The Origin of Smokey’s Autobiography
Smokey got the idea for writing a history of stock car racing after giving a talk to explain racing to a group of kids at Lowe’s Motorspeedway, around 1995. He realized that all the people who were a part of the early days were dying and most of the ones who were still alive were too involved with racing to be able to tell the real stories. What started as a history of stock car racing ended up as a look at Smokey’s life and American history of the past 70 years through a very unique set of eyes.
Smokey started writing the book around 1998 and was nearing completion when a rare form of cancer grabbed his ass and the doctors didn’t give him much time. He decided that it was time to get the publishing effort in gear. He supervised every part of the publishing process to make sure it was just like he wanted - raw and unedited. The book launch was set for summer race week of 2001 in Daytona. The book was at the printer when Smokey died on May 9, but we launched it on schedule and it is still selling more than a decade later.
Best Damn Garage in Town is a book that is different from most you have read - it’s more like Smokey is sitting across the table from you telling stories. He goes off on tangents, he repeats himself every now then, but when you’re finished, you understand what happened and why it happened. And you’ve laughed and cried through all of it. Smokey wasn’t all clean and polished, but he knew what the hell he was talking about. The book is the same way - it’s not for young kids or people easily offended. (He didn’t want some know-nothing editor trying to clean up and organize what he was trying to say.) If you’re ready, get the book and hang on for the ride.
Best Damn Garage in Town was originally published as a 3 volume boxed set of 1,100 pages with over 400 photographs. This was sold in two versions: a Racer’s Edition that sells for $95 and a signed, numbered, hardbound Collector’s Edition that is currently not available. Several years later, Carbon Press brought out what we laughingly call the Pocket Edition: it weighs in at only 650 pages and 4 pounds (as opposed to the original that was 11 pounds), but it is priced at a more affordable $29.95.
We also got a lot of feedback from race fans that these stories would be great for long drives to the races. We created two different collections of audio book versions of stories from the book. The first was Sex, Lies & Superspeedways, which was read by John Delorean and is 6 hours of stories from the book. That was such a success, we decided to expand the readers and created More Sex, Lies & Superspeedways, with a host of racing and automotive figures doing the reading and telling you their personal Smokey stories along the way.
In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the original publication, we brought Smokey’s book into the computer age by creating an ePub edition of the book.
Special Note: On the 10th anniversary of the publication of the book, we ran a special promotion where we give you the digital edition of the book when you purchase a Racer’s edition. People loved it, so we decided to just add it to the store. Click here to find out more.
The first volume, Walkin’ Under a Snake’s Belly, covers Smokey’s life outside racing, beginning with growing up in Neshaminy, Pennsylvania on a farm, dropping out of high school to take care of the family and going off to World War II as a B-17 pilot. The war stories are told through the eyes of a young man who believed all that the Army Air Corps taught him, but he had a mind of his own and was also hell-bent on having fun at all costs. (If that meant irritating a few generals, then that was just par for the course.)
After the racing years, Smokey ended spending most of his time working on his inventions and working in the oil and gold fields of Ecuador. Along the way, Smokey had a knack for finding fun and adventure everywhere he went. Alcohol, women and speed were his main addictions - he eventually gave up alcohol, but never did give up the other two.
The second volume, All Right You Sons-a-Bitches, Let’s Have a Race, chronicles the stock car racing years in living color. The warning on these books, that they are not to be read by those under 18 unless they are with a grandparent who can translate the social and moral implications of the stories, is not to be taken lightly. (Smokey even includes his own dictionary to explain the terms that racers used in the early days to the uninformed.) Smokey and his band of merry compatriots were racers and there were only two things on their mind when the sun went down – women and booze. Smokey had his share of both during 15 years of racing, when racers were looked down on as the dregs of society. Nothing could stop his dream of being the fastest at the sport he loved, no matter what happened along the way – the sign of a true racer.
During his years in stock car racing, Smokey fell in love with a mistress that he would visit every May for over 20 years: The Indianapolis 500. The first half of the third volume, Li’l Skinny Rule Book, covers his love of this famed event and the wonderful stories of the days before the big corporate sponsors; when it was just men and their machines, sleeping on the floor in the garage and most times coming home with nothing. As the title implies, Smokey loved Indy because the rules were so simple. His inventive mind and knack for thinking way outside the box were at their best when Indy was involved.
The fourth section of the book covers his years of inventing inside and outside of racing. Smokey’s 10 patents don’t begin to cover the breadth and depth of his inventing. His work with the car companies and on the racetrack led to a host of developments that have improved surface transportation for everyone. The value of some of his ideas and inventions, like his famous hot vapor engine, were never fully realized.
Many books have been written about the last 50 years of American history, but few are this entertaining, revealing and introspective all at the same time. Real stories from World War II, stock cars, the automotive industry and the Mexican Road Race are just a few of the elements in Smokey’s autobiography. They combine to make Best Damn Garage in Town one of the most interesting and honest books in a long time.
Sample Chapter, Introductions and Tables of Contents
Volume 1: Walkin’ Under a Snake’s Belly
Volume 2: All Right You Sons-a-bitches, Let’s Have a Race
Volume 3: L’il Skinny Rule Book / Eatin’ an Elephant