Until the late 1950s, it was not uncommon for production sports cars like Alfa Giuliettas and Porsche Speedsters to be driven to the track, raced and driven home. Competition preparation consisted of criss-crossing their headlights with pieces of black tape to keep the lens from shattering into a thousand pieces if a rock hit it, and removing the spare tire, jack and tools from the car. A hard-core competitor might even unbolt the windshield. At the end of the day, the bits were put back into the car, the tape removed, and the drive home commenced.
As vintage racing becomes more complicated, SCM is advocating a return to this '50s era simplicity. We've now competed in two runnings of the Tour de France Automobile Historique, and want to invite you to join us at the event next year.
The Tour de France represents the closest approach to the era of gentleman's competition that we have found. Each day of the four-day event consists of three to four hundred miles of relative high-speed timed transit on back roads, and includes a session at a race track as well as a closed-road hill climb. There are two classes for participants, the competition group that actually races head-to-head on the track, with Nomex suits, helmets, roll-bars and other safety equipment required, and the regularity section, for stock cars, without roll-bar, driving suit or helmet requirements. In the regularity section, you drive the same route, with the same hillclimbs and racetracks as the competition group, but compete against the clock. The Tour de France can be as much a race or as much a cruise through the French countryside as you want it to be. The back roads of France are challenging and the French townspeople enthusiastically support the event.
THE TOUR OF CHOICE
As a point of clarification, there are two cross-country events in France that are run within weeks of one another, Tour Auto and the Tour de France Auto Historique. We've been in both, and each has its strengths. However, Tour Auto, which usually has over 250 entrants, seems to attract more than its share of celebrity and success-crazed entrants, with professional drivers hired to pilot 250LMs so that they can "win." Further, in the year that we participated in the Tour Auto, the lodging and meal logistics were handled poorly, and we seemed to spend more time waiting for bus rides to dinners than we did in the car.
By contrast, the Tour de France Auto Historique, which is organized by the Automobile Club of Nice, has a smaller 60-car field, and the emphasis is on quality seat time in your vintage car. Further, the lodging and first-class meals were all within walking distance of each evening's finish, which was highly appreciated by the dog-tired drivers. (Our color essay on the TdF appears on page 74 of this issue.)
The Tour de France organizers are eager to have more Americans participate; SCM in turn is eager to have other enthusiasts experience this event. We can act as facilitators, explaining the mysteries of the FIA historic driving license and vehicle certification, provide tips on how to prepare for the event and so forth.
The TdF is traditionally held in late April. The organizers have flexibility in the cars they are accepting; this year's entrants ranged from a 1955 Maserati 300S to a 1980 BMW M1. For information about the eligibility of cars, and next year's dates, please fax us at 503-252-5854, or call me directly at 503-261-0333.
Our list of potential '99 TdF participants has already started. While on the California Mille, Andy Leonard (500 TR replica), Martin Swig ('51 Chrysler Saratoga), Dan Rhodes (Aston DB4 drophead) and Bruce Meyer (D-type Jaguar) expressed interest in the Tour de France Auto Historique. Robert Ames and Monte Shelton of Portland, Oregon have said they want to run their 1969 Porsche 911S Martini-Rossi replica. Add these to the SCM gang of Paolo Ravazzi (Abarth Double-Bubble), Marco Pelizziari (Ferrari SWB SEFAC), Daniel Ghose (Ferrari 250 GT Drogo), Herb and Rose Marie Wysard (Porsche 356A) and Giuseppe Tomasetti (Alfa GT Jr.) that ran in the '98 Tour, and you've got the beginnings of an entertaining, eclectic Team SCM. Your space on the roster has already been reserved.
Let's tape the headlights and go racing.
ON THE COVER
We've used '50s automotive artist Frank Wooten's prints on our covers before. We originally came across a series of his prints being sold by a vendor at a Kruse/Scottsdale auction, and were attracted by their period feel. His paintings were not done as a retrospective, but rather as a rendition of events that were happening as he was working. As such, they offer a different visual perspective than artists who paint today about events that happened perhaps before they were born. Further, Wooten's work often represents the "everyman cars" in competition, instead of focusing on the high-profile cars in famous events that dominate most automotive art.
Our cover depicts a forever-to-be-unnamed SCCA race, with an Alfa Giulietta and a Healey 100-6 in the foreground, and a car unknown to us in the background. We're sure that an intrepid SCM reader will illuminate us about this mystery cover car. Interestingly, the front bumpers on the Alfa are of the design used on the prototype Giulietta that is in the Alfa museum, and to the best of our knowledge, never appeared on a street car. How the late Wooten came to know about and paint this model is a mystery that will most likely never be solved.