Keith’s Blog: Yellow Jackets and Birdcages at Keels and Wheels


I’ll take memories of two personalities away from this year’s Keels and Wheels: Roy Rogers, for his ownership and on-screen promotion of the diminutive Yellow Jacket boats, which were a featured marque at this year’s concours; and Al Unser, Jr. who was the Grand Marshal, and whom I had the opportunity to interview three times during the course of the weekend.

Keels and Wheels is the real deal. It’s been around for nearly two decades, has raised over $1.2m for Boys and Girls Harbor and always attracts a broad selection of quality boats and cars. Event founders Bob Fuller (cars) and Paul Merryman (boats) are committed to having an event that raises badly needed funds to help care for neglected children, while at the same time providing a show that brings together car and boat enthusiasts from across the country.

A highlight this year was the Concours hosting the annual meet of the STuTZ Club. There were 16 of these thundering machines present — the second largest gathering in club history. Stutz is known as “the car that made good in a day.” Legend has it that Harry C. Stutz pulled the first car off the assembly line and entered it in into the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911, and his unmodified machine managed an impressive 11th place finish in a race where many cars fell by the wayside.

I was the emcee for the Stutz awards on Saturday, where a 1936 supercharged Lancefield coupe owned by Richard and Irina Mitchell of Montgomery, TX received Best of the “Grand STuTZ” event;  for the boat awards that same day, with Jeff Scott of Doylestown, OH, winning the best Yellow Jacket award; and for the car awards on Sunday. Best of Show American was a 1931 Stutz “M” Victoria owned by the Mitchells, and Best of Show European was a 1960 Maserati Tipo 61 “Bird Cage” owned by Ken Dougherty of Houston.

At each event I interviewed Al Unser, Jr. The Unser family has won the Indy 500 nine times (four for Al Sr., three for Bobby and two for Al Jr.). Al Jr. exhibited blinding speed out of the box, winning the Can-Am series in 1982 when he was just 20, the IROC series twice, Daytona twice and then Indy along with many other races.

I can’t imagine it is easy to grow up in the Unser household. Al Jr. spoke with great affection for his father and uncle Bobby, while at the same time noting that after he won his first Indy 500 (after 10 years of trying), his elders reminded him that he only had one under his belt.

Unser was gracious, offering remarks at each event that welcomed the crowd and shared his love of racing with them. He helped to present the premier awards at each event,and spoke thoughtfully with each winner. Great talent carries great burdens, and I wish Al Jr. well as he charts his future.

There were many SCMers at Keels and Wheels. I was especially gratified to see the SCM sticker on the 1970 Fiat Dino 2400 Spyder of Paul Vonheeder of Dallas, TX. He purchased the car a couple of years ago from another longtime SCMer, Ed Wasserman in Florida, and each succeeding Fiat Dino sale makes the purchase look even smarter. Plus, when was the last time you saw a 2400?

Does it surprise you that I paid especial attention to the Alfa Romeo class? The Silver award went to SCMer Burnell Curtis for his very nice 1967 Duetto, and Best of Class went to Juan Jorge Olivero in his “modificato” GTV 2000. I also enjoyed looking at Val Herrera’s 1986 Calloway Twin Turbo GTV6 — a car that becomes more interesting with each passing year.

Other cars that caught my eye were the one-of-one 1937 Hispano-Suiza K6 “woodie” entered by Peter and Merle Mullin, the stunning burgundy 1934 Bentley drophead entered by longtime SCM advertisers Driver’s Source, the 1953 Arnolt MG and the 1965 Innocenti Spyder owned by Craig Burchsted of Friendswood, TX, the 1967 Jaguar 420 G and 420 saloons entered by Patricia Orr and David Boudreau, respectively, and the 2008 Lotus Exige Club Racer brought by John Lionberger – which made me miss our recently sold Elise more than I care to discuss. I had a good talk with Ed Schoenthaler, of Oakbrook, Il, whose magnificent 1932 Stutz SV-16 took home Best of Class, Stutz, 1930-34.

My shutter-button finger was itchy all weekend. You’ll find a gallery of images bellow.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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