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Old October 30th, 2003, 10:49 PM   #1
Tom S.
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Vintage racing lost a friend...

Gil Nickel passed away today from complications of cancer. For those that didn't know Gil, a quick read of Bill Warner's article in the current Panorama mentions his visit to the winery, Far Niente and the collection of vintage racing and sports cars. Gil was an instigator of motoring ideas, from participating in the original Cannonball to great motorcycle tours of North America. He is a generous sponsor of the Pebble Beach Concours and an annual participant in the Monterey Historics. Two years ago, Gil packed-up the family and spent almost a year in Italy driving in as many vintage events as he could. The familiar yellow and black transporter was packed with spares, 3 Lotus formula cars, and enough California wine to dazzle even the French.

Gil and Beth were wonderful hosts and always generous. I remember enjoying a wonderful afternoon at the winery and walking back to my Ferrari Daytona, noticing 2 cases of wine had mysteriously appeared beneath the rear hatch. Seems Gil experimented on his own Daytona and discovered that the cases would fit perfectly side-by-side and he thought it would be funny to see someone elseís reaction. Needless to say, I left before anyone changed their minds and wanted the wine back!

Another reminder of Gilís enthusiam occurred on a Ferrari tour in 1989 from the wine country to Monterey just prior to that years Historics. Gil and Beth were hosting a dinner for the participants at Far Niente and we were walking around the beautiful gardens (Gil and his brother are the largest nursery suppliers of Rhododendrons and Camellias to the Eastern US) and ending back at the Carriage House. There Adolfo Orsi (from Modena, Italy, his family once owned Maserati) and Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni (owner of Superleggeria Touring and designer of the Ferrari 166MM Barchetta, Aston Martin DB4/5, and the first Lamborghini, among others) were absolutely awed by Gilís Oakland Roadster Best of Show winning í32 Ford Highboy Hot Rod with a GMC Blown Hemi engine. They were going over the car discussing the quality of workmanship, engineering, and design. They had never seen a hot rod like this parked in a row with a 356 Porsche Speedster, Ferrari 340 Vignale barchetta, Ferrari Superfast, Ferrari Testarossa, and a Jag XK 120. Carlo and Aldolfo had many questions about American custom cars and had complimentary remarks comparing post war carrozzeria in Italy with 50ís American hot rod design and workmanship. Later, Gil took Carlo for a ride to the Silverado Trail in the beast which, I think, scared hell out of the elderly Italian gentleman. I notice no American hot rods have been invited to the Villa díEste Concours.

Gil, you will be missed.

Tom S.
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Old October 31st, 2003, 07:50 AM   #2
Doug MacKenzie
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Re: Vintage racing lost a friend...

Some of the most entertaining moments in recent years' Sears Point Vintage Races for me were watching Gil in his formula car. He was a fabulous driver.
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