Book Review - Motorsports Memories of Sam Posey
"Sam’s Scrapbook" gives a first-hand, close-up account of a romantic era in racing - through pictures few have seen and stories few have heard.
By Doug Stokes
Mon, Sep 6, 2021 12:57 PM PST
Book Review: Sam's Scrapbook - My Motorsports Memories
By Sam Posey, with John Posey
Published by Evro Publishing
Published: August 2021
£30.00GBP $40.00 USD
Edited by Mark Hughes - Designed by Richard Parsons
Front cover photograph by Ellen Griesedieck
Distributed in North America by Quarto Publishing Group USA
I can tell you from perhaps the quickest “first lap” of any new book that’s come into our hands lately … that Sam Posey - though he’s long-retired from professional race driving and no longer cutting those stirring spoken roll-ins to the Formula One races, as well as quite openly fighting Parkinson's - is still that wonderfully wry, kindred spirit who paints, designs furniture, and builds gloriously-detailed and beautifully-mounted model train layouts.
He now, ever so kindly, gives us a: “Hey pal, come on, sit over here …”, look at his life and times in this wonderfully detailed scrapbook. I can almost feel his arm draping over my shoulder as he escorts me into his study to reminisce and recount the stuff that he saw and did on/off/at the race track and a hundred other places of interest that this renaissance man found himself a part of.
Here’s one more thing going in … one does not have to be a racing fan - or even know who the heck Sam Posey is - to enjoy these chunks of a journey in what anyone, anywhere could call an interesting life that’s been damn well lived.
Let me start with Sam’s first car … a “gull wing” Mercedes 300SL that his mother bought for him when he was 14 - because Sam thought that it was a cool car.. But we’ll find out more about that shortly... So yeah, you guessed it, he came from a very well off family, and he actually competed in a car that now is considered one of the true sports car icons of the age.
Posey raced a huge variety of sports cars, saloons, and open-wheel machines in numerous racing arenas - Can-Am, USRRC, Trans-Am, IMSA, Indy, NASCAR, Formula 5000, and Formula 1 - against friends and rivals the likes of George Follmer, Parnelli Jones, Mark Donohue, Peter Revson, Dan Gurney, David Hobbs, and Brian Redman.
"Sam’s Scrapbook" gives a first-hand, close-up account of a romantic era in racing - through pictures few have seen and stories few have heard. Running alongside the classic images, Posey’s commentary is fascinating and thoughtful, and in turns both amusing and emotional. This is an unusual and engaging memoir by one of America’s best-loved racing heroes and will have strong appeal to all fully-grounded motorsports enthusiasts.
Early on (page 11 actually) a young Sam is already a full-fledged racing nut, subscribing to - and just about memorizing the contents of every edition of - Competition Press (which later became AutoWeek). Posey even wrote his own car quizzes that he would circulate among his (almost) equally wheel-wonkey school buddies. Among two pages of hand-written questions:
"What, to the nearest 5hp, was the power output of the Ward Lime Rock midget?"
"Name two double and two triple winners at Le Mans:"
"Who is responsible for the Lola, the Stingray?"
That’s some serious stuff for an adult fan, let alone a pre-teen. Happily, present-time Sam has provided the answers to the above and about eight or ten more of his burning "youth wants to know"-questions of the time in the index of this book. (I got about half a dozen right if anyone’s keeping score).
That’s what this book exudes: unabridged interest and unabashed love for cars and racing. It leaps from every page - for example the following about that 300SL what was, quite literally, his first car :
"...The salesman let us take it out. Once we were out of his sight, my mom pulled over and let me drive. I felt obliged to take the car up to its top speed. It had a very tight gear ratio, better for acceleration. I think it hit 145. They were asking $2,500 for it. They let us take it home while we thought it over. I had money my father had left me. But my mom didn’t think it would be a good image for me, at 14, to have a car of this kind. She was in the kitchen, debating, while I drove around and around the circle of our driveway. Finally, she came out and said, “I’m going to let you buy it, because I believe if your dad was alive now, he would want you to have it."
And, from that start, the quest never stops, never runs out of steam or gleaming metal and rubber objects that go very fast, cost a whole lot of money, and (every so often) try to maim or kill you for what seems no good reason at all. Each of Sam’s reminiscences of his days in the unlimited horsepower CanAm machines, the sleek Formula 5000 open-wheelers, and the ultra-competitive (and ultra-political) Trans-Am series’ are beautifully-written hardcore nuggets that each feel here like sitting with the man in a cozy back booth at a congenial licensed, food and (adult) beverage provider over in the old part of town … familiar, unboastful, dead nuts true.
Sometimes clarity and correctness is more important than a smart-ass book reviewer’s cute jibes and clever jabs about a book. I can do no better here than to unabashedly run a list of chapters for this book to explain what this book is open for business about. There’s promise in every entry … and the stories that play out in the below listed sixty-plus chapters are geode after geodes full of fascinating memories from this very unique man - all accompanied by wonderful, highly-personal accompanying photos.
The Impressive Chapters
|Dreams of Glory||Mudge Pond Express|
|First Car||Mercedes 300 SL|
|Jocko||Lime Rock, 1964|
|First Race||Lime Rock, 1964|
|Reserve Driver||Alfa Romeo GTZ, Bridgehampton, 1965|
|Daytona 24 Hours, 1966||Porsche 904 GTS|
|Bizzarrini||Le Mans 24 Hours, 1966|
|Can-Am, 1966||McLaren M1B|
|Off to The USRRC||McLaren M1B, 1967|
|Minute Barrier||McLaren M1B, Lime Rock, 1967|
|Out Of Our Depth||Caldwell D7|
|My Worst Crash||Lime Rock, 1967|
|Charlie Fox||Test at VIR|
|LeGrand Not So Grand||Formula 5000, 1968|
|Penske Driver||Trans-Am, 1968|
|In Parnelli's Dust||Baja, 1968|
|Pretty, Slow||Sebring, 1969|
|Steve Allen's Classic Wax Special||Formula 5000, 1969|
|Ron Courtney||Riverside, 1969|
|A Low And A High||Formula 5000, Laguna Seca, May 1969|
|Showdown||Formula 5000, 1969, final rounds|
|Shelby Mustang||Trans-Am, Lime Rock, May 1969|
|Le Mans 24 Hours, 1969||Ferrari 250 LM|
|Duel With Dan Gurney||Four-wheel-drive Lotus, Seattle, 1969|
|Daytona 24 Hours, 1970||Ferrari 312 P|
|NASCAR||Motor Trend 500, Riverside, 1970|
|Trans-Am, 1970||Dodge Challenger|
|Moment Of Glory||Trans-Am, Elkhart Lake, 1970|
|Attacked By Revson||Trans-Am, Riverside, 1970|
|Le Mans, 1970||Ferrari 512|
|My Helmet||Buenos Aires 1000Km, 1971|
|My Best Le Mans||Ferrari 512 M, 1971|
|Mount Equinox Hitt Climb||Mercedes 300 SL, 1971|
|Teaming Up With Surtees||Questor Grand Prix, 1971|
|Rivalry With Hobbo||Formula 5000, 1971|
|Formula One||Watkins Glen, 1971 and 1972|
|Can-Am Finale||McLaren M8E, Riverside, 1971|
|Bulletproof Ferrari||Le Mans 24 Hours, 1972|
|Mom's Citroën||The evocative Traction-Avant|
|A Season To Forget||Formula 5000, 1972|
|Busy Weekend||Races 1,200 miles apart|
|Vasek Polak||Can-Am. Laguna Seca, 1972|
|Peter Gregg And The Stuck Seat||Lime Rock, Porsche 911, 1973|
|English Conspiracy?||Tasman series, Invercargill, 1973|
|Can-Am Ferrari||Watkins Glen, 1974|
|Factory Driver||Sebring 12 Hours, 1975|
|The Calder Car||BMW 3.0CSL, Le Mans 24 Hours, 1975|
|Alone In The Desert||Baja, 1975|
|Night At Le Mans||BMW 3.0CSL, 1976|
|A First-Class Team||Mirage GR8, Le Mans 24 Hours, 1977|
|My Last Le Mans||Mirage ORB, 1978|
|Concorde Commute||Monaco to Lime Rock, 1979|
|Finishing The Baja||Frank Vessels, Chevy Blazer, 1980|
|Racing With Paul Newman||Datsun 280Z.X, 1980|
|Evening At Sebring||Datsun 280ZX, 1981|
|Lemon Meringue||Lola T600, Elkhart Lake, 1981|
|Comeback!||Formula Ford at Lime Rock|
Along the way readers will meet up with a few names that might sound familiar. They are the drivers that Posey rubbed not only elbows, but door panels and wheels with over his nearly two decades of high level professional racing both here and abroad. There are scores more but these stalwarts are all referenced by name: John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, Jim Hall, Roger Penske George Follmer, Parnelli Jones, Swede Savage, Tony Adamowicz, Dan Gurney, David Hobbs, Paul Newman, and Brian Redman. Posey crossed swords with one and all at one time or another - and with good effect.
This is the work of an involved, articulate man who - as was mentioned early on - has been there and done that in racing and in life, and who’s not at all showing off, but very kindly sharing some of his stories for everyone to enjoy. It should be noted that this is all done with the great good encouragement and help of his young son. Sam’s crisp writing, his wide range of experiences, and his easy turn of a phrase make this one a truly enjoyable read.
Just for reference … the front straightaway at Lime Rock Park (his beloved home road racing circuit in Connecticut) is named for Posey who designed the track’s elegant main building and office complex. Furthermore, Sam was inducted into the prestigious Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2016.
Other Books By Sam Posey
Posey has written three previous books:
Where The Writer Meets The Road (2015)
An award-wining collection of writings, including chilling passages about racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well a number of his classic opening monologues for Formula One TV broadcasts.
Playing With Trains (2004)
About his passion for model railways
The Mudge Pond Express (1976)
An early autobiography about his childhood and racing).
And here’s maybe the best part of all, you don’t need to be a racing fan or even remember any of Sam’s exploits on (and off) the racetrack to enjoy this book. His life and his stories are really about people and that’s the theme here. People’s toys, people’s work, and the interaction that this guy has had with so many interesting people, all wrapped around a life that included 17 years of competing at some of the highest levels of World motorsports - all while leading a "second life" as an accomplished fine artist, industrial designer, writer, husband, TV commentator, and father.
UPDATE - November 23rd, 2021
Another Voice Heard From
When I wrote this review a while back, I sent a note to automotive historian Tim Considine asking him for a personal view of his good friend, Sam. The email got stuck in the system somewhere, lost and forgotten, until just a day or two ago when Considine found it and responded with this note about the guy:
"Sorry this has taken so long pal, hope you can still use it:
Years ago, for the Signature Edition of my Grand Prix* book, I was at Sam Posey's. In the midst of his signing 200+ book pages, I'd noticed that some of his signatures were so illegible, I'd made a mental note that I couldn't let those out, no matter how many other signatures were on the pages.
We broke for lunch and walked up to the house, where he made sandwiches for us. I noticed he had trouble cutting them, had to use both hands pushing down on the blade. He looked up, saw me, and said, "I have Parkinson's." It wasn't public yet. Sam is one of my all-time heroes. Born into incredible 'old' money, could have lived a pampered life of luxury without lifting a finger.
He was a damn good driver, so said Dan Gurney vehemently at one of my seminars when someone (who shall remain nameless) called in and seemed to dismiss Sam. I loved calling him and telling him, because such a complement from Gurney I thought he should hear. But Sam's a painter - even now, with his Parkinson's, married an artist/photographer he met at a race. Their romantic story, Le Mans, was their first romantic date, is told in Volume III of my "Yanks"** Le Mans series - and both have led incredibly creative and productive lives since. He's a terrific commentator/essayist, and a wonderful writer, whose prose always sounds like poetry. What a productive and creative life he's led."
- Tim Considine
There was a personal note back to me that followed the above and I got Tim’s permission to run here:
"As you can see, I have strong opinions about Sam. I admire the hell out of him. He and I co-hosted one seminar at Amelia, and at another, he was a guest. We conspired just before going on to wind up another guest, David Hobbs and it was a terrific - and hysterical - success." -TC
* “American Grand Prix Drivers” Motorbooks 1997
** “Twice Around the Clock - The Yanks at Le Mans” www.yanksatlemans.com 2018
(Note: both books are MPG Dean Batchelor Award winners)
About The Author
Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.