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.

San Diego Fiesta del Pacifico Race Results. 1956

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.

Unseen 50s Racing Footage: Torrey Pines’ Last Hurrah

It’s been far too long since we’ve dug into the McClure archives for a look at California’s vibrant racing scene of the mid-50’s. This piece of film is bittersweet, as it captures the January 14, 1956 race weekend: the final race weekend at Torrey Pines before its conversion to golf courses.

John took advantage of this last opportunity to record some marvelous film of some of SoCal’s heroes of the day, Phil Hill prepping his Ferrari 500 Mondial, Jack McAfee strapping on his pudding bowl helmet and climbing into his Porsche 550 Spyder. We see the drivers sprint across the track in a LeMans-style start to begin the 6 hours endurance race. Is that a temporary flame-job on the winning Jaguar D-Type of Jerry Austin? I think he should have sprayed it on, who would have guessed how bad-ass a Jag D-Type looks with flames? The timing is also interesting for hot rod fans, January ’56 puts it right around the same time of the famous Von Dutch flame job on a Gullwing Mercedes.

Some of the most interesting shots, though, aren’t on the track nor in the pits at all. Stirling Moss was scheduled to take part in the endurance race piloting an Austin-Healey 100S. The opportunity was perfectly timed, since Stirling had some time to kill on his way back to England from New Zealand after winning the GP Ardmore in a New Zealand Porsche distributor team 550. Unfortunately, the FIA forbade him from participating for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me—anyone know more about that? Since he was in town, Stirling turned up at the track to take in the race, presumably to cheer on Bill Pringle and Ray Jackson-Moore in the Austin-Healey that Moss was to race (they ultimately finished 4th). That’s not so unusual; after all, why wouldn’t the race-mad Moss take in a race, even if only as a spectator? What makes this footage so valuable though, is that it captures Moss the tourist, donning a set of Mickey Mouse ears fresh from a trip to Disneyland with fellow British driver Roy Jackson-Moore and a pair of American drivers. They took to the Disneyland racetrack ride with vigor—with Moss falling second to Roy’s victorious wife Denise Jackson-Moore. Fantastic!

It was a busy weekend indeed for Moss, as Elaine Bond writes in the January 27 issue of MotoRacing, Moss was inducted into the Women’s Sportscar Club as a lifetime honorary member. She goes on, “he is reported to have said, ‘there is no other club I would rather belong to!’ After all, his affinity for dolls is as well known as his affinity for fast machinery and this is reciprocated on the gals’ part.” Sounds to me like Moss had a great time in California.

Huge thanks again to John McClure for sharing this footage with us, see more film from his collection here. In many ways, this is a remarkably sad piece of film. Bidding farewell to the Torrey Pines track must not have been easy for the racers, I’m glad that John captured the weekend for us to appreciate all this time later.

Unseen 50s Racing Footage: Torrey Pines Oct. 1955

Here’s another installment from the McClure archives. This time it’s the 6th running of the Torrey Pines Road Races held on October 22-23, 1955. Some wonderful footage from the pits starts off the clip with shots of a Siata 208 Coupe alongside a Paul Berry’s Arnolt-Bristol, Lotus IX, MGAs and Austin-Healeys, and is that Lance Reventlow climbing into the Mercedes 300 he shared with Bruce Kessler before crashing out in the 6 Hours? The LeMans-style running start of which is captured here as well. A fantastic field for the race with cars such as Jack McAfee’s 550 Spyder, Pearce Woods’ C-Type Jag, The O’Shea/Hill Mercedes, and the Ives Cad-Allard.

An excellent race!

Unseen 50s SCCA Footage: Agoura Hill Climb ’55

Here’s a short but important film from the John McClure Archives. This was the 2nd annual Agoura Hill Climb presented by the Singer Owners’ Club on February 6, 1955, and I think it can be safely described as a smashing success. West Coast Sports Car Journal reported in their March ’55 issue that the event drew 160 competitors and over 2,000 spectators. Even if those numbers are an exaggeration, that is still incredibly impressive. Can you imagine 2,000 spectators coming out to the secluded mountains for a hillclimb? Unless it’s the Goodwood Festival of Speed, or maybe Pikes Peak, the public simply doesn’t care about hillclimbing—not in those kinds of numbers anyway.

I also think this film is incredibly important because it captures something we’re unlikely to ever see again; high performance sportscars driving as fast as they can up a dirt road. Have you ever driven behind a sportscar on a dirt road? Chances are they are driving VERY slowly, just crawling in 1st gear, repeating a silent prayer that no stone is kicked up to mar their paintwork. Even Pikes Peak is almost completely tarmac today. Boo!

Not so in ’55. These drivers are putting everything they have into taking their factory fresh XK120s from the bottom of the hill to the top; bodywork be damned. I think this is what I most enjoy about these vintage club racing films, sportscars just weren’t the luxury status symbol that they are today. They weren’t precious jewels to be polished and parked in front of the dance club. They were simply tools—tools that were built for a purpose—and in 1955 that purpose was to get the Hell to the top of Agoura.

Race Results:
1. Frank Livingston in the Eliminator Model-T Hot Rod (anyone know this car?) at 27.83 seconds
2. Ennals Ives Jr. in a Cad-Allard J2X at 27.86 seconds.
3. Paul Parker, also in the Eliminator, at 28.03
4. Paul Poole in a Jaguar XK120M at 28.63

A young Richie Ginther took the Austin-Healey class victory at 29.66 seconds.

Update: Chris sheds some light on the Eliminator Model-T in the comments, which quickly lead to this article from Street Rodder. Another example of the greatness of the era; when a T-Bucket shares the track with Siatas and Ferraris. Thanks, Chris!

More Unseen SCCA Footage: Palm Springs, December 1955

Last time we dove into the John McClure archives, it was to visit the March ’55 running of the Palm Springs Road Races. What a difference a few months makes, since we’re starting off with shots of snow en route to the races, which must have come as a bit of a shock to the Southern Californians heading into the desert. Lovely views of a very packed group of Porsches and a Citroen 2CV (!) in the small-bore race before we settle into the main event.

Race Results from the Dec. 16 issue of MotoRacing. (click for larger)

It looks like John was able to get quite close to the action for this race and there are some great shots of a quite famous field. He may have even been a bit too close for Bill Willett’s tangle with the hay bales in his Arnolt-Bristol after losing steering. Also in this race is the chicken farmer himself in a red Jaguar D-Type (#63); I almost don’t recognize Carroll Shelby without his cowboy hat.

A good percentage of the reel, though, is the excellent battle between Ernie McAfee in the blue Ferrari Monza (#76) and Masten Gregory in the Maserati 300s (#207). They were at it all weekend, trading victories in the various heats on Saturday and Sunday. Masten took the Formula Libre race on Saturday afternoon for 1.5-3liter cars, with McAfee taking the victory in prelims. But in the main event pictured here the honors went to Masten, with Mcafee following only a fraction of a second behind. Great Stuff.

Also keep your eyes peeled for: Bill Murphy’s Kurtis-Buick, Dick Morgensen’s Special, Ken Miles’ Maserati 150S, Rudy Cleye’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, and Chuck Daigh’s Troutman-Barnes Mercury Special.

Remember, The Chicane wants to show your footage to the world too. If you have some old film cans stacked in the closet: get them out, and get in touch at tips@thechicaneblog.com

More Unseen Racing Footage: Palm Springs 1955

Bill Pollock's Baldwin Mk II Special

Let’s take another look into the John McClure archives. This time from the March, 1955 running of the Palm Springs Road Races.

This race is particularly interesting for pop culture fans as James Dean brought home 2nd place in his Porsche Speedster for the under 1500cc class—this was mere months before purchasing the Spyder he would die in. Sadly, while there are a few very fleeting shots of Dean’s white Speedster here (bearing number 23 for this race), there isn’t a clear shot of the man behind the wheel.

The rather grisly rollover accident of Ray Sinatra’s Darrin, while terrifying to look at, left Ray with a dislocated shoulder.

Jack McAfee in his winning Ferrari 375MM

Ultimately in the main event, Jack McAfee took top honors in his Ferrari 375 MM (#211) after a long battle with Bill Pollack in the Baldwin Special Mk II Mercury (#20).

I’m struck by the stark beauty of the Palm Springs desert venue. I’ve never been to the California desert, and it looks like I should definitely make a point of it.

More Unseen Racing Footage: March AFB 1954

In this installment of the John McClure archives, the November 7, 1954 running of the Orange Empire National Sportscar Races at March Air Force Base. It is a real treat seeing the racing action ahead of scores of aluminum planes in the background.

Unfortunately, the Briggs Cunningham team that swept the previous year’s race was a no-show. This race, however, was significant for Porschefiles as the first US race run by a 550 Spyder. Sadly, the car crashed and burned in practice with the driver escaping reasonably unscathed. Instead, Ferraris ruled the day, with 7 of the top 10 spots in the featured over-1500cc race. Also in the film is a parade lap of Historic cars (teens and 20s).

Cliff has race results over on Etceterini.

More Unseen Racing Film: Pomona 1956

Another installment from the John McClure archives, this time it’s the October 1956 Pomona Road Races. The particular turn that features prominently in this film looks particularly harrowing—and fun. Plenty of competitors overcooked it a bit, resulting in a whole lot of drifting, spins and oversteer. Great stuff!

Quite a few Austin-Healeys, Lotuses (Lotuses? Loti?), ACs, and the ubiquitous Porsche Speedsters and Spyders (I just love that there was a time when you could refer to Spyders as ubiquitous).

West Coast Sports Car Journal had this to say about the main event in their November 1956 issue:

At the drop of the flag, Bill Murphy was first through turn one, something he has perfected through the years. But right on his tail was Evans, Gregory, Hauser, Bob Drake in Joe Lubin’s DB3S Aston Martin, Miles, in that order. Following at a more leisurely pace was the rest of the pack led by Mike Kingsley in the Sparks and Bonney Special and Fred Woodward in his Jaguar Special…

On lap sixteen, the first three cars were running tail and nose, still at an incredible pace. They were lapping three and four seconds faster than the under 1500cc cars had; and this short twisting course is more suitable for small machinery!

I won’t spoil the finish for you here, but you can download a pdf of the complete article here. You can also download the complete results and race report from the November 2-9, 1956 Issue of MotoRacing here.

More Unseen 50’s SCCA Footage: Paramount Ranch 1956

More footage from the John McClure archives, this time from the August 56 running of the Paramount Ranch road races. The footage here is nice and close, it seems John staked out the perfect spot for the featured Sunday races.

The under-1500cc consolation and feature races in the first half of the video has some great shots of Richie Ginther absolutely walking away with the feature race in his #211 Porsche 550 Spyder; the aftermath of Rex Huddleston’s crash in his #75 Maserati-powered Lotus; William Binney’s beautiful #359 Doretti; an interesting shot in the pits of someone’s front-engined(!) Porsche 4-cam powered racer (is it a Lotus 11?). Nice to see some Cooper Formula IIIs mixing it up with the road cars and specials in the low displacement race.

In the larger displacement race, there’s some nice shots of the lovely little battle between Eric Hauser, Bill Krause, and Harrison Evans. Each of them took 1st in their classes piloting their #70 Morgensen Special, #27 Jaguar D-Type, and #130 Ferrari Monza 750.

Seeing the track in use really highlights was an absolutely beautiful location Paramount Ranch was, even moreso than when we featured it in our Lost Tracks series.

More Unseen Racing Film: Torrey Pines 1954

Here’s another Chicane-exclusive film from sportscar fan, San Diego Jr. Chamber of Commerce member (who helped create the Torrey Pines track), and a pretty darn good shot with a film camera, John McClure. This time it’s the track he was most intimately involved in for the November 1954 race. It was our Torrey Pines post in the Lost Tracks series that prompted Mr. McClure to contact me and offer up this brilliant footage.

The film starts with the LeMans syle running start of the 6 Hours endurance race. The race was ultimately won by Lou Brero in a C-Type, with the von Neumann Ferrari 500 Mondial finishing 2nd. The Ferrari is the #39 car that we see quite a lot of in this footage that looks pink in this film – I’m assuming due to the film processing and not the color sensibilities of the car owner.

Jags, MGs, Gullwing Mercedes, and OSCAs feature prominently in the film, along with Porsche 356s, and a few Ferraris. I don’t know what the story was with this tree, but it seems to be magnetic — lots of narrow misses overrunning the turn at what I’m assuming was a high-speed straight. I also like some of the footage of the spectators here. It wasn’t just the drivers that could get away with more than you can today—let’s see what happens when you try and start a small bonfire to keep warm at the corner of any track these days.