I have been looking forward to seeing this new book from Dalton Watson, covering the very colourful life and times of Kirk F. White. But, who on earth is Kirk F. White you might ask? Well, his name might not be on everybody’s lips, but he certainly played an important role in some very high profile sectors of the motorsport and sportscar industry.
It was my very great privilege to interview Kirk F. White when I was writing my book on the Ferrari 512 S/M a few years back, and what an amiable character he was. A more easy going, far-sighted and courteous individual you would have to go a long way to find. Kirk F. White was none other than one of the key players behind the Sunoco Ferrari 512 M driven by Mark Donohue in 1971. Run by Penske, that Ferrari 512 M was the best looking and best prepared car in the paddock, and it was only a series of unfortunate incidents that prevented that car from wiping the field. To this day, the Sunoco blue 512 M is still talked about over countless beers and around innumerable BBQ fires. It was as a result of the professional manner in which Penske Racing approached the preparation of this Ferrari that Porsche asked Penske to run the all-conquering 917/30 in the Can-Am series in 1973.
Also in 1971, Kirk F. White became involved in the original and legendary Canonball Baker Sea-to-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, the no holds barred run from New York to Los Angeles. Seldom have I enjoyed a book on motoring as much as I did when I read Brock Yates’ Canonball! World’s Greatest Outlaw Race, written by one of the two men who won that inaugural dash across America back in ’71. Yates and Dan Gurney powered their way through all manner of weather, dodging the law, in an outlandish challenge that has been written into motoring lore. It was Kirk F. White who supplied the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’ that won the race!
For those in Europe or further afield who perhaps don’t know Kirk F. White, he was one of the very first to recognise the existence of a market for used race cars. Back in those early days, if you had championship winning aspirations, then even a one- or two-year old racing Ferrari only had a useful life of just one or two years at the most. After their racing life was over, those cars found homes quite easily in the lower racing classes and Kirk White was a well-informed and enthusiastic trader in this market. It is fair to say that Kirk White became well known in such circles and his passion grew into a fully-fledged and very lucrative business.
Don’t Wash Mine, is a story of Kirk’s life from childhood through to his last years. This most colourful account of a life lived to the full, includes how his love of cars was fuelled by a lodger in his family home, by all accounts a stranger to the family, but someone who introduced Kirk to the world of motoring. It was through his introduction to midget racing that Kirk’s real love for the sport grew into an obsession that became his life. Kirk White’s journey took him through the golden age of motorsports and car collecting, which brought him into contact with many memorable cars and people.
This entertaining book also covers his years of growth in that field to the point where Kirk opened a Ferrari dealership. But his love was for all things that related to full size race cars right down to scale models, those that sat on the shelf as well as those scale size tether-powered models that were also raced. Don’t Wash Mine, is a compilation of all that Kirk did during his life, the people he met and the places he went to. He had dealings with friends as well as clients right around the world. Once, through his association with the Sunoco Ferrari 512 M, when the car raced at Le Mans, he was summoned to a meeting with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). The ACO insisted on the Ferrari having Total sponsorship on the car, but this conflicted with the Sunoco deal that Penske had. So Kirk suggested putting the Total stickers under the rear wing of the Ferrari, where it did not clash with the Sunoco decals, and so that it could be clearly and easily seen as the car sped away from you. It wasn’t long before the underside of the rear was so covered in dirt and grime from racing that the decals were no longer readable!
The style the book is written in is entertaining, light hearted and in places downright hilarious. Kirk F. White the businessman, has over the years found himself in places where some may fear to tread, but he knew his industry so well that few, if any, could pull the wool over his eyes. His straight down the line style of business always shone through, which was one of his endearing qualities.
Not only did Kirk White source cars for his collector friends and clients, but he amassed a sizeable collection of his own. It is true to say that he was the founder of the modern collector car auction industry, and it is through this work that he collected stories wherever he went, and these accounts have been compiled for your enjoyment within the covers of this book.
What do you get
Don’t Wash Mine is packed with anecdotes and personal recollections resulting in a highly entertaining, well written story spanning the 82 eventful years of Kirk’s life. Sadly, he passed away in March 2020, but Kirk White certainly left a lasting and indelible impression on many automotive enthusiasts around the world.
The book comprises 400 pages and has been designed by David Williams, designer of Ferrari Club of America’s outstanding Prancing Horse magazine. Many of the images are from Kirk’s personal albums, while many other images show the author with well-known motorsport figures. If there is any criticism to be levelled at this fine publication, it is that as a book of 400 pages, the landscape format is somewhat cumbersome. But apart from that, the book is both an interesting and entertaining read, something to get your teeth into while we wait for the motorsport season to open up again. By the way, if you want to know why it is entitled Don’t Wash Mine, you will have to read the book!
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