Racing By Design

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“They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.”  We hear this a lot nowadays… sometimes in regards to appliances, houses, or heck… sometimes it’s regarding people in general! But the reference this quote seems to most often regard, is the automobile. Now, while I can appreciate and even validate on some levels, why the automobile has perhaps, already seen it’s glory days, I don’t think it’s fair to say that automotive art is a thing of the past. I know for a fact I am in the company of many when I say that because if I were alone in that belief, car shows wouldn’t exist. The concept car would no longer be something to work towards and dream about. The “American Dream” wouldn’t include a bright shiny new vehicle in the driveway. While it is true, that they don’t “make ‘em like they used to”… it doesn’t take away from the fact that many companies and individuals still make beautiful automobiles. It’s also true that vehicle aesthetics are always changing and evolving, sometimes their inspiration coming from the past and leading to “retro” being the thing that we all desire. A simpler time, a sleeker design, a classic appeal… it’s hard to argue with any of that.

My motivation for this topic was found on a weekend trip to my Alma Mater – Bowling Green State University. My family & I decided to make a daytrip to Northwest Ohio and enjoy a hockey game on campus in the evening and roam around town during the day. As we approached our exit for the little cornfield-town that I love so much off I-75, my Dad suggested that we check out “Snook’s”. I immediately recalled the little car shop & museum on the east end of town from my college days and agreed that it might be fun to take a look around. As we approached the building on a VERY cold & blustery January afternoon, we worried that maybe we had missed their Saturday business hours. I pulled up to the front to check the sign to make sure:

“Saturday Hours: By Appt or By Chance…”

The sign made me laugh and smile – that was small town Ohio for you, so personal and cheery and REAL… one of the things I love about the family-owned businesses in this part of the state. As I pulled out my phone to take a picture of the sign and tweet it out (of course), I saw a man walking through the front room towards us. He opened the door against the frigid wind and peaked out with a smile, to which I immediately inquired, “Wow! Is this our ‘by chance’?!” He laughed and said, “I think so!” We asked if we could come in and look around and he was more than obliging. He invited us in, gave us a quick synopsis of the setup in the “living museum” and of course, introduced himself as Jeff Snook.

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Jeff Snook has been racing vintage racecars for the past 44 years. Jeff fell in love with vintage racing and it’s the only kind he’s ever participated in. He explained: “The competition and the comradery… that’s what vintage racing is all about.”

Jeff has raced all over the country but two of his most frequented tracks are Sebring and Mid-Ohio. The latter of those two is what he considers his home track as he has raced there at least 21 times. All the cars in Jeff’s museum are restored and running, including his prized 1956 Lotus Eleven. This stunning silver beauty is, in this writer’s opinion, the crowned jewel of his showroom. With only 250 Lotus Eleven’s produced, it’s a truly elusive racer. Jeff told me that it was invited to the Monterey Historics twice, and he was part of the Lotus Eleven’s 50th Anniversary celebration there in 2006.

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Another incredible machine, right next to the Lotus in the Dream Cars museum, is a 1968 Russell-Alexis Mk14 (Formula Ford). This car’s production number was even smaller than the Lotus Eleven, with only 57 of them being created – Jeff is proud owner of #51. It’s sleek body and phenomenal restoration, complete with red racing stripe down the center, is really something to see in person – a true work of art in the world of open wheel racing.

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Moving down to the end of the line, I found this 1939 Caruso Sprint Car. This American-made machine is still roaring on the Michigan and Ohio Fairgrounds as a current Antique Auto Racing Association racer.

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A few of my other favorites were the Ford Model T, the 1933 Cadillac 355C and the 1966 Morris Mini Cooper. Jeff recently sold his 1961 Triumph TR3 which he used to race. Even though I was unable to see the Triumph in person, I could tell it was an exquisite vehicle in the photographs I saw around his office.

There were so many things I loved about getting to explore this living museum – not only were the vehicles absolutely jaw-dropping in their beauty and pure power, but inspiring in their continued desire to do what they were created to do – RACE. Of course, that dream is only made possible by Jeff’s devotion to the sport and his attention to detail in restoration and maintenance of these vehicles.

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When you first arrive, make sure to spend plenty of time at the front of the museum as well – here you will find displays of automobilia, accessories, automotive advertising, toys, games, a jukebox, and even a BMW Isetta (better known to kid’s who grew up in the 90’s, as Steve Urkel’s car on Family Matters!).

You could very easily spend a few hours checking out everything at Snook’s Dream Cars and I would highly encourage you to do so! Perhaps on your way up this week to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit? It’s right off the highway and I couldn’t think of a better way to start your day! Regardless of when you decide to go, just make sure you do – I felt so lucky to have experienced this amazing piece of history right in Bowling Green, OH and I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I did.

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The Snook’s Dream Car facility is beautifully maintained, spacious, and as much a step back in time as it is a beautiful example of what we are capable of when we live our dreams and dedicate our lives to doing what we love, with passion and focus. It’s impossible for anyone to tell what the future holds, but if we are true to ourselves and open our hearts (and doors) to those who cross our paths, we just might end up with some pretty amazing experiences, “by chance”…

More information about Snook’s Dream Cars can be found at their website. Please make sure to like them on Facebook & enjoy their photo galleries.