96-year old auto mechanic and racing legend now owns a Tesla Model 3

Guest Blog Post: Joyce Mordenti*

We loved reading the inspirational story about Wesley, age 83, driving his silver metallic Model 3 from California to Florida.  My dad Walt Mordenti, age 96, lives in San Francisco. He picked up his red Model 3 (VIN 001388) at the Tesla Factory on December 23, 2017, which possibly makes him the oldest Model 3 owner. 

Walt was born in 1921 and began working on cars in 1935 when he needed to help support his family. Since that time, Walt has driven nearly every make and model of American-made cars, and he tells everyone that his Model 3 is by far his favorite car.

Above: Walt picking up his Model 3 at the Tesla Factory (Photo courtesy of Joyce Mordenti)

Walt is a skilled car mechanic, renowned for his knowledge of Hudson automobiles. Some folks refer to him as Doc Hudson, and he was a racing legend in his own right. Walt lived in Connecticut and raced on the East Coast from the 1940s to the 1980s. He is probably best know as an owner/builder/mechanic, who also drove the tow truck and served as the pit crew, usually by himself.  

In 1948, he bought a red Kurtis Kraft midget racer with a Ford V8-60 engine.  On February 27, 1957, Walt’s #78 Kurtis Kraft midget racer set the fastest time in the Flying Mile on the sands of Daytona Beach with a speed of 118.421 mph, beating the Offenhausers!

Above: Walt accepting a first-place trophy in 1957 with chauffeur Ronnie Evans at Thompson Speedway, CT; Walt on left, Ronnie on right (Photo courtesy of Ronnie’s son John Evans)

In the 1940s and 50s, he also wrenched on Hudson stock cars with other Waterbury friends: the Mordenti-Mordino-Mambrino trio. I remember the #12 Hudson stock car, affectionately known as The Tank!  

Later, when Walt was in his 50s, he added “driver” to his resume at the 1/2-mile high-banked dirt track at Lebanon Valley Speedway, NY in his #36 open-wheel, big-block, AMC-powered, super modified stock car (he used Gremlin and Rambler American bodies, because the body had to match the motor). With great joy he accepted trophies for rookie of the year and most improved driver!

Above: Walt sharing a moment with Margaret during one of their cross-country Hudson adventures.  Note the vanity plate on his Hudson, “OUR 53 HH.”  The gentleman from New York who bought Walt’s Hudson also put a vanity plate on the car—“WALTS 53”—in honor of the famous Hudson mechanic Walt Mordenti (Photo courtesy of Joyce Mordenti)

Between 1992 and 2016, Walt and my mom Margaret made 19 trips across the USA in a 1953 Hudson Hornet that he restored. Walt told friends that he could not drive the Hudson after my mom, his co-pilot of 71 years, passed away in March 2017 at age 94.  

He sold his Hudson in November 2017 to make room in the garage for his Model 3.

Top: Walt driving in San Francisco; Bottom: Walt proudly displaying his Tesla vanity plate (Photos courtesy of Joyce Mordenti)


*Editor's Note: After Elon Musk tweeted our story (that ran in Teslarati) of 83-year old Wesley traveling cross-country in his Model 3, Joyce contacted us to relay the remarkable story of her 96-year old father, Walt Mordenti, who recently took delivery of his Model 3.