Russ Barnes

What is your email address?

What year did you join HRR?


Do you have any other family members in HRR?

Pat Barnes – Wife

What would you like to share about yourself?

When I was about 12 my family took me to a stock car race on a one mile track at Syracuse, NY. I was afraid of the noise. They tell me that a year later I was back and I couldn’t be pulled from the chain link fence while the race went on. For the next 25 years I was addicted to car racing. When I was 13 I started racing a local car on 1/10th mile races, kind of like go-karts. Over the next three years I set track records, often swept the fast time, heat and feature races – if I wasn’t black flagged for aggressive driving. I then went to single and twin engine go-karts that were owned by the Mercury Outboard dealer and raced them until college. I was determined that I was going to be a professional driver. As life and responsibility went on I learned that it was VERY EXPENSIVE to field a competitive race car so until I could save the money I started a part time business building sprint cars and modifieds in Wisconsin. I worked a day job at Mercury Marine and nights and weekends I built cars in the winter and took a tire and parts truck to the local tracks, often 5-6 nights a week from Memorial Day to Labor day. The one thing I learned was that the racing hobby is as demanding as a drug or alcohol addiction. The recession of the early 80’s came along and my customers dried up since they had way less money and I started taking in rods to modify. UNTIL a fire took away my shop and many tools. Fortunately I had insurance and walked away clean, but I was cured of the professional racing fix. I did race go-karts for a few years after, Pat used to be my helper at the tracks. But then I turned to cars, restorations and modifications just for myself. From when I was 16 until 2017 I have bought, sold and junked over 88 cars. So maybe my addiction just refocused from racing to street, but today I can walk away from them for weeks or months while I enjoy life. By the way, I spent 31 years with Mercury Marine during all this and between engineering, marketing, manufacturing I had a ball and traveled the world. Much more fun than going to 1/4 and 1/3 dirt tracks 5-6 times a week. I retired four years ago and over the last year downsized my shop so my list of projects has shrunk in size and numbers, but it’s still fun.

Do you have any personal or favorite web sites?

I have about four Toronado sites I check often: – best for my current passion – general Olds site with a section for Toronados – general Olds site with a section for Toronados – good site for NOS Olds and other GM parts – cars, tools, household “Stuff”, go there all the time

What vehicles do you currently own?

1967 Oldsmobile Toronado – Deluxe
2013 Mercedes SL550 
2018 Ford Explorer XLT

What has been your favorite car that you’ve owned?

Not just one; first licensed was a ’40 Ford Tudor, flat head, three on the column, cool, low cost and stood out. Then three in a row ’57 Pontiac two doors. Couldn’t afford a ’57 Chevy back then so settled for a better riding, larger engine, more deluxe GM model. Had a two year love affair with a ’63 Volvo 544 when in college. Cheap on gas, looked like my ’40 that I loved (and in the late 80’s I bought another 544, but never finished it). First new car was a ’67 Camaro, SS/RS with a 350 that I changed cam, intake and carb on. At 60 in fourth I could light up those redline wide ovals when I floored it. Skipped several years until I bought a new Fiero, hated it and swapped even for a three year old Caddy Seville. That was when I got the taste for the finer things in life on four wheels. Had several upscale brands afterwards; Mercedes Benz, BMW, Caddies, etc. In early 90’s had a supercharged Ford T-bird, but low air intake sucked in water on a flooded TN road and bent two rods. Got rid of that and went to a ’88 Porsche 911. That had to be toward the top of my favorite list with the whale tail and cool looks, but after a long day at work I remember bumping my head climbing in so got rid of that. A few others stand out; in ’73 I special ordered a Chev PU with short bed and a 454. One day in Milwaukee I was showing off and tore the driveshaft out under full throttle at a stop light. So late 80’s bought a factory Chev PU SS-454. Not as much fun as the ’73, but it would scoot. I have to give credit to the current Ford Excursion. I bought it new in ’04 and it now is 13 years old (a record for me), it has almost 300,000 miles and has had so little reason to ever see a dealership. Not my first diesel but sure has met my needs for work and living on 30 acres toting stuff. Oh yea, there were 6 cycles in the cycle of vehicles I have owned.

Do you have a car story to share?

Of all my cars the one that got the most attention was one I bought in January of 2008. I had the first smart car sold and titled in the state of TN. I had so many comments, photos taken, lookers, jacked up 4×4’s trying to run me off the road. They were afraid the government was going to ban their toys and make everyone drive midget rides. Even made by Mercedes, it wasn’t a great car, it moved me where I wanted to go, but lacked the features that I enjoyed by that time.

Russ' 1967 Olds Toronado
Russ’ 1967 Olds Toronado
2013 Mercedes SL550
The SMART car that made Russ a target amongst truckers everywhere
The SMART car that made Russ a target amongst truckers everywhere

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