mike first retrieving the limo and then opening the door for Lee. The more the diners craned their necks the more fun Evel’s two drivers had.

So what was everybody jumping over on that eventful day in Atlanta? Would you believe 13 brand new Cadillacs? They were provided by the local Caddy dealer who had a front row seat at all times. He was there on setup day when the cars had to be parked in a row as close together as possible. Lee started lining up the vehicles so close that he was able, through a touchy jockeying maneuver, to actually make the wheel wells of adjacent cars overlap slightly. Mike commented that Lee was bound to scratch the cars if he continued with his reckless precision exercise. Lee’s retort was a brash “I haven’t scratched any paint yet”. The car dealer watched while making no comment at all … we can only guess what he was thinking. No cars were scratched and Lee was the only one who willing to un-park them after the show. That was a risk they thought belonged to Lee alone. Not a single car was harmed!

The Atlanta jump was over 13 Cadillacs. The next town, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma saw Evel jump a mere 3 cars on his first jump and 5 cars and 2 vans on the last. Regardless of how many vehicles Evel jumped on a first night, he would almost always increase the number by at least one with each successive jump. That may explain why most crashes took place on Sundays, the last night of a 3-day weekend stay. These particular jumps were performed a mere week after he landed in the hospital in Atlanta with injured hands and a compression fracture of the back. It’s amazing that he jumped anything at all. The event was at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds which is now gone. Evel wasn’t the only attraction. Flat track racing was also going on. Lee remembers that although he and Mike usually got along well there had been a little difficulty with Mike that weekend. After the show they were loading up the trucks and Mike wasn’t putting his all into the task so the normally even tempered Lee told him to “… get your thumb out of your butt and load the truck.” Mike reported the incident to Evel. Evel approached Lee and told him “Mike said you hollered at him.” Lee said “I did” and Evel told Lee “Don’t holler at him anymore.” Lee mentions this because he has always had little tolerance for someone who was not pulling their weight. Likewise it bothers him when someone unnecessarily ‘tells the boss’ about minor issues that are already settled. Recall the similar incident with Sully. I find it interesting that Evel had such a contradictory nature at times. He was known to fire on the spot anyone who disagreed with him or refused to do something they were told to do while at other times he would go to bat for an employee who was disrespecting someone else. I suspect it may have been about always having the last word, regardless of the situation.

On a lighter note Lee remembers that during their stay in Oklahoma City he had a little fun with Robbie, one of Evel’s two sons. Lee had shown Robbie a card trick and he ended up teaching it to Robbie who then spent much of his time demonstrating it to fellow hotel guests. It was the old ‘pick a card, any card’ trick. Robbie would bet the guests a dollar that he could name their card every time. Robbie earned a bit of spending money on that trick!


Lee and Evel is presented as a series of six chapters. If you want to be notified at the time of additional postings you may subscribe to this blog and thus receive an email when they appear. The “Subscribe” button is at the bottom of the column to the right of this article. Your email will not be disclosed to anyone! Lee and Evel is the property of the author and other than short quotes no person is authorized to distribute, copy, or otherwise publish the content.

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