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Help Kickstart an Alfa-Inspired Wrist Watch

Vintage Driver Chrono by Straton

This Kickstarter for an Alfa-Romeo Alfetta GT inspired chrono by Straton Watch Co has already achieved more than 7 times it’s $15,500 goal, but there’s still time to get in on it for your own Vintage Driver Chrono. Even a few of the special Backers Editions are still available. Whenever we peek into the world of watches we start to enter an environment with a fastidiousness to put Pebble Beach concours judges to shame with near religious adherence to particular movements, countries of origin, and grades of metals.

The Straton Vintage Driver Chrono uses the Seiko-developed Mecha-Quartz movement which combines quartz’ accuracy with a mechanical chronograph that represents what I think is a good compromise (at this price point) between purists and casual fans of wristwatches.

Check out the Kickstarter for more information.

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Track Map of the Past: Portland International Raceway

Portland's Auto Sports Park Track Map

Back when PIR was Auto Sports Park they had a touch more personality and fun in their program ephemera than they do today. Look at all of the little details in Rick Owen’s old hand-drawn and watercolored(?) map. Some are useful information for drivers and spectators alike: the suggested speeds for each of the seven turns; the near-track hazards being cartoonishly confronted by the drivers in the map; US 99 disappearing into the a Seattle filled horizon. Others are there just to make us smile: the sea monster near the front straight; the mechanics dozing under the car at tech inspection; the distracted driver oggling a sunbathing spectator going in to turn 4. Rick’s map reminds us all that motorsport is supposed to be fun. Today’s maps have completely forgotten the fun side of the sport.

Portland International Raceway Track MapDon’t believe me? Check out their current map. I’ve seen golf course maps, or even county platt schematics with more artistry. Come on, Portland! Find Rick Owen and have him do the smallish updates to this gorgeous painterly map he created decades ago.

Many thanks to racing historian Martin Rudow for sending this in. Check out his Weekends of Glory (The History of Northwest Sports Car Racing, Volume Two: 1962 through 1970) for more Pacific Northwest racing history.

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Grand Opening Party at Porsche Minneapolis

Whew! I thought Monday’s ride and rally around town brought out some great cars… and it did. But last night’s party had a parking lot full of amazing Porsches of all vintages. The 918 and Singer from the previous day were there, but joined by an astounding collection of Porsches ranging from a 959 to a gorgeous 914-6 and no less than three 4-cam powered machines: a 356 Carrera, an RS60, and a ’58 Speedster.

The party and ribbon cutting happening inside, though, was no less impressive (ok. maybe a little less impressive than an RS60 with Sebring history). There were signature cocktails of course, and never-ending spreads of wonderful food, and a cigar roller, and the most spotless service area I’ve ever seen, and Magnus Walker working the crowd and signing posters, and a custom microbrew created just for the event. It all added up to a wonderful evening. Congratulations to the organizers.

PCNA COO Joe Lawrence was on hand to cut the ribbon

PCNA COO Joe Lawrence was on hand to cut the ribbon

Porsche Minneapolis was kind enough to loan me a 911 for the day. I think I’ll always prefer the vintage air-cooled variants of the 911, but you can still readily feel the legacy of Porsche’s motorsport heritage in the 991. Somehow despite all the revolutionary changes in every manner of engineering that goes into the modern 911, it still feels like a 911. A little quieter perhaps; a little more comfortable; a little less likely to spin on your when you’re decelerating in a curve—but it still retains enough of the 911 spirit that I can still imagine myself gritting my teeth through a turn on the Nordschleife or Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie in a stripped down 911R or RSR. I have personally been debating between a contemporary Cayman or SC-era 911 for my next car… after a day spent with modern Porsches, I think the only real solution is to get both… and maybe a few more for good measure.

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Scenes From a Minnesota Porsche Party

A Pack of Porsches celebrating the new Porsche Minneapolis dealer

Magnus Walker's iconic 277 car-before the crashPorsche Minneapolis celebrated the opening of their new facility in grand style today with a fantastic drive among several of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes that was intended to be led by Magnus Walker. After a rocky start to the day, the spirits and weather both turned for the warmer just in time for a wonderful blue-sky drive through the parks, farmland, and countryside of central Minnesota.

Magnus didn't seem to let the incident with 277 ruin his day. Solid dude.

Magnus didn’t seem to let the incident with 277 ruin his day. Solid dude.

Although the dealership’s focus is obviously on the current generation of Porsches, there was a large contingent of classic and specialty examples of the marque including a couple of dozen examples of air-cooled 911s of all vintages, the Singer Minnesota car, and some contemporary rarities including a (stunning) 918 and a pair of current generation, impossible-to-get GT3RSs.

That Singer is truly exceptional. Even the casual Porsche aficionados amongst the hundred or so attendees were entranced by it. There are no shortage of gorgeously lit and professionally shot detail photos of the Singer cars, but standing right in front of it I couldn’t help but crouch down and get close to see the very smallest of little touches that make this very very expensive car start to feel worth the price. Things like the custom boot latches and hinges; the perfectly manicured engine compartment; the subtle steering wheel-mounted bluetooth controls that allow for modern phone integration without a garish contemporary stereo head unit (who designs those atrocities?). It all adds up to a simply arrestingly beautiful car.

While I am sorry that I couldn’t get to see Magnus’ equally beautiful (but on the opposite end of the customization spectrum) 277 car join us on the drive, he’s still confident that the car will be back on the road in time for next month’s Rennsport Reunion. It’s an ambitious goal, but I wouldn’t want to doubt his resolve.

Amongst a sea of exquisite Porsches was one particular car that caught my eye. It’s a fairly nondescript example of an Irish Green 911T—exactly the kind of car you would expect to see any number of littering the parking lot at any Cars and Coffee. It was the receipt in the window, however, that made the car truly special for the event. Not only is this an amazingly preserved car with original paint and windscreen, this car was bought new in 1970 at Carousel Porsche Audi in Excelsior, Minnesota—The very Porsche dealer we were celebrating today. What a precious connection between the past and future of Porsche’s dealership network in the Upper Midwest.

Unrestored 1970 911T originally purchased at Carousel Porsche Audi

A grand opening party is on the schedule for Tuesday—I’m looking forward to it. More information at Porsche Minneapolis.

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When Safety Equipment Does its Job

Grattan Crash captured by Mark Whitney

Make no mistake about it, this crash at the VSCDA event at Grattan is very, very scary. One second, your picking your turn in spot and getting ready for your turn. The next, your helmet is millimeters off the tarmac. In many ways, however, this series of photos shot by Mark Whitney (played in quick succession here) represents the best case scenario in on-track incidents. Despite the very real danger here, the driver was able to walk away.

Stand up and walk out to your garage to make sure your rollbar is the right height above your helmet. It’s the difference between the roll bar doing it’s job and your helmet dragging across the pavement and pushing your helmet into a series of neck injuries or worse. I know that the temptation to preserve every period-appropriate bit on your car is very real, but make sure you too will walk away from crashes like this. Get a HANS. Check your rollbar. Build it safe.

Thanks for letting us share these Mark. This decidedly less glamorous end of the vintage racing world is where lives can be saved.

See these photos individually in greater detail at Mark Whitney’s Facebook album and join the conversation on the VSCDA Facebook page.

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A Glimpse at The Quail’s Best

As usual, I’m up to my eyeballs combing through all of the photography and video that has come out of car week. This year more than ever, I’m asking myself why I haven’t made it out to The Quail yet. Even just this taste—and there’s so much more—has me convinced it is the best stateside vintage sports and racing showcase. When else do you get to see an Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale in person? Just this moment of seeing it drive across the stage to collect it’s trophy has me short of breath.

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1960 Works Team MGA Coming to Auction

1960 MG Works Team MGA

Only at the Pebble Beach auctions does a car with a $250,000-$300,000 estimate qualify as “under the radar”. I don’t really know how it’s possible though. On auction at Gooding & Co. is one of three works team MGAs For the 1960 Sebring Endurance race (Chassis YD2/2571) and it is stupefyingly gorgeous.

Initially slated to participate in the 1959 Sebring, this example ultimately didn’t make the trip to Florida until the following year, at which time it got a brace of factory updates including: lightweight Vanden Plas aluminum hardtops and a special cockpit tonneau panel to accommodate a suitcase—a new FIA requirement for 1960. The one year wait was worth it, with this car bringing in 4th in Class and 29th Overall.

The car has some light SCCA history in its post-Sebring history, but has surprisingly few modifications; giving it a wonderfully preserved appearance and largely untouched (well maintained but not crazy updated) internals.

1960 MG Works Team MGA

What an amazing machine. I can’t wait to see how the bidding goes. More information on Gooding’s Lot Detail Page.

Update: sold below the estimate for $236,500

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Anything For the Shot

Precarious trackside shooting

I hope this camera operator is quick on his feet.

Via The General Store.

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Reader Mystery: Who Knows this Fiberglass Racer?

Homebuilt Fiberglass Racing Special

Darren wrote in trying to track down this fiberglass-bodied, Ford Flathead V8-powered special that his father build when Darren was a child. Anyone know anything about this beauty? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Update: Locke wrote in with a tantalizing clue. “An Australian by the name of Nat Buchanan made fiberglass bodies to put on MGs, TR2s, Healeys, etc. One of the bodies was based on the Aston Martin DB3S & that’s what your photo is. A flathead wasn’t a typical engine choice for an MG in Australia, but it was fairly common in the U.S., so I would guess that this was a U.S. built car—assuming the frame is an MG. This was 1957.”

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In the Can-Am Pits: Road Atlanta 1972

Let’s walk among the trumpets and crazy wide slicks of the 1972 Can-Am paddock at Road Atlanta. Maybe I over-romanticize the history of motor racing—okay, definitely—but wandering among the teams here looks much more like any amateur vintage race happening this weekend than the velvet-rope, VIP charade of top-shelf racing in the modern era. You can argue safety and engineering advances, but you’ll never make me believe that fan access is better now.

More at Mac’s Motor City Garage.

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