MEMOIRS OF AN INDEPENDENT REPAIR SHOP OWNER: "TRAINING WHEELS"-or How Motor Sport Influenced My Formative Years-Part Two

Phil Coconis
by Phil Coconis
em memoirs of an independent repair shop owner em training wheels or how motor

The very fact that I’ve allowed myself to be delayed in making this entry underscores the fact that the experiences I related in Part One, and am about to relate here, really have had a profound and lasting influence on my priorities.

Living up in the E. Sierra, there are always plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, especially after the snow thaws. This year has been no exception. So, in between warm-weather projects, I’ve been staying fairly occupied with motorcycle preparation (for both road trips and off-road excursions), and field “testing”.

So far, so good! Now, back to stories of early influences in my MotoLife.

As I mentioned in Part One, with the variety of racing venues proliferating the Greater Los Angeles Area in the decades of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, it was really hard NOT to be favorably influenced by all of these motohappenings.

Probably the most influential of these venues for me, had to be the legendary Ascot Park, once located in the urban-industrial city of Gardena.

At one point, I can remember at least a half-dozen different motor racing disciplines being featured within the confines of its ½-mile-dirt oval retaining walls: Full-sized and Midget open-wheeled racers, Modified’s of a few classes, Figure-Eight thrashers, motorcycle Flat-Track (oval) and TT racers and Motocrosser’s, not to mention other annual events featuring other moto-angles.

I was privileged to be a child-spectator to many of these displays. It was certainly a special and unique perspective, as I hadn’t really had any familiar experience to draw upon, at the time. I mean, amusement parks of the day were about as close as I had come—but this was something really different!

Yes, there were whole families in attendance—but families whose interest focused on motor sport, not pursuit of passive safety within the confines of the “Magic Kingdom”. Beyond the family scene, the other attendees were of a kind purely germane to the race park crowd: motorheads and gearheads (mostly men) of wide-ranging demographic orientation, friends and family of participants (these were easy to spot), track staff, journalists, photographers, and others “in the show”, including participants—who always seemed “larger than life” while making the scene, and often making a scene—in their racing suit-clad personas.

For all that, one of the most noticeable features of the race crowd were the women in attendance. Whether they were moms, girlfriends, or singles—young or old—they all had a physical bearing which I eventually identified as a confidence directly related to familiarity, through hands-on experience—and actual attraction—to machines. Especially racing machines. These were generally not passive gals, no. They didn’t strike as “princesses” seeking protection from the potentially dangerous, either. They were actively embracing it!

Amongst all of this aural, visual, and visceral overload, I remember getting practice at trying to identify and track the participants through use of the low tech facilities of race program and (necessarily) bombastic announcer man on distorted and underpowered P.A. system (which seemed to me, at the time, to be surprisingly overpowered in between race heats. I soon became acquainted with how to identify symptoms of potential hearing loss!)

Then there were opportunities to go to the vendor’s booths and snag a piece of appropriate merchandise—product stickers and decals (some of which I still have!); and maybe a T-Shirt if I had been busy mowing lawns and saving whatever “allowance” I was fortunate enough to score from the week previous.

At the end of the evening or afternoon, I felt content that I’d been part of something that, on a number of levels, was very satisfying. I had seen a bunch of participants plying skills that I aspired to—and giving an exciting show in the process. It bore a definite similarity to what I would later experience when attending rock concerts.

An added bonus for living not far from Ascot, in the Torrance neighborhood of Walteria, was that, on an otherwise quiet night, when the full-sized Sprint Cars were running, the sound of the field charging down the back-straight toward Turn Three was plainly audible. I could imagine being there, in attendance; but I was totally enjoying the perspective right from where I stood. In any event, it was music to my ears!

Apparently, it was also music to a number of other residents of the “South Bay”—of which, Gardena was on the northeast corner—since it took many years for the N.I.M.B.Y.-oriented “anti-noise” protesters to finally carry the day and get Ascot closed down. The fact that land values were rapidly appreciating no doubt contributed additionally, and in no small way, to “The Park’s” demise, also. I think there are a couple of decent-sized hotels occupying the site today.

Although I attend fewer racing events and rock concerts these days—as I’m spending more time out there participating myself—I find them still to be worthwhile in much the same way, even as my skills as a spectator have improved with age. Let’s have a cheer for “Older and Wiser”, and the childhood experiences that paved the way for it to be possible!

Stay tuned for my next entry—as I believe there will be enough “Wonder Years” material for a Part Three…

Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.

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  • Pig_Iron Pig_Iron on Jun 03, 2013

    I miss seeing old guys work on their cars (and trucks) on weekends. Usually the older they were, the more patience and care the practiced. I learned a lot from them.

  • Styles79 Styles79 on Jun 03, 2013

    "since it took many years for the N.I.M.B.Y.-oriented “anti-noise” protesters to finally carry the day and get Ascot closed down." We have similar problems here in Auckland, NZ, where the speedway is located in what is now a city-fringe suburb, but was once on the absolute outskirts of the town. Speedway's ben raced there for about 80 years, but every few years the promoters have a battle to get consent to keep operating. It really winds me up, as every resident there has bought their properties knowing there's a speedway there, but still want to complain about the noise. The season is shortened now compared to what it used to be, and the hours of operation are also restricted. I used to live in an apartment about 2km away up on a ridge that overlooked the area, and even that far away I could just hear the sprint cars when they were out, I loved to sit out on the balcony on a nice clear summer evening and hear that sweet sweet music!

  • ChristianWimmer Sunak has apparently done this because his political party has lost so much support. Once the brainless masses flock to his political party again the trap will spring shut and bam - the ICE ban will be attempted to get pushed through even quicker.Honestly, Europe right now is a complete CR** HOLE thanks to the EU.Did anyone hear of the EU’s plans to make driving even more unattractive? A French Green Party politician introduced some really perverted ideas under the guise of “Vision Zero” (Zero deaths from driving in the EU) and of course the climate hysteria…1) If you just received your driver’s license you can not drive faster than 90 km/h - basically you’re stuck behind trucks on highways or can’t even overtake them on normal roads.2) If you are 60 years old, your license is only valid for 7 more years. If you are 70 years old, 5 years. If you’re 80 years old, 2 years. You are required to “renew” your license (and pay for it yourself) which will also determine if you are still fit to drive.3) The standard B driver’s license here allows you to drive vehicles up to 3.5 tons in weight. Under this idiotic proposal from that French nutjob, those 3.5 tons will decrease to 1.8 tons meaning that you can’t legally even drive a Tesla Model 3…
  • ToolGuy I blame Canada.
  • Syke This is one of those days when you come up with an article that I just live to comment on. I'm retired from (but still working at three half days a week - retirement was boring) Richmond Honda House, a Honda/Yamaha/Can-Am/Sea Doo dealership. No, I'm not a mechanic. I'm the guy who handles all the recall/warranty claims. Which between the three major brands, and a couple of small Asian brands is enough to keep me busy for about fourteen business hours split across Tuesday thru Thursday. Yes, the Spyders are reliable, but when they do break down they can be a nightmare due to you have to have a laptop plugged into one to do most kinds of service. First hint: You absolutely do not want to do massive aftermarket sound system upgrades to a Spyder. We've had nightmares with them in the past. I swear half our original customers back in the 2008-2010 period bought theirs to turn into a three-wheeled boom box, which would invariably cause voltage fluctuations in the electrical system, thus driving the various black boxes wonky and causing all sorts of problems.Those of you who decry computerization in modern automobiles will find that the Spyder is even more so. I've noticed that the Spyder has gotten a lot better since Bombardier dropped the original V-twin engine (same one that Aprilia used on their 1000's when they first came into the country) in favor of the current triple. Mechanical repairs to the drivetrain have definitely gone down.Used? The more recent models seem to have good reliability. No, not as good as the current Gold Wing, or any generation Gold Wing for that matter, but definitely within acceptable parameters. The older ones, especially the original 2008-2010 models, I'd recommend staying away from. How bad? During the 2008 recession, when motorcycle dealers were desperately hanging on, my office at Honda House was the single best cash flow for the company, totally because of warranty claims and recalls from the original models. Yes, Bombardier has gotten an awful lot better.Oh yeah, the company itself it decent to deal with on a business and support level. From my office, they're my favorite of the three, slightly ahead of Yamaha, and a night and day improvement over Honda. All you have to remember is that you're not dealing with Canadians, you're dealing with Quebecois. Yes, there's a difference, I was married to one for thirteen years.
  • Sgeffe How does this compare to something like the Polaris Slingshot?
  • Lou_BC I just don't like the C - pillar lines. The rear window doesn't flow with the roofline.