I made it out to the 2013 Portland Historic Races on Sunday and found some fun people, great races, and hot cars. The races were held June 28thto the 30th and the featured theme was the 60thanniversary of the Corvette.
I scored a paddock (the middle of the track) pass from a buddy and was in early to get across the track before warm-ups started. The BMW CCA club was running, for charity, $5 a lap autocross. At 9 AM it was me and about two other cars running around the track with barely a break between laps. It got more popular and more people came as the day wore on and I’m willing to bet they raised a tidy sum for Take Action Inc., which provides food for at need children on the weekend (when they can’t get it at school). I was impressed; what a fun method to raise money for a charity!
I’ll be posting soon about my autocross experience over at www.budgetmga.blogspot.com.
The paddock area is broke down by car clubs, but because I don’t belong to any of them I parked next to the autocross track by the volunteers. Wes, the friendly volunteer/car guider filled me in on the paddock drama. Apparently two clubs, which were at one point one club, are warring for members and trying schemes like parking an attractive female at the gate to direct cars to a certain paddock area. Funny stuff.
It made me wonder what happened to cause two clubs. I’m starting to realize people are people, and whether you’re in a car club or church, there’s likely going to be someone you don’t get along with. I think you should look at the founding values to select the group you’re going to endeavor with. An extreme example is comparing Christians to the Hells Angels. They both likely have some morons in their group, and also some camaraderie, but one was founded by a man who loved and did the miraculous to help people (Jesus) and the other was founded by a desert warrior who likely killed people (Sonny Barger). Why would you possibly join a group founded by a murdering desert warrior; would you be willing to support that mind set? But it's not perfectly rosy on the other side, if you’re a Christian, you’re still likely to find some goofs in the church. Get over it, they’re everywhere, pursue the original intentions of the church, which are awesome, and try not to be a goof too!
I digress, but I hear too many people say they walked away from church cause of the people. Back to the races.
It was about 10 AM but the day was already baking for Portland. With highs for the day forecasted well over 90 I think a lot of people bailed on coming out to the races. The crowds were relatively sparse. Which was great because when I headed over to the pit area I got to spend some time alone with a multi-million dollar machine (why does that sound creepy?).
I came across an Alfa Romeo 8C-35. This was one of the cars campaigned by the Alfa team when old man Ferrari wasn’t old, and he managed Alfa’s racing cars (before he built his own). Ferrari had already begun painting the prancing horse on his team cars after a mother asked Ferrari to use it as Alfa’s good luck charm just as her son had on the side of his WW1 warplane (he died in WW1 as an ace and Italian national hero).
The car was a piece of art and it was fascinating to walk around it and check out the brake cables, early suspension, Italian gauges, etc. I spent 10 minutes drooling on the car and the owner probably got suspicious. It was nice not to have museum barricades blocking me from looking at it. Also it seems museums always leave the hood closed too.
I later found out this car was once driven by Nuvolari, who many claim was the best driver of all time. It’s now owned by Peter Giddings, who purchased the Alfa for several million. You can read more about this car at - http://petergiddings.com/Cars/TipoC50013.html
I then came across a car I’d never seen or heard of before, which is always a nice surprise. The car was a Deutsche Bonnet HBR5 – a two-cylinder car campaigned by Aurthur Cook. Later I had a chance to watch Mr. Cook race and he was subject to being lapped, repeatedly, but I give him a lot of admiration for racing something so odd and underpowered.
I also came across a Bugatti Type 35. A real one, not one of the VW motored ones! Robert Ames, just out of his race car, came over and humored our stupid questions about the handpulleys, fuel pump, and chain adjustors for the brakes even though he was still pouring sweat!
I appreciated the time Mr. Ames took. Last year I’d approached a Mustang owner about a car whose motor had sounded especially awesome. He’d ignored me and his mechanic told me the motor was a secret (bear in mind this is historic racing, not F1). I noticed that same mustang owner had barricaded his car area with trailers this year so that even though it’s an open pit, no spectators could bother him. Kinda funny, kinda sad.
Also in the pit was a dream barn find 1stgeneration corvette. I think I’ve dreamed of finding that very car in that very state. Unfortunately I couldn’t find out the story because the owner was busy replacing his spindles on the XK Jaguar he was racing.
The funny thing was, this being the celebration of the 60thanniversary of the Corvette, I didn’t see many other Corvettes!
One of the more affordable cars I spotted, but still desirable, was an early MGB with the pull handle doors. Clean, straight and everything an MGB should be!
I also found some oddities in the pits, including a Renault and a Crosley Hotshot. The Crosley is sprung in the rear by some beafy quarter elliptical leaf springs!
Being in the paddock also clued me in on what sort of classic I’m likely to campaign if finances and time ever allow. The guys with the Bugattis, Mustangs, Corvettes and such all came in fancy trailer trucks with living areas and pull out awnings, designed for racers. These were parked on the asphalt close to the tower. The other guys were out in the grass, off the asphalt, with old trucks and little tiny tow behind trailers with MG midgets and triumphs and other low buck racers. I have a feeling I’m destined for the grassy area.
The races were in the afternoon and a blast to watch for as long as you’re body could handle the sun. Many of the attendees brought large umbrellas to tie to the grandstand which I’d highly recommend.
After one race we walked back to the pits and talked to a Mr. Volstead about his ex-Jim Clark race car. One of his comments about racing the car struck me, “It’s been 20 minutes and I’m still smiling”!
Being historic races there’s not a ton of dicing since many of these cars are rare and/or valuable. Some of the more memorable action is when someone over-commits to a corner and ends up in the grass such as an Austin Healey did when it was chasing a Corvette with a large lead.
One of the best races was between two cars that probably don’t have as much of the rare/valuable issue. The Volvo 142E of Robert Gordon and the BMW 2002 of Jeff Gerken battled it out for 2nd behind a Peter Brock replica 240Z. Gordon and Gerken were within dicing hard and at points the cars appeared to be inches from each other, pushed into the grass, and stymied in the corners so hard tire haze came up from the one that had to brake. That was a great to watch!
You can read more about the Peter Brock replica 240z here (I’m guessing this is the same car that won) - http://www.roadandtrack.com/special-reports/bre-nissan-370z-datsun-240z
The vendors were also out, but the consensus was there were fewer than in previous years. There were still plenty of opportunities to pick up shirts, model cars, junk food and your other typical fare. I found some great vintage racing books, which I picked up for $5.
Around four the races wrapped up and people trickled out. Not all that many had made it to 4 with the heat and it being Sunday. I think everyone was happy though; the racing was good, some of the cars in attendance were exceptional, and there were other fun diversions like autocross and club gatherings.
Were you out there? What's your thoughts? Did I miss anything noteworthy? If you weren't there, what'd you think of the writeup? Did I miss anything? Comments can be posted below (if you can't see the section try a different browser).