The Streets of San Francisco


Back in May, The San Francisco Chronicle assembled a lovely remembrance of the Golden Gate Road Races held 60 years earlier. Looking at these photos, I’m not sure why the Golden Gate races don’t seem to hold the same fond mystique that other California round-the-house circuits have achieved. Perhaps it was because the event was only run between ’52 and ’54 that it just didn’t have time to build the legend that Pebble Beach or Palm Springs did.

While it may have largely faded from memory, there’s something so appealing about the idea of sports cars thundering through Golden Gate Park that feels so romantic. Walking or cycling the route today must conjure thoughts of Phil Hill’s Cad-Allard Jaguar C-Type or Bill Pollack’s Cad-Allard Jaguar C-Type (thanks for the correction, Colin) whipping around Elk Glen Lake. It’s marvelous, if bittersweet, to see these images of the Golden Gate Races running while knowing that they’d be almost impossible today.

But if the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix has taught us anything, it’s that a vintage race in the park can indeed be run in the modern era. What’s more, it can be done in relative safety even while paying tribute to a more dangerous time. Certainly a city park is easier to close down for an event than several blocks of city streets are: They get closed off for foot races or bicycle races or charitable walks all the time. Why not showcase some of the park’s history as a racing venue with a mid-summer weekend revival of the Golden Gate Road Races?

Like 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 smaller displacement racers and run with a strict “vintage spirit” rule set. Heck, look to the Detroit Grand Prix as a model for making a marvelous racing course within a city park. If Belle Isle can do it, why not Golden Gate? Why not Central Park? Why not?

Let these images be your guide. Imagine yourself for a moment on 2.7 miles of this wonderful circuit behind the wheel of a mid-fifties racer—or even spectating along JFK Drive—and tell me you don’t want this to happen?

More photos in the Chronicle article.
Recap of the 1952 race on Etceterini.
Previously: Lost Track: Golden Gate Road Racing Circuit

10 responses to “The Streets of San Francisco”

  1. Fred says:

    Why not? Politics.

  2. Colin says:

    Correction…Bill Pollacks Cad-Allard and Phil Hill’s Jaguar…

  3. Harlo says:

    Thanks Colin. I should have known better than that.

  4. Ronald Sieber says:

    Modern barriers are wonderful safety nets for the drivers and spectators alike, but they are ugly and hard to see through or around. From a driver’s standpoint, it looks like one is racing through a chute. It would be a challenge to stage a race in a nice park setting without ruining the park’s ambiance. Pittsburgh, however, has somehow pulled that off.

  5. Dukecati says:

    The fact is today the City of San Francisco is led by a bunch of far left-wing anti-car socialists. If they had their way they’d ban cars in much of the city and have everyone ride on their filthy Muni busses or trolleys or riding bicycles. The first hint of an event like this in GG Park would bring out the protestors and save the planet groupies, every environmental wacko plus the union goons with their hands out and wallets open. Sadly, this will never happen in today’s San Francisco, and quite frankly, the city doesn’t deserve it.

  6. Harlo says:

    I know quite a few hot rodders from the bay area.. Some of them in SF proper. There’s no shortage of racing enthusiasts in NorCal but I guess Fred opened the door when he said “politics”.

  7. Edmund says:

    Thanks for spewing vitriol for people you happen to disagree with in a place I thought was safe from it Duke. I guess the “fact” is that there are no more safe havens from it on the internet anymore. As for the race, this environmentalist would be all for it. I often dream of and map out a vintage road race course here in Pensacola Florida. I don’t think it would fly here based on the lack of interest in vintage sports cars or sports car racing in general. That and the great deal of money involved in such and undertaking.

  8. Dukecati says:

    Dear Edmund,

    Sometimes the truth hurts but this is the gospel when it comes to San Francisco, whether you like it or not, the left-wing politics here are exactly why this could never happen in GGP. That’s my point. It’s fact. Doesn’t matter that there are gear heads and enthusiasts here. They don’t run the city. Protests are precisely what would happen if a race like this were to be even suggested here. And I am for the environment, too. But the “wackos” I mention are the ones who go around setting fires to or slashing tires on SUVs, a not uncommon occurrence in SF. FYI, the SFPD looks the other way when the bicycle Nazis’ Critical Mass interrupts Friday afternoon commuter traffic and brings it to a standstill just because they hate people in cars-just great when you’ve had a tough week and you want to get home. Yes, I wish it were not this way and we could once again have a race (vintage) through Golden Gate Park. Ain’tgonnahappen.com

  9. Mick Havoc says:

    I have dreamed of something like this occurring in Whitnall Park (Greendale/Hales Corners Wisconsin) since I was a kid. Lake Park in Milwaukee would be awesome too. Ironically, October 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the American Grand Prize, run on public roads inside the city limits of the present City of Milwaukee

  10. paolo says:

    Duke, They said that San Francisco wasn’t a baseball town and forget about a new ballpark. Giants sweep Tigers in four. It took lots of hard work and time by many people but we did it. If enough people think this is a worthwhile idea I have no doubts that the skill and talent is here to make it happen. Whining and moaning about the “state of things” is a waste of everyone else’s time and energy. Get with it man.

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