Monterey Historics Feature – August 13-14 - Part 1
Great American Specials
© Gary Horrocks
Yes, there was
more to the Monterey Historics than Chaparrals. Officially this
year, the featured marque was Great American Specials, of which
it seemed convenient to include Chaparral into this, as that line
of cars could be considered the ultimate American Specials.
Steve Earle, the event founder, "Jim Hall and his Chaparral
cars certainly set the standard in racing during their time. Their
innovative design, preparation and presentation caught the imagination
of race fans across the country, that grew into a true fan club.
They represent the ultimate in American specials. Hall’s advancements
not only influenced racing history, but also can still be found
on the road and track today." What better way to celebrate
the history, the ingenuity and the passion of the early days of
racing, not just here in the States but around the world?”
we focus expressly on today, losing track of what came before us.
That is a mistake. Not just in the theme of racing, but in general.
There is much to be learned from the past, if we pay attention.
in the 50s and early 60s, and even earlier, was different. Much
different than it is today. Was it better? It all depends on your
perspective. Many say that the early days of sportscar racing were
more innocent. I’m not sure I’ll agree with that. An
era in which death at the race track was common cannot be considered
innocent in my eyes.
But what was
it about the early days of racing that make people nostalgic? It’s
human nature to look back and feel that things were better “way
back when”. In the case of racing, maybe it’s true,
but you have to be the judge.
How racing has
turned into what it is now is a strange and convoluted road that
would be best left to those who are better scribes than myself.
But I do know that the regulations of the day were less constrictive
than they are now. And it is the looseness of those regulations
that allowed the innovation that we were able to witness. How else
do you think that some of the developments that came our way even
came about? The rules allowed them to.
Now, there is
not much room for innovation. The regulations have become so restrictive
that most opportunities for innovation have gone away, replaced
by restrictions. It appears that in the current world of racing,
innovation is only allowed when the rules say it is OK to do so.
Do you see much opportunity for innovation in Daytona Prototypes?
I didn’t think so. But even in the less restrictive FIA /
ACO / ALMS regulated series, the opportunities for innovation in
car design are limited. The only reason that what may be the next
best innovation in racing, the emergence of diesel technology, will
take place in the future is because of the favorable breaks that
the ACO is allowing.
In earlier days,
it was not uncommon for a group of buddies get together and decide
to go racing. I’m sure many of those same cars we were celebrating
at Laguna last weekend (August 13-14) came about over a few beers,
while barbecuing in the back yard. “Hey, I can clear out my
garage and we can build it there. Design? Ummm, we’ll come
up with something.” Thus was born yet another car that was
destined to be a footnote or an entry in some obscure race that
maybe only Janos or Johannes would know about. Try that today. Absolutely
impossible – isn’t it?
One of the things
that make weekends such as this so compelling is that history literally
flashes before your eyes. You can just sit back and watch a history
of road racing rush by. And a surprise this year was the inclusion
of IMSA cars from 1970 to 1980. Typically cars of this recent a
vintage are not invited here, but for only a short time, we were
able to relive the sights and sounds of Porsche 935s and BMWs from
the past. Speaking of flashbacks – it sure was one for me
and I would assume for many others too.
While the words
“Great American Specials” may not have the magic of
say Ferrari or Porsche, in many ways, this may have been one of
the more rewarding historic events that I have been to. Where else
can you see cars named after such diverse wild life such as Aardvarks
and Dolphins take to the track? Not many places any more that I
the independent thinking that brought forth these specials is something
that we need to rediscover. Would it be practical in the era of
mega budgets? Unfortunately, probably not, but at least for once
we were able to look back and examine and appreciate what these
cars brought to the lineage of racing. And also appreciate the forward
thinking of their designers and builders, and marvel at the bravery
and skill of those who were assigned to tame the Dolphins and Aardvarks
of this world. Long may that spirit live on…
BMW Line Up
1952 Mercedes 300SL
1954 Kurtis 500KK
1958 Devin Special
1962 Campbell Special
1962 Dolphin America & 1956 Miller Crosley
1967 Matich SR3
1969 Boss Mustang 302