Lap 02 - In Search of Mr. Kaback
With the internet at my disposal, I searched
for any permutation I could of Sy, Kabach, Kaback, etc. I was
rewarded with a genealogy web site which indicated Sy's marriage,
in Paris, to Cynthia Parker in 1976, along with listings for
their two children:
Cynthia Parker, b. at Evanston, IL,
Spouse: Sy Kaback, b. at New York, NY
Married: 22 October 1976 at Paris, France
Children: Parker Kaback and Galen Kaback.
I also came across a race photo showing
what appears to be an Elva-BMW Mark 8, with Sy at the wheel (white
"Lime Rock 1966:
Helping Sy Kaback move his car out of the way"
Photo and caption
from the web site of David
February 2002, David's
son Andrew Fenton writes -
I well remember Mr Kaback
racing then (1966) in an orange Elva Mark 8 BMW that was delivered
to the track by Opert Racing - as a matter of fact Mr Opert nearly
drove into my 7 year old leg while delivering the car to the
pre-grid once. Mr Kaback had, by the standards of SCCA regional
and divisional, a lot of money - he dressed nice while we slept
in the tow car and I well remember a very attractive woman in
a maroon Aston Martin convertible arriving to meet him at Lime
Rock once. He was also a bit older than most of the other drivers.
I don't think he's [David
Fenton] seen Mr Kabach (or have I) since 1966. My father ran
two more races in 1967 and then pretty much stopped racing until
going vintage in about 1989, which he continues, plus having
a Crosley FF for SCCA Club Ford.
Feel free to give Mr. Kaback
my regards - I can't imagine him remembering me - I was 7 years
old the only time we met, but I remember him. My father was an
extremely aggressive driver in those days so I have no idea what
Mr. Ks recollection of him would be.
I further posted email messages to a variety
of Lotus and Vintage Racing email lists hoping to find someone
who knew of, or even raced with Sy. I received a handful of useful
information including Sy's phone number (!) along with the disclaimer
that Sy's current condition keeps him from speaking very well.
I pondered whether or not to impose...
On a whim, I typed www.Kaback.com into
my browser's location window, and behold! There was the modern-day
version of Sy's air conditioning contracting firm "Weathermatic
Corporation." A quick email to Kaback.com earned me a response
from John J. Murphy, who replied with a brief overview of Mr.
Sy used to own Grand Prix Motors in East
Rutherford NJ. I believe he shut it down in the late 60's. His
main reason was that Lotus would ship him new cars with used
engines and it created quite a problem. In any event all of Sy's
old business records were destroyed when the building he had
his offices in, the Broadway Central Hotel in NYC, collapsed
in the early 70's. The likelihood of any records being around
are nil. Sy is now 79 and living in East Hampton, N.Y. There
was a chapter in a book written about 15 years ago about Sy,
Grand Prix Motors and Lotus. I think it was called Colin Chapman's
Lotus. If you can get a copy it might have some info regarding
your model, but nothing specific. Sy was a great story teller
and would talk your ear off with stories of Lotus and racing.
After he stopped racing cars Sy was pretty successful racing
sailboats. He always named them Lotus.
Mr Murphy was also good enough to contact
Sy himself to inform him of my quest, and before long, his wife
Cynthia emailed me:
Hello John Donohoe:
You certainly seem to be an enthusiastic Lotus owner. We would
be happy to give you information for your Lotus Website. I sent
you a brief biography of Sy. He has lots of photos and scrapbooks
with memorabilia of his car racing career. How do you suggest
we proceed. Sy has no specific memory about the Lotus you mentioned,
but Robin Read is a very good source on this kind of detail and
will respond to inquiries. Please feel free to contact us with
any questions you may have.
Upon explaining my interest and intentions,
Cynthia and Sy eagerly agreed to help in any way they could.
We determined that I should prepare a list of questions, to which
Sy would reply via Cynthia.
Meanwhile the postings to email lists,
various vintage racing and Lotus car groups and other contacts
began returning information and overviews of Sy:
Pat Dennis, US Historian, Historic Lotus
I thought I would quickly put one question/issue
to rest. Re: Used engines. These were engines bought from BMC
by Lotus (and many other small manufacturers) and were factory
reconditioned units returned from dealers having been taken out
of new BMC cars with some problem too extensive for dealer correction.
These later became "Gold Seal" engines. They were usually
better than a unit delivered in new cars and came with a comprehensive
warranty (good only in UK, of course).
The Mk 15 registrar & I have been both
collecting information about both Sy's operation & his Type
15, including phone calls to Sy. He started in importing Lotus
Elevens (I have several of his adverts) and a few Elites, followed
by his 15. He became more involved in his racing efforts than
the importation - which means he brought in very few Type 7's.
When he finally destroyed the FPF Climax engine in his 15, he
transplanted a BOP 215 cid Buick, which he ultimately wrote off
at Thompson Raceway. He really never raced after that.
The distributorship of Lotus he had was
one of those "Chapman deals", where exclusive distributorship
was offered to several people in the same area. Quite a lawsuit
evolved, and as Lotus was beginning to start serious importing,
a more structured distributorship arrangement was developed with
Peter Pulver setting up Lotus East in Millerton NY, a Lotus Midwest
in Chicago was briefly operating and Chalman's Lotus group "Ecurlie
Shirlie" on the West coast took over the original Jay Chamberlain
As you have determined that your car came
through Kaback, that may make it a bit of a rare one - enriching
it's history to you. [Certainly so!]