Flashback Friday with D. Randy Riggs — Delicious Decibles

D. Randy Riggs

Flashback Friday with D. Randy Riggs — Delicious Decibles

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Flashback Friday with D. Randy Riggs — Delicious Decibles

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From Vintage Motorsport issue 19.4-Jul/Aug 2019

Photo: Riverside Records Album “Sounds of Sebring 1958”

Vroom, vroom! My curiosity with engine sounds probably began as a toddler when the occasional DC-3 would fly over our home. I always looked to the sky at the sound of those radial engines and loved them even more when my dad took me to the airport to see one fire up. Smoke, sometimes flames and then the staccato snorts as these engines came to life. The fuzz stood up on my arms!

Trains too, caught my attention and on visits to the local tracks I had my favorites—the fast-disappearing steam engines and the diesels that were coming upon the railroad scene—especially the F-Units made by GM’s Electromotive Division. The electric GG1 locomotives that were commonplace where I lived didn’t do much for me. Too quiet.

More amazing sounds came from the GMC cabover trucks that were powered by the Detroit 2-stroke diesel. I went nuts when I heard one go by, counting the shifts. It’s one of the best engine sounds ever.

When I visited my grandmother and stayed overnight in her city home, I listened carefully to the traffic as it drove past, and I could name the cars by their sounds—a Buick Straight-8 Dynaflow here, a flathead Ford there.

Trips to Trenton and Langhorne Speedways amped up the noise I loved the most—race cars of every description. Mostly Offys in the 1950s on the dirt, their low growl distinctive, as were the small-block Chevy V8s as they screamed their way into the oval track mix. My first sports car race on opening day at Lime Rock Park in 1957 was another glorious symphony of engine sounds, and by then, I was seriously hooked.

So pity my poor mother the day I purchased the latest LP from Riverside Records with my meager allowance money. It was “Sounds of Sebring 1958,” the album cover a blazing color photo of a row of beautiful blood-red Ferrari 250TRs with the archaic Sebring pit stalls behind, the No. 14 with its taped-up headlights the eventual winner.

For my 11-year-old self it was one of my best-ever purchases, because I felt like I was at Sebring as I played the record grooves over and over, and the album had a vivid description of the event on its back cover. My imagination put me right in the heart of the action, even though I was 1,100 miles away up north.

My mom’s admonition that she was going to kill me if I didn’t turn down the volume on my RCA Victor phonograph was reason enough to do as she said, but it wasn’t ever long before I’d creep the sound back up again. I did notice she was happier when I played the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

My dad jumped in the fray when I took the muffler off our riding mower, and of course, we used clothespins to attach baseball cards to our bicycles so they could flap on the spokes, making pseudo engine sounds. Balloons worked even better.

A trip to a local Chevy dealer in 1961 saw me coming home with a promotional record for the Corvette. It featured Gene Staley, general manager of Chevrolet, and a narration by none other than Zora Arkus- Duntov, the Corvette’s chief engineer and a legend among Corvette enthusiasts. Nearly 30 years later, Duntov would become a friend of mine.

Once again, mom was not amused with my latest vinyl, as the sound track from this record was played at warp volume with the Corvette shifting through the gears at full throttle. You too, can irritate your friends and family by turning this YouTube Corvette video up to full volume.

I love it when Duntov, with his Russian accent says, “Is your seatbelt fastened? All right. Let’s go…” And go he does.

So is it any wonder why all these years later, with my noise junkie tinnitus ringing away 24/7, that watching a Formula E race leaves me with the same feeling as when I watched the GG1 electric locomotives.

Nothing to hear, here.

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