Tom’s Corner – Staying cool for the 35th

It all started when the preparation for getting The Rattler down to East Peoria Illinois for the 35th anniversary show was done. Or so I thought. I took the car in to have the ignition checked as well as the alternator and battery and it was determined that the battery needed replacement which was done. This was on August 1st.

Upon returning home from the shop, by boss called and said there was a leak on the floor of the shop which was caused by refrigerant coming from the evaporator. So, I took the Fiero back the next day, August 2nd and it was decided to get a new evaporator as soon as possible so a new one was located in Texas and flown up next day for installation on Monday, August 6th, just two days before heading down to East Peoria. So, I had the recharge of R-12 put in and made it down to the show without any problems, or so I thought. The compressor seals were leaking badly I found out later and luckily, we made it back home with cool air.

When we returned home on August 12th, I made sure I could get in the shop the next day to have a new compressor installed. On August 13th, the transformation took place which entailed evacuating the R-12 refrigerant and flushing out everything in the system to convert to R-134 which is a lot less expensive to replace. The accumulator, compressor, orifice tube, seals, drains, fittings and service valves were all replaced. Pag oil and dye was added to lubricate the system and check for future leaks.

The conversion from the old refrigerant I believe was a good decision since the system is 32 years old and since I had to replace everything, I am now satisfied I did the right thing.

Tom’s Corner – The Rattler is ready for the 35th!


The Rattler at the 35TH!!

YES, The Rattler will be coming to the 35th anniversary show in East Peoria, Illinois on August 8th-12th 2018! I created this unique Fiero in 1996 to compete at the Fiero Owners Club of America national Fiero show in Indianapolis Indiana where is won 1st in class. It then went on to win national titles in Columbus, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, Collinsville, Illinois, Osage Beach, Missouri, and Pontiac, Michigan. It has been driven on race courses at Road America, Gateway International, Michigan International speedways and Tom has driven racing cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Pomona California as well as vintage race cars and open wheeled formula race cars at Road America.

The Rattler will be displayed in doors at the Hall of Champions at the Embassy Suites during the 35th anniversary show. Some of the modifications to look for when viewing this Fiero are: Sprint F-1 racing headers, Holley side induction intake system, K7N air filter, over bored throttle body, four tuned exhaust megaphones, six Hi-rise velocity stacks recurved 70 degrees for additional heat venting, nine inch wing stands on the rear wing, unique custom rear NASCAR spoiler, chromed EGR valve, heat shields, vapor cannister, cooling lines, map sensor and intake tube, top strut tower brace, black ‘HEMI’ powder coated intake and valve covers, Hypertech performance chip, chromed breather cap, Koni rear sway bar, 140mph speedometer, Millani wheel rims with Toyo Z rated tires, Earl’s braided brake lines, Y-99 competition suspension, 4 core radiator with racing guard, M&R competition seat belts and shoulder harnesses, custom diagonal roll bar with fire bottle, custom pin striping and vinyl graphics by Pegasus Auto Racing, custom front spoiler, original paint and trim, fuel pressure gauge, Monroe shocks and struts, and custom ‘unplugged’ exhaust system. The Rattler has been featured in many newspaper, magazine and internet articles and has won over 110 awards in its lifetime including ‘Best in Show’ In St. Louis Missouri and ‘Best in Show’ in Davenport Iowa.

The 35th anniversary show will bring out the best Fieros from around the nation and Canada in the last five years and this show is going to be the ‘go to place to be’ to view Fieros in 26 classes, so plan to be a part of this event with your Fiero. The Rattler will be there with the crew chief so bring your camera and don’t miss this opportunity to be with the Fiero community!

Tom’s Corner – Let’s go racing!


The Richard Petty Driving Experience is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to actually drive a Sprint Cup stock car on many of America’s fastest race courses. I have been very fortunate to have driven these race cars at Lowes Charlotte Motor Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet Illinois. This is a hands on heart pounding high speed fast action adventure you will never forget! Having driven these same speedways that the great race drivers competed in over the years is an honor for me. The fact that you can drive at speeds over 170 mph and feel the power of a 358 CU inch 600 HP V-8 with all the noise and heat is almost a religious experience for me.

The class session starts with professional instructors on how to find your marks on the tri-oval. The instructions are very detailed. Then you climb into a van that takes you to the top of the oval, which is 1 ½ miles in length around the race track and is banked at 36 degrees. This is to acclimate you with what will be a very exciting day. Then, you get strapped into one of the stock cars and wait your turn in the pits to go out onto the track. These race cars rev up to 7000 rpm’s and I advise you to use ear plugs! The cars can be Chevrolet Monte Carlo’s, Pontiac Grand Prix, Ford Taurus and Dodge stock cars. All drivers are issued flame resistant suits, neck restraint, and helmets. You must provide the driving shoes and gloves. The session lasts for 10 laps and there are 3 sessions. After each session, you are brought in and the instructor who is assigned to you will critique your driving style and advise where you can improve your lap times. At the end of the course, you are congratulated and issued a diploma to certify that you have completed the course.

The cost can range from $1500.00 to $3500.00 depending on where you go for your driving school. I highly recommend the three day course because it will really sharpen your driving skills and you will come away with a deep appreciation for the race drivers who have to do 500 laps! I was very fortunate to have driven Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s number 8 Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway and at Chicagoland Speedway. My sponsor, Lennox International paid for all expenses both times. My two diplomas are a treasured part of my racing heritage which started in 1946 as a kid and along with my Skip Barber racing school diploma and my racing license from the Pomona Drag Racing School, and my vintage racing experience in my cousins’ 1965 Corvette at Road America in Elkhart Lake.

Tom drives Dale Earnhardt Jr's number 8

Tom drives Dale Earnhardt Jr’s number 8

Tom’s Corner – The Crew Chief

After all the years and all the awards, (over 105) it’s time to give credit where credit is due! In the process of getting all the details in preparation of The Rattler, which includes a check list of all the necessary supplies and detailing before and at the show, the ‘crew chief’ will go over everything on the car: the engine compartment, the front compartment, wheels, tubs, interior and exterior that need attention. I will take care of the roll bar, fire bottle, under carriage, hotel reservations, food, fuel, show registration and any other necessary items for the trip.

This is a team effort, since we do the Midwest Fiero Clubs shows with our Fiero and can actually get all our bags packed in for up to a five-day trip! We have done this with our Fiero for 21 years and thoroughly enjoy meeting old and new friends in each state we travel to. I call her ‘the crew chief’ because of all the effort she has put into making each show a very pleasant experience. She is an expert detailer and could be actually be a judge if asked to do that. So… I pay tribute to my ‘crew chief’, wife and best friend of 60 years…Ann Schmidt, for being so helpful in making ‘The Rattler” the car that it is. We look forward to many more years in pursuing a passion that actually started in 1962 with our Jaguars, and hopefully we will continue to make more friends and be successful in other states as well!


About the Author: Tom is who the “Worlds Most Interesting Man” commercials are based on

Tom’s Corner – Wisconsin Fiero Fanatics have fun and success at Fierorama 2017


The Wisconsin Fiero Fanatics came away with multiple Class Winners and Best in Class Winners as well as a Best Stock Fiero at this years’ 2017 Fierorama show in St. Charles, Illinois on September 10th! There were 82 Fieros from 11 states and Canada in several classes to compete for the very unique awards that the Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts came up with. This year’s theme was ‘Deuces are Wild’ and there were many prizes handed out based on that theme. Gregg and Maggie Dauterman, Wayne Kitzerow, Sheila Vivi, Derrick Zimny, Tom Schmidt, and Chris Lewis were winners in their respective categories.

The program started out on Friday night with a cruise to Wasco Illinois for the BGV Motorsports cruise which attracted many spectators and a wide variety of vehicles. Then on Saturday morning there was a Chrome and Coffee event presented by the Iron Gate Motor Condos in Naperville, Illinois which attracted many very high-end exotic, muscle, and classic cars. That afternoon, there was a cruise to the Frank Lloyd Wright Muirhead farm house in Hampshire Illinois for a private tour. As 6:00 PM rolled around, it was time for all the participants in this years’ Fierorama to gather at the host hotel for the traditional pizza party and more awards were handed out to the winners of the ‘Deuces Wild’ Poker cruise. The more events you participated in the better your hand may be because you were handed a Fiero playing card at each event.

The show itself was held on a gorgeous Saturday with temperatures in the mid-seventies. The show started at noon and the Fieros who came in for one day only were registered and placed on the show field in their respective classes. There were so many fine examples of stock and non-stock Fieros it was hard to make a choice on who to vote for since this was a people’s choice show not a judged show. Around 5:00PM, the show wrapped up after the awards were presented and the contestants stayed for the ‘after glow’ dinner in St. Charles Illinois before heading home or staying over that night. A very unique Fiero, a 2+2 silver fast back was brought to this show by new owners Jeff Jones and Fred Bartemeyer Jr. A tech session was held by  to explain how this car came into existence. This was the largest Midwest Fiero Clubs gathering this year with over 82 cars from around the country.

Our hats off to all the clubs on this years’ Midwest Fiero Clubs for providing our members with some very exciting shows and we look forward to 2018 when the 35th anniversary show will be included in the MWFC show schedule. This will be held in August at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria Illinois and all the information can be found at .


Derrick Zimny Best in Show Stock 2017 Fierorama

Derrick Zimny Best in Show Stock 2017 Fierorama


Tom’s Corner – At the 2017 Dells Run

tomscorner     The annual Dells Run took place June 1st through June 4th and by all estimates, it was another rousing success! Over 60 Fieros took part and one out of every two went home a class winner. This years’ theme was “Class of 2017” and to promote it, the awards were unique. No other car club has done this before, so last winter Tom Podjiemski, aka ‘The Prezzzz, came up with the idea of having a Class ring instead of a normal trophy. It was a closely guarded secret until the awards were presented on Sunday June 4th. The itinerary was revealed ahead of time on the Fiero Fanatics Facebook page so all those attending the show could plan accordingly as to what activities they wanted to do while they were here.
Here’s a run-down on some of them: On Thursday June first for all of the early arrivals and check-ins, there was a 3:30 PM depart to a 5-star restaurant on Mirror Lake near the Wisconsin Dells called Ishnala. We had seating overlooking the Mirror Lake on a beautiful afternoon with first class dining. After which we cruised over to Wisconsin Dells at Pirate’s Cove to divide up the members into teams to play “Goofy Golf “. The whole idea of this was to play a 9-hole miniature golf course in the most ridiculous way possible such as left-handed clubs, miniature clubs, blind sun glasses etc. and the winning team would get a special trophy at the awards ceremony. The weather cooperated nicely for this event and we proceeded back to the host hotel Chula Vista for some needed relaxation and to check out the cars arriving for the show. Friday was an early breakfast with the Prezzz or a later one with the Illinois chapter (N.I.F.E.) at Mr. Pancake House restaurant. Then at 12:00 PM the members who wanted to go went on a very scenic cruise hosted by Gregg and Maggie Dauterman on some rustic roads to an 1842 historic museum near Portage Wisconsin. This tour took all afternoon and when we returned we immediately proceeded to the Tavern Restaurant for a Friday night fish fry. The registration room at the host hotel was open at 8:00PM for members to register for the Saturday show and receive their goodie bags which were filled with lots of car related products. At 9:30 PM the Midwest Fiero Clubs held an informal meeting to up-date the chapter reps on the up-coming 35th anniversary show in East Peoria Illinois with an August 1st announcement on social media to all interested owners with the latest information.
Saturday June 3rd those who did not register for the show were able to do so between 9:00 and 11:00 AM in the registration room or on the show field. The show itself was held from 11:00 to 4:00 PM at which time the famous Dells Run was started and a caravan of over 40 Fieros headed on the cruise to down town Wisconsin Dells. The weather was fantastic to say the least and lots of spectators came out to see the cars. There was a gathering of members to cruise over to the Rivers Edge Pub for dinner that evening. And if that wasn’t enough to exhaust you the Minnesota chapter held their infamous ‘’Circle of Shame” in three different locations at the host hotel. Everyone was invited over to share stories and party until 1:00 AM!! A lot of great stories were bandied about and the ‘refreshments’ were first class.
On Sunday June 4th everyone gathered in the conference room at 9:00 AM for the awards presentation and trophies. Following this, the class winners were gathered for a group picture which will be in an upcoming Fiero Focus Magazine.
As usual, the Prezzzz is to be commended for putting on a fabulous show and lots of volunteers were responsible for everything running as smooth as it did. The contract for the next three years are already being finalized and the hope is that the Fiero community will add new members to join the existing ones in participating in the next Dells Run and theme for next years’ event will be RED/White/and BLUE and whatever wild ideas he will come up with is anyone’s guess. His motto has always been “you are here to have FUN !!” This year was no exeption.

Tom’s Corner – Taming Road America!


Welcome to Road America in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin where I will take you through this 4.0-mile road racing course in a 1965 vintage 700 hp Corvette! I have driven this track many times over the years in different race cars and still to this day learn something new on the racing surface. All the information in this article is for dry track conditions only. If the track is wet, all bets are off! Imagine that you are driving this car and not me. You will be going faster on the straights but maybe a little slower in the corners. If all goes well, we should be able to do a complete circuit in this race car at 2 minutes 40 seconds!

When our session starts, we will depart the ‘false grid’ and into the hot pit lane and from there onto the race track. As you are going through the hit pit lane to the race track, hopefully you will notice a STOP and GO light on the fence at the end of the hot pit lane. If the light is RED…STOP! ~ If the light is GREEN, Go, BUT…please stay to the right until you are past the apex of turn one. Now do a parade lap around the race course and after turn 14, coming up the hill to the starter please stay on the left and let cars that may pass you pass on your right. You should be approaching 170 mph at this point and from turn 14 to turn one, you have covered 4405 feet. I would suggest going to the brake pedal at the #4 brake marker. Turn #1 is a right hander approaching downhill and is faster that it initially appears and many race drivers have ‘lost it’ there and gone into the gravel pit. Leaving turn #1 and going downhill on the left, and passing the flag station on your right, you will be approaching turn #3. This is 1561 feet from turn #1. Come down to this turn on the left side as you prepare for the right hand corner entrance and set up your apex accordingly. It should be a ‘late apex’ well past the middle of the bump strip on your right. This will lead you to the second fastest part of the track Coming out of turn #3, keep to the right of this slowly descending 3888 feet leading down to turn #5. You are going about 186 mph through this section. Watch for your brake markers here. This is the sharpest left hand turn on the race track. You should ‘late apex’ this turn as you head up to turn #6, which is a blind off camber left turn. Stay to the right side of the track when coming up the hill here. This section is 960 feet in length and you will use second and third gears to get to turn #6. Turn #7 is 788 feet going downhill with a slight kink to a section called ‘hurry downs’. Elevation change and 1322 feet to turn #8, you must stay to the right and very hard on the brakes in this 90 degree turn. You will be going about 90 mph approaching this turn.

The infamous ‘Carousel’ is 3383 feet in a slightly increasing radius and you will pick up speed considerably here as you approach ‘the ‘Kink’. Do not take ‘the Kink’ flat out! It has caused many crashes by driver who over-drive this portion of the track. From ‘the Kink’ to turn #12 is 2736 feet long and you will approach ‘Canada Corner’ at a very high rate of speed, about 190 mph! Watch your braking points here as you will need to down shift to first or second to get through this corner. Again, stay to the right side of the track and apex slightly sooner to get through properly. From turn #12 to turn #13, its uphill for 1140 feet and stay to the left. This section is called ‘Thunder Valley’. At corner #13 start your line to the right side as you approach turn #14 which is 1009 Feet. From here, you will start going back up hill to the start-finish line which is 1380 feet and wide open on the throttle! There are many elevation changes to this race course and that is what makes a favorite of race drivers. There are of course signs indicating braking points and rumble strips at the inside or outside of the apex’s and as you learn the course as I have, each time you drive here it will be a very memorable experience. To be able to tour this track at 2 minutes 40 seconds in my cousin’s vintage Corvette is just one of the highlights in all of my driving life.

Just think…172 mph…700 hp…arm restraints…ear plugs…safety harnesses… driving suit… helmet… roll bars…racing fuel…loud…hot and fast!!! This is what it’s all about!

There are many opportunities throughout the year to attend driving events at Road America,  for more information check out

I drove this Corvette road race car to 172 mph in 2005... Very loud,hot and fast !

I drove this Corvette road race car to 172 mph in 2005… Very loud,hot and fast !


Tom’s Corners – The Festivals of Speed

Last year I received a letter from Joe Sabatini, founder and president of ‘Festivals of Speed’ to enter and display my Fiero (The Rattler) at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Lakes resort on Orlando Florida to benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. To me, this was absolutely unprecedented for my Fiero to be considered or included for that matter with such exotic automobiles, motorcycles, aircraft and watercraft for this event. The week-end started with a registration of all participants, then a fabulous cocktail party and sumptuous themed food displays, strolling musicians, luxury brand displays, live and silent auctions, prize drawings and more! Since I have not entered a formal concourse before, this would be a very unique way to learn and associate with people who have very exotic boats, cars, etc. The cars on display included: Bugatti, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Porsche, Maserati and some very fast race cars. Also on Saturday, there were ‘ride and drive’ events for qualified drivers, a wine connoisseur’s dinner at the internationally known Primo restaurant, which was closed to all but the ‘Festivals of Speed’ guests. Sunday was the grand finale with a collection of all the exotic vehicles on display with exciting culinary offerings, fine wines, fashion shows, and awards presentations. The ability to enjoy all of this while strolling in the gardens of the Ritz-Carlton is a once in a life time experience. There were class and special entry winners who received beautiful crystal trophies and gifts from Tiffany and Company. All participants who displayed their vehicles in the VIP registration received a duffle bag with sponsor gifts, two tickets to the Friday evening reception, and two tickets to the ‘Festivals of Speed’ event on Sunday as well as credentials and a unique dash plaque and a special entry to the program guide. Now… to get the Fiero down to Orlando…I would have to drive down in changing weather or have an exotic car transporter take it down, then fly down and back after the event. Obviously this would entail a considerable expense along with the hotel, food, gas, insurance, waivers and other expenses. The weather is always an important factor in doing these events. The inner workings of an event of this magnitude are worth writing about to give you an idea of what it is like to do a major concourse show, not to mention all the very intense pressure in detailing the car for the show. Again, it was an honor and privilege for my Fiero (The Rattler) to be invited to this event !


Tom’s Corner – Racing Schools

In previous articles, I told you about the racing school that Skip Barber puts on. Since I have graduated from it, I can tell you first hand it is well worth every cent and then some!

We arrived at Road America in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin an hour earlier than we needed to. The weather was threatening and we wanted to avoid the rush hour traffic going through downtown Milwaukee that morning. We met people from all around the USA who flew in for this school. The first thing on the agenda was a 45 minute lecture on the laws of physics and handling characteristics of racing cars especially open wheel ones which we would be driving. Then it was time to get suited up and get in the race car. To get in you have to stand on the racing seat and wiggle your way down to the pedals. The quarters are very tight once you are strapped in and about the only thing you can move are your feet and arms. Once your helmet and neck restraint are in place and your gloves are on, you move on to the starting grid with the rest of the members of your session.

In this school, you must follow a pace car to get acclimated to the course and gradually build up speed. These Barber Dodge cars are tricky in that there is no synchromesh transmission and you must use the ‘heel and toe’ procedure to shift gears correctly. This was explained in detail in the lecture in the class room. Steering in these formula cars is very precise and it takes some getting used to get it right. You learn your braking points and entrance to the corners as well as the exit of the apex’s and as the speed picks up, these cars are capable of going from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds and the braking is astounding. Each student must follow the other for a lap and switch places with the lead race car so the instructor can determine how well they are doing. After about 5 laps on a course which is 2 and 1/2 miles in length, the group is brought in and the instructor goes to each driver and tells him/her how they can improve their driving techniques such as the right entrance with corner acceleration out of it and drafting techniques. This is very serious stuff! On one occasion, the driver in front of me was approaching a very sharp 90 degree turn to the right when he mis-judged his braking point and spun directly in front of me and ended up in the gravel trap backwards! When I looked for an instant in my mirror, all I could see was dust and debris. You cannot take your eyes off the racing surface in front of you because of the speed you are traveling…one slight distraction and you are in trouble. Concentration is the key to doing well at this racing school and as the session ended about two hours later, we were brought in for a final critique of our driving abilities in an open wheel race car.

The instructor gave me an A+ for my efforts and the diploma I received was worth all the time and money spent to attend this racing school. I heartily recommend to anyone who has the desire to drive an open wheel formula race car to give this some consideration. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have on this subject. You can reach me at:

Tom’s Corner – Castor Oil in Racing


Those of you who have followed the #52 Fiero may have noticed a distinctive exhaust smell coming from those four big megaphones. This is the result of burnt castor oil which I add to the premium gas and an octane booster (to achieve 100 octane) in the summer months. I use ½ oz. to a gallon of premium gas for the desired result. This may sound like an exotic fuel blend and it is and I get very good mileage with this mixture. At this point I will attempt to explain why I do this. I first noticed this ‘fragrance’ at Elkhart Lake’s Road America sports car course in 1958 while watching sports cars such as Ferrari and Maserati on the track. Flash forward…in 1972 I attended a pro outboard race in Depue Illinois and asked where I could obtain this oil as it was the same fragrance I remember from the Road America days. I could use it in my unlimited outboard hydroplane and was told that Blendzall made a very high quality de-gummed castor oil for cars and boats so I bought a case of it and have been using it ever since.

Now I will digress for a moment and give you a little history on this amazing product. Castor oil is made from the castor bean plant and has been used medicinally for about 4000 years and was given to children to ‘keep their systems clear’. In the medicine field, it is strongly laxative and purgative. It has a myriad of uses in industry and here is where it comes into motor racing. Ever since the internal combustion engine was invented there was a need to properly lubricate it. In February 1899, Charles Cheers Wakefield resigned from the Vacuum Oil Company and the firm he started would go on to become the Wakefield Oil Company. In 1909 the company began production of a new automotive lubricant named ‘Castrol’ a contraction of castor oil from which it is made. The original 3 grades were CW for cars for motorcycles, and R for aircraft and racing engines…the castor oil being responsible for the noticeable odor of early race cars. Castor oil maintains its viscosity from -30 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and is extremely clean burning. It bonds to metal surfaces, prevents rust, lubricates upper valve guides and upper cylinders and goes where the source of heat is. De-gummed castor oil has been used in engines whose revs can go as high as 21,500 RPM’s! There are several manufacturers of racing castor oil. To name a few are: Castrol ‘R’, Blendzall 460, Klotz BeNol-B-175, Maxima 927, VP RC-3, Burris LC-003. Castrol has sponsorship in all forms of motorsport such as Formula One, World Rally Championship, Sports car racing, NASCAR, and NHRA drag racing and power boat racing, karting, motorcycle racing and airplane racing. Even in the 1950’s there were other racing castor oils such as Pratts Castor, Essolube 60 Racer, Notwen Castor, BP Energol Racing, and Vigzol Golden Race. But the fact is when racing sounds and scents are recalled, all castor oils are thought of as the famous Castrol ‘R’. Today you can achieve this scent of burnt castor oil by using it as I have prescribed at the beginning of this article.

Castro oil is not cheap and you can only purchase it at race shops that carry a specific castor oil brand. Or you can order it on-line using Google to find your preference…My experience with using Blendzall Racing Castor in the #52 car has given me very satisfying results. I also used it in my hydroplane in 1974 for the first time and the boat was clocked at 101.664 MPH in Canada. I can be reached at my e-mail address ( On a much lighter note, wouldn’t it be really neat for someone to make a man’s cologne with this fragrance? I would make someone very wealthy!!