Unseen 50s Racing Footage: San Diego’s Fiesta del Pacifico, 1956
The Fiesta del Pacifico road races held in July of 1956 mark an interesting moment in California—particular San Diego—racing. Torrey Pines held their last race a mere 6 months before, but San Diego (and far beyond) racers were undeterred and assembled a track on the runways and service roads of Montgomery Field.
This largely unseen footage sent in from John McClure is a treasure. Sure, John’s thumb may have drifted into a few of these shots, but they’re absolutely priceless. From setting up in the pits, to onboard touring laps, to the race action itself, John used the access afforded him as a member of the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce (a co-organizer of the event) to hit every corner of Montgomery field that weekend.
The two main events of the weekend are well represented here, with the 1.5liter plus race and small displacement races getting some quality footage. Bill Murphy had luck on his side in the large bore race in his Kurtis-Buick, winning after Harrison Evans’ Ferrari Monza had a shift fork failure after leading for 21 laps. Murphy didn’t just inherit the win after poor performance, however. He had a great start that gave him the lead until a spin on turn 7 of the first lap. He then fought back from fourth to take the lead from Evans a second time, but spectacularly spun again on the 11th lap. His win was as much a victory in making it to the finish as it was to come in first. Bill Krause wasn’t far behind in a D-Type, while Ken Miles in a Porsche 550 (giant-killer indeed in this much larger displacement company) and Fred Woodward in his Jaguar Special had a fantastic duel for 3rd place—ultimately finishing within a second of each other.
The small bore race was equally thrilling with an heroic roster of CalClub racers: Ken Miles in his 550 again (He had a very busy weekend, didn’t he?); Bill Pollack in the #4 Alfa Giulietta; Lance Reventlow in a Cooper T39—there’s a marvelous shot of him in the silver #16 car about 7:10 into this clip.
Other drivers of note to keep an eye out for in this clip: Bob Bondurant in the #19 Morgan Plus 4; Jim Peterson in the blue #83 Corvette; Bruce Kessler in the white #23 Aston Martin (beautiful); and Dan Gurney’s #113 Porsche 356.
Here’s a glimpse of the race report, from the August 3, 1956 issue of MotoRacing.
Keep those old film cans, coming in—I’d love to share more these kinds of videos with Chicane readers. More from the McClure Archives here.
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Wow! McClure & Harlo have done it again! What great footage. My Dad did not enter as we ran at Pomona a month before and Paramount a month after. Driving down to spectate, I thought we were going to Hourglass Field–nope! This was the only event at Montgomery Field. Too many good shots to mention; Cy Yedor draping the checker over Murphy’s hood, and Bill posing with the kids. Max’s first drive in the Morgensen, to become Old Yeller I. Terry Hall’s Talbot Lago, now vintage raced by David Duthu. Porter’s 300SLS still Merc powered. Nice shot of Jamieson’s “Full House Mouse,” a mystery car on Tam’s site awhile back. Also a lovely Moretti not seen again by me. Timanus in the only Lotus Mk VIII. Richard’s white MG Spl with the engine laid over threw a rod. Thanks again! MJ
That Moretti dropped out with an overheating problem… shame it didn’t make many more appearances on the racing circuit… maybe it’s waiting in some SoCal garage out there.
Great stuff! Thanx for posting ; so good to see real racing in real cars in such a relaxed and open environment.
The cars are a treat, but man I would love to just have one of those MobilOil or ‘Start/Finish signs…and one of those groovin checkered shirts like the Officials were wearing. Way cool!