One of the earliest fiberglass bodied sports cars the “Victress” was started by Boyce “Doc” Smith in North Hollywood California. Some would say it was more kit car then sports car. Four different body styles were available the S-1 roadster was the most popular. Victress was the leading pioneer in fiberglass sport cars in the early 1950s.
Total production figures are all over the place, anywhere from 50 bodies to high as 150 sold. As luck and fortune would have it two Victress Sports Cars raced in the PPHC.
The Sports Car Class at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
The first attempt for the sports car class at Pikes Peak was in 1953. Only three Jaguars were in the class. Even with the foreign car craze sweeping the country, it would take a little longer for it to catch on in the racing community. American ingenuity and the development of the fiberglass sports car body would kick things into high gear quickly. Victress, Devin, Bocar and several other companies were developing fiberglass bodies and even chassis’s that would fit the American V-8 motors and drive trains while keeping the prices affordable. After the small turnout for the 1953 sports car class, the PPHC didn’t bring it back until 1958 and the class would run until 1966.
1958 PPHC and the first Victress
The issue of listing the fiberglass body cars that entered the hill climb was challenging . Some owners and drivers listed the car by body style, while some of the officials tended to list the cars by engine type, much like how it was done in the championship cars. On top of that confusion a few owners would list their car by sponsorship, such as the “John Doe Machine Shop Special” etc..
For PPHC fans and historians finding cars, sponsors etc. can be tricky. The first car listed above was Dan Morgan who drove a Victress bodied car running a Ford Thunderbird modified engine. On the entry list was Ak Miller, he was in a Devin race car that was called the “Hot Rod Special” and ran a Chevy V-8. The BoCar Special another fiberglass car was driven by Bob Carnes the designer and builder of the BoCar race car line. You can see the challenge in identifying those early fiberglass sports cars on the entry lists and in the official results. Wish I could say it got easier as the years went on, but the classifications and the car names in the sports cars class was lacking the entire time the class ran from 1958-1966.
Dan Morgan and the 1st Victress at Pikes Peak
A resident of Pueblo Colorado and a four year veteran running in the Championship class at Pikes Peak, Dan Morgan was a great candidate for the Victress in the 1958 sports car class.
Pictures as they say, are worth a thousand words, so true at Pikes Peak. By the entry list you would think Dan was driving a Ford of some sort. The Victress can be seen on the trailer unlike any Ford on the market. The Victress was one good looking race car. Dan’s Max Day Insurance Special sports car ran a T-Bird Y-Block V-8 with three inline carbs.
The car used Ford front and rear suspension components, weighing in at 2600 pounds. For it’s day, it was considered light and powerful. During practice and time trails Dan would prove it. Taking first in qualifying by an large margin of 40 seconds over Ak Miller in his Devin-Chevy ,Ak was one of the race favorites. A misfortune on race day would see the Victress fall to Ak Miller’s time of 15:23.7 . Dan Morgan would take 2nd place with a time of 15:25. The shift knob on the Victress broke and made shifting during the 156 turns a real challenge. A close race for sure !
The Max Day Victress survives !
After the 1958 PPHC race the car would only race one additional time in La Juanta Colorado and afterward it was put away. To find out more about the car and it’s history after Pikes Peak check out the following website.
There was another Victress the Guy Mabee Spl.
The “Worlds Fastest Sports Car” the Guy Mabee Special Victress would be entered in the 1960 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. The car would not be in the same configuration it ran during it’s 1953 at the Bonneville Salt Flats where it set a speed record of 203.105. No one would even recognize it as the same car that ran the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1960. Old race cars tend to be sold when some owners think the technology has passed them by. The Kurtis Kraft front and rear suspension remained but the lands speed hemi motor AND the body was swapped out for its attempt at the PPHC. It is a wild story and you can read about it at the link below.
After the Bonneville record in 1953 the car had changed hands a few times and by the time it came to Pikes Peak it had many upgrades. Sadly the car was no longer carrying the Victress body, in it’s place was a aluminum body with dual headlights. The engine was also replaced with a Buick. You could almost say it was a different car except it’s history at Pikes Peak would help provide some answers to questions when the car resurfaced in 1983.
Unusual intermittent snow storms would strike the 1960 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. The Sports Cars was the last class to start and the Unlimited group, the last in class to run. Charlie Royal would not even get a chance to run on race day. Between the sporadic weather and the Corvette of George Metzer overturning just before Charlie’s run, there wouldn’t be any chance of him racing in 1960. The race director drove in the Pace Car to the location the Corvette had crashed. Once the fans saw the car coming down hill they figured the race was over and the chaos of cars coming onto the course finished the day. In the official records the last five drivers are recorded as “Did Not Start”.
This Victress also survives !
If you checked out the link above you know after a tremendous restoration effort the race car is back to the way it was during it’s Bonneville Salt Flat days. Wonder what happened to the aluminum Pikes Peak dual headlight body? With such a low production run and only the two cars racing Pikes Peak , it is surprising they both survive. It just goes to show how important the hill climb has been to the racing world. Many of the specialty built race cars ended up racing the PPHC and that provenance has gone a long way in keeping those cars from being scrapped. Nice to see an increasing interest in the restoration of older Pikes Peak Hill Climb race cars !
In future updates on this post, I hope to have additional photographs of both of these Victress race cars at the PPHC.