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Peter Giddings Racing


-a story by Gene Dangel


The last time saw you was at a Danville de Elegance event several years ago. We agreed that it had been way too long and promised to get in touch for a visit. You were still in the house above the freeway at the time. A little over a month ago I received an email from my brother-in-law, John Seidell, containing a photograph sent to him by Ron Randolf of your pit at Laguna with one of Ron's oil heaters hooked up to one of your cars. John and Ron are pals and fellow PCA racers. ...

It was pleasant to visit with Judy this past Sunday (at the 2018 Danville de Elegance) while you were otherewise engaged in conversations. Yesterday, I read your interview in the DDE program as well as your article about Stirling Moss. I never knew of your writing talents ... you are quite good! I logged on to your website at the end of the interview and have spent the better part of the morning enjoying its content. Later this evening I plan to read your other articles. Upon clicking "Contact" I read that "if you have a story about meeting Peter you would like to share ..." You asked, so here goes ...

My First Meeting With Peter

I remember it like it was yesterday, but do not recall the date. I was replacing the roof on Jack Hagemann's back patio cover in exchange for his fabrication of a custom fuel tank for our boat. I had known Jack for years and followed his work so it was no surprise when this English chap appeared in the drive with his Talbot for Jack to work his magic in forming new aluminum bodywork. It was the beginning of an interesting relationship.

Peter asked if I was interested in repairing the leaky roof on his garage so I agreed to come and take a look. Turns out he and Judy lived just down the block are around the corner from us in Walnut Creek. The next day I turned up to look at the job. The roof resembled more of a sieve letting more water in than it kept out. Several race cars were shoehorned in the small space but the one I remember most was Peter's beautiful SWB Ferrari. The roof got replaced and if memory serves me correrctly it led to some carpentry work and a roof on the main house.

In reading Peter's bio it was curious to learn of his sneaking into Goodwood and his early passion for motor racing. I do not have any breaking and entering stories to tell but my first exposure to sports car racing was when my father pit crewed for our Oakland neighbor's friend who was racing his Arnolt Bristol on the Golden Gate Park circuit. Yup, sometime in the 50's. I was hooked. While in high school a friend of mine Charlie's father was the San Francisco Region SCCA head turn marshal. Strings were pulled and I was allowed to be a turn worker even though I was under the required age.

It was a cloud nine experience being able to work national "meetings" at Laguna, Vacaville, Cotati, and once at Riverside. This all in the mid 1960's with the glorious cars and drivers of the day. My first real race car was a Turner 950S that had been prepared by Hollywood Sports Cars. I autocrossed it for two years before selling it to acquire a Lotus 7A which I took to driver's school at Cotati. Finished school but never entered a competition. Short story, Uncle Sam called and I sold the car. Later, after watching impressive drives by Robert Winkelmann in his Anglia I prepared one in the hopes of fulfilling my dreams of racing. Took the car to Cotati for a test session and Winkelmann actually drove it commenting the car was on the right track. Like the Lotus, never entered a race. Short story, fell in love, got married, had kids ... sold the car. I did start restoration of one of the last marques front engine Coventry Climax powered Elva's to enter in vintage events, but sold that too. Ahh, the ones that got away.

So, after working for Peter and Judy on their Walnut Creek house I get a call asking if I would be interested in doing some work on their new home which turned out to be the old Scripps Estate. Little did I know what I was getting in for. The property was amazing and Peter had a vision to turn several of the out structures into additional garage space for his ever increasing collection of wonderful machines. Off and on over a period of several years the horse stable was cemented in and converted to a proper garage, the multi-stall carport was enclosed for more space, and on and on. It became a venerable compound and at times took on the appearance of a works garage/paddock.

One day Peter asked if I thought one wing of the main house could be made into separate living space to which I replied, sure, why not. There was already a door in the main hallway so it was simple matter of turning the large dressing room into a full kitchen, taking out a closet and putting in a staircase to the upstairs large master (bedroom). Piece of cake. Peter and Judy had vision and lots of patience as all this work had to be done on days off from my regular job as a firefighter, husband, dad, track and soccer coach, etc, etc. During this project we discovered the posts holding up the second story enclosed veranda and roof were rotted, causing everything to sag. Can you fix it?, Peter asked ... sure, why not.

Next came "do you think the old gardener's cottage could be made into living quarters?" Again it was another sure, why not, moment. During the transformation we discovered the structure was formerly an old greenhouse before the larger one next to it was constructed. By pushing out the back wall for a bedroom/bath, popping out the sides a bit to make room for a small kitchen and dining area, it turned out to be a cozy space. I about fell over when I learned that years later Peter and Judy actually lived in the Gardener's Cottage for a while, with Taz (actually Max, successor to Taz), between one of their relocations. There was also this dark room wash tank/trough thing Peter needed for developing his film that needed to be built and fiberglassed ... sure, why not. I am sure there is more that I am forgetting with time.

The icing on the cake during all of this construction was to be around Peter's wonderful cars up close and personal. It was a vicarious affair with spectacular racing machines. I could never get excited over the newer race cars so as vintage racing took hold we regularly made it to Laguna and Sears Point. Peter and Judy were always so gracious when we visited their pit and it was an absolute joy to watch Peter drive. My favorite of his cars was the 250F. It was of particular interest to hear of his international racing exploits.

I do not have any photos with famous friends who are race drivers, but I do have a friend who is a famous race driver. We finally made it to Goodwod in 2006 and my Dinky Toys from when I was a kid are properly displayed in a case on the garage wall.

Peter, thank you for indulging me and allowing me to reminisce.

Your friend, Gene Dangel

(A very interesting story by Gene Dangel regarding the history of Peter's home at the Scripps estate! Those of us who were familiar with the place are greatly appreciative of the story of how it got to be the place where we spent so many hours preparing Peter's cars and otherwise just visiting with Peter and Judy (and their dogs). More great memories!)