Saturday was a picture perfect day for vintage car racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. STEVE EARLE, founder of General Racing and the Monterey Historics Automobile Races, couldn’t have scripted it better for the Pre Historics. The skies were blue and cloudless all day, it was warm bordering on hot, and the racing was clean and safe with only one mechanical problem.
The two-day weekend is a run-up to the 36th annual Monterey Historics, which is a large, well-attended and sometimes frenetic weekend. The Pre Historics weekend, on the other hand, is a warm-up and learning experience for some of the newer drivers, those who have traveled a long way (from all across the United States and from foreign countries) and a settling in before the big weekend.
The Pre Historics is a non-spectator event, which by nature makes it much more relaxed and low key. Laguna Seca is a county park and as such this weekend open to the public and there were more than a few people paying their admission fees and enjoying the spectacle.
This year’s Monterey Historics featured marque is Porsche and already a large contingent of Porsches of all kinds are showing up. All day there were long tilt-bed trucks unloading cars throughout the paddock.
The more than 225 Pre Historics entries would make any race promoter proud. The fields in any of the eight groups rival or better the size of fields found in most of this year’s professional road racing series. The smallest group – for 1962-1966 Sports Racing Cars has 17 cars, while the largest group numbers 38, for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars, with the average size per group being 28 cars. The largest cars and to me the most impressive group – in size, sound and sheer beauty – were the 1966-1992 Can-Am & GTP cars, 27 in all.
Earle was in a particularly good mood Saturday afternoon. He got to race his beloved 1953 Jaguar C-Type in Group 2 for 1947-1955 Sports & Production Cars – 2000-cc to 1961. Earle has owned the car for years and has been working on it mechanically to where he’s quite pleased at how it’s running. His group has 37 entries.
Part of the fun for the owners in seeking, restoring and running vintage cars is the researching. LINDA MOUNTANOUS and husband MARK have several vintage cars. This weekend they are both racing in Group 1 for 1914-1947 Sports & Racing Cars. Linda spent a lot of time finding her 1935 Shaw Indy car, and then researching its racing history. She also spent hours tracking down the livery worn by the driver and his riding mechanic. Among the items she was able to replicate were the white pith helmet worn by driver WILBUR SHAW and the mohair sweater worn by riding mechanic MYRON STEVENS. The car raced with other drivers and mechanics until 1939 when it crashed at the Indy 500 and retired. The restoration was done by PHIL REILLY and RON DUWE. Linda races it by herself.
Husband Mark races the 1958 Epperly Demler Special, and Linda was able to replicate the original sleeveless white driver’s T shirt, white pith helmet, and the mechanics white short-sleeved shirts with embroidery done by the granddaughter of builder QUINN EPPERLY. In 1998, at the age of 85, Epperly restored the car with Reilly.
Saturday Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was awarded the Business Excellence Award in the Entertainment and Recreation category by the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. More than half a million fans annually attend events at the race track, with a $200 million + economic impact on the area.
How does Purple Packard sound? Saturday my favorite car was one on display before next weekend’s Gooding & Company auctions at Pebble Beach. There are several auctions during the Historics weekend. This particular car was owned by the late PHILL HILL, who passed away ten days after attending last year’s Monterey Historics. The car is a drop-dead gorgeous purple 1927 Packard 343 convertible sedan. The car won Best of Show at the 1977 Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance.
The four-door car had the largest and most ornate hood ornament ever, and it’s not easy to describe. The car’s ‘chaperone’ said it’s the most photographed hood ornament he’s ever seen. There was no listed reserve on the car…it would be ‘available upon request.’ I heard it could be upwards of $600,000 to $800,000. All I need now is to win the lottery. The car had my name written all over it.