It was the fall of 1969. After spending a year after high school working part-time as a mechanic with Rubber Chicken Racing, I headed to Portland, OR, from San Francisco to attend Reed College.
During my first couple of weeks at Reed, there were SCCA regional races at Portland International Raceway. Team Rubber Chicken decided to make the trek north.
The team consisted of a homegrown caravan of tow vehicles and trailers. When they arrived at the Reed Campus in the bucolic Eastmoreland neighborhood of Southeast Portland, I was ready for them.
I had told the campus security guards that I was the president of the newly formed Reed College Sports Car Club. I went on that I had invited these very famous, big-time racers to come up from the Bay Area, and that I had told them they could camp on the Reed front lawn – surrounded by hippies playing Frisbee, and walking around leaving a trail of pungent marijuana fumes behind them.
While the evening was uneventful, the next day at the track was not. A piston exploded at about 10,000 rpm and made a mess of the cylinder head in the Alfa Giulietta race car.
A Portland friend owned a home in the southeast part of town. There was no one home, so I crawled in through an unlocked attic window. The only inhabitants were some almost-feral cats.
The garage was under the house. We pulled the Alfa Giulietta under the front porch and looped a cable come-along around the porch posts, with the other end attached to the cylinder head.
We had already loosened the head bolts. As we ratcheted the cable, the head began to come loose from the engine block. Unfortunately, at the same time, the entire front porch began to pull away from the house. We solved the problem by putting a piece of chain around a two-by-four, and with four of us lifting, yanked the head off the Alfa.
I recall sitting in the kitchen, with the head on the table, and scraping bits of the exploded piston out of the head.
While I was doing that, I heard a cry from the front room, “The damned cats have taken a piss in my sleeping bag!” I guess we weren’t in a Marriott after all.
We finished assembling the engine— and got the car back to the track for a 9 a.m. practice run the next day.
I don’t recall how the rest of the weekend went, except that we didn’t achieve a podium finish. I did, however, send the campus security guards a nice note on Reed College Sports Car Club stationery that I was able to fabricate with the help of a graphic artist.
This is not something you will find in the official history of Reed College.