James Dean would hate that I’m posting this film featuring him as a celebrity participating in a weekend at the track. I don’t doubt that James Dean or Steve McQueen or Paul Newman had a genuine love for the sport, but I can’t help but think that part of the allure was that they weren’t catered to; weren’t ushered to the best table—they were just another competitor on the track that would be given no preferential treatment by their fellow racers. Being just another one of the guys must have been refreshing. That they were each of them skilled drivers and fierce competitors only helps solidify their respect and legend within the racing community.
Another can of film has made it out of the attic and onto YouTube. Rejoice! Here is the Owens Family’s footage from 1959’s Memorial Day Santa Barbara Road Races, The Kiwanis Grand Prix at Riverside, and The Labor Day Santa Barbara Road Races. How is it possible that this footage has been up for over a year and only has 28 views? Can’t we do something about that, readers?!
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.