Region News

2020-10-01 - DeLuca Story 1977

DELUCA STORY-1977

By Ed Sain -South Jersey SCCA

A long, long time ago, Joe DeLuca and I were rally partners (in college and beyond). We competed at various times as I remember with the Jeep (rolled and Joe later ended up in the hospital with a cracked sternum), turbocharged red Mercury Capri (no dents), green Fiat (ditch in Connecticut-another story) and Dodge Colt (lots of stuff). I recently came across the NNJR-SCCA website and the tribute to Joe and his cartoons.

Joe DeLuca Speeding Ticket

(click to enlarge)

It brought back some memories and I thought I would share my 1977 DeLuca cartoon and the story behind it. I believe the cartoon was published in the GRASS (Greater Rockaway Auto Sport Society) newsletter although I am not positive.

In any event, the story….

Joe and I had entered the Silver Anniversary edition of the MG1000- a four-day event that included Canada (travel restrictions were non-existant back then in 1977). Joe showed up at my parent’s house in West Orange (I was living in Bristol, PA at the time) with the race ready Dodge Colt—Joe having installed some roll bars and a fuel cell in the trunk since he used to take the car to Lime Rock. He also told me the emergency brake system had some issues and did not work as we discussed the forthcoming car safety inspection at the event. Joe had four spare tires in the back seat making our ability to put luggage in the car problematic. I finally convinced Joe that two spare tires would be enough and we would have room for the luggage. We did have a CB radio in the car as well.

Not sure how, but Joe got the Colt through the safety inspection without a functional emergency brake.

I recall it being the second (or third) day of the event when things started to get interesting. We were running a little late on the back roads in Ontario when we picked up an OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) due to the volume of rally traffic in the area. The OPP car followed us for a while and eventually dropped back due to the dust being raised on the dirt road (remember this is a hot August afternoon). Once we lost the OPP car, Joe picked up the pace as we were now running even later. Lo and behold, we take a left-hand curve and there is a farmer with a pitchfork standing in the middle of the road—so Joe takes the car off the road on my side, we bang up against a fence, bounce out into the road behind the farmer and press on! A mile down the road, the right rear goes flat and we go into tire change mode (we had actually practiced changing a tire quickly). As we have the car jacked up, the OPP car pulls in behind us. Joe tells the officer “It’s just a flat and we are OK”. The officer then asks us whether we know anything about a car damaging the farmer’s fence. Fortunately, Joe’s car was a little banged up and rusty so it was not obvious we were the culprits. We denied any knowledge of the fence as we changed the tire and the officer was distracted by the next couple of rally cars blasting by us—and he went after those cars.

We go a couple of more miles and the right front tire goes flat. No problem—we brought two spares and use the second one. Now I am glad we brought two spares!!

Later that afternoon, Joe tells me the brakes are getting spongy and we need a better count downs to the turns. He starts using the gearbox to downshift to slow the Colt down so we can make the necessary turns. Fortunately, we only had to do this for about an hour before finishing the timed section. During the transit route to the hotel, Joe tells me the brakes are completely gone. We get on the CB and tell the surrounding rally cars about our brake problem and to give us some extra roomas we headed to the Holiday Inn in Kingston, Ontario.

We got into the traffic congestion of downtown Kingston and, believe it or not, we jumped out of the car a couple of times and leaned against the car doors to stop at traffic lights. Unfortunately, we got caught in a situation where we were going relatively fast and got caught in a situation requiring a fast stop—which we were unable to do. In true Joe fashion, he drove up onto the sidewalk to avoid the cars ahead of us and we drove along the sidewalk (and just like in the movies—the pedestrians stepped aside) and eventually come back to into the street.
We make it to the Holiday Inn parking and evaluate the car. We have a bent axle and a broken brake line on the right rear (guess the fence hurt more than we originally thought). We go to work on fixing the car—with a fellow rallyist taking Joe out to a junk yard for the replacement axle part, fix the broken brake line, bleed the brakes and all fixed up. We took some heat from the Holiday Inn management for taking up extra car spaces and working on the car overnight.

In the morning, we are all set and are almost ready to go. I tell Joe, based on yesterday’s events, we are not leaving town without at least one functional spare tire. We go over to a gas station, explain our situation, and the mechanic drops what he is doing and fixes one of the tires. We are now running late and have to haul ass through the transit zone to make it the TSD re-start on time. Good thing it was long enough for us to catch up.

MG 1000

Later that day, we are traveling on a one lane dirt road and come across a tracked excavator coming toward us. With no other choice, we pull way off the road to allow the excavator to get by and get back on the road. A short time later (in another transit zone), another tire goes flat—so we use our last good spare again to continue the event.

We never did get the 1000 cup for being within a minute during the four-day event—but what an adventure. Joe got me home and picked up the two spare tires left behind and I went home to tell my wife about the MG1000 story!!

The cartoon was Joe’s comments on how we handled the sidewalk excursion in Kingston.

I did visit the Flight 93 Memorial this past summer and got pretty emotional about it remembering Joe from the old days.

ed