Dr. Hot Rod


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Dr. Ronald Finger is famous in these parts as being one of the best plastic surgeons in the south. Few people know him as Ron the Race Car Driver.

 

LIFE ON THE EDGE

Over 25 years of races, Dr. Finger claims to have won over 75 first place victories, but he didn't cross the finish line every time.

“I’ve had some spectacular crashes,” he said.

Besides breaking his neck in a motorcycle race in 1971, Finger has started a few races in one car only to finish them in an ambulance.

During a practice session in Atlanta, he had just passed another car when the driver decided to get back around him in the middle of a hairpin turn. “It broke the car in three places and my back in three places,” he said with a laugh. 

Another accident at Watkins Glenn brought him closer to the edge than anything else he’d done. Heading into an S curve, mechanical failure caused Finger to slam into a wall at 145 miles an hour. “I was airlifted out of there. I shouldn’t have survived.”

Dr. Ron Finger has a habit of taking pretty things and making them even more beautiful.

As a plastic surgeon, he’s gained widespread renown for his work in Savannah and Bluffton, representing the leading edge of his field. His practice, rated No. 1 in Georgia by RateMDs.com, has helped countless locals look and feel their best.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, that he treats his cars with the same care he treats his patients. A self-professed gearhead, he recently let us into his semi-secret lair tucked away in Savannah to get a few shots of his prized collection of vintage automobiles and muscle cars.

&“There’s a lot of overlap,” he said, discussing the skill sets needed to race cars and perform plastic surgery. “Hand eye coordination, precision… the big difference is, with plastic surgery, you’re dealing with other people’s lives.”

Regarding restoration of vintage cars to their one-time glory, he’s not averse to getting out there and tearing up some pavement in them.

“Racing is exhilarating. It’s an endless frontier – like plastic surgery, you can always get better at it.”

 

START YOUR ENGINES

While he describes his passion for cars as more of a hobby when compared to his work as a plastic surgeon, it’s easy to tell how much this hobby has meant to him over the years.

As a young man in Marion, South Carolina he first built his need for speed racing his dad’s cars against his friends (when asked if his dad knew, Finger responded with a hearty chuckle and a “hell no.”)

Finger took first overall in the 1982's Atlanta Grand Prix.

“The guy that got me interested in cars is a cousin of mine, Henry,” he said. “He still loves cars and he’s still my hero in that respect.” The pair of them used to head out when Finger was around 9 years old, riding shotgun while his 15-year-old cousin tore up and down King Street in Charleston in a 1936 Ford, Henry had modified himself. “Of course, back then everyone was drag racing down King St.”

From there it was, ahem, off to the races. In college, Finger rebuilt a 1955 Chevy, adding in a four-barrel, dual exhaust and a Duntov cam that he bought for $12.50. When he rolled into Savannah from California after leaving the Air Force, he did so in a Ferrari he’d bought for $8,200 (plus the cost of a Sears & Roebuck roof rack). He would later sell it for $10,000. “That car’s probably worth a million now, I wish I had it back.”

It wouldn’t be the only Ferrari that Finger bought, fixed up and sold for a modest profit. He’s lost track, but estimates that the 22-23 Ferraris he’d flipped over the years are what helped launch his racing career.

“I’m a gearhead, but I love to race anything,” he said.

Finger won the Daytona Classic in this sweet 71 Datsun 240 Z in the mid 80's.

For nearly 25 years, racing on weekends while building a practice, Finger competed in races all over the east coast, in circuits from the Sports Car Club of America to Historic Sports Car Racing to the Sportscar Vintage Race Association. He also pitted himself against the legendary endurance races – the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. It’s enough for a full-time job, and Finger was running these races on weekends while building a successful plastic surgery practice.

“It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” he said. “And in the meantime, I’m just buying and selling these old cars… The only race I ever lost in the pictured Cobra was when I had transmission problems."

 

HIS BABY

It's a 1964 AC Cobra, one of just 16 ever made for racing. In a vast collection housed in an undisclosed location in Savannah, it’s his baby. The rest represent a cross-section of automotive excellence, from high-performance muscle cars to vintage automobiles more than a century old.

“I really love really old cars,” he said, pointing such nuances as the throttle on his 1911 Model T, located on the steering wheel. “It’s just so much fun to see what millions of people drove years ago.” The ’11 is one of two Tin Lizzie’s in Finger’s collection, the other being a 1912. And if you think this old race driver keeps them just for show you’re mistaken.

“We’ll go out and do 500-mile tours in the 1912 Model T,” he said. “It just has 20 horsepower, but I’ve had it up to 52 mph.” (Of course, he’ll generally cruise around 30 since there’s only so much you want to ask of a car with wooden spokes).

Apart from the Model Ts and and the Cobra, the rest of the doctor’s collection reflects both his pride of ownership and his skill as a gearhead. There’s the 1970 454 Chevelle, the 1966 Shelby GT 350H, the 1967 427 Corvette, the Sunbeam Tiger, cars built for the simple conversion of horsepower into exhilaration.

And then there’s the car that started it all for Finger. Tucked away among the 71 Mercedes 280 SL, the 2001 Porsche Turbo 996, the 37 V12 Caddy and the 1931 Model A, you’ll find a 1936 Ford. Just like the one Henry drove, when he tore up King Street and inspired his young cousin to a life spent on the track.

“Some people will say you’re a control guy or you have a complex or some other silly thing that someone who’s never raced would say. But the thing about racing is just… the exhilaration.”

Subscribe now or pick up the January/February issue of South Magazine.

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Events Calendar

  • Brunch, Wine, & Song

    Jan 20, 2019
    1:00 PM - 4:00 PM @ Elizabeth on 37th

    Elizabeth’s on 37th is hosting a special afternoon to benefit the Savannah Children’s Choir and Coastal Youth Choirs. Attendees will...

  • Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo Style)

    Jan 16, 2019
    7:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Fit912savannah

    Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo Style)    Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo style) is for beginners and advanced beginners  of this type of...

  • License to Chill Snow Island

    Nov 16, 2018
    All Day @ Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

    Margaritaville at Lanier Islands is preparing for a winter wonderland makeover that will surprise and delight local residents and travelers...

  • Toddler Touch Tanks

    Dec 06, 2018
    All Day @ UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium

    Explore the coast with your child in a unique setting perfect for inspiring wonder and curiosity! During select Thursdays in January and December,...

  • Clean Coast Annual Oyster Roast

    Jan 20, 2019
    All Day

    Savannah's original and best Oyster Roast ! Enjoy delicious local oysters harvested from Oyster Creek by hardworking Clean Coast volunteers,...

  • 2019 The Delta Quadrant 5K & 10K Savannah Virtual Run

    Jan 19, 2019
    All Day @ Virtual Race

    The Delta Quadrant 5K & 10K is our sixth annual race inspired by Star Trek. Participants asked us to do a Voyager inspired medal, so...

  • Annie the Musical

    Jan 18, 2019
    All Day @ Savannah Children's Theatre

    Leapin' lizards! Little orphan Annie goes on a New York City adventure to find her parents, and ultimately, her forever home. With classic...

  • Tipsy Hot Chocolate Festival

    Jan 22, 2019
    5:30 PM - 7:00 PM @ Grand Lake Club at Southbridge

    Guests will enjoy “tipsy” hot chocolate samples and sweet treats from Savannah’s best chefs and bartenders, and will have the...

  • "The Favourite"

    Jan 23, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    “The Favourite” is a deliciously tawdry black comedy that’s also a surprisingly affecting period drama taking place in the somewhat...

  • Fundamentals of Bachata

    Jan 16, 2019
    8:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ fit912savannah

    Fundamentals of Bachata    Come learn the sensual dance of Bachata with us. We're a small Savannah group and  would love to expand it with dance...

  • Blowing Rock Winterfest

    Jan 24, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Downtown Blowing Rock

    Don’t hibernate-celebrate! Join us for the fun side of winter with events like the Polar Plunge, WinterFeast, WinterPaws Dog Show, WinterFashion...

  • "Keita Takahashi: Zooming Out" Exhibition at Telfair Musuems

    Jan 24, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums hosts the first museum survey of the work of visionary videogame designer Keita Takahashi (Japanese, b. 1975). Takahashi is noted...

  • MAKE Savannah Roundtable

    Jan 24, 2019
    5:30 PM - 7:00 PM @ CLARK CREATIVE 208 W HALL ST SAVANNAH UNITED STATE

    Please join us for our New Year roundtable featuring creative consultant, stylist, podcaster and small business owner Kelsey Bucci. After years of...

  • Let's Talk Mental Illness: Childhood Trauma

    Jan 24, 2019
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Frank Callen Boys & Girls Clubs

    The third event in The ELLA Foundation’s Mental Illness Community Discussion Series will address childhood trauma and will feature...

  • Mountainfilm on Tour Savannah

    Jan 24, 2019
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Trustees Theater

    Get ready to be moved by the power of film! Mountainfilm on Tour Savannah returns for its 10th year [January 24-26, 2019]. We have an incredible...

  • 2019 Lip Sync Battle

    Jan 24, 2019
    7:00 PM @ Savannah Station

    Join us for the 3rd Annual Savannah Lip Sync Battle presented by David Pence of Pence Family Agency (Allstate) on Thursday, January 24th! The...

  • Lean Ensemble Theater presents A Doll's House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath

    Jan 24, 2019
    7:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ HHPS Main Street Theatre

    In the final scene of Ibsen’s 1879 masterwork, Nora Helmer makes the shocking decision to leave her husband and children and begin a life on her...

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad

    Jan 24, 2019
    All Day @ Embassy Suites and Hyatt Regency Center

    A workshop based on the bestselling book that has changed the lives of millions. At this free real estate workshop you will discover: Secrets the...

  • Mountain Film on Tour

    Jan 24, 2019
    All Day @ Trustees and Lucas Theater

    Started in 1979, Mountainfilm is one of America’s longest-running film festivals. Through the years, in and out of trends and fads, the...

  • 2019 Night at the Museum

    Jan 26, 2019
    3:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Savannah History Museum

    The annual event takes visitors through night guard training and then on a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum. Guests will be able to interact...


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Scenes of the South

PUTTING Away Crime

On Saturday, January 12, 2019 Savannah helped McGruff the Crime Dog take a bite out of crime at the Crimestoppers Savannah's 3rd Annual Putt Putt Mini Golf Tournament held at Island Miniature Golf and Game on Wilmington Island. Proceeds went to helping fund rewards for the Crimestopper's anonymous crime tip line.

Dining in the Dark

On Saturday, January 12, 2019, the 3rd Annual Dining in the Dark event presented by The Charles C. Taylor and Samir Nikocevic Charitable Foundation benefitting the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision, was held at the Embassy Suites/Downtown Savannah.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day 2018

Savannah's 39 Rue De Jean celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the official end of this year’s growing season. Harvest is complete and vintners—especially in France—are ready to celebrate the completion of the harvest. Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine that is annually released on the third Thursday in November. Nouveau wine undergoes a very short fermentation process, and yields an extremely fresh and fruity wine.

A Chefs Collaborative

This five course dinner held at Pacci Italian Kitchen and Bar allowed guests to taste exceptional flavors steeped in tradition. Included were the culinary skills of Chef Adam Barnett of The Katharine Brasserie & Bar, Winston-Salem, NC, Chef Robert Hoffman of Angeline’s Charlotte, NC, Chef Daniel Gorman of The Henley Nashville, TN, Chef Sebastien Rondier of Brabo, Alexandria, VA, and Chef Lauren Teague of PACCI Italian Kitchen + Bar.

East and West BBQ

A whole hog BBQ showcase, from two of the south’s most legendary Pitmasters, Pat Martin and Sam Jones. Hosted by Alida Hotel this event was a fabulous juxtaposition between Eastern North Carolina style BBQ and Western Tennessee style. Made possible by the Savannah Food and Wine Festival.

Savannah Food & Wine Fest

Hundreds came to experience Southern charm and hospitality, Savannah Style. The South's best culinary happenings - one exceptional week in Savannah. Iconic and historic coastal venues provided the perfect backdrop for gourmet and fun. South magazine captured the experience at the VIP tent.

Big Wig Boat Bash

Savannah's Riverboat, The Georgia Queen set sail to host the final fundraiser for the 2018 class of Big Wigs, together raising over $100,000 for the Susan G. Komen Coastal Georgia Foundation. This evening included heavy hors d’oeuvres, beverages, a silent auction, music and dancing and a contest to crown the Biggest BigWig! Contest categories included: The Biggest Wig, The Pink Ribbon Award and Best Pink Personality.

Boo Bash

This spooktacular evening included hors d’oeuvres, “spirits,” music and dancing, a Halloween costume contest with cash prizes, Halloween-themed entertainment, a 50/50 raffle, live auction and talent contest. Contest categories included: Dancing, Singing, Rapping, Stand-up Comedy and Lip Syncing.

Masquerade at the Mansion

Plenty of patrons donned masks and beads for an unforgettable Mardi Gras at the Mansion. There unique entertainment, food, and decor including magic fire, beignets, king cake and a photo booth, plus music and dancing, libations, late-night treats, and lots of surprises.

DineSouth After Party

This year's DineSouth ended in a blast. Dozens headed over to Barrellhouse, who hosted the after party. They enjoyed great drinks and live music by Individually Twisted.