As the father of two young boys and the publisher of what I consider my other baby (but obviously not as important as my real children), Sports Car Digest, I hope that by sharing my affinity for classic cars with my kids and their future children, they will in turn become part of the larger classic car community. Thus, I am constantly searching for new ways to help kindle that interest.
Queue Dwight Knowlton, a fellow vintage car lover and father, who’s working diligently to put together The Little Red Racing Car, a story about a Maserati 300S barn-find being restored by a father and son. We sat down with Dwight to find out more about both himself and his newest project.
Sports Car Digest: What is the Little Red Racing Car?
Dwight Knowlton: The Little Red Racing Car is a Father/Son/Car story about a barn-find 1955 Maserati 300S. It’s a story about the love of cars, history and the father-son relationship. And it’s illustrated in a style derived from the vintage racing posters of yesteryear.
SCD: What gave you the idea?
DK: I went looking for the perfect automotive picture book when my son was born and couldn’t find it. It seemed like an opportunity waiting for someone to make it happen. I hope I’m that someone.
SCD: Explain your desire to do this.
DK: I want to create something special for my son — and all car loving families. I’d like nothing better than to influence and energize a new generation of automotive passion — especially for the vintage sports car. In fact, I want it all badly enough that I’ve used a couple years of savings that was supposed to be for a project car! I want to create something timeless — something of quality. Something that while created with children in mind, can still be meaningful for adults…and not grossly inaccurate.
SCD: Connect us with the story. How do you expect readers to identify?
DK: The story begins with a flash of the car at its glory. Then casts time and neglect as the protagonist. From there on, it’s a barn-find story with a boy and his dog, the boy and his dad, and a surprise or two along the way.
Some readers will never see a 300S in person. Others might have one parked in their garage. But we can all connect to this story in different ways. There may be readers that wish it was about a brown Camaro…but that’s OK…they’ll still connect because it’s about a father, a son and a car. We all have dreams of something like this happening.
SCD: Why the Maserati 300S?
DK: The title came first, likely influenced somewhat by the favorite car book of my youth, The Red Car by Don Stanford. But The Little Red Racing Car just sounds familiar, like something you’ve probably already read – even though it doesn’t exist yet. I love that about it. After the title, it was a matter of determining the right car. It’s red, so it had to be Italian. For most that might make Ferrari a foregone conclusion, but I’m never one for the obvious choice. I’ve always loved Maserati, but there were a couple wonderful Alfas in the running, too. Ultimately though, the 300S just had the right combination of stunning looks, great performance and unbeatable heritage. I have a lot of respect for Sir Stirling Moss, and loved that he had piloted this car to numerous victories.
SCD: How much accuracy are you after in representing the car as a 300s?
DK: I’d like to think that if the book were a little longer, it could serve as a Bentley manual for a rebuild! I’m joking, of course. But I really do want everything that is represented visually to be correct. That’s part of what makes this concept unique. It truly has cross- age, cross-demographic appeal.
SCD: How have you achieved this level of accuracy?
DK: I started with extensive online research. When I felt I had pretty much exhausted that, I bought Walter Baumer’s incredible Maserati 300S book. For added visual exploration I have used the gallery feature in the Xbox driving simulator Forza 4, and have purchased a CMC model. I light and photograph the model to create angles and to give myself reference material from which to illustrate.
SCD: Is there anything that you would consider unique about your approach?
DK: Probably the biggest uniqueness for the project as a whole has been my use of social media to grow a following before a product existed and before the story was even written. For those who do this sort of thing, you can Like, Follow, Pin, Sign Up and more through the website: www.theLittleRedRacingCar.com. The Personalized Poster Creator is definitely unique, as well. I’ve not seen anything like it done. If you’ve not tried it, go make one (or a dozen, it’s free to use) for the little car lover in your life…or for yourself.
SCD: What else are you doing that might be interesting?
DK: I’m tucking in little things that are meaningful to me. The vehicle used to pull the car from its hiding place for example, was the first vehicle I ever held the title to, a 1965 Chevy truck. It was my grandfather’s farm truck, and was itself, a barn find for me. It hadn’t run in years, and while I did buy it and get it running, sadly, it never did become my daily driver. Also, the name on the side of the old tow truck is in memory of the man who took me under his wing so to speak, and taught me much of what I know about cars. He passed away about 10 years ago from a brain tumor, and this is just a way of saying thanks.
SCD: What has been the most challenging part of the project so far?
DK: Time. There are just not enough hours. Even now, I am considering that I might have to move the release date from Fathers Day 2013 to later in the year. I am doing it all myself. I’m the Writer, Illustrator, Strategist, Marketer, Social Media Guy, Web Designer, Photographer, Videographer, Voice Over Artist, Editor and Key Grip. I’m just kidding on the last one, I’ve just always wanted to say Key Grip.
SCD: You mentioned quality earlier. Tell us about that.
DK: I want everything associated with this project to be top shelf or not at all. I’d rather not produce the corresponding iPad app, for instance, than to produce anything less than great. I am printing the books in the USA. It’s OK that it costs more. Its my plan to produce everything, every T-shirt, every embroidered patch, everything, in the USA. The only exception so far is some metal casting that I plan to do with Auto-Racing Studio in Cornwall.
SCD: Do you plan to release it internationally?
DK: Without question. I don’t think I can help it. The second email newsletter was opened by subscribers in 18 countries. I have received so many notes from all over the world. So many people just connect with the premise and the style.
SCD: Where do you see The Little Red Racing Car in another ten years time?
DK: I’d like to be a few books in. I’d like to have at least a couple of them animated as short films. I think there are quite a few stories here – and not just for The Little Red Racing Car. But others, such as the already named book 2: The Small Silver Speedster. It’s based on a love of my life, the Porsche 550. And then there’s a certain Jaguar of the 50’s…And…Well, I’m open to suggestions.
SCD: Did you expect as much support as you’ve gotten?
DK: No. I mean, I hoped it and I dreamed it. But I didn’t expect it. As it turns out, picturing something big in your head and having it really happen, are two very different things. I feel a tremendous responsibility now. I have gotten so many amazing notes and emails from people who are behind this. Some from folks that have bottles of red with a higher net worth than me!
SCD: What are you most excited about at the moment?
DK: Well, the response so far has been incredible. So I guess I’m most excited by the possibility of this being bigger than I had planned. The next few months may just determine that I’ve begun career 2.0!
SCD: What key goal have you yet to achieve?
DK: Honestly, even more than big book sales, I’d like to see this story as an animated short film. I have buy-in from an extraordinarily talented Emmy award-winning producer/director. If we hit the third milestone of the upcoming Kickstarter fundraising campaign, we’re making the film. So I’m hoping on hope for that!
SCD: What other projects do you have in mind?
DK: How long do you have? I have a few more books and printed products as good as done in my head. Other than that, I’ll limit it to two.
One idea that I very much want to execute is to hand build vintage race and sports car inspired grandfather clocks. Some might be banged up, burned and patina’d. Others might be high gloss showroom quality showpieces. I’ll design clock faces inspired by the instrument panel. I will likely buck-build the skins, then finish with appropriate details, badging and colors. The thought of an XKSS grandfather clock…Oh, man!
I’ve also done some sketching and design for the creation of bespoke car haulers created to match/compliment a couple of the world’s most amazing automobiles, such as this Bugatti Atlantic Coupe. I’d love to play a role in seeing something like this built.
Most importantly though, given any level of continued success for this project, I’d like to either start, or greatly enable a charity for kids. The idea of children in bad situations breaks my heart. So I don’t just want to give a kid a book or a gift at Christmas. I’d like to be part of something that can change lives. I’d like to give kids without a hope or a home the possibility of a new life.
SCD: You are launching a funding campaign on Kickstarter on February 1st. Can you convince the reader to contribute?
DK: This project is pure passion for me. So I want passionate people involved. If anyone has read this article and isn’t sold, I don’t want to convince them. But if you do connect, I cannot tell you how much that means to me. I want you on my team!
SCD: Final thoughts?
DK: In order to create some extra press and hence traction for the project, I’m hoping to organize followers of the project and set a record for the fastest funded campaign ever. Even if we don’t accomplish that, we may succeed in creating some momentum. So please bookmark the site: www.theLittleRedRacingCar.com and visit again on February 1st. I’ll post information and a link on the site when the Kickstarter campaign goes live.
[Source: Dwight Knowlton]
Thank you so much for sharing this story. I am very excited to see what the future holds for The Little Red Racing Car!
As a father, grandfather and car guy, I applaud your efforts. Look forward to supporting your campaign.
What a wonderful story. My 4 year old grand son loves my little red car(MGA) and got his own little red car for Christmas.
I can’t wait to see this entire brand come to fruition! Dwight is the real deal–the sketches in your photos look even better in person. As a dad to a new son (4 weeks away…), I’m very excited about sharing my love for automobiles with baby Rex. This book couldn’t come at a more perfect time for us…we’ll have 2 first-edition copies. One to read, and the other signed and on display.
My daughter and I eagerly await the arrival of The Little Red Racing Car. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Jamie for the article. We need more books like this for young people. Next step has to be an e-book version of the book.