When Safety Equipment Does its Job

Grattan Crash captured by Mark Whitney

Make no mistake about it, this crash at the VSCDA event at Grattan is very, very scary. One second, your picking your turn in spot and getting ready for your turn. The next, your helmet is millimeters off the tarmac. In many ways, however, this series of photos shot by Mark Whitney (played in quick succession here) represents the best case scenario in on-track incidents. Despite the very real danger here, the driver was able to walk away.

Stand up and walk out to your garage to make sure your rollbar is the right height above your helmet. It’s the difference between the roll bar doing it’s job and your helmet dragging across the pavement and pushing your helmet into a series of neck injuries or worse. I know that the temptation to preserve every period-appropriate bit on your car is very real, but make sure you too will walk away from crashes like this. Get a HANS. Check your rollbar. Build it safe.

Thanks for letting us share these Mark. This decidedly less glamorous end of the vintage racing world is where lives can be saved.

See these photos individually in greater detail at Mark Whitney’s Facebook album and join the conversation on the VSCDA Facebook page.

Onboard for the Formula Vee 50th Anniversary Race at Road America

The Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association always has a fantastic grid for their Formula Vee group. With 20 or more racers, it has to be one of the most densely packed Formula Vee grids in the States. Last weekend’s Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival, though, brought even more out to the track to celebrate Formula Vee’s 50th anniversary together with a FV-only feature race. (Edit: Paul just wrote in to tell me that the event drew 34 Formula Vees for the weekend. Yowza!)

What I like most about Jeffrey Tschiltsch’s onboard footage here is that it really showcases one of my favorite aspects of the group: they manage to run really tight. Even towards the end of this video, there’s still five or six cars within a few seconds of each other; never more than a turn apart. Keeping together as a pack and drafting one another in the long straights at Road America makes these little 1200cc powered racers an exercise in true racecraft. After all, there’s not a lot of horsepower to rely on when you make even the smallest mistakes. Sure, taking advantage of every newton of momemtum and using every aerodynamic advantage to try and win is true for every race group, but this particular formula really manages to deliver on similar performance and racing characteristics across a variety of builders. It’s just such a joy to watch.

I have to also give kudos to Jeffrey for actually using YouTube’s usually annoying commenting tools to give some honest commentary for the video, pointing out some hairier moments, some near misses, and even his own mistakes to give us some insight into the on-track thoughts and analysis of the moments that defined the race for him. Thanks for sharing these, Jeffery.

Man, I love Road America.

Available in Minnesota: 1969 Merlyn 11A Formula Ford

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that friend-of-the-blog, Rich Stadther, is parting with his 1969 Merlyn 11A Formula Ford. She’s a lovely machine to be sure and, more importantly, it offers you entry into what I consider to be one of the most fun and challenging series in vintage racing.

It’s not just the series that I’m attracted to though. Maybe it’s just the time I’ve spent helping my buddy Eric with his, but there’s something in particular about the Merlyns that I really love. Granted, I’ve not been exposed to as many Titans or Alexis (Alexese?) or Hawkes, but the lines and mechanicals of the Merlyns have really struck a chord with me. The fact that Colchester Racing Developments is still alive and kicking and supplying many of the parts for it doesn’t hurt either.

The price is definitely right for a ready-to-race Formula Ford. I know plenty of people that have spent more than that to get their cars ready for “more affordable” classes. I’d race her as-is for a few years until you’ve got a feel for her before diving in to a rebuild or restoration. Knowing Rich’s work though, she probably won’t need either.

More information on Rich’s site. Need more? Check out this video of her wiggling through the chicane at a recent running of the Waumandee Hillclimb.

Eric’s Brilliant Merlyn Formula Ford Restoration

Eric's Merlyn: Finished.
My dear friend Eric Dean spent his winter restoring his Merlyn Formula Ford and it looks absolutely marvelous. The car wasn’t in desperate need of the full restoration job either, and I swear I left it in as good a shape as I got it when he graciously let me squeeze behind the wheel for a few laps of Road America last fall. Compare the photo from my post on that weekend with the series of photos below. They tell the tale better than I ever could of the quality of his craftsmanship in a restoration project that saw every hole in the frame patched and ground down, powdercoated, supplied with new hardware from nose to tail, and meticulously prepared. I must admit I was nervous about his livery choice until I saw these photos of the tremendous quality of the paint, which looks much more like a perfectly preserved 30-year-old paint job than it does a new respray.

Enough of my rambling, I’ll let the photos tell the story. I think it’s absolutely perfect. Something tells me Eric won’t be so quick to hand over the wheel this year, nor should he. Congratulations, Eric, on a job very well done.

(click on each for a larger view)
Merlyn Restoration: Ready for DisassemblyMerlyn Restoration: and the Jigsaw Puzzle BeginsMerlyn Restoration: Frame Powdercoated and a New FloorMerlyn Restoration: Recovered Dash. The story of sifting through thrift-store leather jackets to match the color of the old dash is a funny one.Merlyn Restoration: Front Suspension ReassembledMerlyn Restoration: The paint looks well worn, even though it's fresh.Merlyn Restoration: The black wheels look perfect with the new livery.Merlyn Restoration: Here's the Garage Envy shot, ready for her debut.

Seen at Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival: Porsche 910-25

Walking the paddock at any vintage race is half the fun of attending. There are scores of wonderful racing cars and dozens of friendly drivers happy to chat about them. At this year’s Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival, we did even more chatting with drivers than usual, as Paul is on the hunt for a vintage Formula Vee. One car this year, however, stopped me dead in my tracks—along with everyone else that passed—the Porsche 910.

910-25 at rest.

Parked among some of the most arresting cars of the weekend, a Maserati 250 and a Cooper Formula car, it was the only car I can think of that could draw all attention away from these 2 other iconic cars. Immaculately restored in 2001, this car has competed recently in such estimable races at the 24 Hours Lemans Classic and the Monterrey Historics.

But of course the truly remarkable story of this prototype racer begins much earlier than that. The 910 series was originally conceived of as a hillclimb car, but quickly found success as an endurance racer. Think about that for a moment. Hillclimbs are short sprints up a mountainside. One way, one trip. The fact that this hillclimber was readily adaptable to endurance racing speaks volumes about Porsche’s late-60’s engineering. That a car designed for short bursts of speed could also run competitively for 24 hours is simply staggering.

This example ran the Targa Florio in ’67 (a race won by fellow works drivers Paul Hawkins and Rölf Stommelen in 910-08), and won the 1000km at the Circuit of Mugello with Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schuetz at the wheel. Sadly, 910-25 didn’t complete the Sunday race at Road America, dropping out of competition in the 1st lap. The car was hauled out of the track on a flatbed, but I didn’t see any signs of damage. Does anyone know what happened?

Here’s a photo of 910-25 as she appeared at the ’67 Targa Florio.
910-25 at the Targa Florio

This article in Washington CEO Magazine shows that the current owner of Porsche 910-25 is AEI Music Founder and Real Estate developer Michael J. Malone. Congratulations, Mr. Malone, on one fine automobile.