The PPHC Pace Cars of the 1950s

Facts, fiction and a myth .

The 1950s were a golden time for the Hill Climb race.  Sports car racing was in it dawning years and the Detroit boys were starting to build higher horsepower automobiles. Lloyd Faddis became the President of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb association in 1947 and developed a great pace car program.

The Pace Car Give Away !

You heard that right !  Your race day ticket had two parts, one for the ticket holder and one went into a box. After the race was over they would draw a ticket stub out of a box at the winners circle at Glen Cove, halfway down the mountain. The race day pace car would go home with a new owner. That was taking car of the fans and it really increased ticket sales.

1950 and 1951

The gentleman in the sport jacket on the left is, Lloyd Faddis he was the  driver of ALL the pace cars in the 1950s. The good looking Marine shaking his hand in 1950 was Rene Gagnon. One of the surviving marines that raised the flag at Iwo Jima in 1945. Lloyd gave him a ride to the summit in the pace car for a special flag raising ceremony at Pikes Peak in July 1950

Both years a Ford Tudor was used as the pace car, running the flathead V-8.

 1952 and 1953

Studebaker was back in 1952, they also provided the PPHC pace car in 1946. The Commander V-8 set a new time of 23:21.20 with Lloyd driving. Yes, they even timed the pace car . (Studebaker also paced at Indy in 1952, but used a convertible )

A first for a PPHC pace car came in 1953. The Ford Crestline Sunliner convertible came equipped with fender skirts and a continental spare tire kit. It was the 50th anniversary for the Ford Motor Company. To help celebrate, they produced 2000 Indy pace car replicas for the Public. The “Pace White”, colored pace car took a little longer to make the summit with a time of 25:36.7

Dodge in 1954

This car was a looker. Dodge provided a gorgeous yellow with black soft top, Dodge Royal in 1954. The car was equipped with a Red Ram V-8  and Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. Not to be outdone by Ford in 53, the car also had a continental kit spare tire mount. Lloyd Faddis must of liked it too, setting a new pace car record on the Peak with a time of 20:28.9

The Indy 500 myth. 

Information has an expiration date it seems, at Pikes Peak.  Maybe its the altitude.  Pikes Peak is a living thing, a mountain. A dirt road  (now paved) going up to a tourist destination 364 days a year.  Only one day a year , is it closed, all day for a race. Even during practice, the racers have to be done by noon to let the city have the road back and collect those tourist dollars. Most race tracks have offices, garages,  buildings for staff, archives, equipment etc…. and they run multiply events each year.  Where to keep, and who keeps the records has always been a challenge for the PPHC.  ………………….Ok, I got off track, sorry. The Indy 500 pace car myth. Some say that the PPHC always used the same style, or type pace car as the Indy 500 and that they were always picked up at the annual Indy race. The facts are different, only 3 pace cars from the 1950s match up with the cars used at Indy,  1953, 1954 and 1956.  Some manufactures didn’t want their cars having to deal with the rough dirt road or the 14,000 feet of altitude. Then there is the giveaway part of the equation . More years then not, the two races had different types of pace cars.

1955 and 1956

1955 the Dodge Custom Royal Lancer, a three toned hardtop with a Super Ram V-8 (baby hemi).  The car was heavy but fast, new course record of 19:39.4

1956 a white with gold Desoto Adventurer was used. Another hemi car and my personal favorite of the 1950s PPHC pace cars. Indy used the same car, but it was a convertible. Lloyd had problems with the car and spun out a few miles from the top. The car had front end damage and was disabled. The race start time was pushed back a little, while the car got removed from the course. The only DNF (did not finish), during the time Lloyd Faddis was the pace car driver.

1957 Oldsmobile Rocket

That is V.H. Sutherlen,  the Oldsmobile general sales manager, standing with the 1957 PPHC pace car.  The Golden Rocket 88 Holiday hardtop, it ran three carburetors on the  J-2 Rocket motor,  a Jetaway Hydra-Matic drive transmission and  3.42 rear end gearing. You have to love the hyped up names they used in the 50s.  Another new record on race day, with a time of 19.01 .

1958 and 1959

Chevrolet would finish out the 1950s with back to back pace cars on Pikes Peak. Nice to see the Tri-five body style on the way out in 1958 and the new bubble top design heading into the 1960s.

There isn’t much information on these two cars. The lucky winner of the 1958 Impala was Allen Ivey from Security Colorado.  By the way, it was fast on race day, first pace car into the eighteen minute mark with a 18:19.4.  The 1959 Chevrolet Impala was provided by Daniels Chevrolet of Colorado Springs for the race.  Notice the two day event markings on the door, July 4 & 5th.  It was only the second time in the history of the race to have a multi day event. The first was the inaugural  event in 1916.  (Which they could do that today)

A great program. 

Introducing new models and styles to the Pikes Peak fans continues today. Porsche , Audi, Nissan and others offer their newest wares to take the first trip up to the summit on race day. Can you imagine the bump in ticket sales if they brought back the giveaway program.  Maybe that’s why the call it the “Good Old Days”

Check out future posts for more PPHC info.

Thanks for reading these posts and please provide comments for feature story ideas.


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