Interview: Doug Ward
Friend of Alton Johnson
If I may, I would like to chime in & add to these comments. I never knew or met Strother McMinn, but certainly knew of him. I was a good friend of Alton Johnson & enjoyed many hours with him while he was building the first LeMans coupe . Al & I would take the car out many times for just a drive or when working out different aspects of its performance.
I was a passenger in it when Road & Track magazine ran tests & took 16 MM movies of it at Riverside Raceway, at speed. I remember that the car was very stable at speeds WELL over the 100 mph mark. I have many stories to tell about how the car performed. I remember well, when the terrible accident in Malibu Canyon happened that destroyed the car. The right front ( Triumph) disc brake failed or broke & caused the car to fall several hundred feet down & it disintegrated.
Alton was thrown out at the top near the roadway & his friend / passenger stayed with it to the bottom. He did survive. I visited the site just a few years ago & there is no trace of the event left.
Alton was a master craftsman I saw many of his projects being built ( a mid-engined Corvette powered targa type coupe, and a beautiful Corvair based fastback coupe that I still have pictures of). Alton passed away in the 1980’s and I miss being around such a talented & gifted fellow.
I wish you the best, Dennis (Kazmerowski), in your endeavor to re create this historic piece of automotive history.
Hemmings Blog: April 14, 2022
In Response to Merrill Powell’s Post in Hemmings on April 14, 2022
Hi Merrill, It’s good to hear from you too ! You are correct in that the car went off the road / cliff backwards & the top caught a wire cable that sheared off the top. I do believe though that Eddie (Matta) rode the car clear to the bottom of the canyon, & still survived. As I recall, that was how it was explained to me by Alton the next day. As can be seen in some of the pictures that Geoff has, the car splattered in to many small pieces & even broke the engine in half. ( What a violent ending )
Hemmings Blog: April 14, 2022
Hi Dennis, WOW ! you have come a long way since I had the opportunity of talking with you some months ago. You are doing a superb job. When Road & Track was doing the speed tests at Riverside raceway, I was involved it that too. There is a picture of the coupe at speed with the wool tufts taped all over the car & there is a passenger in it at that time. Me. The car was very stable at speeds MUCH faster than 100 mph. Alton & I had exceeded 100 several times at close to or even more than 150 mph. I see , in your latest pictures, even your door openings have what appears to be molded in seal areas. Alton’s car didn’t have that degree of finish work.
BTW, I happened to have visited the Peterson Museum last week & had an enjoyable meeting with Leslie Kendal ( one of the important people that is on staff there ), & we talked at length about your coupe. It would be an exciting event if arrangements could be made to show your beautiful car there in the near future. Let me know if there is anything I could do to help something like that to happen.
I am aware of the personal time & effort challenges you are going thru these days & want you to know that I’m rooting for you. Keep on keeping on Dennis.
Respectfully, Doug Ward
Hemmings Blog: June 19, 2022