"It takes a conservative $140,400 to put a car in the race," said Owner X. "It goes like this. You buy a chassis for $20,000 minimum. That's one. But you need a backup chassis in case your driver breaks the first. Further, it takes $6,000 in special parts and $2,000 in labor to ready each one.
"Engines cost $22,500 each for Fords and about $18,000 for Offenhausers. You need a minimum of two. Most owners have several. Costs you roughly $4,000 each time you overhaul one and replace all moving parts. You do this several times before race day. You pay two full-time mechanics $1,200 each for May. You room and board them and you got another $5,000 tied up in miscellaneous stuff."
Such basics as tires, sparkplugs, brakes, fuel cells, shock absorbers and batteries come free from suppliers. But, said Owner X, you also have to hire a driver. Costs a $6,000 retainer, more for the best. And you've got to shell out $2,000 to enter the race.
"Suppose you win," said X. "First place last year got $156,297. You have to split it. Winning mechanic always gets 10%. Winning driver at least 40%, the top ones half. That leaves the owner with half, which doesn't cover his costs. What you get is a nice silver trophy, a nice worn-out racer and a nice tax loss, which you can spread around your other corporations."
NO FISH STORY
The fishing records on the Thurso River in Scotland go back 100 years and are undoubtedly the most detailed of any in Great Britain. Every beat fished is listed day by day, and the information includes the weather, water level and temperature, length, weight and number of salmon caught and the names of the fortunate fishermen. Notably excepted are the names of the successful flies. As Robin Sinclair, the laird of Thurso Castle, explains: "It's the angler who gets caught by the fly, not the fish."
This is by way of introducing the week's cautionary tale. Three years ago an ad appearing in the Lubbock ( Texas) Avalanche-Journal and 23 other papers extolled "a remarkable European talking fish lure," which "at this very moment is being used by over 380,000 amateur and professional fishermen in 25 different countries." The lure, the ad went on to relate, has a "built-in fish attracting transmitter that broadcasts a steady stream of irresistible underwater messages that talk, coax and command a fish into snapping at your hook. Yes, actually excite and stimulate five different fish senses all at the same time and force each and every 'hungry-crazed' fish from up to 2,000 feet away to come darting straight for your line."
Predictably, fishermen fell for the lure—which came in three sizes—hook, line and sinker. Alas, for their $1.98, $2.49 or $2.98 they got either nothing at all or a worthless gadget that might have been talking Greek, for all the fish that got the underwater message.
Two weeks ago a federal grand jury indicted the lure's promoter, Monroe Caine of Scarsdale, N.Y., on 60 counts of mail fraud. But the anglers who took his bait aren't the only ones he bamboozled. Caine was previously indicted in Detroit on mail-fraud charges in connection with peddling a "turbojet" thingamajig guaranteed to save motorists 50 gallons of gas a month.
VROOM NOW, PAY LATER
How are you going to beat an institution with a name like American Fletcher National Bank? This summer the bank, which is known throughout Indiana as Mother Fletcher National, will permit some 50,000 of its customers to use their bank credit cards to buy tickets to automobile races. If this catches on, where's it all going to end? At the $100 window, when some horseplayer steps up, says, "No. 2 five times," and plunks down the old credit card?