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If you’ve been to any North American road racing circuit in the last twenty-five years, you’ve no doubt seen The Last Open Road stickers adorning everything from bumpers to bathroom stalls. The decals refer to the fictional tome by vintage racer and journalist Burt “B.S.” Levy which vividly chronicles the early days of sportscar racing in 1950s America.
Now the cult novel, first published in 1994 and in its eleventh printing, is being updated for a new generation of readers as an audiobook available on CD or USB flash drive format at a world premiere to be held March 9, 2019 at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
Adapting the style of 1950s radio broadcasts, the fictional autobiography of New Jersey mechanic Buddy Palumbo is narrated by veteran voice-over actor Greg Beastrom. Palumbo takes us through his humble beginnings as a grease monkey at a neighborhood Sinclair gas station and the colorful characters that fill his world. The audiobook is punctuated by evocative sounds of a gas station bell hose and early American V8 engines.
Eventually Palumbo gets a chance to work on a customer’s new Jaguar XK120, whose intoxicating engine sounds put Buddy — and the listener — head-over-heels in love with European sports cars.
As Palumbo’s skill with sportscars grows, he’s offered a job as a racing mechanic, becoming a witness to history at places like Watkins Glen, Elkhart Lake and Sebring during the formative years of American road racing.
Lending their voices to the production are real-world racers David Hobbs, Brian Redman, Tommy Kendall, Patrick Long and Dario Franchitti. Luminaries like racing school founder Skip Barber, NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham, and Amelia Island Concours founder and chairman Bill Warner also make an appearance.
But perhaps what really brings the novel to life are the sounds of the period race cars, recorded by Levy at tracks around the country.
“If it’s supposed to be a 340MM Ferrari, it is a 340MM Ferrari. If it’s supposed to be a C-Type Jaguar, it is a C-Type Jaguar,” said Levy.
The PG-13 script is irreverent and sometimes a bit salty — after all, it’s written from a Jersey mechanic’s point-of-view — but provides an entertaining companion while working in the shop or logging commuter miles in something less than a C-Type Jaguar.
Levy, who has published a string of books around the Palumbo character, finds this audio book project his most rewarding. “This is the best thing I’ve ever been a part of,” said Levy.
The audio book will be available at Levy’s website, lastopenroad.com.