Last weekend Pat and I loaded up our trusty Toyota Corolla station wagon and took a road trip down Interstate 5 to the SVRA Portland Vintage Racing Festival at Portland International Raceway. We enjoyed two days of eye and ear candy as we watched the on-track action and wandered through the paddock talking with the drivers and taking photos.
The highlight of the weekend, for us at least, came on Saturday afternoon in the Group 6 race. Eric Dolson, in a bigblock Corvette and Ken Sutherland in a 427-powered ’68 Mustang went at it nose-to-tail, fender-to-fender, and every other way you can think of for the whole 30-minute race. Dolson, running on fresh tires, squeezed out a narrow victory over Sutherland in one of the best vintage races we have ever seen. If you think vintage racing is just a lot of wealthy old men playing with their expensive toys and not really racing with each other you should have seen these two. Sutherland, especially, was throwing the Mustang through the corners for all it was worth, getting everything he could out of it, even though he had started the race on used tires. It was spectacular to watch and great fun.
They were set to get after it again on Sunday afternoon, this time with the Corvette on used tires and the Mustang on fresh stickers. Alas, the much-anticipated battle ended before it began when Sutherland’s transmission stuck in third gear at the start. He drove the whole first lap in third gear and then pulled off the track and managed to get it into neutral. After that, the car shifted perfectly, but Dolson was long gone. Still, we were treated to the sight and sound of the Mustang carving its way back up through the pack, passing cars right and left, until Sutherland decided he was not going to catch Dolson and there was no point in beating his car to death. He pulled in and parked, but not before he set a new lap record for his class, two seconds faster than he had run the day before, and this despite having the wrong rear end gears for the transmission he was running. The car, a replica of one of three 427 Mustangs built by Holman-Moody in 1968 for European touring car racing, is truly a beast!
Another car we were delighted to see in Portland was the Lou D’amico #88 A-production Corvette. It has a rich racing history with many victories. It’s an East Coast car, and every time we went back east for a vintage race we kept expecting to see it and have the chance to photograph it, but it just never turned up anyplace where we were. We certainly never expected to see it here out west, almost in our back yard, but there it was in all its glory! Its owner, Jeff Mincheff, is a very personable fellow who talked with us for quite a while and personally pushed the car out from under its shelter into the open where we could get clear and unobstructed photos of it. We took over 90 shots from all angles and capturing every detail, stripe, and decal in closeups for future modeling reference.
Perhaps the most beautifully turned out car there was this Datsun 240Z. I love the color scheme, and every inch of the car, inside and out, looked clean enough to eat off of. Most vintage race cars are like that, much nicer and lavishly cared for then they ever were back in the day, but this one was exceptional.
Like almost any vintage race this one had its share of curiosities.
This one, for instance, is a one-off front-engine road racing special from around 1962, powered by (I think) a 215 Aluminum Buick V8. It looks like a hoot to drive.
Another umm… unique creation was this 1972 Antares Indy car. My first impression of it was that the designer couldn’t make up his mind whether he wanted to build a race car or a boat. The owner, however, told me that this car actually pioneered a lot of concepts that have become standard on today’s ultra-sophisticated race cars. The influence of the boatlike nose, in particular, can be seen in many formula and sports-prototype cars currently in front-line competition.
The Antares shared paddock space with this classic Indy car, a 1967 Vollstedt once driven by Jim Clark. The Scotsman, in his one drive in the car, was leading a USAC road race until it DNFed. Both Indy cars made demonstration laps but they clearly were handicapped by gearboxes and suspensions optimized for oval racing, not to mention the turbo Offy in the back of the Antares. It seemed to be all the way on or all the way off, with not much in between.
It was a fun, relaxing weekend with lots to see and do. If you’ve never been to a vintage car race it’s something you owe it to yourself to experience.
You will find photos of these and many other cars in our two Smugmug galleries from the event, one for paddock and pregrid photos, and one with racing action shots.
Your comments are invited. Tell us about your vintage race experiences.