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An Automotive LIfestyle POV: Big Red - The Original Outlaw Racer Rides Again ...

Big Red Z/28 - Image Credit: NBCSN via

An Automotive LIfestyle POV: Big Red - The Original Outlaw Racer Rides Again ...
by: James Groth, Miles Ahead Communications

Now as a new series on NBCSN - premiering Monday July 27, 9:00 pm EST.

This is the real life story of a 1969 Camaro SS, muscle car and a father and son taking on all comers from high price European to American modified racers. Not just beating them, but embarrassing them at the most serious open road racing competition. So legendary is Big Red that this car is credited with starting the Pro-Touring class of muscle cars. 

Santa Monica, CA - Tonight I am at the sneak preview of a new eight-part series, spending quality time with Executive Producer, Josh Oliver. He's giving me an overview of his Documentary Series on the most famous Muscle Car in competition, Big Red. Via eight episodes Oliver's documentary will chronicle the some of most serious road races of the past 25 years from the Silver State Classic to the Le Carrera in Mexico were Big Red blows away the competition at over 200 mph on highway roads. 

This is one of the most dangerous forms of racing there is because the drivers do not benefit from guard rails, smoothly paved surfaces or the emergency services of race tracks like Indy or Daytona Beach. Given the length of these two road course 94 and 120 miles, there is no way to learn each turn, one misjudgment or lack of focus and you are over the side of the mountain.  There are horrific crashes and fatal casualties at these high speed events including one by R.J. in Big Red.

Also hanging out with us is David Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief Hot Rod Magazine.  Hot Road Magazine being the industry bible of hot rodding, calls Big Red "The Baddest Camaro Ever".  In the theater we screen the opening and fourth episodes of the series. Oliver gives us the  behind the scenes interaction of this very small dedicated crew, historic footage and exceptional aerial views.

The production value of the television series was exceptional, studio quality not often found in documentaries.  As I question Oliver on the filming he speaks of the challenges of trying to keep up with Big Red since at 200 mph it's faster than the usual aircraft used for filming events and commercials.

So you have to wonder what kind of car guy pilots Big Red?  If you were to look around the restaurant hosting the pre-party most likely you would not be able to pick out the race car driver.  Thanks to my corporate days with Jaguar and other British marques I have been privileged to meet or work with some of my hero drivers from Phil Hill, Mario, Sterling Moss to Bob Tullius. However, I didn't immediately realize R.J. Gottlieb as the driver of Big Red. He's not like some NASCAR guys or animated like John Force. I found R.J. to be unassuming and a true old school gentlemen racer without the false bravado you might expect given his early and continued success. 

R.J. along with father, Dan Gottlieb are Los Angeles businessmen that had a dream to be the best at open road racing and accomplished these goals setting world records and scoring victories at every significant race entered. For me what make this even more noteworthy is these guys are not a full time race team with a load of sponsorship money.   We have grown accustom too 'he who has the most dollars often wins'.  There are no sponsors decals on Big Red or R.J's driving suit. This a great Americana, young boy has desire to try racing, dad backs him and works with him to win.  Talk about father-son bonding this is it! 

Ask yourself what were you doing at age 19? Probably dreaming of getting a chance behind the wheel of a friend or relative's Camaro for a brief drive. At age 19 R.J. enters the Silver State Classic and sets the world record over the 94-mile course in 27.34 minutes with a average speed of 197.99 m.p.h. Radar recorded a top-end velocity of 222 m.p.h.

In the TV series we get to see in the thanks to the aerial coverage how near impossible and dangerous it has to be to average almost 200 on twisty roads with rough surfaces. This is the kind of road racing Juan Fanigo did with a 1939 Chevy through South America, dangerous yes, but at no where near these speeds.  It's one thing to race at 200 in the controlled environment of a closed course, but Mexican roads are in a league of their own and so is R.J.'s driving.

In order to win at this level you usually come from one of the well know race families like Unser or Andretti. So for local businessman Dan Gottlieb to recognize and encourage his son's talent as a teen and even allow him to race at this level is rare.  Considering the well heeled competition from the Italian Supercars to the 'good old boys' out of the South and your beating them with a American Muscle, Carburetors and a few crew.  Granted Dan Gottlieb knows how to find the most talented engine builders as with John Lingenfelter and tube chassis builder Bill Osborne to name a few.

Big Red Z/28 - Image Credit: NBCSN via

To put things in perspective, most people know the famous Mustang 'Eleanor' from the successful film series. Big Red made its film appearance in 'Fast & Furious' #4. 'Eleanor' is a movie car, while Big Red wins at the highest level of flat out open road racing ... that's 'American Badass' at its best.

Reminder: Series Premiere Monday July 27th NBC SC 9:00 EST

Check out web site for the spec on the various Chevy V8 Lingenfelter and Donavan motors use for the various events and gear ratios.

TAGS: Big Red, NBCSN, Camaro, Chevy, V8, Lingenfelter, Dan, Gottlieb, R.J., American Badass, Donavan, James Groth, The EDJE


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