Unseen Footage: El Salvador’s San Benito Road Races, August 1958

Pretty amazing to see Beetles sharing a field with ’57 Chevys. I’m not turning up much information on the race featured in this latest clip from the George Kehler archives but seeing these big American sedans running a road circuit is something that we don’t see enough of. We’ve all seen clips of the big Jaguar Mark 2s working around Goodwood, but in the States the big cars are largely associated with NASCAR’s ovals. So seeing these big Chevys and Buicks and Fords hang the rear end out or spin in a corner is a real treat.

Unseen Racing Footage: Santa Ana Road Races, El Salvador, April 1959

Like our last look at the racing community of El Salvador, this footage from the Santa Ana races just stopped me in my tracks. We often see photographs of races with little barrier between the on-track action and the off-track spectators but this footage really demonstrates how very precarious the situation really was. It must have been incredibly nerve racking as a driver (particularly during the LeMans style starts shown here). It must have been spectacularly thrilling as a spectator, with those “lucky” few in the front rows equally stepping closer to the action and pushing back against the crowds behind that threatened to nudge you onto the track. The adrenaline must really have been coursing through the veins of these race fans.

Again, many thanks to George Kehler for providing this footage, shot by Dr. Carlos Alvarez when he was just a young teenager. Keep a sharp eye peeled for Pedro Rodriguez in the red green #24 Austin-Healey 100M (he DNFed with ignition problems). Ricardo was also in the race in an OSCA. The day was won by Mauricio Miranda in the #42 Jaguar D-type with 2nd going to Manfredo Schmid in the Mercedes-Benz.

Keep on digging those film cans out of the attics, people. We’d love to share them with readers.

Unseen Racing Footage: El Salvador’s Santa Ana Road Races, April ’58

The marvelous California racing scene of the 1950s is storied, was a fantastic proving ground for American racing talent, and its popularity has been to our benefit. It was so highly-regarded and well-documented that there’s still plenty of information and photos and film canisters left for us to enjoy today. In fact, I think we probably over-glorify the era simply because it’s easier to find race results, images and footage to write about. The racing communities of other parts of the Americas weren’t as lucky to enjoy such a bounty of media, and an email from a reader recently reminded me that I should be working harder on representing other more forgotten racing communities.

Thankfully, George Kehler emailed me at the perfect time with the perfect solution. George has sourced this fantastic document of an under-represented racing community in Central America and sent a series of films from El Salvador, of which this footage from the April 20, 1958 running of the Santa Ana Sports and Grand Touring Races is the first example. It’s a glorious film shot by Dr. Carlos Alvarez of the Circuito Santa Ana set up on city streets near the capitol city of San Salvador.

As far as I can see, the Salvadoran racing community has all of the ingredients that make us look back so fondly on the California racing scene.

Sound unlikely? The crowd of 100,000 strong lining the streets, craning their heads out farther and farther in to the racing surface speaks to it’s popularity, but was it able to serve as a proving ground for young racers? Well, look for yourself. That Porsche 550 Spyder with the striped bonnet has Ricardo Rodriguez behind the wheel (Ricardo sat on pole and took the race’s fastest lap, but DNFed the race). The white Porsche Speedster is piloted by Pedro (at 18 years old).

It’s that Speedster, entered in the race by Roberto A. Reyes, that is the reason we’re all able to enjoy this footage now. George Kehler is the owner of that car today, and this footage is from his collection of artifacts on the car’s history. Can you imagine a better document of your car’s racing heritage than footage like this of the car winning her class with Pedro Rodriguez at the wheel?

There will be more El Salvador race footage in the coming weeks, hopefully we can help put an end to the dearth of racing footage from Central America. More on the April ’58 race at Racing Sports Cars.

If you’re familiar with El Salvador racing in this era, get in touch. George has identified the major details, but I’d love to find finishing order, programs, photographs, or other items to help document the era.