My Car Quest

December 16, 2019

Fiat Abarth Team Roosevelt

by Mike –

Don Meluzio displayed his Fiat Abarth Record Monza at Amelia Island earlier this year and met John Denton who sent him the message below in an email along with some photos. John Denton also agreed to have this published on My Car Quest.

Text by John Denton

Hi Don,

Glad you made it back. That was a super show. Yes we do love cars, it is in our blood. Our Father, J.W. Denton, started out in 1957 racing on the beach with Bill France.

J.W. was driving a 1956 Jag Convertible when he hit 109mph at the Daytona Beach Century Club. He then moved on to Abarths and was a dealer for them early on. There was one in Thousands Oak California, White Plains N.Y. and then big Hiawassee, Ga. population 400 in the mountains.

Fiat Abarth Race Car

Fiat Abarth Race Car

He was friends with a man named Herschel Harkins out of Ashville N.C., Herschel was old money in town, he sold foreign cars. He was also the roommate of Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. at College, they were best of friends.

That is how J.W. came into the Team Roosevelt cars. He bought the whole team in late 1960. He said only one of them was a twin cam. And that was the one he kept. I have several guys around the world wanting photos, etc… about his involvement.

One man in California came here and found some old letters etc, and is working on a book, the man in Italy is very interested in Team Roosevelt but I have not heard from him in a while.

Fiat Abarth Team Roosevelt Race Car

Fiat Abarth Team Roosevelt Race Car

The rusted out car is the actual Team Roosevelt car you see in the photos #81, this is all that is left, there is some original paint around the back window. He plans a slow rebuild. Later in the 60’s J.W. switched to a “Beach” built by Gene Beach over near Tampa.

The car you see , always looked like a Lola to me. J.W. won the SCCA Championship with this car in 1966 in H modified, he had 15 races that year and won all 15. Was heading to Riverside for the runoffs and had to go in the Hospital. In 1967 he retired from racing.

We had fun knowing all the drivers of the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. Names like Pedro, Sterling, Revson, Jim Kimberly, were like family names to us, didn’t everybody’s dad drive racing cars? I just grew up on the track, I knew no other world but the car people from around the world. Lots of fun.

J. W. Denton

J. W. Denton

Then in the 80’s really lost track of the racing world, I guess we were just burned out. J.W. still loved cars; he went through about 350 of them, 8 Ferraris, 10 Porsches, 15 Jaguars (ending in 1972) 30 Mercedes, then countless cars in the 50’s, I would say about 30 Abarths, Mustangs and others.

So he had a great car life. His friend that he grew up with in the 1940’s, Preston Henn, won 24hrs of Daytona twice, so racing never left our blood, life just got in the way.

Fiat Abarth Race Car On Track

Fiat Abarth Race Car On Track

Walter Cronkite giving an award to Roger Penske (circa 1959)

Walter Cronkite giving an award to Roger Penske (circa 1959)

But now were are moving back into the car world, seeing old friends from 45 years ago and making new friends like you. I really loved seeing your car, as time goes on these will be of super importance, back in 1958 J.W. said when an Abarth showed up at a track it commanded a bunch of respect, and was high on the list. So in it’s day it was great for it’s class.

And, that is starting to come back, lots of people asking about them and their history. Wish I had more photos, but back then, it was just a car, and they changed about every 8 months to something else faster and newer.

Will you bring you car to any more shows this year? Maybe the Mitty at Road Atlanta, or the HRS at Road Atlanta.

Send me some more photos of your car when you get a chance, and let me know your story about you and your car.

Best,
John

Read more about Fiat Abarth Team Roosevelt here and here.

See all the photos in the slide show below.

Summary
Fiat Abarth Team Roosevelt
Article Name
Fiat Abarth Team Roosevelt
Description
John Denton writes about his father J.W. Denton and his experience with the Roosevelt Abarth race team.
Author

Comments

  1. Laszlo Ungurian says

    Wonderful story, thank you for sharing.

  2. Would be great to see them involved at the Fiat FreakOut National Convention near Chicago this summer with hundreds of others. In it’s 31st year!

  3. Cliff Presley - Charlotte, NC says

    I bought car number 87 from Eric Alexander. Car number 83 was owned by Bobby Vann. He traded it in for another (unknown) car I believe in 1962 and it was sold to a young fellow named ‘Hoot’ Gibson of Charlotte, NC. Gibson sold the car to buy a 1950s era Porsche Carrera coupé in which he was later killed.

    I eventually sold my car in 1963 to a Willard Battery distributer in Charlotte. He made a few modifications such as (I believe) adding a twin-cam engine and installing aircraft type disk brakes. Eventually it was sold it to a tool and die maker in Charlotte who installed a Porsche engine for (of all things) drag racing. After his death it ended up being sold at an estate sell.

Speak Your Mind

*