Central Park Vintage GP: Too Good an Idea to Not Happen

I often romanticize the city-street road races of the 1950s and have occasionally wondered why it was only small towns that played host to these magnificent race weekends. After all, many of the racers made their way to Watkins Glen or Bridgehampton or Elkhart Lake did so from New York or Boston or Chicago. Why didn’t larger cities host any of these events?

Then it occurred to me; naturally it’s easier to shut down a little town’s roads for a few days than it would be to gridlock Manhattan for a race weekend. Alas, the oft linked Shell/Ferrari ad has shown us what a magnificent cocktail vintage racing cars and city streets can make. Automobiliac’s recent post entitled Vintage Racing in Central Park, Why Not? has rekindled my desire for this mix of urban vistas and vintage iron. It’s a perfectly good question, “What about Central Park?” Can you think of a more perfect set of roads winding around the beautiful and iconic landscapes that were so marvelously architected by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.

Can’t you just imagine it? Sitting on a bench by the Reservoir or at the rooftop sculpture garden at the MoMA while a Cooper-Climax T53 or Bandini Siluro or Ferrari Monza accelerates through one of the sweeping bends of the Central Park Loop.

Bradley does a great job of pointing out the potential difficulties (“closing down Central Park Loop—are you crazy?!”), and addresses them in kind (well, they do it for bike races or for filming movies). It works for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. Doesn’t New York deserve a world-class vintage racing event? Just look at the map above from race promoter Alec Ulmann’s 1965 proposal of a Monaco-style race in NY and realize that this event needs to happen—simply must happen.

The Chicane emphatically endorses this brilliant idea. Dear Reader, how can we make this happen?

13 responses to “Central Park Vintage GP: Too Good an Idea to Not Happen”

  1. DRIVVEN.net says:

    How? By occupying central park perhaps? Some with a certain particular persuasion might have failed as far as I understand, but then again they didn’t bring anything noisy to the party apart from a few detuned guitars and washing boards. Perhaps a few V12 engines would make a better impression?

  2. Cindy says:

    I was invited to represent a Concours IN Central Park several years back. I agree, why not?! I have just the teammate to do it…she handled 1/3 of the French Grand Prix which was shut down due to the economy…we could rock it in New York! Anyone got a few million dollars to get this thing off the ground? It will be huge! cindy@carprusa.com

  3. Manley Ford says:

    Philadelphia tried this back in the early ’90s in Fairmount Park — the same area where races took place back in the very early 1900s. The course was quite challenging and the setting was very near as thrilling as the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. I’m not sure why it ended but I expect the costs of putting in NASCAR style catch fencing and crowd control in all spectator areas had something to do with it. Altho I’m sure PVGP organizers would say there’s nothing easy about doing their event, but the area of Schenley Park that is used has the advantage of being relatively easy to manage keeping the race cars — and the spectators off — the track.

  4. Mike Jacobsen says:

    What an idea! If it happens I will tow my car from California to be a part of it! Only a few years ago a revival of the Golden Gate Park road races failed to happen because of disagreements between possible organizing clubs (CSRG was one) and the Guardsmen, the San Francisco charity org that sponsored the 1950s races. A downtown vintage race was held on city streets here in LA less than a decade ago. Pittsburgh as mentioned works–the entry form I just received from them mentions the $200,000 they gave to charity from last year’s event–and they don’t even charge spectators admission! And that track is way more dangerous than a Central Park layout would be. NYC closes some of the park annually for the marathon don’t they? MJ

  5. rdsieber says:

    The idea is great, but somehow running these cars on NYC streets – could they handle it without breaking, one and all?

    In addition to the above problem: bringing such a venue to the City of Lawyers would be like waving a red flag in front of a frothing bull. Insurance for this? Whoa!

    I think it just comes down to a great idea cut off at the knees due to costs, real and expected.

  6. Automobiliac says:

    Well, the city streets are terrible, but the roadway inside the park has decent pavement without potholes.

  7. Jeff Downer says:

    Why not? Somebody get Bloomberg on the phone.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    It is a great idea. Unfortunately, Bloomberg and his City DOT commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, are incredibly hostile to automobiles of any kind, so it’s not at all likely to happen under this administration.

  9. Charlie says:

    I lived in NYC not too long ago, and would ride my bike through Central Park quite often. Every time I would fantasize about chasing Jim Clark through all the sweeping corners in a Lotus 49.

  10. […] our previous support for a Central Park Vintage Grand Prix, I can imagine an entire series of city park or county airport road races—perhaps limited to […]

  11. […] believe these visionaries could make flights of fancy like the Central Park Vintage Grand Prix, a revived Golden Gate Park Road Races, or a return to Bridgehampton’s or Elkhart […]

  12. […] in the expansive parks in several major metropolitan areas. Imagine a race calendar that included New York’s Central Park Vintage Grand Prix, Detroit’s Belle Isle Vintage Grand Prix (the course is already there!), A revived San […]

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