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Racing Commentary

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com

Marty in 2010 with one of his coupes about to be restored.
It was a big winner in its day. (Coastal 181 Collection)


MARTY HARTY - March 25, 1919 - August 12, 2017

On August 12, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Marty Harty, 98, passed away in Dover, NH. Marty, an old time peddler with an Olympian intellect, built top-shelf race cars in the 1950s and 60s. A true character among characters, Marty remained highly popular in the racing community right up until the end. It was an honor to speak for him at his service last Sunday.

A few years back, a professor at Brandeis University fell terminally ill. He decided to share his late-life experience with a group of students. After he died, the sessions were recorded in a touching, hugely popular book called Tuesdays with Morrie.

Some years ago, I was writing a book about the history of some New England race tracks, and several folks told me of this character I just had to meet. I called him, and we hooked up at a truck stop off Interstate 95, and, by his second glass of Moxie, it all started. Our conversation lasted 15 years. I was one lucky guy. It was Miles with Marty.

Marty had in spades that old-time peddler's habit of motion. We went everywhere - to the auto races, to flea markets, to visit his friends - how they loved him. We'd go get "my little Arlene in her pretty red coat" and take her out to dinner, or we would just drive.

But it was not just the motion of the road, it was the motion of the mind. He would begin talking - and it was just spellbinding. He was the brightest man I ever knew.

He'd go off in the cosmos and discuss Einstein's theories. The next minute he might be explaining the hidden meaning behind a sultry old Hank Williams song.

There was nothing that did not interest him. Do you know that for a coin to fall heads 50 times in a row, it would require one million people tossing ten coins a minute for 40 hours a week - and it would occur only one time in every nine centuries. I didn't.

As he'd carry on, sitting small in that passenger seat, his mind would open like a mansion. A smile would come across the corners of his mouth, and his eyes would glisten.

Marty's professions - factory piece work, short-order cooking, building race cars, and peddling - did not bring huge returns, and, when he wasn't talking, he worked long and hard. And, given that enormous intellect, he thought little of people who don't do their part. His political views, therefore, were often a mile to the right of Attila the Hun. Marty rather famously suggested that we should call up that Putin fellow over in Russia, rent some land from him, and send over there all the American scoundrels, people who don't pay their bills, and anyone who does not accept responsibility. Sometimes his theorems were just plain shocking.

But they were always watered down by two other traits. First, he was generous to a fault. He'd be the first to pull out a hundred-dollar bill if he heard someone was in trouble, even though he knew Arlene would be no happy camper when he got home.

And he could always disarm you with his delightful sense of humor. He was a wit. Race cars or no race cars, he was so interested in the world around him that when he drove somewhere, he was looking out the window, maxing at about 20 miles an hour. When they needed to get somewhere in a hurry, Arlene would take the wheel. "My wife," he used to say, "has American Indian blood. Her name means Lead Foot."

And, of course, he had his funny people stories. He had an elaborate one about Adam and Eve that I loved. In the end, he'd say, "...and then Adam went back to the Garden, and Eve was just nowhere to be found. She was AWOL. And we all know what that means - Absent without Leaf."

I still chuckle about the day that we went to the huge track in Loudon, New Hampshire. One of the greatest, most respected, and even feared of all American race car drivers is a tough-as-nails guy from California named Parnelli Jones. Parnelli came east to sign books for us, so I brought Marty over to meet him. Most people genuflect. Marty's approach was different. He looked Parnelli up and down and said, "You just don't look all that special to me."

Marty told me that he and his brother Tommy were racing to see which would be America's oldest living veteran. When Tommy died so sadly, it took something out of Marty. He began talking about another kind of motion - "taking the great Westbound," as hobos used to refer to death. He was soon in the nursing home, Riverside. Each time I went to see him, he was fainter and fainter, and he told me he would soon be there.

I can't tell you how much I miss him. When it comes my time to take that train ride, he'll be the first person I will look for.

If there is a heaven, there will be more Miles with Marty.

Marty at his New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame induction,
with presenter David Dykes. (NEAR Collection)
2017 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.


9/18/17 - VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Ronny Crooks

7/28/17 - VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Joe Constance

6/29/17 - VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Rick Eckert

5/1/17 - VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Bobby Brack

5/1/17 - VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Wes Moody

2/23/17 - The Man Who Took The Union Down

1/30/17 - Gary Balough Induction

2/18/16 - Bentley

10/14/15 - Twenty Minutes at the 'Cuse

9/3/15 - The Road East

7/31/15 - When Characters Could Race

7/7/15 - Rickey's Resilience

5/28/15 - How I Won the Little 500 in the Emergency Room

4/22/15 - Billy Betteridge - The Improbable Superstar

3/25/15 - Putt Mossman - Character for the Ages

3/3/15 - Four Bounces of Bergie

2/15/15 - On Golden Ice

9/3/14 - The Lindsey Flash

8/7/14 - Two Lucky Guys and Their Modifieds

7/7/14 - George and Art's Sweet Sorrow

6/9/14 - The Ring and Its Ringmasters

5/11/14 - Inner Tough

4/17/14 - Being Eddie MacDonald

3/25/14 - Matty D and the Track of Champions

2/25/14 - In the Southlands with Bugsy Stevens

2/10/14 - In the Moment with Jessica Zemken

1/23/14 - On the Plane from Tulsa

2007-17 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181































































































Crooks - 277 = 996
Constance - 281