Ride of the Week: A Piece on Love, Respect for Cars and each other…

What’s the attraction of Malibu celebrities and their cars? What is it about driving something cool that Hollywood loves?

Well, I guess it’s the same reason we all like driving something fun … or is it? Most would agree that actors and people of fame love attention. And although that may be true, isn’t that what everyone craves? I mean, seriously?

Anyone who tells me they don’t love attention has a screw loose. But what is important is to have the right kind of attention. Being obnoxious and driving like a crazy person on PCH is the wrong kind. Driving something cool, taking the time to answer questions about it and swapping stories is the right kind.

Dick Van Dyke told me he wanted a cool car for the cover of his next album and, if you check out the cover, you’ll see a very happy face.

Tony Dow from “Leave It to Beaver” told me about his high school car being willed back to him after 50 years, which was unexpected and overwhelmingly cool. Now, he takes it to car shows.

Keanu Reeves told me about his motorcycle company, Arch, and that he love Porsches because of the clean design.

Paul Moyer shared his love of his Shelby Mustang and Ferrari 458 Italia, with both bringing him joy in different ways.

Denise Crosby told me about crashing into her husband’s classic Ferrari with her SUV, right over the hood. Her husband rolled his eyes, smiled and said, “That’s my wife!” Then, he kissed her.

Jonathan Banks introduced me to his son and his love of Corvettes — a passion shared by Rodney Allen Rippy and Rick Springfield. Also, Jonathan shared how his first car was a Packard and said it actually helped make him a better actor.

Jay Leno showed me his collection and mentioned that none should be there if they aren’t drivable. That’s a thought shared by Chris Pratt as well.

Caitlyn Jenner shared her Bugeye Sprite with me and told me how it made her feel closer to her father.

Now, you could read this and say “Fireball’s just doing a bunch of name dropping.” But consider this: What’s the commonality between all these stories? The one thing that gives rise to them all?

That would be joy. A product of love — something all car lovers share. And these celebs are no different than any of us. They just love their cars and want to share their stories. So, what’s yours?

Hit me up at askfireball@fireballtim.com if you want to share it. The celebrities read this paper, too, and many of them want to read your story.  Who’s the celebrity now, eh?

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

RIDE OF THE WEEK! James Ritchie and his 1970 OPEL GT…

What goes around, comes around. And that’s this week’s Ride of the Week.

A few days ago, I got an email from an old friend — someone I grew up with.

And although I knew him, I did not know he loved cars as much as I did. After almost 50 years, James Ritchie reached out to me to say that he’s been watching our lives coincide with cars and the car life.

To my surprise, Ritchie was still in my neck of the woods in Newbury Park, and he had a cool car. So off I went to Sports Car Classics, a shop focusing on Jaguars.

As I arrived with another friend via a 1968 Jag E-Type, I was greeted by the smiling face of Ritchie and the reveal of his pride and joy, a 1970 screaming yellow Opel GT.

And thus began the kindred stories…

Among doing a lot of things in his life, Ritchie became a classic car restorer with a specialty in British marques.

And despite being over 6-feet tall, Ritchie found some love in the little yellow rocket parked just outside.

“This Opel GT is powered by 4-cylinder, 2-liter camshaft-in-head engine design, which is an upgrade from the stock 1.9-liter plant,” he explains.

“It’s normally aspirated through a 32/36 Weber carburetor and should, although this engine has never been dynamometer tested, produce somewhere in the 115 horsepower range.”

But it looks like it had to be powered by three really angry squirrels. But let’s move on.

“The mods to this GT put it in the ‘restomod’ classification with upgrades such as a Getrag 5-speed transmission, lower front transverse leaf spring, an exhaust header with a 2-inch exhaust, electronic ignition, polyurethane bushings on all the suspension points and other upgrades.”

Obviously, Ritchie knows what he’s doing, and there’s nothing more exciting than having a unique project car. I mean, when was the last time you saw one of these?

He bought the car in 2005 from its previous owner in Thousand Oaks.

“The plan was to buy the car, fix it up, and have it be for my wife to use,” Ritchie said. “As I started working, I realized that the car was going to need to be brought all the way down and essentially rebuilt.”

The whole family was involved in the restoration and it was completed by 2009.

The 1973 Opel Manta Luxus was Ritchie’s first car as a teenager, and he loved it. But even back then, he knew that eventually he would get the very exotic-looking GT.

“Being able to return to Opel as an adult has been awesome,” he said.

“My family tells me regularly that the car suits me perfectly.”

Ritchie always did have unique taste and, to listen to him talk about it, he epitomizes my philosophy of the importance of doing what you love.

The fact that this whole car, except paint, was torn down and put back together by him is point of pride beyond measure.

“It’s not my daily driver, but I enjoy being able to take drives on the weekends and it’s got terrific sporty handling,” he said.

“You can’t be a passive driver with it.”

His best short story with the car comes from the 2012 Ventura Motorsports show.

“I was being directed onto the lawn and was told to follow the other Ferraris to their show area,” he said. “I needed to point out that I was just a humble Opel GT!”

I guess those guys in Ventura needed a cool car upgrade. Why would you stick something cool like this Opel GT with a bunch of silly Ferraris?

And, finally, Ritchie mentions my favorite town.

“PCH in Malibu is dripping in car culture with extreme examples of freshly birthed hypercars, all the way through pastime classics and antiques,” he said.

“To drive here is to drive the same roads that countless automobile commercials, TV shows and movies have used as a backdrop to show one of the most desirable southern California motoring locations: Malibu!”

I couldn’t have said it better. Be sure to check out Ritchie’s ride at the next Wheels and Waves show at the Malibu Country Mart on Feb. 18!

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Have you been to SUNSET GT? It’s nuts…

Malibu is like the central hub for automotive coolness. We know this. We live this.

We commit to gratitude and appreciation for the things we have and the beauty our little town exudes. And having been in Malibu since 1980 myself, I’ve amassed a large scope for car events near us.

As the car dude of Malibu, I have made it my obligation to bring you the goods. Case in point, another cars and coffee event you may have missed that slam bams the Hollywood car theme to the hilt. Oh, yes.

This week, I had a chance to hit Sunset GT in Hollywood. I went with another Malibuite in a couple Jaguars. When we got there, we found that the Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches were forced to park in the lower lot, leaving room up top for the Ferraris, Lambos, Bentleys … and anything else that sounded expensive.

I find it interesting that many car events offer opportunities for those with high-end cars to buy them at a dealer and have them literally delivered to the event. Seriously, some cars were trucked in, the drivers not having even driven them yet. It was nuts! Now, I’m not trying to be judgmental here. If you love cars, then do whatever creams your Twinkie. Get me?

But the highlight of the show didn’t have to do with any of the cars I previously mentioned. About halfway through the show, the crowd of over 1,000 people, most being under 25, suddenly gasped as a Banana Yellow Bugatti entered the show. Although the car’s top speed is a whopping 257 miles per hour, it slipped through the crowd at about 1 mph due to the camera phones going off like machine guns.

The car was a 2017 Bugatti Chiron, driven by Tilly’s CEO Hezy Shaked. I interviewed Hezy a short while later for my show, and he was humble, excited to be there and even more excited that the car was putting so many smiles on everyone’s faces. It should, as the car’s price tag is over $5 million.

People and their cars. It’s an amazing experience to see how committed they are to owning, building, designing or restoring something glorious. The lot was filled with about 350 cars, totaling an easy $200 million. That’s a very serious Hollywood event going on, folks.

But as I left in my cheaper Jaguar SVR (the world’s fastest Jag, by the way), I couldn’t help but think that with all of these people living in LA, my friend and I were probably the only ones going back to Malibu. I swear that even if I were driving a 1985 Ford Fairmont with the doors falling off, I’d still have a smile on my face going back to this town. Can you relate? When the rest of LA is heading home from their jobs and going through Malibu, we get to stay, and it’s wonderful. But it’s not about being wealthy or trying to impress others. It’s about the choice to appreciate beauty, peace and that your life is based on the quality of your decisions.

It was an amazing show and I recommend you experience it. Just don’t expect to leave early, as you won’t be able to escape. If you try, you’ll end up on 32,000 YouTube channels for being that guy. Just have fun and know you’ll be coming home to the ’Bu soon.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

R2-D2 serves as guest of honor at Fireball’s recent Wheels and Waves show…

Photo: Scott Martin @carshowaholic – Johnny Martinez hangs with R2.

I think it’s safe to say that Santa Claus has visited many car shows across the USA.

He was spotted around Christmas perusing the cool cars everywhere, handing out toys and giving good cheer. But I also think it’s safe to say that no one has ever seen Star Wars’ R2-D2 at a car show … until recently.

December’s Wheels and Waves show in Malibu was visited by none other than the tiny superstar protocol droid, as I recently was informed that he loves cars. Well, he loves spaceships, Princess Leia and cars.

But when I found out that he was cruising above the ’Bu in his personal X-Wing, I flagged him down to be my guest for Wheels and Waves at The Malibu Country Mart.

He spent nearly the whole show getting photos, selfies and admiring the muscle cars, hot rods and even chatting it up with Santa. We had a great time, and it reminded me that good cheer shouldn’t be reserved just for the holidays.

I mentioned to R2-D2 that I wanted him to pick the best of show, which he did. And after much deliberation, R2 whizzed up to Johnny Martinez’s 1929 Ford Model-A truck with its amazing Black Cherry paint. Martinez has been to Wheels and Waves many times, but never with droids.

So when R2 spun to see his creation, he twizzed and weetled around it like a child.

Johnny has been working on this truck for a long time and it was a real treat to get a shot with R2 at the show, as he’s a pretty big A-lister here in town (as well as the galaxy).

“Not too many Ford Model As on other planets,” he chirped.

“The only thing I wish is that 3PO were here to see these cool cars,” R2-D2 added. “But our movie just came out and he’s promoting on a different planet.”

Yeah, I can see how that would be tough.

We had a lot of celebrities at Wheels and Waves in 2017, including Tony Dow, Paul Moyer, Jonathan Banks and Dick Van Dyke. But I have to say that having R2-D2 and Santa together was quite a treat.

“I’m a big fan of that little guy,” expressed the great snowy one. “If only the Sith Lords could come to a car show like R2, they’d be less of a bummer all the time.

Cool cars just make you smile and if Darth had gotten behind the wheel of a ’69 Camaro, I’m sure you’d see his frown turn upside down!”

No better words have ever been spoken. Thanks, St. Nick.

It’s going to be hard to top having R2 at my shows in 2018, but the door is open to all you celebrities out there reading this right now. Wanna play in our sandbox of cool cars? Don’t take life so seriously and get your butt over here like R2-D2. I’ve got piping hot, free coffee and a Hot Wheels with your name on it.

The next Wheels and Waves show is scheduled for Jan. 21.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Revamped 1947 Woodie seeks new home…

In Malibu, my job (among many things) is to seek out cool cars, waiting like a cobra in the grass to pounce on awesomeness.

But, sometimes, being the patient cobra that I am, I can get restless and be forced to slither my way around town to scoop curvaceous sheet metal. And one of the places to wind through is Malibu Car Wash and Detail.

Pictured here is owner Justin Silvers with a smokin’ hot 1947 Ford Woodie wagon. Although this car doesn’t belong to Justin, he put me in touch (via email) with passionate owner Gerard Cappello.    

As an investment banker, Cappello has been financing growing companies and energy projects since 1984, but also spent 10 years developing custom homes and running a sustainable real estate consulting firm, specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. Whoa, that’s a mouthful, and I should know since I’m a cobra in this here article.

But the bottom line is that Cappello’s success has allowed him to acquire coolness of the vehicular sort. But let’s hear it from him, shall we?

“The woodie was originally a junked and decaying 1947 Ford,” starts Cappello. “It took close to a decade to rebuild it to its current state.

“Starting from the ground up (due to the severity of the rusted metal), I started with a new chassis built by Chubby Chassis.”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say their cars were phat. See, that’s funny, because they’re called Chubby Chassis. OK, whatever.

“All the corresponding sheet metal was replaced (due to rust) as well as the four fenders and hood (which were stolen while being restored and painted at a shop in Lancaster).”

Ouch.

Cappello ordered a wood kit built out of maple and ash from Cincinnati Woodworks and had it fitted to the frame by Accurate Woodworks in Morgan Hill.

“The electrical and final assembly/construction was done by Van Emblem of the Fat Fendered Street Rod Shop,” he said. “It was his last woodie before retiring and his work included A/C, new wiring, install of a Chevy 350 V-8 (I know, it’s a bit of sacrilege), and arranging for a custom hand-painted dashboard that now matches the interior wood doors. Wanda of San Bernardino hot rod interior fame did the upholstery, so it’s basically a new car that looks like an old woodie!”

Bam, done — and nicely done, I might add. But since California is full of woodies in all conditions, the only things that really separate them are the stories.

For Cappello, who was born and raised in Southern California (a third-generation Californian), cars have always been his obsession, and woodies have been an obsession since 1961.

The best part of the car?

“I love sitting behind the wheel and enjoy the chrome and wood grain painted dashboard framing the views of Malibu as I drive down PCH,” he said. “The looks, air high-fives and Shaka Brah signs I get from strangers as I drive by never ceases to put a smile on my face. Hard to have a bad day driving that car around town.”

But alas, as Cappello has owned many cars, he’s putting the woodie up for sale to make room for more dream machines.

“Now that my kids are all grown (my Labrador, Kona, is the most consistent passenger) and I’m alone, I’m looking to sell to someone who may be able to use her to make new memories and perhaps bring joy to another family as she did to mine,” he explains.

As always, let’s wrap up this Ride of the Week with some Malibu love. Cappello expresses it perfectly.

“I love the friendliness of the locals and also think that on most weekends in Malibu (even when traffic is heavy), PCH is full of people looking for signs of the California dream,” he said. “Sunshine, warm beaches, surfing, bikinis and, of course, woodie wagons!

“There’s a lot more smiles per capita here than anywhere in LA, and people seem to appreciate cars like this.”

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

A Perfectly Imperfect 1950 Ford Woodie Wagon…

A few weekends ago, I did the Malibu Woodie Parade thanks to my good friend John Zambetti.

For the last 4-5 years, we’ve tooled down PCH during the holidays with about 30 woodies, and I get to meet some amazing people.

This year, a woodie showed up that was a little different from the rest. I’d call it a “RatWoodie,” as it wasn’t clean and perfect like the rest, but dressed down, slammed and full of California rust paint.

As we headed south, I couldn’t stop filming this awesome car, as it was the only one with a bit of attitude. But I found the owner to be nothing but gracious and full of smiles.

John Schiess and his bride-to-be, Lauren Rheaume, along with their children Keri, Kelly and Slade piled into the dulled down racing green 1950 Ford woodie wagon and joined the parade as they cruised PCH. Once we arrived at the party at Malibu Village, I got a chance to talk with Schiess and find out why his woodie went rat.

“I’m the owner of Custom Built Machines,” began Schiess. “A fabrication, restoration hot rod shop in Chatsworth.”

Well, that explains it.

According to Schiess, the outer look is stock with the exception of an old Hollywood accessory hood ornament delete. The maple wood frames are original wood, and the panels have been re-veneered over the original wood.

“The running gear consists of a 350 Chevy, 700R4 transmission, and Ford 8-inch rear end,” he exclaimed.

And then there’s the power disc brakes, power steering and hidden A/C. The interior was custom, but with a vintage look.

“I bought the car 20 or so years ago from a guy in Riverside. It was in as many pieces as a car could possibly be and scattered around the top of a hill,” he said. “What sealed the deal for the sale was the previous owner had removed all the wood and stored it all in his garage for the better part of 35 years. So it was in good shape. This was my third woodie project, so I was familiar with what it took to get it done.”

Most people are lucky to get a barn find, but this goldmine was on a hilltop. Doosh.

Schiess went on to mention that out of all the cars they’ve had, this one serves them the best. Looks great, very reliable, comfortable and fits all of them. It’s nice, but not so nice that it can’t be used for daily driving.

According to the fam, the best part of the car is a tricky question.

“It definitely makes people smile or react when they see it,” Schiess quips. “It’s got a faded worn look to it, so maybe that’s what makes it approachable? The original intent was a finished shiny paint job as the bodywork was done and ready for paint. So in prep, I sprayed epoxy primer tinted green and figured I’d drive it for a month or two, work out any bugs and then paint it. Ten or so years later, the primer is fading, the paint never happened, and we love it.”

That’s my kind of story. The days of shiny paint are over and the days of cool textures are in.

Schiess uses the car fairly often for day trips, weekends, swap meets and hauling things. He drives it to and from work a couple days a week, but Rheaume drove it in the Malibu Woodie Parade. Her smile never quit, and I imagine it’s still there to this day.

Oh, and don’t forget about the best short story with it. John tells it true.

“The most fun we had was a trip we took to Cambria earlier in the year,” he said. “We rented a beach house for the Fourth of July and loaded the woodie with surfboards, boogie boards and all of our gear. It was a fun trip, lots of smiles and waves. But driving in Malibu brings back tons of memories.”

He learned to surf as a kid here in Malibu and taught his daughter to surf here, too.

“My fiancee, Lauren, lived in Malibu and we have friends here as well,” he added. “When the traffic is light, it’s fun to take a cruise up or down the coast, take in the views and relax.”

So many people go out and buy a Toyota, Honda or Kia to get the job done when they are missing the point. Driving through the ’Bu on the weekend is therapeutically powerful. The smiles, positive vibes, energy of the people and joy of sharing what you love is the recipe for success in any language. Begs the question, what is your ultimate ride and how can you make that happen?

Then get busy.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.