10-years ago, in 1998, while i was at the bonnevile salt flats with darryl (aka: willy of “the adventures of monty & willy”) for just a few hours of land speed racing spectating at the bonneville nationals, i noticed a man erecting a display of 1:43 scale models of lsr cars.
willy and i watched as he carefully placed the models into his display.
some of the miniatures, all of which looked like the real cars after being placed in a shrink-machine, included mickey thompson’s “challenger I” (as it appeared in 1959 and when it had been modified for the 1960 runs), craig breadlove’s “spirit of america” (the original “soa” that resembled a military fighter jet, sans wings and horizontal stabilizers; the vertical “stab” was added after the first runs on the car proved a lack of stability at speed. this is the car that nosed into an evaporation pond after crashing over one of the many dikes that crisscross the salt flats.) and my friend, al teague’s, striking “speed-o-motive” streamliner among several other lsr cars of the past; all beautiful!
“you do great work!”, i said to the man.
“thank you.”, he said with an italian accent.
half jesting, half seriously i said, “you need to make one of ‘the redhead!’”
“that’s my next model!”, the man said with a broad, beaming smile.
it was ugo fadini.
a woman, whom i was soon to learn was his wife, said, “that is my favorite car!” fluffing her hair she continued in her italian accent, “but, i am a redhead, too.”
ugo explained that he was currently finishing the hoffman-markley streamliner “master” and had begun the initial stages of the redhead model.
ugo and i exchanged contact information and willy and i made our way out to the 5-mile to watch a few passes before we had to begin our trek across northern nevada to the opposite side of the silver state.
all the way back to fallon i fantasized about ugo’s model of the redhead: imagining just how cool it would be to actually own a model of a car that i had driven.
ugo and i soon began an email relationship.
it was not long before we discovered that besides having a great interest in land speed racing, we also share an affection and respect for the band king crimson.
the world is not so large after all!
i don’t know how much time had actually elapsed between meeting ugo and when i received my model of the redhead, but it seemed like years.
i was, however, not disappointed in the wait and the outcome; ugo’s model of the redhead is impeccably accurate to the actual car!
it is with great pride that i displayed my model.
until, however, i returned from myrtle beach, south carolina – where i was emcee for harley-davidson (if you know me you will surely know what a great acting job that week was!) during “bike week” – to find that my model had, along with joann’s bronco 2 and mobile home, suffered damage at the hands of her niece – or, perhaps, her niece's friends' – who was supposed to be taking care of joann’s cat.
joann may have been able to excuse her niece’s indiscretion of trashing the suv, kicking in the bedroom door and the used condoms left on the floor, but i did not excuse any of her, or her friends' actions! i envisioned somebody shoving the little model across the carpeting like it was a $1.00 hot wheels toy.
i demanded a replacement!
within a month of returning from bike week, payment was sent to pedova, italy and ugo sent me a new model.
a couple of weeks ago, while looking for pictures of the redhead for my “world’s fastest indian” blog, i found a website for a collector, jonathan wilson, in new zealand who said he had ugo’s model of the redhead on his wish list. i sent him an email complimenting him on his collection and confirmed that he did, indeed, need a copy of ugo’s model.
within a few day jono sent me an email asking if i would mind him having ugo send the model to me so i could sign the base and then send it along to him in new zealand.
i told him that i could do better than that by sending it to my dad, who built all of the engines for "lattin & gillette racing team" and my brother, mark, who also drove the redhead to a land speed record (which still stands to this day almost 20-years later), to have them sign it before they send it down to socal to have jim and bill sign it and then send the model down to the bottom of the world.
as i write, a redhead model is making its way from northern italy to the central california coast.
sadly, i have learned in the past week through emails with ugo that the economy and many mass-producers of cheaply-made and poorly-reproduced models has taken a toll on his business; at over $200 for a model, it is a special person who buys one of ugo’s pieces of art.
and art is certainly what ugo’s models are; they may be of similar size to hot wheels. but a paint-by-the-numbers rendition of any great work of art may be of similar size to the actual painting but is surely not of the same quality or craftsmanship.
ugo’s work is that of a true artisan!
it is my hope that he, along with the rest of us, weathers this economical climate and sees the demand grow for his works of art.