Vasek Polak Racing
A Blast from the Past
February 1, 2012
Seeing that I was born and raised in Southern California, it was my destiny to become a surfer.
This is how the story begins with Vasek Polak Porsche.
My friend, Jim Windham's, father had a shoe store in Lawndale, California, which is a suburb of Los Angeles and
very close to the Vasek Polak Porsche dealership.
So in the summertime, we would ride with Jim's Dad in his '49 Chevy panel truck and he would drop us off in the vicinity of Polak's dealership. We would walk down the street to the beach and surf all day, waves or not.
Sometimes we would "thumb" in either direction, depending on where the waves were breaking the best.
It's a wonder I haven't died of skin cancer because no matter what, with only trunks, a towel, and sometimes a shirt, we baked
in the sun all day long. Our ride normally picked us up after 5pm. Remember, these were the days when 50 cents could get you 4 Wienerschnitzel hotdogs and a Coke and that's all we needed all day long.
If the surf was lousy or we just needed to get in the shade, we would walk back up to PCH and I would gaze
into the windows of the Porsche dealership.
We already had a VW in the family and destiny would find its way to me, via my older Sister buying a 1964 356C.
You gotta remember that the car of choice to young boys, and I guess some girls, was a VW bug
or if you were a real surfer
you wanted a bus or a van. The natural graduation from the VW would be a Porsche 356.
The 911s were for doctors and lawyers.
In Vasek's dealer windows were new cars and racing Porsches. The Porsches always changed from year to year
and in the early '70s the windows would reveal 910s, 908s, and the almighty 917s.
Sometimes I couldn't wait to get up the hill to see what was on the showroom floors. I actually don't remember
ever going inside because we were normally wet, sandy, and had our surfboards in tow.
Little did I know, that someday, Mr. Polak would like me and because he knew I represented some pretty wealthy
Porsche customers, he had no problem selling me cars that my customers wanted.
Having actually started working on Porsches in the mid '60s, I then would make the trip to Hermosa Beach
from my house in Bellflower, CA. I started racing (mechanic) in the mid '70s and got to meet Carl Thompson.
Carl Thompson: The man, the myth, the legend.
This dude was my connection to the big guy (Mr. Polak). Because I bought a fair amount of parts in the early days,
I had a pretty good repore with the organization. Carl would let me loose with the shopping cart and I would walk
down the endless isles of Porsche racing parts and pick and choose what I needed for racing restorations.
You see, Mr. Polak didn't have the last name Porsche, but he was in the family! Mr. Polak was able to buy
of the old NOS racing parts. You should have seen the place! Mechanics candy everywhere!
In 1981, I moved to Florida, so my visits to Polak's were more important than ever. I missed my buddy Carl and all
the great racing stories he told of when Southern CA was the hotbed for sportscar racing. In case anybody forgets, there was a
race track in Pomona, a track in Torrey Pines, Willow Springs, the almightily Riverside, and the contemporary Ontario.
Most of these tracks are gone now and although Southern CA is still a hotbed for Porsches, you've gotta drive
to the north of the state, unless you plan on racing in a parking lot in Coronado Island (San Diego).
Of course Laguna is still a pretty easy drive from the LA area. Sears Point (Infineon) is always a great circuit
to go to because of the wine country.
I knew the day would come when Mr. Polak would pass and the great stash of parts would find their destiny in
someone else's hands. I miss not having Carl to talk to on a weekly basis (although we still talk) and I miss the parts,
which are now in Germany and a little tougher to get.
Oh well, can't have everything in life, but I got to be a part of one of the greatest racing Porsche organizations on Earth.
Thank you Carl, for always taking care of me and my customers' needs. Can't wait to see you at Monterey next year.
I'll never forget, when every time I bought a racing Porsche from Vasek, you would always let me grab a tube of NOS Porsche posters.
Ok, lets' talk posters. When Johnny Von Neumann gave up the Porsche distributorship, Gary Emory got all the parts
that Polak didn't, but Polak got all the posters. If you could see the ones that I got to pick and choose from, you would be amazed.
It got to a point, where I wasn't very excited about searching for the allusive 908 oil line or the 917 titanium ball-joint, I just
couldn't wait to stick my arm in the 12mm thick cardboard packing tubes that the stacks of posters came in.
Polak scored the remaining Steve McQueen posters, but I couldn't find them because a lot of different posters
were sent in the same tube. There must have been hundreds of poster tubes.
After every car I would purchase from Mr. Polak, Carl would let me dig a little deeper and take a few more posters home
until the big discovery day. It was just after I purchased 917-019 for Miles Collier, Carl gave me 30 minutes to take what I could
and I found the allusive Steve McQueen posters!
Carl didn't know where they were either, but he knew he had a handful, he just never found them.
He always said, "When you find Steve, tell me, because I've promised a few to other customers".
I pulled four posters out and argued with Carl to keep two of them. Carl said that Mr. Polak was extremely happy to have
sold Miles 019 and my reward was to keep two brand new Steve McQueen posters. After I bought the second 917 (026), I went back
to where the McQueen posters were, and they were untouched, so Carl gave me another one. I still have two of them today
and when I look at them, I think of how kind Mr. Polak and Carl Thompson were to me and my customers.
Oh yeah! I just found this catalog. Boy, would I have liked to have bought more of these awesome parts! Maybe some of the old
Southern CA guys were invited into the parts rooms. I can still see everything as it was and in cleaning my office on Sunday
I found this catalog that Carl put together and it blew my mind all over again.