Shutter Speed: Dewar, Cooke, and Jackie

My new position as the chief and only photographer for the Canadian Baby Photographers in the Ottawa area was going well, but it had some serious challenges. Since I worked on a commission basis of my work sold, I needed to have good images and a great salesman to sell my work. The problem was the company would send up a salesman from Toronto to get orders. Then I would get paid. In between I was on my own. It was all very confusing and put a serious strain on my family life. I soldiered on trying to make ends meet. Over Christmas we decided to make a break out on our own with my wife now selling my work. The company supplying the leads for our now ‘Ottawa Baby Photographers’ came with us. There was now a lot more to consider with film processing and the final orders to be processed, but we dug right in and it turned the corner and began to make money. One of my neighbours was a very excitable man named Rick Conrick. Rick was a printing salesman for a Montreal printer. When he saw my work he began to envision a customer for a calendar of motor racing pictures. He came up with Imperial Tobbacco whose head office was in Montreal. He called them and got an appointment with the head of promotions. I soon found myself walking off a top floor elevator at the Imperial Tobbacco head office. The building had a strange smell.  It processed the cigarettes at this location.  We were met at the elevator by Tony Kallock, the VP of PR. All Rick said was, ‘Tony, I’ve got something thats going to blow your fucking mind!’  Not quite my approach, but we walked out of there with an order for prints for the Imperial Tobbacco calendar to the tune of over four thousand dollars!

On the motor racing end of things I thought more about Paul Cooke and the ‘portrait’ he wanted of Roger McCaig in the Can Am McLaren. I went through the images I had of Roger and picked two. One was a headshot with his helmet on. The other was a shot of the car at speed coming directly at me. The windscreen on the McLaren had a clear blue tint. I wondered if the shot of the car at speed would blend into the windscreen. Roger’s eyes were a beautiful Paul Newman blue, amost the same colour as the windscreen. I took my idea to my processor and we both wondered what it would come out like. His name was Goldie Lang. When it came to putting on paper what was on the negative he was an artist. The first print that came out of Goldie’s processor held both he and I speechless. Being Asian he tended to be very reserved. Now his smile was from ear to ear. The print was 16 x 20 inches. I decided right then and there not to do any portraits smaller. We cranked out another of Gordon Dewar. I had met Dewar in a converted grocery store in Hull just across the river from Ottawa. The old store was the home of JNO Racing and a rag-tag gang of hangers-on who loved cars, motorcycles and Dewar’s approach to racing anything! Several times I ventured with Dewar to the races in his motor home, but more on that in a moment. The first time I got a chance to see Paul Cooke, which I believe was the first race at Mosport, I showed Paul the unframed print of Roger.  He just stood there. ‘How much do you want for this?’ I didn’t know. I just stood there. After a restless moment or two I blurted, ‘Seventy-five dollars.’ I waited for him to laugh me off. He didn’t. ‘How much to frame it?’ I told him it would be around $35.00. He told me to frame it and bring it to the next race. I brought the framed portrait of Roger to Tremblant two weeks later. I had double-matted the print and put a gold brushed alluminum frame around that. I located Paul and told him I had the portrait in the car. He didn’t want Roger to see it. We went to their motor home where I unwrapped the finished portrait. He asked what I wanted for it now. I told him $125.00. The frame had only cost me $32.00 so I thought I was skinning him for another eighteen bucks! He told me to sit down. He kept looking at the portrait as he wrote me a cheque. ‘I’ve got a few words of advice for you. If you had asked me for five hundred dollars for this, I would have paid it. It is the most beautiful racing portrait I have ever seen. Never never undersell yourself. Get rid of the jeans. If you are going to be an artist and a professional, look the part. Now I want you to take this and show it to every driver you can and see what the reaction is. Make sure they know it is for Roger and that he does not know about it.’ I promptly put the price for new orders up to $390.00 for a framed portrait and took several orders that same afternoon. Paul had in less than a minute put my photography career on another level and path. My direction was now to serve the drivers and sponsors. Newsprint paid little then and still does unless you get the cover. The multiple image portrait of Roger McCaig became my signature.

I delivered the portrait to Paul at Mid-Ohio where I had another great adventure. I got a ride at speed in a Can Am car! I traveled from Ottawa to Mid-Ohio in Dewar’s motor home with a guy they called ‘the Rat’. His real name escapes me. We towed the March 707 Can Am car behind us. Dewar drove his Corvette down a day later in time for Friday’s practice. I was helping out with the car as well as shooting images. Dewar had a few problems in practice and wanted to see if the changes made were effective. Of this I did not know or I might not have gotten into the car. Dewar got permission to take the 707 out for several laps to check it out and asked if he was able to take a photographer out with him. Things were mighty loose in those days.  I sat next to Dewar in the very tight cockpit…unbelted! I had my camera with a wide angled lens on iit.  We went for three totally hair-raising laps shooting images of Dewar beside me, me beside him, the two of us together and the view out the front of the car. When I put the camera down to enjoy the ride I realized just how serious the situation was. I put the camera back up into the air and began to shoot again.  The camera by this time was actually out of film! I rolled the film back into the canister. Shooting the camera took my mind off the excitement. I did not need support after I got out of the car, but I knew my knees were weak from all the adrenalin.

After the race I rode home with Dewar now driving the motor home with the 707 in tow on a trailer. For some reason we headed towards Detroit. On the freeway running through Toledo Dewar told me to take over the wheel. He didn’t stop. He just put the thing in cruise-control and stood up! I jumped into the driver’s seat and took over. Dewar walked to the back of the motor home and looked out the window. Right behind us was ‘the Rat’ in the Corvette. Dewar started to fiddle with some wire he had strung out the side window. I heard him start to laugh and looked in the rearview mirror. I could see him half out the window. I looked in the left-side-mirror and saw him yanking on the wire. It was attached to the septic system! Everything that went into that toilet over the weekend went out on the road right in front of the Corvette! I guess ‘the Rat’ tried to slow the car down, but spun it instead. He spun it right down the center of the highway! He never touched a thing and took off after us when he got it straightened out. Dewar just laughed harder as he looked out the back window. I don’t recall much of the outcome other than ‘the Rat’ was some pissed off. He was being cool with the roof down, so I guess he got quite dose from the motor home’s septic tank. Looking back, I am surprised it did not cause some problems with the handling of the trailer with the 707 aboard. There are many crazy stories of the guys and girls that are in racing, but that one almost takes the cake.

By this time I had done a number of portraits of drivers. Several absolute beauties were from Tremblant that year. The extreme rise and fall of the track and the fact that you could get very close produced some exciting portraits of Hiroshi Kazato, Dewar, Bobby Brown, Peter Revson, Oscar Koveleski and Jackie Stewart in the L & M Lola. I showed Jackie his portrait in Watkins Glen. The image was different than all the rest. The other portraits had all been vertical with the car under the driver with his helmet on. With Jackie’s portrait it was horizontal with the car coming over his right shoulder, again with his helmet on. It was the eyes I was after. Jackie has very distinctive eyes.  The car shot I got under the bridge on the run up to the last hair-pin at Tremblant.  It was stunning.  Jackie was impressed enough to want to show it to the L & M people at their motor home. It was here I met Rod Campbell who was L & M’s PR man. Rod seemed impressed and said it would make a great poster. Jackie piped up something about the portrait was for personal viewing only, but that he expected commercial rights could be acquired. Jackie told me to let him do the talking. I learned a valuable lesson about the commercial value of an image and that it exceeds the ‘personal view’ value greatly. Racing photography was now starting to pay off for me. I enjoyed the travel, but being away from home almost every weekend took it’s toll on my family.

On my return from a racing weekend I found my home empty and my wife and son gone. My personal life took on the normal separated-and-soon-divorced route. One very funny incident during this period happened, so at least I got one good laugh out of the situation. When my soon-to-be-ex-Father-in-law appeared at the door with the marina dockboy to pick up our second car he could not find it in the townhouse parking lot.  He came to the door and asked where it was. I told him it was out near the front of the lot. He came back in roaring about not being able to find it. I told him that several notices had been sent about the car saying that it was improperly parked. I guess I forgot to send them on to him. I took him back out and showed him the car.  It was now a nice square block that along with another offender marked the entrance to the parking lot. A small sign was attached to the block-car that simply said, ‘Private Parking! This WILL happen to you!’  I was now getting around on a 450 Ducati Desmo I had gotten through the Dewar gang.

The Formula One Championship was again won by Jackie Stewart with the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport also his. The F1 race was shortened due to poor light conditions that were brought on by a late start to the race. The cause of this delay was a terrible accident in the first turn during the Formula Ford event. The race got off in fine form as Formula Ford races trend to do with several cars coming together in Turn One just before the tunnel. The leaders, unaware of the incident, took off. An ambulance was dispatched from it’s holding spot at the end of the pit lane. It pulled to the scene of the accident on the left side of the track…the racing line. It was protecting cars that ended up there during the first lap melee. On the second lap the leaders stormed down the pit straight and down the hill into the long right-hander of Turn One. The leading cars saw the ambulance and narrowly got around it. This lead group was all nose-to-tail. Reg Scullion was directly behind Wayne Kelly in this group. Acording to Scullion, Kelly looked in his right-hand mirror checking behind him. This quick check appears to have resulted in Kelly failing to see the ambulance parked on the racing line in time. He ran into the right rear corner of the ambulance at full throttle. He was decapitated in the impact. Scullion slipped by and the race stopped. Gary Magwood at the time was inside Turn One giving an interview to the CBC on the dangers of racing. Magwood would describe Kelly as a delightful character…tough, funny and not good when it came to losing…a true competitor. Formula One would lose Jo Siffert in a non-championship race at Brand Hatch. Siffert had a coming together with Ronnie Peterson in the opening lap, but continued until his suspension failed. Siffert was unable to get out of the BRM before it exploded. He died in the car. Pedro Rodríguez was killed in an Interserie sports car race at the Norisring in Germany at the wheel of a Ferrari 512M. Along with Siffert, Rodriguez was considered to be the bravest driver in motorsport. At the start of the 1970 1000 km of Spa, the sight of the pair in their identical Gulf Porsche 917′s, together, side-by-side in the rain and roaring through the then-very narrow and always dangerous Eau Rouge left everyone breathless and cheering.

Next: Motorcycles, Racing and a New Camera.

Read the whole Shutter Speed Series.

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Comments

  1. Leighton Irwin says

    Fantastic!
    We had run in an earlier prelim race to the GP and were watching from 9, a favourite spot for drivers and crews. Of course, we all knew Wayne and I had been up to hi jinks with him on occasion.
    Once we knew, and people involved in the sport always find out quickly, we just left.
    We had lost all interest in the GP.

  2. says

    Wow, Allan I wish we could sit down with a bottle of good scotch and a couple of days to look over all these great images and hear your stories of a by-gone era that will never duplicated ,and experience you tales first hand… Reading your accounts I long for those days again, great machines,great men!
    And I thank -you for the advice; “Never,never undersell youself!”
    Now I understand and see that career changing Paul Cooke sentence in context.
    You should try to get out to Mosport this year for old times sake as it is their 50th Anniversary. Bring the famous Canada camera and we can ‘shoot a few rolls’. There are many more fences and gaurd rails but those images and memories will live on forever.
    I will be shooting at all the historic events. JRW

  3. says

    Hey Big John; Gary has talked me into coming to Toronto to shoot the Indy in July. It would be nice to stretch it to Mosport and a vintage event. What are the dates? Even just a ride up to see the place and see the changes. I can see most of them through the images everyone is posting, but it will never be the same with the sound of engine stretched to the limit. I chatted with Paul the other night and laughed about the change he made in me. It literaly changed my outlook and made me realize I could be different and produce some desireable images and projects. Hang on. There is more. There is more craziness as well. Wet T-shirt contests, the Bog, nude drivers for a centerfold of the Mosport program, buses getting mooned and fire hoses in hotel rooms!

  4. Lyndsay Styles says

    You never let me down Allan. Yet another gripping episode of my favorite time in motor racing.
    It never ceases to amaze me as to what turns a persons life around. Yours was in the shape of advice and the best advice anyone could give and hear. You listened and put it into practice and reaped the rewards.
    You will always remember those times, events and people.
    You have never lost your enthusiasm for what you love and still produce remarkable work.
    Can’t wait for the next installment!

  5. says

    A great read!

    I remember that grocery store well. That’s where my first “real” race car was that I ran in 1971 on 0 cents. Gordie’s first 712 (actually a 71BM), which he went out of his way to help this penniless FFer get into. I sat in that car and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Then we started it and my ears told me it was true.

    I’d go up from Montreal and fondle it while Gordie would try to explain to me “bump steer” as he worked on his treasure – a March 707. Monster that it was, the FB was faster, at least at Mt. Tremblant.

  6. says

    Hi Leighton; You wouldn’t be talking about that Brown kid would you? That must be another story about a firehose. It’s like the battery story with the batteries in the motel pool. Of course they were still attatched to a car or two, rental types…:-)

  7. Leighton Irwin says

    Yes that little ex paratrooper and rumoured something else..
    That particular incident and several others in Newfie are ones I am a little leery of writing about.
    Some of the characters might find me!
    Then there was the year no rental Co. in Edmonton would knowingly rent a car to a racer.

  8. says

    The battery incident was in Florida. The firehose incident I witnessed was in Banff. I don’t worry about who will find me. They are all too old! There are lots of rental companies that would not rent you a vehicle if you had a famous name and a heavy right foot. They got a lot of cars with the tires in need of replacement.

  9. Leighton Irwin says

    I then may sometime do a story on the St Johns race.
    I didn’t see it all but saw some and heard the rest. ‘Stand on It’ had nothing on that weekend. Were you there ?

  10. wilf caron says

    ice racing, road racing, hiway racing, racing thru the nite, Gordie Dewar was a friend of mine. A site recalling past and current Trans Am Camaros posted that he had passed on. ??
    Live fast.
    Hi Ian, haven’t seen your name in many moons. Remember the impromtu track off the back deck at St. Jovite?
    regards

  11. Bob Rennick says

    Hi Allan. I was friends with Gordon Dewar 'way back when he first entered the Can-Am with his McLaren M6B. I was 16 or 17 at the time and he'd let me hang around his shop (then on Dalhousie St., he used to proudly say, "Across from the whore house".) I'd show up in St. Jovite and he'd get me a pit-pass and let me do odds and ends. I only went to the shop in Hull a few times and I'd sit in the March 707 imagining . . . The last race I was with him was in 1971 at St. Jovite with the 707. I still recall the problems he had with the Hewland gearbox and I remember how unique it was when they were calling him to qualify and his gears were all over the ground being handled by orange shirted mechanics from McLaren, Kovaleski sent someone, I think Lothar was also helping. So different from today: everyone WANTED him to get out and race!
    A number of years ago I tried to unsuccessfully to track him down and you confirmed my suspicions, that he had died. How sad, he was very kind to me. His legacy, however, is living on (in a way). I've found his March 707 in Italy. I've contacted the owner and will be visiting it this spring. Happily, it is still being raced.

    Thanks for having this blog. I found it fascinating.

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