Monthly Archives: September 2020


Cars We Love & Who We Are #10

Trusting in the public’s ability to practice proper Covid-19 guidance, the September Park Ridge Car Show soldiered on refusing to be a victim of pandemic panic. As a rare oasis of socialized car culture in the pandemic desert, the show’s magnetic draw surprised no one. With sunshine, blue skies and great cars, people desperately seeking relief from cabin fever flocked to an event that drew three times as many show cars as the previous year.

Always on the prowl for unusual stories, I moved through an eclectic array of beautiful and interesting examples of foreign and domestic vehicles from years past. While these exceptional automobiles more than merited my full attention, a most unusual site across the lot owned my focus. Show cars for the most part enjoyed the loving caresses of dusting brushes, microfiber cloths and detailing spray. Not so the object of my attention. This show car’s hood was about to bear the full brunt of a large sledge hammer.

Crash course for an underage driver

Sledge hammer challenge


A crowd has formed around a competition prepped 1996 Honda Accord. The young owner has realized that people will pay to slam the hood of his car with a sledge hammer. Owner Christian Farquhar has no reservations about the blows to be inflicted. His logic, the blow might actual straighten out an existing dent. After all, his Honda has been prepped for a Demolition Derby.

When older car enthusiasts wonder where the new blood will come from, Christian answers that question both figuratively and literally.

It all started two years ago in 2018.

Far too young for a driver’s permit, Christian Farquhar, a high school wrestler with a stunt man’s heart climbed in through the driver’s side window of his 1991 Honda Accord. He had enjoyed watching such events on YouTube. But now, at the age of 14, it would be him behind the wheel and he would be in front of 4,000 screaming fans. For Christian’s parents, Tom and Lori Farquhar, who considered themselves well prepared for the event, their son’s first drive remains a vivid memory.

“Impacts are bone jarringly violent and louder than you would expect. All of a sudden it gets real, very real,” says Tom. Lori recalls, “walking in, I was cool with it.” Then the announcer called attention to someone lining up another car for a violent rear bumper to mid-ship T-bone special. Ooooh, ooooh, BOOM! Then she realized “that’s my son’s car,” She says, “On the video you could hear me screaming.”

Christian smiles, saying, “the crowd loves those hard hits. It’s just like football.” But it’s not football. It’s Demolition Derby.

Demolition Derby first caught Christian’s attention while wandering around YouTube. “I kind of liked it, says Christian. His father Tom adds, “As a child he was drawn to mechanical things and movement like a lot of kids. But he was more of a daredevil. He’d always be the first one to ride his bike down the crazy hills.” Christian adds, “as a kid, I’d do things making believe I was a stunt double.”

After expressing his interest in Demolition Derby over the dinner table, Christian’s parents would later surprise him with a trip to the Sussex County Fair Demolition Derby for his Birthday.

Soaking up all he saw, the excitement of the controlled chaos in the arena channeled directly into Christian’s consciousness. His father says, “We have a picture of him at his first Derby with this  look of Amazement.“

It all came together at this first Demolition Derby when Christian heard there was a youth division. Yes indeed a separate division exists for drivers between 11 to 16 years of age. His father recalls, “He was like, WHAT?” Game on!

Protective pillow

Christian’s first car for Demolition Derby was a 1991 Honda Accord, purchase price $300. He favors Hondas saying, “They’re  just simple and easy and they’re tough.”

Vehicle preparation calls for removing all glass, interior, power steering, washer fluid and anything else you can detach. All airbags must come out or be detonated.  All doors must be chained shut. Proper attire, helmet, neck brace and a roll bar are required.

Christian has learned quickly. “There are a number of interesting modifications,” Christian says, “just about everybody runs with a pillow brought from home placed on the driver’s left side and up against the driver’s door. If you get hit, there’s a real good chance of you smacking your arm against the exposed metal in the door. Worse after the car takes a hit, sharp metal could be sticking out with a real chance of cutting into your arm and shoulder.”

ratchet strap

A ratchet strap holds the driver’s seat in position in case of a hard hit from behind.

Without the strap there exists a real danger of the seat just snapping straight back. Not good. The strap also provides the right hand with something to hold so as to prevent the driver’s arm from flailing around and potentially breaking due to the force of an impact.

Christian recalls his first ever Demolition Derby heat. It boasted a large field of 22 cars. He says, “It’s one thing to be watching on YouTube, but here I am entering the arena for the first time to actually do it.”

Christian remembers the experience saying, “Out in the arena I am backing up but too slowly. I get slammed in the side. Spun around by the hit, I nail the gas and bolt forward. I had a friend in this heat and our plan was to work together. It’s a short lived plan. The kid ran right through the back of me. My trunk lid shot straight up in the air.

I lunge forward and hit my alleged teammate. I immediately get nailed on the side and my battery breaks free from its mooring. With my ignition hot-wired, the loose battery rips of the wire to the ignition. I initially did not realize why my Honda would not start. Finally I find the problem. As I fumble to reattach the wire my hands are shaking as sparks shock my finger tips. Throwing my gloves off, I finally attached the wire. I figure, what the hell. I slam my foot to the floor and look for something to hit. The first car I see, I smash nose first. My target had an “old school” heavy bumper. I did more damage to my car than my target. My Honda’s plastic front literally disintegrates. If you watch the video you see people laughing in the background. I am learning.”

“My car has died. My target sits helplessly spinning her tires. A red flag is called to allow her to get the car moving. Returning to action, I throw the Honda into reverse and tag the first car I see. A group of cars bunch up. Not good. One guy takes a hard hit and goes over the wall. I get nailed in the side and my Honda dies,” Christian says.

Christian continues saying, “With its last gasp, my Honda fires up. I lurch forward just as my “teammate” nails me in the side and puts me into the wall. Not much left in the Honda. I floor it. Like one of those WWII submarine movies, I have a target in the crosshairs. The Honda screams as it climbs past 20 mph. I nail him at center stage in the middle of the arena. The crowd loves it.”

End of a tough first day

Christian’s noble Honda took it like a champ. It had given its all. The book closes on Christian’s first Demolition Derby. He will be back.

While it may not be some parent’s cup of tea, Christian’s parents are very supportive. I have a wrestling background all my life. He’s a wrestler. His brother was a wrestler. I’m fine will the roughness. I don’t get scared. I am exceptionally pleased that he has demonstrated such a high level of commitment and passion. Christian’s events are a total family affair. His younger sister even helps paint the car.

Lori, a special education teacher, finds her son’s passion and determination a source of great comfort as it has motivated him to develop skills that will serve him well throughout life. She says, “I love to see him outside rather than indoors on a computer. Over my years in education I have seen a lot of kids who suffer from limiting their involvement with the outside world.

She says, “I see him and his friend search for these cars. They knock on peoples’ doors. They’re introducing themselves. They’re negotiating for themselves. They engage people communicating face to face. What kids do that nowadays? Kids are not learning these skills today.”

Apparently, unlike his crumpled Hondas, for Christian Farquhar’s young life, Demolition Derby has had a major and positive impact.


By |2020-09-24T13:12:40+00:00September 24th, 2020|2 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #8

Funny what surfaces when digging through old dusty files. Recently some Playboy Bunnies tumbled out of a long forgotten banker box.

Over forty years ago, I hatched the idea for a story that combined interesting cars and beautiful women. Granted, while we’re not talking the great American novel, I did believe the odds of getting published were good.

Based on my proximity to McAfee, New Jersey, my idea called for writing a piece on Playboy Bunnies at the Great Gorge Playboy Resort who drove Corvettes. I pitched the idea to Corvette News. Their response? Absolutely! I was halfway home. Now, I only needed permission and cooperation from Playboy to provide access to the women who fit the story, if they existed, and to conduct interviews and photograph the women on the scenic Playboy resort grounds. How hard could that be?

To my pleasant surprise, Playboy embraced the idea. Game on for “Great Cars, Great Girls, Great Gorge.”

Playboy Bunnies in the rearview mirror


L-R Cathy, Kelly, Marie                                                                                 All photography by Burton Hall


Armed with a note pad, a pair of Nikons and boundless enthusiasm, I assumed the guise of the professional me as I approached the awaiting dream gig. I remember how rural it all felt as I navigated the two lane roads leading to what would be Hugh Hefner’s huge and subsequently failed bet that New Jersey would legalize gambling in the 1970s. My journey cut though farmland, cow pastures and woodlands until the Playboy Resort rose like a Mayan temple above the forest canopy. An approving wave at the security booth confirmed that all systems were go.

I still remember the Playboy PR staff. Jack Prather, Public Relations Director and his assistant, Mary Lander, put it together seamlessly. They introduced me to the three young women who would bring my idea to life. Kelly, Marie and Cathy, stunning in their royal blue VIP Room Bunny uniforms, would join me out in front of the resort to pose with one of their Corvettes. We would then reconvene at a scenic location off the golf course after they removed their Bunny suits and changed into casual clothes.

With bow tie, Bunny ears, cotton tail, 3-inch heels and a bustier-like body suit with a high thigh cut that made legs look like they went on forever, the Bunny suit transformed its occupant into a Playboy Club celebrity. Born from the creative vision of actress Ilse Taurins, the girlfriend of a Playboy executive in 1959, the Bunny suit, by 1960, achieved iconic status.

While feminists would view the wardrobe as clear evidence of subjugation and objectification, the women filling the suits, for the most part, viewed it as a strenuous and respectable way to make a very good living with the flexibility to attend college, raise children or pursue personal interests.

Kelly, Marie and Cathy clearly fit into the latter unsubjugated mind set. It should also be noted that Kelly, Marie and Cathy were not their real names. All bunnies took on a pseudonym as a security measure.

Kelly with a sunburst smile, cascades of chestnut curls and a Classic White 1973 Corvette with a 1970 LT1 small block loved fast cars and fast horses. She also had a 1967 E-Type under restoration and owned a Thoroughbred, a Quarter Horse and a Saddlebred that she intended to breed. Raised minutes from Great Gorge, she still lived on the family farm. Trained as a cosmetologist she had yearned for more social interaction. One Valentine’s Day six years prior, she went to Great Gorge for an interview. She had been a Bunny ever since.

Cathy, though a beautiful blue-eyed blonde, possessed real car guy instincts. Since buying her 1977 white on white Corvette three years earlier, she had clocked over 35,000 miles a year. “I had wanted a Corvette since I was 10 years old, “ Cathy said. She had to convince her dad as to the “wisdom” of buying the Corvette. Apparently she succeeded. Her sister got one too. “A nice day I am gone,” said Cathy, “Down through the south, up through New England, wherever my whims take me.” She expressed great pleasure at being a Bunny because of the financial and personal freedom it afforded her.

Marie with an infectious smile and engaging openness brought a natural athleticism to whatever she did. An accomplished skier and golfer, Marie brought her same signature spark and confidence to her time behind the wheel of her 1975 Silver Corvette. With no lack of serpentine back roads around Great Gorge and her love of the outdoors, Marie would have the T-tops off and a firm hand on the 4-speed every chance she got.

All three had achieved a level of respect and recognition at the resort as signified by their years of service and status as VIP Room Bunnies though each entered with different expectations

Marie’s introduction to Playboy started when she was sixteen and worked as kitchen help at the resort. Like Kelly she went to school for cosmetology but found it lacking in diversity and a wider population with which to interact. She returned to Great Gorge and put on the ears.

Cathy received her degree in Retail Management. While working for a men’s clothing chain, on a dare from her boss she packed her bikini and with much trepidation went for a Bunny interview. Cathy said, “while I now really enjoy being a Bunny, my first impression was quite different.” Cathy’s interview brought her to the New York Playboy Club. Watching the bunnies bustling passed, Cathy gulped self-consciously when she eyeballed the Bunny suit and how much of the Bunny was outside of the suit.

Bunny interviewing and supervision clearly qualified as woman’s work performed by the Playboy Club Bunny Mother. At that time at Great Gorge, Bunny Mother and former Bunny Sandra Schiffer ruled the hutch and made the decisions. Years later Ms. Schiffer’s daughter would follow in her mother’s Bunny tracks as a Playboy Bunny. At the interview a Bunny Mother selected from a large number of applicants with an eye to proportions and confidence that those chosen would maintain the Bunny image of the doe-eyed, adrenaline generating girl-next-door with lady-like discretion and the iron will of a Buckingham Palace Guard.

So natural and relaxed in front of a lens, for Kelly, Marie and Cathy whether together or alone, clearly the camera was their friend. All three had commented that whether working at the resort or making a personal appearance for Playboy, the first question they got would always be “what issue were you in?

“Many people assume that as a Bunny you must also be in the magazine,” said Cathy. Every so often a photographer would come to the club, inquiring of any women interested in test shot.

“I couldn’t do it,” said Kelly. “For those that do, fine, it’s just not me.

Said Cathy, “My father would put me six feet under. No question. I couldn’t stand the thought of walking into a service station and seeing that picture on the wall.”

Now in casual clothes, Kelly, Cathy and Marie posed with their respective cars displaying a natural poise that relegated the Corvette to that of fashion accessory. The day moved on till our work was done. I thanked them for their time, effort and grace.

Each would now prepare for work where bathed in the subdued candle light of the elegant Playboy VIP Room the young women would move among the patrons performing a graceful balance of focusing male attention with a charm and poise that would provoke no wife.

Weeks passed after I submitted “Great Cars, Great Girls, Great Gorge.” I received payment and a note. The staff loved the story. With the accompanying photography it had laid out very well, but. But?  But, Corvette News had just changed editors and the story did not conform with the new editor’s personal values. The story would not run.

Until now.





By |2020-09-17T10:56:28+00:00September 17th, 2020|10 Comments

Cars We Love & Who We Are #9

For those of us in love with the driving experience, an early Sunday morning always holds the potential to harvest the bounty earned from the work and time we dedicate to our motoring passion. Potential turns kinetic when we find ourselves on an open road whose character yields to the curves of a landscape rich in natural beauty. Last Sunday, serpentine back roads of Orange County New York delivered that kinetic experience for a number of Drivin’ News readers.

The journey is the reward


Blue skies welcomed the assembling collection of rolling art as a breeze hinting of autumn momentarily swept away the Covid overcast. A glimpse of assembled masked faces snapped consciousness back to life in the present. It did not, however, diminish the palpable excitement of a gathering poised to enjoy life behind the wheel and off the Covid leash.

Interestingly the classic automobile hobby embodies qualities of activities that have both flourished under the Covid skies and others that have withered when faced with forced isolation.

The yin and yang of Covid’s impact on the driving experience evidences itself in the comments of Sunday drive participants. Ken Zitelli owner of a 1979 Porsche 911 Targa expressed how the forced isolation of the pandemic dovetails nicely with time spent behind the wheel. Ken says, “As an outdoor activity, you’re alone and outside driving. From that standpoint there is little impact.”

As an aside, does anyone else find it curious when seeing solo drivers motoring along wearing face masks? Just sayin’.

Gordon Bortek owner of a 1974 Detomaso Pantera adds that shelter in place freed him to spend more time working on his car without feeling guilty about it. However, it is not all splendid isolation. Bortek continues saying, the biggest impact it’s had on me is missing all my friends in the car world.

David Howard, owner of a 1974 914 Porsche agrees. He says, “it’s not a whole lot going on in terms of the automotive hobby other than working on it at home.”

Fred Hammond, owner of a 1974 ½ MGB, says, “Actually driving is probably about the only thing that I still do. The solo driving experience hasn’t really been affected by covid-19. You’re in your own private bubble and you can go wherever you want and you can choose whether or not to interact with other people.

However, as the forced isolation has dragged on, people have chafed at the restrictions. Covid has left no doubt that social interaction elevates the driving experience and the hobby as a whole to a much higher level.

Bob Austin, driving his 1996 Mustang Cobra, in reflecting on the impact of Covid says, “Mentally more than anything else, I mean, it’s not been a fun year. With the activity schedule gutted, I’ve looked at my car’s a lot and not driven them.

Joe Raia, driving a 1932 3-window coupe sums it up saying, “There is no hobby. This year is a washout. 2020 is the year that never happened.

Clearly most formal classic car events have been cancelled. Bortek who founded and oversees the Father’s Day Tuxedo Park “Field of Driving Dreams” classic car event has been forced to first postpone and now cancel the event this year. Bortek says, “Unfortunately, yes, we’re not doing the Tuxedo Field of Driving Dreams this year due to a New York State regulations.” With conviction he continues saying. “but we will be back strong next year.”

However, while formal events have vanished from the schedule, casual gatherings seem to be popping up like mushrooms on a dead log. This drive being one small example. For the participants, the drive served up a delicious slice of “driving with friends.”

Like slender ribbons snaking through rolling hills of farmland and pasture the roads are well paved and friendly. Country farm houses and barns dot the roadside at times accompanied by small fresh produce farm stand.

Like athletes when they find the “Zone,” drivers and their vehicles meld as one.

Alicia DeLalio, driving a 1981 VW Sirocco used the drive as an opportunity to road test work she had just completed. Delalio says, “The drive today was really fun. And it was more fun when I calmed down and stopped looking at the gauges to make sure the car was running right.”

Karen Moyers in a 356 Porsche, just smiled and said, “Fantastic weather. fantastic roads. I loved it.” In a serendipitous triple play, the drive experienced little traffic, exceptional weather and cars that performed flawlessly.

Easing across the crunching gravel this rolling car show came to rest in the parking lot of Pennings Farm Market in Warwick, NY. Offering great food, a cider mill, wonderful bakery, petting zoo and an orchard, Pennings seemed to transport this traveling classic caravan through a portal to the past.

EVERYONE MUST WEAR MASKS TO BE SERVED read the sign. Oh well, good while it lasted.


By |2020-09-10T11:29:10+00:00September 10th, 2020|6 Comments

Conversations with People We Value #7

So, a couple of weeks back the car enthusiast website “Cars Yeah” reached out. They were aware of “Drivin’ News” and asked to interview me for a podcast. Yes, absolutely came my reply.

You can access the podcast and the “Cars Yeah” website by clicking on the “Cars Yeah” link.

Subsequently, the events surrounding that interview and my conversations with “Cars Yeah” host and founder Mark Greene, brought forward simmering back burner thoughts about what I call Life 2.0.

More than the next chapter, it’s the next book – Life 2.0


A passionate automotive enthusiast Mark departed a corporate experience he enjoyed to create a web presence focusing on what he loved.

Twenty years after helping to launch Griot’s Garage he concluded his tenure as president of the company. He had taken pleasure in his work. He wore many hats. “I scoured the automotive world looking for quality products to expand Griot’s offerings,” says Mark. He immersed himself in developing the line of car care products while at Griot’s. “I’m a nutcase when it comes to keeping my cars clean,” he says. After Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast in 2012 you may remember Mark in Hagerty Magazine explaining how to deal with a vehicle’s exposure to salt water. However, all things, good or otherwise, come to an end.

With Griot’s Garage in his taillights that “book of life” with its many chapters had come to a close. What to do?

For some with careers approaching closure the question of “what next” lies ahead on a visible horizon. For others “what next” looms close enough for them to feel its breath on their face.

Feeling the breath on his face, Mark, while walking with his adult son, asked, “what should I do?” The son responded, “You’ve taken me to car events my entire life. You can’t walk past a car without stopping and talking to the owner. You ask questions about their car, their life, and their passions. There’s your answer. It’s what you love. You should start a podcast.” Like standing a foot from a billboard, sometimes we are too close to see the answer in front of us.

Over six years have passed since Mark embarked on his Mark 2.0 adventure. His plan called for energizing automotive enthusiasts and enthusiasm by inter­viewing Inspiring Automotive Enthusiasts (The Cars Yeah mantra) and sharing their stories of success. Today a visit to Mark’s “Cars Yeah” website reveals over 1600 interviews with the likes of Keith Martin, Kyle Petty, Lyn St. James, Bruce Meyer, Don Garlits and Bobby Rahal. Of all the features on the site a favorite of mine offers book recommendations by each of the 1600 plus guests. To see guest recommended books click here.

While appreciating that a person’s location on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs affords different degrees of freedom, the counsel to incorporate what you naturally love into the work that you do should not be considered a luxury but a worth goal.

Learning Mark’s story of new beginnings with its similarities to my own, resonated with my efforts to construct Burton 2.0. Reducing the scope of my business did not reduce my desire to actively connect, create and produce. Covid-19 of all things provided a window of opportunity. An energetic and highly social classic vehicle community has found itself isolated by the strictures of shelter-in-place. By focusing my natural love for storytelling, Drivin’ News aims to be a sanctuary where people can visit to enjoy things they are missing and be reminded that these things will be there when we return.

For all of us who feel the breath of profound change on our face, regardless of age or place in life, taking the time to identify what we naturally love to do can set the cornerstone for building the future we desire.


By |2020-09-10T11:50:43+00:00September 3rd, 2020|2 Comments