Benefield: At 76, Windsor race car driver hopes he's just getting started
WINDSOR — Silas Boden fell in love when he was 15.
She was a car.
It was a 1946 Mercury Coupe. Black.
“If I didn’t spend so much time washing and waxing, my grades would have been better,” he said.
But my guess is that Boden did well enough in class — after all, he went on to a 50-year career in the construction business and established Boden Construction. He is a past president of the North Coast Builders Exchange and lives in a neighborhood off of Windsor’s Arata Lane that he helped develop.
But his love affair with cars, fast cars, never went away. When he built the home he shared with Peggy, his wife of 34 years, he designed a four-car garage with a standard front door but a roll-away back door for easier access to all of the vehicles inside. When he retired from Boden Construction in 2009, the now 76-year-old bought himself a present: a two-post lift so he can poke around under his cars without spending hours on his back on a roller creeper.
“I’m a fair shadetree mechanic,” he said.
When his two kids were little, he got his speed fix from motorboats. But a number of years ago, Boden started attending track days where novice drivers could learn the ropes safely. He drives a couple of spec Miatas but also has a 1987 El Camino that has a Corvette engine and it’s not remotely street legal.
And track events were all well and good, but …
“I want to get the feeling of real racing. The cars they drive on track days, they have to drive them home and then to work the next day,” he said.
When it’s a race, people are less tender-hearted, it seems.
“After awhile, I really wanted to know the adrenaline rush of being out there three cars wide,” he said.
So Boden has been pursuing his racing license. Next weekend he’ll drive at Monterey’s Laguna Seca track in his spec Miata and, if all goes well, come home with a competition license allowing him — with some caveats — to race in myriad events. He’s already got his calendar marked.
“There is such an adrenaline rush,” he said. “It just feels good to go out there and learn something new. You have to stay focused, you have to be mentally sharp. You are not out there for a scenic Sunday drive.”
And neither is anyone else, which changes the dynamic from track days fairly dramatically.
“On track days you don’t try to steal their apex, as they say,” he said. “In a race, you have to expect that whatever a driver can do will happen.”
This push for his racing license doesn’t surprise Boden’s daughter, Paula Becker of Santa Rosa.
“I think dad was always the daredevil type,” she said. His antics while she was growing up water-skiing come to mind.
But Becker says she’s regularly assured by her dad that he has a healthy dose of safety countering any of that old daredevil streak.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “Just doing what you dream of and just going for it.”