When I was a kid, G. Gordon Liddy was serving time in a federal penitentiary for his involvement with the “Watergate Affair”. He was released from prison while I was still in the first grade. Years passed, and the next time I saw Mr. Liddy was while watching the television show “Miami Vice”. He played the part of an evil villain – the only one of whom would ever escape the clutches of Crockett and Tubbs.
Later, I would spend four hours every weekday glued to my radio, listening to his nationally syndicated talk show, “The G. Gordon Liddy Show”. I couldn’t understand how such an intelligent and interesting person could be perceived as such a “dangerous” man. Curiosity got the best of me and I bought his autobiography, “Will”. It was an almost surreal experience – the book shed light on “the real G. Gordon Liddy”.
The general media loves to pin labels on G. Gordon Liddy – some of them are flattering and accurate, others are unfair and full of ignorance. We quickly discovered that Mr. Liddy can not be labeled – it would be impossible to briefly summarize his complex persona.
We caught up with Mr. Liddy at his Phoenix, Arizona residence. Sitting in the comfy confines of his open and airy living room, Mr. Liddy made us feel more like friends than interviewers. In our short amount of time with him, we found him to be unbelievably intelligent, sincere, pleasant, patient and accommodating, funny, and most of all, just plain likable. If there were more people on the earth like Mr. Liddy, we’re certain the world would be a better place.
In what must be an incredibly busy schedule, Mr. Liddy hosts a daily talk show, writes books, jumps from airplanes in remote locations (he had just returned from a parachuting trip in Israel), and makes television and movie appearances, both as actor and guest. For him to find time to accommodate our request for an interview and photo shoot speaks volumes about the type of person he is.
R: In your autobiography “Will”, you make mention of various cars, including personal vehicles and FBI cars (a certain Mercury with a sticky gas pedal comes to mind). How long have you been a car enthusiast, and what was the first car that really got you excited about cars?
GGL: The one that I learned to drive on, which was a 1938 Packard Super 8. That thing had an eight-cylinder engine – the block looked to be as long as a railroad train, had pistons the size of buckets, a three-speed stick shift, wheels that came up to your waist and it was a fabulous car. The sheet metal was incredible – if you’d have put a glove on your hand and hit the car with a fist, you’d have broken every bone in your hand.
R: Which cars catch your eye today?
GGL: I like the new S-series Mercedes-Benz with the all-wheel-drive system. I’m also attracted to just about any Ferrari, but have a soft spot for the Testarossa because of my involvement with “Miami Vice”.
One of the episodes of Miami Vice that I was in was the episode where Don Johnson gets his new car – previous to that they had used a Corvette that was made to look like a Ferrari. They even dubbed Ferrari sounds over the sound of the Corvette. When the time came to replace the Corvette, Don demanded they buy a real Ferrari, which they did, but it was the wrong color. So they spent another few thousand dollars having it painted white.
R: What are some of the characteristics that you look for in a car today?
GGL: Power and handling.
Roadfly: Your Corvette ZR-1 is often the topic of discussion on your nationally-syndicated daily talk show. For the benefit of our readers who may not be familiar with your ZR-1, would you mind telling us a little about it?
GGL: Chevrolet decided in the late 1980s to build a “King of the Hill” Corvette, and were going to go all out to achieve that status. They had a relationship with Lotus, so they approached Lotus with their idea for the car and said, “We would like you to design the engine.”
Lotus took on that job and came back and said, “Here it is.” General Motors took a look at the design and said, “That is a great engine, but there’s only one problem – we can’t manufacture that engine.” So, they checked around and discovered that Mercury Marine had a lot of experience with manufacturing motors with aluminum blocks and cylinder heads. They contracted with Mercury to build the motor and Mercury came up with a revision to the motor that took it from something like 375 horsepower to just a little over 400 horsepower.
It had double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, two fuel injectors per cylinder, and Mercury set it up so the power was controlled with a switch. With the switch set to one position, the engine developed full power, which was pretty formidable. However, if you turned the switch to the valet setting and removed the key from the switch, the engine would develop approximately half of its power.
The ZR-1 was a powerful vehicle, but it wasn’t powerful enough for me. Luckily, I knew John Lingenfelter was the number one tuner in the world of Chevrolet V8s, so I had the vehicle flat-bedded to him and he did a marvelous job of extracting even more power from the 5.7 liter engine. It now develops over 520 horsepower and 469 pound-feet of torque at the rear wheels.
I’m still not sure that it’s powerful enough, so I’m planning to take the vehicle to my friend Pat Goss so that he can fit a supercharger to the motor. The vehicle is very tractable now, and with the supercharger it should remain tractable, even though it will be producing nearly the same amount of horsepower as the early World War II fighter planes.
R: Was your ZR-1 one of the first ZR-1s that Lingenfelter modified?
GGL: I don’t think he did very many because there weren’t very many made. In the five years that General Motors sold the ZR-1 there were less than 7,000 produced, so I’d assume that John Lingenfelter hasn’t modified too many of them.
R: What’s your most memorable moment with the ZR-1?
GGL: (laughing as he recalls the memory) I was on the New Jersey turnpike, headed North and somebody in a Mazda 4-door sedan, of all things, challenged me. I looked over to him and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” But no, he wasn’t.
So I just dropped the hammer on it, and it was like going in to warp speed. Cars that were traveling at what must have been around 75 to 80 miles per hour suddenly seemed to be backing up at me at 60 miles per hour. I glanced down at the speedometer and saw that it was climbing past 145 miles per hour like it was nothing – it was pulling so strong. I thought, “Whoa, if the New Jersey State Police would catch me now, it would be all over,” so I slowed and the Mazda was long since gone. The thing will do over 200 miles per hour – it’s really quite amazing.
R: What attracted you to the ZR-1?
GGL: Well, for one, it’s American made. It was the very best – there weren’t very many produced, and it could easily run with the best of them, including cars from Ferrari and Porsche.
R: Have you done any track events with the car?
GGL: No, but I’ve thought about it and it’s something that I’d like to do eventually.
R: Tell us about your trucks – you’ve got two of them, correct?
GGL: Yes. Both are work trucks – the Chevrolet Dually is the truck that we use at my house on the East Coast – we have about 3 acres of property, with 400 some feet of waterfront [on the Potomac River] and around 2 acres of solid woods. The Dually handles all of the work duties – it has the big 8.0 liter engine – that thing is a workhorse.
Then I’ve got what I commute in, which is Chevrolet HD2500 Silverado 4-by-4 with the Duramax Diesel that has 300 horsepower, 520 pound-feet of torque, and just about everything you can get on it – leather, extra lights, and so on. Of course, it gets me to work no matter what the weather, and it still gets around 19 miles per gallon.
The nice part about commuting in the Silverado is the comforting fact that if there’s ever a collision with another vehicle, I’ll win.
R: And Mrs. Liddy likes European vehicles, correct?
GGL: Yes. Mrs. Liddy has a Mercedes-Benz E420 that she drives out East and a Land Rover Discovery that she keeps here in Arizona. She does have a GMC Denali that she uses to haul things related to her artwork, and that vehicle is also kept at our home in Maryland.
R: I noticed that you have a few motorcycles – when did you get into motorcycles?
GGL: Oh, I’ve been into motorcycles for just about all of my life. I’ve got the 2000 Harley Davidson Fatboy here in Arizona and I’ve got my 2003 Harley Davidson Road King which I’ll be driving to Sturgis this year.
R: Do you go to Sturgis each year?
GGL: No, this will be my first year – we’re going to do our broadcasting from Sturgis and we’ll have a lot of events taking place for our listeners and visitors to our website, http://www.liddyshow.com.
R: Are you happy with your current “stable”? Any plans to improve or replace any of the vehicles?
GGL: Well, we’re going to need to replace Mrs. Liddy’s Mercedes-Benz fairly soon – it’s a 1994 model – but we’re building a new garage, so we’ll wait for that to be finished before replacing anything.
R: Do you have a wish list of sorts? A dream car, perhaps?
GGL: Just for nostalgia’s sake and because I enjoyed acting in “Miami Vice” so much – I was the only villain who was never captured or killed by my friend, Don Johnson – I would like to have a Ferrari Testarossa.
R: Since your calendar “Stacked and Packed” has been so successful, have you considered doing anything with cars? Perhaps something like “Ammo, Autos, and Awesome Babes”?
GGL: Well, there are a lot of calendars with babes and motorcycles or cars, and we have used motorcycles in some of our photo shoots, but generally speaking those types of calendars have been done enough. The only other interest we’ve had from people is an exclusive, “all Diana” [Diana Kalandros, Gordon’s Executive Producer for his talk show, “The G. Gordon Liddy Show”] calendar. The poster of her has completely sold out, so there’s been a lot of interest in doing an all-Diana calendar.
Roadfly: When you’re not working on your talk show or tending to your vehicles, what do you like to do with your free time?
GGL: I like to parachute – I just returned from a trip to Israel where I jumped with the Israeli Airforce (the IAF). I’m also a bit of an amateur photographer; I like to shoot with my 35mm camera and black-and-white film because I can do my own lab work.
R: Shifting gears; you’re a fabulous writer – I love reading your work – any other books on the horizon?
GGL: I just released “When I was Kid, This Was A Free Country”, and have been promoting that. It’s a book that talks about how our civil liberties have been degraded gradually over time, in what has often been a “knee-jerk” reaction to events that have affected our country.
I think it’s important to alert younger people that each one of these events has carved away some freedom, and you’re going to have to be very vigilant in getting them back.
As far as future books are concerned, I’m working on another novel, but I’m not certain as to when that will be completed.
R: Where can our readers find your books?
R: Speaking of your nationally syndicated talk show, how are things going at your relatively new station?
GGL: Things are going very well. The station that I was with has sort of gone down the drain since I left, so I’m happy to be out of there. I really enjoy working on the show and being a part of the Clear Channel Communications system. We broadcast from WTNT 570 AM, which is located just inside “the Beltway” in Washington DC.
Our website, http://www.liddyshow.com has links to most of the 160-plus stations that carry the show.
R: Shifting gears again, what about the old Interceptors you used to drive around while working for the FBI?
GGL: Those were really something. They had these big engines that were good for something like 140 miles per hour, which was incredible given that we’re talking about the early 1950s. We were riding around on bias-ply tires and trying to stop those beasts with 4 drum brakes! The handling of those things was not exactly precise, and I remember you had to be very careful when starting out – if you hit the pedal too hard, the thing would just jump – it was a terrifically fast car.
The Interceptor packages of today aren’t anything like the Interceptors of days gone by – today’s cars are basically identical to civilian cars. I’m reminded of two stories involving our Interceptors; I’ll share them if you’d like.
GGL: I remember Harvey Foster, who was the special agent in charge of the Indianapolis office. He was up north when some notorious criminal escaped from the Grand Point Jail (which was the same jail that John Dillinger had escaped from). Harvey headed down that way, and he got on all of the radios which went to everyone – the State Police, the County Sheriff – everyone – and he just said, “This is Harvey Foster, I’m on the toll-road headed for Grand Point, so get out of the way!”
And he went 140 miles per hour past us in that big Interceptor – it wasn’t exactly safe, but it sure was a sight.
I also remember another time when I was in my Interceptor, driving a little too fast, and I passed this Indiana State Trooper. So all of a sudden I heard behind me, “RAAAAAHHRR” [siren noise] so I pulled over and waited for the Trooper to approach my vehicle, at which point I hit my siren.
“RAAAAAHHRR” goes my siren and he jumps back and goes, “Alright, just who the hell are you?” And I showed him my FBI badge and I mean, we both had a laugh at that – but it was all in good fun.
R: Mr. Liddy, I want to thank you for doing this interview, and I wish you nothing but the best with your talk show, your books, and your car endeavors. Thank you for your time and for sharing all of your wonderful experiences with me and my fellow Roadfly readers.
GGL: My pleasure.