Arnie Johnson Tribute No. 15: FROM PETE BLACKFORD, Past President of Lotus Ltd.
Visiting with Arnie in Atlanta on one occasion, I was invited to attend an awards banquet for a racing series that Arnie’s son had participated in over the past year. It was a big deal, with at least 400 people in attendance. Arnie was very proud of his son’s accomplishment, and had (apparently) bought a table at the event hence there was a seat available which I was privileged to be offered. As the evening festivities proceeded, champions in each of the age groups/series were honored. It was sort of the “Little League” ofracing, so there were many classes and many winners recognized. I recall that Arnie’s son was about age 10 at the time, and had been active for at least a couple of years in the series. When the time came for him to be honored, he proceeded to the stage and was presented with a trophy that was (without exaggeration) at least a few inches taller than he was! Arnie was a proud pappa indeed, as the whole family celebrated that championship!
On a visit to Atlanta in the “Bugatti era”, we enjoyed a tour of the facility which happened to be very clean and well-organized (Lotus wouldn’t ha ve it any other way). There were a few Esprits “in the house” at the time. a combination of new vehicles and customer cars as I recall. One feature of the visit was seeing a shiny new Bugatti EB-110″ in the flesh” for the first time. One lasting observation, shared by Arnie at the time, was that the car was significantly more impressive when viewed in person. compared to any of the numerous photos we had seen. To this day, I’m not sure why that is, but the impression remains that the lines of that car were absolutely stunning and apparently unable to be done justice by any photographic image!
one more …
At LOG X in Akron, where some will recall Doc Bundy was present to introduce the M100 (one of the rare black ones), Arnie and the crew were notably absent from the Friday evening reception. When they strolled in later in the evening, it was learned that they had been working on an attendee’s Esprit in the parking lot- which had suffered mechanical indigestion enroute to breakfast that morning (lesson for the owner- next time, breakfast at the hotel! ). Ultimately it was determined that the car needed more extensive attention than they were able to administer in a “shade tree garage”, so a plan was put in place: Since they had brought the M100 up from Atlanta on a roll-back, that could be used to take the Esprit back to HQ, while the M100 could be driven. That plan nearly went asunder when Doc, on a “demonstration run” of the autocross, came within inches of striking a curb (kerb?), which would have most like ly bent one of the untempered (soft) wheels on the pre-production car. Happily, Doc saved the slide and the Esprit was spirited back to Atlanta for what became a fu ll engine rebuild (thou shalt not break the timing belt on an interference engine… ). Even better, the work only cost the owner a plane ticket to Atlanta to collect the car when it was finished. THANKS ARNIE, indeed!