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Victory Lap


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 car.)

"Lime Rock 1966: Helping Sy Kaback move his car out of the way"

Photo and caption from the web site of David Fenton

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 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 earned me a response from John J. Murphy, who replied with a brief overview of Mr. Kaback:

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 Register writes:

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 operation.

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!]