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Peter Giddings Racing

Fifty Years with Peter Giddings, Part Two

by Judy Giddings

(This article is from Veloce Today, July 9, 2019. Edited by Pete Vack, reprinted here with permission)

In Thailand

Photos courtesy Judy Giddings unless otherwise noted

Last week in VeloceToday, A Celebration of Life, Judy Giddings recalled her honeymoon with Peter and an Alfa 6C1500 and their life -- moving, buying and selling houses and estates. This week she remembers a few of the many memorable classic car events they attended together.

1984 Grand Bahama Vintage Speed Week

We took our Talbot Lago to the Bahamas vintage race which comprised of three races, two warm-up sessions, and seven cocktail parties! It was fun!

Talbot Lago

Peter and Judy with the Talbot Lago (and Tazio) circa 1984.

1988 Bangkok Historic Grand Prix

We ran Maserati 8CM “3011” in this amazing event, hosted by the Thai Royal family, which included demonstration runs, a timed sprint in the Royal Plaza, Bangkok, and a race at Pattaya. ERAs Romulus, Remus, and Hanuman were all in attendance. One evening, the swimming pool at Chakrabongse House (one of the palaces owned by the Royal family) was covered over and turned into a dance floor. The ladies were asked to wear the Thai colors of blue and yellow, with the gentlemen sporting blue bow ties.

3011 Thailand

Judy with 3011 in Thailand.

A silver cup was presented to General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief. (The Thai Army became a good customer for Clear-Com.) There was also a TukTuk (3 wheel scooter) race, which was won by Alain de Cadenet, who was also of great help working with Peter on some problems experienced with “3011”. There were also functions at the Australian and British Embassies, The highlight was dinner on the Royal barge as it made its way down the main khlong (canal). The cars were then transported to Pattaya for a race. The 32 year-old Princess Narisa Chakrabongse drove her debut race in Romulus.

1992-93 Southern Festival of Speed, New Zealand

Peter ran the Southern Festival of Speed in New Zealand several times. The series included races at The Levels, Ruapuna, Teretonga, and Dunedin. What made the 1992 and 1993 events special was that Peter took with him various U.S. entrants, including Brian and Sandy Blain, Aba Kogan, Bruce McCaw, Stan Peterson, Peter Talbot, and Bob Sutherland. Peter ran Maserati 8CM “3011”. The Otago Daily Times article read “United States Senator, Mr. Peter Giddings, will be among competitors….”. Peter was not even a U.S. citizen, let alone a Senator!

1996 San Felipe GP

The race from Ensenada to San Felipe is about a hundred miles in length. The road twists through four or five small mountain ranges with flat straights in between. The race was promoted by Art Evans’ Vintage Racing Club, and ran several times. Supposedly the Mexican government had cleared the road, and posted signs warning people to stay off the main highway. But one year, Peter came round a bend in his Monza, only to see a large hay truck bearing down on him! I don’t know whether Peter’s eyes, or those of the truck driver, were out further on stalks, but somehow they avoided each other. Support vehicles were allowed to follow once the last driver had left. That year I was driving my Mercedes and found Peter and the Monza by the road side. Peter was very caring about his cars, and felt terrible that he had put a rod out the side, which had never happened to him before: in fact, he was so upset, he would not even accompany me for dinner.

In another year Peter drove his Type 37 Bugatti. The magneto, which protrudes through the firewall, had come loose. As long as Peter held it in place the engine would run. Unfortunately, if he relaxed even for a second, the mag sent a mighty combination of volt and amps up his arm and down through his body; the only way to stop it was to let go.

Bugatti T35

Not in San Felipe, but in Wisconsin, where the magneto gave Peter a bit of a problem in 2008. He knew he could leave for a while as he sought help. John Sexton photo.

1999 Australian Grand Prix, Historic Car Section

Peter has run the vintage race at the Australian Grand Prix many times, at both Adelaide and Melbourne. During a podium finish, along with Sir Stirling Moss and Max Lane, Peter sprayed champagne on Stirling Moss, whose response was “I am not going to waste good champagne on you!”

2003 New York International Auto Show

Our Tipo C 8C35 #50013 won first place at the famed Louis Vuitton Concours in New York, where we were presented with a set of luggage. It was quite an overwhelming moment when Peter was directed to stop the Tipo C between two magnificent police horses, with dozens of news cameras flashing.

Vuitton Concours

Judy with the Alfa 8C35 in New York. Christopher McNeil photo

2011 Pacific Union Club, San Francisco

We had a very memorable evening at the Pacific Union Club, San Francisco, in the company of Sir Stirling and Lady Susie Moss, along with 20+ of the very cars he raced in the day and/or exact models thereof. The book-ends were a BMW 328 and a Lotus 19, filled in with the likes of period and very select Coopers, Jaguars, Aston Martins, Mercedes, Lotus, Maseratis, and Ferraris. Our Maserati 250F was also displayed. Sir Stirling was the guest speaker, and talked about his experiences behind the wheel of various cars.

Peter Giddings and Clear-Com

Many of our readers were aware that Peter Giddings did a lot of work for a company called Clear-Com, which was established in 1968, responding to a need to provide communications solutions for those who needed to talk to each other under difficult circumstances. In the Bay area, the rise of bands such as the Grateful Dead meant that any discussion between band technicians became impossible (and for anyone else as well)! Clear-Com led the way in high tech cable intercom systems. Today, there are thousands of applications, including space, military and defense. But like many companies, the beginnings were not impressive. Judy explains:

Peter had joined up with Bob Cohen, and marketed/sold the Clear-Com communication systems, initially in North America. At the time, Clear-Com was located in an old building in San Francisco at 759 Harrison Street. Upon walking through the door, the first item to be seen was a claw foot bath. There was an ancient steam elevator, driven by water from a stream below the building. Despite much hissing and puffing, this did not have the power to actually make it to the next floor, but would grind to a halt about a foot or two below floor level. Having climbed up, it was impossible to see across the room due to the marijuana smoke. There were also vats of a steaming substance used to clean components. The smoke and odor coming from these had much the same effect as the “pot”. The accounts lady reached her desk, which was poised up in the rafters, via a series of wooden planks.

Paperwork destined for people on the ground floor was clipped into a clothespin on a rope and lowered – the reverse action took place to get items to her.

At that time, Clear-Com had virtually no export business, so Peter packed his bags, and set off traveling the world; riding a rusty bicycle in Guam, and China (where the hotel bed was still warm from the previous recipient), a Tuk Tuk in Thailand, an armored military vehicle in Soweto, South Africa.

This of course necessitated long trips overseas but quite often we were able to incorporate a race meeting! A number of the overseas distributors Peter set up still remain loyal to Clear-Com, and today export business represents a large percentage of Clear-Com’s overall turnover – so much so that it was decided a few years ago that the world was too large a territory for Peter to handle/ travel, and thus he retained Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. The photo shows Peter and I in 2018 proudly receiving our award “In appreciation for your contributions leading to the success of Clear-Com,” presented at Clear-Com’s 50 year celebration.

Clear-Com Award

Peter and Judy receiving an award from Clear-Com.

Peter, Judy, and their dogs

As many of you know, dogs have always been a major part of our lives, and this continues with our magnificent fawn Great Dane, Havoc. Our first dog in California was also a gorgeous Harlequin Great Dane named Alfa. (I wonder where that name came from?!) Our first trip with Alfa was to Morro Bay where we “smuggled” her into our room. We had Alfa bred and she produced five pups. We kept one of them, a male we named Tazio. (Again, I wonder where that name came from?!) We used to take both Alfa and Tazio to the races. Max was our black Great Dane who also went to many races. Fortunately, he had white paws, thus enabling us to see him in the dark. He was with us when we rented a 500 sq. ft. cottage and it was fun as he took up so much room that wherever one was, it was necessary to pick one’s way over him. Many of you know Havoc. It was due to him and his love and support that enabled Peter to beat his October 2015 diagnosis of six months to three years and three months.

Lord Havoc

Lord Havelock on duty for the Last Post. Photo by Peter Darnall

In closing, the wording on a condolence card received from Bob Boster about Peter read: “One life lived … many lives touched,” Really sums up Peter Giddings, doesn’t it?