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 Racing Footage: Santa Ana Road Races. May, 1960

More marvelous scenes from El Salvador’s racing scene. Shot by Dr. Carlos Alvarez and provided to the Chicane by George Kehler, the little-seen footage of the 1960 running of the Santa Ana races on the streets of El Salvador has some fantastic vintage Formula Libre racing action.

Keep an eye peeled for two Porsche RSK Spyders driven by Americans David Lane (in the white RSK) and Chuck Cassel (in silver). Whether word of San Salvador’s racing scene had finally made it up to the States, or if Chuck and David were just hitting everything they could in the hemisphere, I don’t know. But I can’t help that think that he saw the writing on the wall for street courses and wanted in while he could.

By 1960, street racing was all but done in the USA, but it’s likely from Chuck Cassell’s participation at this race in San Salvador, and in Nassau two months earlier, that he must have wanted a taste of the thrill of true road racing before it disappeared entirely. These scenes both demonstrate why street courses are so amazing, and why they’re so very dangerous. Getting around these simple roads is, for me (and I think many of you agree), the purest form of racing. But those curbs and surface changes and light poles and, oh yes, surging throngs of spectators wandering much to far onto the racing line, make it clear that the format was meant for extinction.

More from the Alvarez/Kehler archives here.

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.

Reader Photos: Brian Goldman’s Davis Field Trial

Brian sent in these unbelievable photos that his father took at the Brookfield Ohio Davis Field Trial in the mid-late 1950s. The event was apparently put on by Davis Volkswagen, but the photos here are even more shocking than seeing a Beetle giving its all on what looks to be virtually untouched field.

If you’ll remember, I was stunned, and pleased, to see a Jaguar XK120 being put through her paces on the dirt hill road of Agoura Hills. Well that’s nothing compared to the scene you see here—this time in what looks to be a Morgan.

The owner of this Triumph TR2 is no less courageous and pushes her for all she’s worth on less than pristine racing surfaces. I adore that these sportscar owners realized that their cars were for sporting purposes—and put them to that end with little mercy. I don’t think we’ll soon see any Lamborghini or Koenigsegg drivers reviving the Field Trial. Well, I guess we’ll have to get by with the WRC.

Thanks for these, Brian. They’re an amazing artifact, not only of days gone by, but of a spirit gone by as well.

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.

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