Unseen Racing Footage: El Salvador’s Santa Ana Road Races, April ’58

The marvelous California racing scene of the 1950s is storied, was a fantastic proving ground for American racing talent, and its popularity has been to our benefit. It was so highly-regarded and well-documented that there’s still plenty of information and photos and film canisters left for us to enjoy today. In fact, I think we probably over-glorify the era simply because it’s easier to find race results, images and footage to write about. The racing communities of other parts of the Americas weren’t as lucky to enjoy such a bounty of media, and an email from a reader recently reminded me that I should be working harder on representing other more forgotten racing communities.

Thankfully, George Kehler emailed me at the perfect time with the perfect solution. George has sourced this fantastic document of an under-represented racing community in Central America and sent a series of films from El Salvador, of which this footage from the April 20, 1958 running of the Santa Ana Sports and Grand Touring Races is the first example. It’s a glorious film shot by Dr. Carlos Alvarez of the Circuito Santa Ana set up on city streets near the capitol city of San Salvador.

As far as I can see, the Salvadoran racing community has all of the ingredients that make us look back so fondly on the California racing scene.

Sound unlikely? The crowd of 100,000 strong lining the streets, craning their heads out farther and farther in to the racing surface speaks to it’s popularity, but was it able to serve as a proving ground for young racers? Well, look for yourself. That Porsche 550 Spyder with the striped bonnet has Ricardo Rodriguez behind the wheel (Ricardo sat on pole and took the race’s fastest lap, but DNFed the race). The white Porsche Speedster is piloted by Pedro (at 18 years old).

It’s that Speedster, entered in the race by Roberto A. Reyes, that is the reason we’re all able to enjoy this footage now. George Kehler is the owner of that car today, and this footage is from his collection of artifacts on the car’s history. Can you imagine a better document of your car’s racing heritage than footage like this of the car winning her class with Pedro Rodriguez at the wheel?

There will be more El Salvador race footage in the coming weeks, hopefully we can help put an end to the dearth of racing footage from Central America. More on the April ’58 race at Racing Sports Cars.

If you’re familiar with El Salvador racing in this era, get in touch. George has identified the major details, but I’d love to find finishing order, programs, photographs, or other items to help document the era.

DISCUSS (27 Comments)

  1. Carlos Emilio Alvarez

    Hi. I am the one who gave George this film, I was 15 years old when I filmed it in my hometown of Santa Ana. I do have a lot more.

  2. Robert E. Richer

    Outstanding footage. An amazing assemblage of cars. Crowd control? We don’t need no stinkin’ crowd control. Nice choice of music, too.

  3. Rodolfo Vides

    53 years later we, younger generations from Santa Ana, can enjoy it. Thanks to both for sharing!

  4. Juan Holman

    Hi, I’m from El Salvador, and it is amazing to see a film of this kind. I’ve heard lots of stories about these races, but first time I see a footage of this kind. Looking forward for more….

  5. Genaro Banos

    Pretty well discribed and documented!!! Amazing!!! I personaly lived itt!!! I use to live just half of block from where all this action took place!!! I remember the Rodriguez Bros. winning it… Thank you for sharing such a wonderful vintage video!!! I surely love to see more.

  6. Rodrigo Escalon

    My father is from Santa Ana and he have told lots of stories about these race, thanks for sharing it!!!!!

  7. Miguel Rivera

    My Name is Miguel Rivera and my father (same namesake) was one of the founders of the Santa Ana races in 1955 (It all started there in El Salvador); he was in the race in the footage (I was 6 years old)- Mike Rivera was one of the most popular racing car drivers in those days; A month before this race he was picked by his colleages and went to race at the 1958 12th Hours of Sebring, in a Ferrari Testa Rossa 250 registered under the name Scuderia Central America (very few people in my country knows this story..) the race was won by Phil Hill and others involved were Stirling Moss, Carroll Shelby, Porfirio Rubirosa,etc..everybody was there! we have the complete roster and finishihg order from this Sebring race (from Ferrari history book); we´ll send it as well as photographs and Newspaper reports from El Salvador races which my family will be happy to share with you.

    Best regards

    Miguel Rivera

  8. Pepe Escalon

    I had the opportunity of attending these races as pit judge. Thank you for sharing this video which makes me remember the good old-times in Santa Ana (La Republica)!!

  9. Staffan Berggren

    Dang,,,am I right in saying I can see Ricardo Rodriguez Porsche 550 RS on this film?

  10. Staffan Berggren

    Of cause I´m right.
    This fotage is sooooo nice to see.

  11. alvaro zaldivar

    My Name is Alvaro H Zaldivar, I’M from Santa Ana, El Salvador and I have heard about this race, at that time I was only one year old, and glad to see was happening in those golden years, Thank you for share this wonderful video, hope to see more.

  12. Victor Flores M.

    Hi, thanks for sharing such a wonderful piece of history about El Salvador’s racing legacy. My grandfather, Manuel Alberto Flores, best known as “La Gata Flores” is the one who’s driving the ’57 Chevrolet Wagon (00:20 in the video). He was studying in California, and when he finished, he buyed this car brand new, purchasing also some engine upgrades (Edelbrock triple intake, for example), called “Power Pack”. He drove from California to El Salvador, and began to write with other famous salvadoran drivers, our racing history. Glorious years we must keep on our minds.

    Best Regards,

    Victor Flores Menéndez

  13. Raul Marquez

    Excellent video!
    I was in high school at the Externado de San Jose school in San Salvador, we went to this race as a school trip in 1958. I those days this type of races were very popular in El Salvador, there were some other races in San Benito a suburb of San Salvador. Some of the race drivers that I remember were Eddy Gonzalez, J Zamora (la cuca), Gordo Fonseca, Juan Grane, Cuche Lainez, Mauricio (tigrillo) Delgado, Manfredo Schmidt, Mauricio y Hugo Miranda.

  14. El negro

    Great Remembers…. Santa Ana races very popular those days…

    Best Regards!!

  15. Roberto

    Hello,

    My dad participated in these races in Santa Ana, he had a Jaguar XKJ, also took part in a corvette. I am very happy to see this movie. Some will remember with affection my father, Roberto Cáceres.

    Thanks for this video.

    Regards,

    Roberto Cáceres Jr

  16. Carlos Emilio Alvarez

    I gave George Kehler more footege of other races in El Salvador, some of santa Ana and other from San Benito. Do you have it? If not I can send it to you.
    As you can see it has been seen by many, I have received many emails about it. Carlos Emilio Alvarez

  17. Ivonne Zaldivar

    My name is Ivonne Zaldivar and I am also Santaneca. I was born and raced near the Alvares’ hacienda. Although I was still not born at the time of these races, I am happy to see our grandparents did know how to live life to the fullest! Wow, those are some beautiful cars, too bad I never got to see this action. Great job in keeping these memories alive for the rest of us, and Thank you for sharing them.

  18. Hugo E Arriola

    Hugo E Arriola
    ( Gordo Arriola )

    Soy Santaneco y tenia 18 anos cuando fueron esas carreras y de la cual tengo el honor de haber conocido a casi todos esos corredores en persona y tengo muchas fotos de ellos incluyendo a los hermanos Rodriguez,tube el privilejio de estar y ver despues de mas de casi 40 anos en Newport beach California con el Dr Carlos Emilio Alvares en el concurso de elegancia donde el nuebo dueno del famoso Jaguar–D type de los hermanos Miranda fue presentado como diriamos en sociedad nada mas que de carros.Si alguien tiene interes en mis fotos
    busquenme en FACEBOOK.

  19. William Jacoby

    We used to go to the Santa Ana races after spending the night in Coatepeque. Great footage Carlos Emilio. I remember you and Anita very well. My best.

  20. Unseen Racing Footage: Santa Ana Road Races, El Salvador, April 1959 | The Chicane

    […] our last look at the racing community of El Salvador, this footage from the Santa Ana races just stopped me in my […]

  21. Guillermo

    Hola tengo una serie de fotografias de carreras en vespa
    del año 1959 con gusto puedo compartirlas con usted estas fueron tomadas en el salvador usulutan y en costa rica buen material este es mi correo motosantiguascostarica@gmail.com

  22. Roberto Reyes-Batlle

    Las carreras de carros en El Salvador comenzaron en 1954, cuando se corrio la Gran Carrera Centenario, de Acajutla a Santa Ana. Quienes organizaron esa carrera, fueron mi papa, Samuel Alvarez y Mike Rivera, con la valiosa ayuda de los ya experimentados corredores Guatemaltecos. Hubo muchas carreras en Santa Ana, mas que todo para las Fiestas Julias. Tambien en Ahuchapan. Luego comenzaron en San Salvador, en el Circuito San Benito, en Santa Tecla, en el Parque Balboa de Los Planes de Renderos y en Ciudad Merliot, cuando tuvimos que ir a correr por varios años a Guatemala, antes de que se construyera El Jabali.

    Los Chamacos Rodriguez, vinieron a correr en 2 ocasiones, se hospedaron en mi casa y mi papa le presto el carro a Pedro, en el que gano ambas veces. Ricardo trajo su propio carro, primero un Osca, y despues un Porsche Spyder. En 1962 se mato en un accidente, practicando para el Gran Premio de Formula 1 de Mexico, corriendo para la Ferrari.

    Pedro dejo de correr por un tiempo breve, pero luego continuo, para convertirse en uno de los pilotos mas connotados de todos los tiempos. Estuvo considerado el catorceavo mejor corredor de la historia, y segun decian, es el corredor mas completo que ha habido, porque corrio desde bicicletas, a los 10 años, motos a partir de los 13, y carros al llegar a los 16. En los carros, corrio todo tipo de carreras. Gano las 12 Horas de Sebring, las 24 Horas de Le Mans, y muchos Grand Prix de Formula 1, donde corrio 54 Grand Prix para Ferrari, BRM, Cooper y Lotus. Las 24 Horas y las 12 Horas las gano en un Porsche 917, talvez el mas famoso de todos. Fue el piloto oficial de la fabrica Porsche por varios años. Corrio para Gulf, en 917 y tambien el Ford GT. No se si recuerdan estos carros, que eran celestes con una gran franja anaranjada en el centro.

    Desafortunadamente, Pedro murio en 1971, corriendo un Ferrari en Nurenberg, Alemania, que no estaba supuesto a correr. Lo hizo para hacerle el favor a un amigo, de apellido Muller, que era su co-piloto en Targa Florio. Yo estaba en Mexico cuando lo llevaron a enterrar, en vacaciones de verano, aunque no asisti al funeral.

    Tal como dice este articulo, el Porsche Super Speedster en que Pedro sale en esta carrera, fue de mi papa. Lo importo nuevo de Alemania a travez de la Caribe Motors en 1955, y fue el doceavo Super Speedster construido por la Porsche. En los libros de la Porsche, se refieren a el carro como “The Lost Porsche” o “El Porsche Perdido”, porque aparentemente se les perdio cuando estuvo en El Salvador. Yo tuve un aparatoso accidente en ese carro, cuando tenia 16 años, en el verano de 1968. Di tres “vueltas de gato” en el, sin capota, sin roll-bar, y sin cinturon de seguridad, pero increiblemente, no tuve ni un tan solo raspon o morete. Mi papa le vendio el carro a Ira Lewis, un Gringo que vivia o vive en Antigua, Guatemala, en 1979, en $800 dolares. Hace 3 o 4 años, Ira se lo vendio al Dr. George Kehler, quien ha editado y enviado a Chicane estas peliculas tomadas por Carlos Emilio Alvarez, a quien le debemos poder ver todo esto. El Doctor Kehler me envio todas las peliculas tomadas por Carlos Emilio en 3 DVDs. El año pasado, George me invito a ir a verlo a Tennessee, y nos tomamos muchas fotos con el carro, en compañia de mis hijas y nietas. El lo lleva a concursar a los mejores Concourse d’Elegance de los Estados Unidos, y ha ganado muchos premios. Lo manda en un trailer refrigerado. Ha concursado en el de Monterrey y varios otros en California. Acaba de regresar de concursarlo en New England y en Nueva York. Este carro es ahora muy valioso. Alguien estimaba que su precio anda por los $750,000 dolares.

    Cuando mi papa se retiro de las carreras en 1962, despues de muchos triunfos en El Salvador y Guatemala, corrio el Rally de Centro America a Mexico, el cual duro 7 dias, desde San Jose, Costa Rica, hasta el Distrito Federal. Corrio un Mercedes Benz, con Carlos Panama de co-piloto. Un tiempo despues, Carlos y el, con la Asociacion Automovilistica Santaneca (AAS), organizaron el primer rally en nuestro pais.

    Envio un saludo a los aficionados al automovilismo.

  23. Harlo

    Thanks for the fantastic background on the races, Roberto. I’ve run Roberto’s comment above through Google Translate for non-Spanish speakers. It’s not perfect, but you get the gist:

    “The chariot races in El Salvador began in 1954, when he ran the Great Race Centennial, Santa Ana Acajutla Who organized this race were my dad, Samuel Alvarez and Mike Rivera, with the valuable assistance of experienced runners and Guatemalans . There were many races in Santa Ana, most of all for Christmas Julias. Also in Ahuchapán. Then they started in San Salvador in San Benito Circuit, in Santa Tecla, in Balboa Park Plans and City Renderos Resume, when we had to go running to Guatemala for several years, before they built the boar.

    The Chamacos Rodriguez, came running on 2 occasions, stayed at my house and my dad lent the car to Peter, which won both times. Ricardo brought his own car, first a Osca, and after a Porsche Spyder. In 1962 he was killed in an accident practicing for the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Mexico, running for Ferrari.

    Peter stopped running for a short time, but then continued to become one of the most notorious drivers of all time. He was considered the fourteenth best runner in history, and they said, is the most complete back that have been, because he ran from bicycles, at 10 years, motorcycles from the 13, and cars to reach 16. In the car, ran all kinds of races. He won the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and many Formula 1 Grand Prix, which ran 54 Grand Prix for Ferrari, BRM, Cooper and Lotus. 24 Hours and the 12 Hours in a Porsche 917 won, perhaps the most famous of all. It was the official driver of the Porsche factory for several years. Rushed for Gulf, in 917 and also the Ford GT. Not if you remember these cars, they were heavenly with a big orange stripe in the middle.

    Unfortunately, Peter died in 1971, racing a Ferrari in Nuremberg, Germany, which was not supposed to run. He did it to give the favor to a friend, named Muller, who was his co-pilot in Targa Florio. I was in Mexico when he was taken to bury, on summer vacation, but did not attend the funeral.

    As this article says, the Super Speedster Porsche when Peter comes into this race was my dad. New imported it from Germany to the Caribbean travez Motors in 1955, and was the twelfth Super Speedster built by Porsche. In the books of the Porsche, the car referred to as “The Lost Porsche” or “The Lost Porsche”, because apparently they lost when he was in El Salvador. I had a serious accident in that car, when he was 16, in the summer of 1968. Say three “lap cat” in, without hood, without roll-bar, and unbelted, but amazingly, I had not even one scratch or bruise. My dad sold the car to Ira Lewis, a gringo who lived or lives in Antigua, Guatemala, in 1979, at $ 800 dollars. 3 or 4 years ago, Ira sold it to Dr. George Kehler, who has edited and sent to Chicane these films taken by Carlos Emilio Alvarez, who would we be able to see all this. Dr. Kehler sent me all the movies made by Carlos Emilio on 3 DVDs. Last year, George invited me to go see him to Tennessee, and we took lots of pictures with the car, in the company of my daughters and granddaughters. He has to compete to the best Concourse d’Elegance of the United States, and has won many awards. I sent in a refrigerated trailer. Has competed in Monterrey and several others in California. Concursarlo just returned from New England and New York. This car is now very valuable. Someone estimated that the price goes for $ 750,000.

    When my dad retired from racing in 1962, after many wins in El Salvador and Guatemala, ran the Rally of Mexico to Central America, which lasted seven days, from San Jose, Costa Rica, to the Federal District. Ran a Mercedes Benz, with Carlos Panama co-pilot. Some time later, Carlos and with Santaneca Automobile Association (ASA), organized the first event in our country.

    Sent greetings to car fans.”

  24. Gianni Cancellieri

    Hola Harlo, he visto las magnificas cosas que has publicado sobre las carreras salvadoreñas de anteayer y me pregunto si acaso conoces (o sabes adonde puedo ir a buscarla) la fecha del Gran Premio El Salvador de 1955 (pienso en febrero). Vencedor fue Manfredo Lippmann (Guatemala) con un Ferrari 250 Monza. Gracias por tu atencion.

  25. Roberto Reyes-Batlle

    I was just translating it Harlo, and after seeing what Google did, I think I’ll continue doing it and post it in English soon. Thanks!

    BTW, I didn’t race as long as my dad, and did not have a famous Porsche, but I did win the National Championship of El Salvador (B Class) in an Alfa Romeo Alfasud TI in 1975 or 76. I also placed second in Central America on the same class. Not bad when you consider I only raced a year and a half.

    I’ve attended the Formula One Grand Prix du Canada in Montreal several times, and will attend the United States Grand Prix in Austin, from the 16th to the 18th of November. Don’t miss this event if you enjoy auto racing, as Formula One finally comes to the US after many years. The United States Grand Prix was run in Watkings Glenn, NY in the 60s and 70s. Then it was held in Indianapolis Speedway twice in the 90s.

    The 3 day-ticket for this race are running around $340 dollars, cheaper than the $480 I paid in Canada. Problem is hotels, which are going $400 and up, including Days Inn and others which are normally around $50. The solution I found, is to stay about an hour to an hour and 20 minutes away, at regular prices.

    Hope to see some of you enthusiasts there!

  26. Video: Classic Racing Footage From El Salvador, Circa 1958 - RodAuthority.com

    […] The Chicane Blog was emailed this video shot by one Dr.Carlos Alavarez of the 1958 Santa Ana Sports and Grand Touring races through the streets of Santa Ana, El Salvador. This is one of those races where big American sedans mix it up with the likes of Volkswagen Beetles and Porsche roadsters. […]

  27. Video: Classic Racing Footage From El Salvador, Circa 1958 - Rod Authority

    […] The Chicane Blog was emailed this video shot by one Dr.Carlos Alavarez of the 1958 Santa Ana Sports and Grand Touring races through the streets of Santa Ana, El Salvador. This is one of those races where big American sedans mix it up with the likes of Volkswagen Beetles and Porsche roadsters. […]

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