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!

34 responses to “Unseen 50s SCCA Footage: Agoura Hill Climb ’55”

  1. Bill says:

    Info on the Eliminator

  2. Cris says:

    The Eliminator is the Duffy Livingstone Eliminator that’s now owned by Brock Yates and written about in his book “The Hot Rod.” Had a few different engines over the years. Built incredibly well out of a random but brilliant combination of common parts, not unlike the Ak Miller Caballo or the Ol’ Yallers.

    Cris

  3. Mike Jacobsen says:

    Wow! Who would have believed there is film of this event! You’ll note in the results my Dad won Fmod in our MG Magnette (and was eighth fastest overall). Art Evans was unable to find any info on this event when preparing his Fab 50s volume, tho he wrote the report for WCSCJ you copy! (I since sent him my copy of that issue). And no wonder Art finished well down the list of stock Jags–I believe that is him getting all sideways in the shot from the top of the hill. I too took a few photos of that Ghia bodied 4.1 Ferrari–still don’t know whose it was. Mike Jacobsen

  4. Not too much I can add unfortunately. The numbers are fairly accurate for
    attendance and participation. I am in regular contact with one of the
    participants (John Martin) whose Singer is seen at minute 39 of the clip
    waiting its turn. He was a regular at Santa Barbara, Torrey Pines, Palm
    Springs and others in the under 1500 cc class. Dick Van Laanen was also
    there. He too was a regular at all the popular circuits and of course a
    contemporary of Ken Miles, John von Neumann, Cy Yedor and so on. Dick can
    also be seen on your clip of the March 1955 Palm Springs Road Races driving
    his Singer Special. It’s the first car that appears (#44). It was extremely
    quick, but he never got it sorted out.

    In terms of notables that non-Singer folks might recognize, you have named a
    few. Bruce Kessler was there in a Siata, actor Lee Marvin participated in a
    modified MG TD and clocked a time of 34.36 seconds. Bing Crosby’s nephew
    Jack was the Starter for the event. He was married to the apparently
    delightful “Peaches” Crosby.

    Thanks for sharing the clip. Great that these are turning up.

    Peter McKercher

  5. Mike Jacobsen says:

    A few additional thoughts-Peter McKercher, Singer historian or I should have pointed out that the site’s heading of an “SCCA” event is incorrect–the sponsoring Singer Owner’s Club was quite independent. The link to Brock Yates’ article tells all of the Eliminator, but note it still had the flathead at this event. About three years later Duffy won another hillclimb with it, the one and only Arrowhead Springs event, that time with the Chevy, beating Don Hulette’s ex-Pickford Jag and Ken Miles in Otto Zipper’s aging Talbot Lago GP car. Duffy scrutineered at that event, including our Magnette. I was present at the Go Kart track in Azusa that Duffy built when he tried the track in the Eliminator–but his twin engineed Kart was quicker! At Agoura, Ennals Ives second place J2X was red, and also can be seen in a couple of the McClure films. Mike Jacobsen

  6. Cliff Reuter says:

    Are there more results? What happened with the Siata??

  7. Chris says:

    Wow.. it’s like Christmas everyday around here!

    Does anyone know the approximate location of this event?

    I see some faintly recognizable hills in the background but I didn’t see Ladyface mountain, which is usually the easiest way to pinpoint a spot in that area. Any help would be appreciated!

  8. Mike Jacobsen says:

    A. Nielson in the Siata was sixth in class F mod with a time of 36.44 (my Dad won this class in 30.20, Dennis Mitchell’s Porsche SL was 2nd @30.26. I have the complete results.) The location was near the junction of 101 and Malibu Canyon (today called Las Virgenes at this point), on the north west side. At that time you took a dirt frontage road from a cattle gate about 1/4 mile north past the intersection (101 was then not a freeway) and then drove back around the foot of the hill and another 1/4 mile north of 101. Today there is a row of buildings along Las Virgenes at the foot of the hill where the start was. The dirt road may still be at the top of the hill. There is a new housing development on the next hill. Mike Jacobsen

  9. Harlo says:

    Thanks for clearing up the SCCA / Singer Club question, Mike. I never know what’s a SCCA event, what’s a California Car Club event, and when other sanctioning bodies are involved… Then again, the fact that there were a bunch of people (loosely) organizing is probably part of what made it such a vibrant scene…

  10. Mike Jacobsen says:

    Harlo: Right! SCCA So Cal region staged very few races thru the mid-fifties, but most of the NorCal ones (Pebble,Golden gate, reno, etc). The exceptions were Glendale (’55), Torrey pines (late 55–the one Shelby won) and the two March Fields (because of Curtis LeMay), and a couple of the later Palm Springs. The Sandberg Hillclimbs were also SCCA. Chino (’53) was the only race run by a smaller club, the Four Cylinder Club together with the Long Beach MG Club. History is made by people, and in this case the Cal Club events were largely initiated by Roger Barlow and the promoter George Cary, while the San Francisco region SCCA had Kjell Qvale and Sterling Edwards as the movers and shakers. Dick van Laanen could probably tell you who was actually responsible for Agoura (he and Miles laid out the Paramount Ranch track and also Pomona.) Mike J

  11. Chris says:

    Thanks Mike!

    I grew up near Las Virgenes/Lost Hills so I had a sneaking suspicion that was the location. Hard to tell after all these years.. and that area is also now classified as Calabasas, further complicating things.

    I will take a hike (literally) and check it out the next time I’m up there in a week or so.

  12. Cliff Reuter says:

    Mike,
    can you send me the complete list of the results?
    I’d love to post them on my SCCA results page:

    http://www.ferrariexperts.com/SCCA%20results%20test%20page.htm

    Also, do you have a scan of the program cover?

    Thanks,

    Cliff Reuter
    etceterini.com

  13. Chris says:

    Mike, if I could trouble you one more time to click on this image:

    http://moderngorilla.com/images/agoura_hill_climb_map.jpg

    Is there any way you could give me one of the points on that map to work off of? Based on your description there are two spots I’m thinking of, but I’m not sure I have the correct bearings (and there are businesses and homes on both sides now).

    Thank you again!
    Chris

  14. Mike Jacobsen says:

    Cliff: If you will contact me at: magnettejake@yahoo.com with your snail mail address I will xerox the results and send them. Chris: I’d say the start was at 3, in fact near the base of the letter T in Three, starting on a gentle slope, then became steep about where the buildings end, and turned at the first left between the trees, took a s light down slope to the ess bend and finished near the intersection with the dirt road above. If you will also email I’d be happy to meet you on the site. I have a photo I took that day looking back toward the Valley that will help.I live in Simi Valley. Mike

  15. […] 1/10th as joyous taking place in Agoura ever again. Make the jump to watch the video.[Source: The Chicane]Continue reading Video: 1955 Agoura Hill Climb is baffling, yet wonderfulVideo: 1955 Agoura Hill […]

  16. kare says:

    The maroon Ferrari must be the 4.5-litre 375 America Pinin Farina Coupé owned by Tony Parravano. Original color was “Amaranto metallizato” with tan leather and Parravano offered it for sale in April 1957 descibing it “almost new”. Serial number is 0329AL.

  17. Chris says:

    Thank you Mike! I will let you know when I am out there next and hopefully we can meet up.

  18. Mike Jacobsen says:

    No doubt Kare is correct–Parravano took a TR3 up the hill that day, finishing way down the order (Bob Drake was fastest TR3, perhaps the same car Tony drove!). Mike Jacobsen

  19. John McClure says:

    It was a great hill to “climb” 🙂 As the 2nd car up the hill, I found my Austin Healey made it to the top, even in the dirt. Later I’m in another climb and then down with all the others, and pulling out of the crowd…did you notice the louvers on my hood? Someone at Road & Track did those before they sold me the car.

  20. Mike Jacobsen says:

    John: Thanks again for the film! That’s you featured in the white Healey? You are not listed in the results–the only McLure is “E. McClure” in a stock MG TD with a time of 36.35– a relative?

  21. John McClure says:

    Mike….yes, I was not listed as I was not an official entry…being one of the “officials”, etc. White?..no, I was the tan Healey with the hood louvers..#66.
    I had it at Torrey Pines, Palm Springs, Paramount Ranch, March Field and Santa Barbara…but never listed as not an official entry, etc. ‘Having helped set-up Torrey Pines with the San Diego Chamber,etc…some of us continued on to work at other tracks, and enjoy the fun,etc

  22. johnny martin says:

    The 2nd Agoura Hill climb? It seems to me it was the ONLY Agoura hill climb. The First Singer Hill climb was at Willow Springs the year before. Perhaps that is what is meant by 2nd. Too bad there isn’t any film of the Willow Springs event, I actually did well THERE!
    i love these films thanks for them.

  23. johnny martin says:

    P.S.
    This was totally a Singer Owners Club event. start to finish.

  24. Mike Jacobsen says:

    Johnny: The results show you second in dual carb stock Singers at Agoura with a time of 34.00–same time Dick vL won single carb. A guy named Sullivan beat you by half a sec. And yes, the first SOC hillclimb was at WS, not Agoura.

  25. Wombat says:

    I wonder if the Magnette was a pre-war supercharged one or a post war ZA ZB type sedan??? Anyone know??

  26. Paul House says:

    Excellent stuff again. May i ask has anyone a picture of Ken Miles in Otto Zippers Lago Talbot at Arrowhead Springs as mentioned above. I would like to paint up a model and do it correctly. Thanks, Paul

  27. Mike says:

    Wombat: My Dad’s Magnette was, of course, a pre-war NB, #0878, running on 3 Stromberg 97s–no blower to run in Fmod. We ran it with the blower at Arrowhead Springs, where we were beaten in Emod by Chuck Kessinger’s Maserati 200s. Don Martine owns 0878 today–I still own and race our other Magnette–just returned from the Pittsburgh Vintage GP.
    Paul: Sorry I did not get a picture of the Talbot Lago that day. It was painted the usual French racing blue–same color as Terry Hall’s car, which I think was not the same car, though the two did not overlap at SoCal events. I have B&W pix of Hall’s car at Santa Barbara–it is now owned by Peter Giddings. Mike Jacobsen

  28. Dave says:

    Thanks to Mike:
    :The Eliminator is the Duffy Livingstone Eliminator that’s now owned by Brock Yates and written about in his book “The Hot Rod.” Had a few different engines over the years. Built incredibly well out of a random but brilliant combination of common parts, not unlike the Ak Miller Caballo or the Ol’ Yallers.”

    and Bill for the following link:
    http://www.streetrodderweb.com/milestones/0402sr_eliminator/index.html

    Duffy Livingston has appeared at the annual Vintage Kart race put on by Faye “Ladybug” Pierson at Adams Kart Track (aka Adams Motorsports Park)in Riverside, usually near the end of January. The next vintage kart race at Adams will be held on Saturday, January 31, 2011. We are expecting Duffy to appear again this year. But, please don’t call him Frank.

  29. […] the largest number of comments on any post at The Chicane have come re. the material on the Singer Owners Club hillclimb at Agoura in 1955. I recently dug out my negatives taken at that event and found one the local camera shop had not […]

  30. […] 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 […]

  31. Jim Sitz says:

    Gent in new Thunderbird is Bill Quinn who was staffer at Road & Track earl;y on, then in 1951 began HOP UP magazine, sold that to Petersen Publishing and it became MOTOR LIFE

    Ferrari coupe belonged to Tony Parravano who had stable of race cars then

  32. Jay Laifman says:

    My dad raced his TD in So Cal events, including hill climbs. I have lots of his trophies from his successes. If anyone has any pictures of him in his car or his name in race results, I’d love to see it. Here is a link to one of my posts looking for his car, with the one picture I have:

    http://www.mg-tabc.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=190

  33. Jay Laifman says:

    Oh, by the way, I now live in Agoura/Oak Park!

    As shown in the link, my dad’s car was green with copper sides, fenders and grille slats. But it may have been all green at earlier races.

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