1959 Santa Barbara and Riverside Road Races

I was at a concert last night and invariably as the artist takes the stage, people’s phones come out and they start filming. My first thought is, “You’re never going to watch this poorly recorded video with poorly captured audio. Put your phone away and dance!”

But then I think of things like this 8mm film of the 1959 runnings of the spring and summer sessions of the Santa Barbara Road Races and Riverside… I’m sure at the time, people standing around this person thought they’d never watch the films. Other spectators were thinking that instead of enjoying the day of racing, our filmer here was lost in the camera’s eyepiece. And for what? Grainy film with no audio… Fifty hears later, however, I think of this document as absolute treasure and the person that recorded it as a hero.

Maybe I should lay off the people holding their phones over their heads filming all the time.

A Collection of Mid-50s California Racing Film

1959 Santa Barbara and Riverside Races Home Movies

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?!

James Dean Racing at Santa Barbara, 1955.

Santa Barbara 1962

santabarbara-trackI’m really trying, but I can’t think of a good reason why there aren’t any airstrip races anymore. Think about it. They have fire departments on site, have long and flat paved surfaces designed for high speed, plenty of runoff room, have neighbors that are used to loud noise, and are insured up to their eyeballs. I know, I prefer a track with a bit of elevation changes myself, but beggars can’t be choosers.

The Santa Barbara airport hosted many sportscar races from 1953 to 1967. It’s proximity to Los Angeles meant that all of our favorite actor/racers drove there—many quite successfully. McQueen ran here, James Dean too..

Here’s some wonderful footage of the 1962 race. Check out Don Hulette’s Townsend Special Mk. II bearing race number 404.