“The Gray Line”, the mountain gives back.

The 1940 Gray Line tour car line up.

 As early as 1915 there was a market for tourist travel to the summit of Pikes Peak. While many folks chose to take the Cog Rail line to the top, others wanted a more personalized and private trip to the summit by automobile.

White bus, Pierce-Arrow, Cadillac and specialty designed 1955 Chevrolet tour cars were used on Pikes Peak

The Broadmoor Hotel ran the largest stable of tour cars and ran the program through the Gray Line travel company. Earliest cars that were used began with the White Model 15-25 bus and the Pierce-Arrow cars.  Tradition dictated the drivers to stop at the halfway point for pictures at Glen Cove and for an additional charge, photographs could also be taken a summit house.

Starting in the late 1930’s the Broadmoor Hotel ordered specialty built Cadillac tour cars with a removable canvas roof.   These twelve passenger cars became a favorite with the folks wanted to take in all of the sites along the route. Additional orders continued in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the later cars no longer had the removable top but came with sunroofs featured across the top of the cars to allow for the wonderful views , while keeping the somewhat brisk temperatures at bay.

The program of producing these special cars became such a success that the Cadillac named them the “Broadmoor Skyview” .

By 1955 the cars were all painted a bright red and no longer carried the Gray Line tour company logos . They were used by the hotel for VIP guests. These 1955, 1956 and the last edition of the SkyView Cadillac in 1959 have become very collectible and a few have survived.

The Flxible Bus.

In 1954 a contact to build short wheel base tour buses was given to the Flxible Company of Londonville Ohio, for five buses . Four would go to the Pikes Peak Highway Company and an additional bus for the “Colburn Motors Tours” company also from Colorado Springs.

New buses coming to the Pikes Peak Highway in 1954
The “Flxible bus while on a rest stop on the Pikes Peak Highway.
The Broadmoor Skydview Cadillac in 1959 in bright red .
Picture shows a Broadmoor Skyview Cadillac and a Flxible bus at the summit of Pikes Peak late 1950’s

The Gray Line and Broadmoor tour drivers.

This is the part were the mountain gave back. One of the hardest parts of racing on Pikes Peak is learning the road. The so called “156 turns” can make or break a drivers time to the summit. If you wanted to know the route better as a race car driver , taking a turn as a tour car or a tour bus driver was one of the best ways to learn the course. (Some out of state competitors called it an unfair advantage for the local drivers) .  As early as 1949 Speed Age magazine interviewed successful driver Art Hillis about his knowledge of the course and that time already had 5040 trips up Pikes Peak as a tour car driver. That’s right over 5000 trips !

Best way to know the road was by being a tour car driver . Free Press newspaper 1950

 

Many race car drivers, Art Hillis, J.C. Shoemaker, Al Rogers ( over 3000), Louie J. Unser, Nick Sanborn,  Bob Finney and many more over the years could count their trips in the hundreds and thousands on the Pikes Peak Highway. .  Not only was it about learning the many turns , but also learning how the weather conditions effected the different road surfaces.

A handful survive !

The mountain took it’s toll on the equipment used in the tourist business, but the care given to the vehicles used was always first class. Several still survive today. The most prominent of the survivors is fittingly still with the Broadmoor Hotel.  A beautiful 1937 Cadillac with the roll back roof is still in their collection and is available to rent for special occasions.

The 1937 Cadillac tour car in front of the Broadmoor Hotel

 

Two of the Flxible buses survive, one is rumored to be in England and other known bus is located in the USA.  Check out this video below for more details.

 

Someone had to do it.

As long as companies were providing travel tours up to the summit of Pikes Peak,by automobile someone had to drive. Why not an inspiring race car driver !

If you have additional information, photos or stories about these tour programs please contact me. It is an important part of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb racing history.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb programs over the years.

1916 Pikes Peak Hill Climb program

In the beginning .

The first “Pikes Peak National Hill Climbing Contest” program was really spectacular  for its time.  Thirty two pages in full, with classic ads throughout. Name brands like, Cadillac, Packard, Marmon, Excelsior Autocycles, White Motor Company, Gargoyle Gasoline and many more. Luckily the PPIHC organization reprinted this program during the 100th anniversary in 2016. It is a must have souvenir program even as a reprint. One bit of trivia from the program, is the Broadmoor Hotel advertisement. The actual construction wasn’t completed when the program was printed and the drawing of the Hotel placed in the ad was for a  different design then what finally got approved and built.

The 1920s and 30s

No race from 1917-1919. When racing resumed after World War I in 1920, the program was reduced to a four page handout for the remainder of the 1920’s. Not many of the folded paper versions of the program have survived.

The 1925 PPHC program hand out.
1925 Pikes Peak Hill Climb program 4 page handout.

In 1935 once the original contract for ownership use of the road was completed, no one picked up a new contract. The wasnt a race in 1935. The local VFW (Veteras of Foreign Wars) picked up the sponsorship for the hill climb race in 1936 up until the race stopped in 1941 for WW2.  The format was more like a traditional program with a thicker cover type with more pages (6-8 pages).

1936 Pikes Peak Hill Climb program.
PPHC 1938 program

1940s

The paper handout style was used one last time in 1940. The first use of color since 1916 appeared on the cover in 1941.

missing 1946 program cover image please help

The 1950’s

The use of photography, graphics and color would signify the programs of the 1950’s. The “Princess Power” contest ladies made the cover in 1954 and the Dodge Pace Car made the cover in 1955. The first full color race car photograph cover was in 1956. (Keith Andrews). The famous PPHC fish logo, made the cover in 1957 and stayed for the last three years !

The 1960’s

The cover graphics got a little boring in the early sixties with the fish logo theme, but the wonderful cover photograph covers from 1966 and on would make up for it.

The 1970’s.

In addition to the use of photographs on the covers, several years, the covers would receive an artist touch. Note worthy covers were , Peter Helck in 1973, and Leonard Wheatley in 1977 and 1978.  Buick Pace Cars made the cover in both 1975 and 76 and the only dune buggy to ever appear on the cover was in 1971.  Artist H. Gene Yancey would finish off the decade with the cover art in 1979, including drawings inside the program of Rick Mears and the PPHC flagman Art Walsh.

The 1980’s.

What can you say about the 80’s ?? Graphics would take over most of the cover designs. Buick would once again have a Pace Car on the cover (1981), except the Indy 500 targa top pace car on the cover wasn’t used at Pikes Peak, but a more subdued T-Top car was used. Artist H. Gene Yancey did the wonderful cover in 1980. Modern computer art made the cover in 1982. There was an art contest done for the 1984 cover and the winner was Lori Pate of Littleton Colorado with her colorful tire tread design. The 1988 cover illustration was done by automotive airbrush artist Mark Westfall. My personal favorite, in the 1980s, was the 1989 cover with a Newman-Dreager open wheel race car artwork. Chevrolet provided limited edition posters to it’s dealership with that image in 1989 to celebrate some of the greatest Chevrolet wins at Pikes Peak. ( PPHC fans will notice that the car on the cover,is actually going downhill at that location on the course.)

The 1990s.

Race cars and photographs would take the majority of the covers in the 1990’s. Bill Brister in his Wells Coyote took the cover in 1990 starting the decade off with a bang. The cover artwork in 1992 was by Jim Swintal and was also used for posters that year. Those marvelous posters have become a much desired PPHC collectible.  Besides the drawing in 1971, the cover in 1994, was the first year for a motorcycle photo to make the program cover. Likewise the first semi-truck made the cover, ( Kenworth driven by Glenn Brown) in 1998. The program from the “75th Running of the Race to the Clouds” in 1997 is also a much sot after collectible for hill climb fans.

PPHC Programs available for viewing !

The Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections department has 31 programs available for the public veiwing. You can’t check them out but they have a great room to read them in and the folks are great to work with. Here is the list of what years they have and contact info.

https://pikp.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/PPLD/search/results?qu=pikes+peak+hill+climb&te=

The Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs also has around 20 programs that the Library doesn’t have. A little harder to get access too but available by appointment only. Contact info below:

Welcome to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Did you like this blog post ?

Hope you enjoyed seeing the many years of Pikes Peak Hill Climb program covers. (If you have a picture of the 1946 program cover please contact me)

What other items from the race are you interested in besides the race cars and drivers? Posters, diecast, books, clothing etc……?

If there are enough folks responding to this post, there could be additional posts of  PPHC memorabilia in the future.  There is a bunch of stuff out there, but getting harder to find as the years go on.

Thanks for checking out the blog.  Nice to see many of you folks coming back time and time again!

Victress sports cars at the PPHC

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..

1958 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race Sports Car Class entry list

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.

Dan Morgan gassing up with the Official Pikes Peak Hill Climb Mobiloil gasoline. 1958 PPHC Victress race car

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.

Dan Morgan Victress sports car at the 1958 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race practice

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.

http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2016/06/1955-victress-it-sounded-familiar-so-i.html

 

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.

http://www.forgottenfiberglass.com/fiberglass-car-marques/victress/mabee-special-bruce-gross-july-1995/

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.

PPHC 1960

Arrow points to the # 8 Buick Special after time trials 1960
PPHC Sports Car Class results 1960

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.

 

Jaguar prowls at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race (part one)

First Sports Car Class in 1953

 

Not sure if  Mrs. Penrose had anything to do with it or not. But she had one of the earliest Jag’s in Colorado. On the right is her car in front of her husband’s Broadmoor Hotel in 1950. The first Sports Car Class at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb would be held in 1953 under the sporting code provided by the Federation International  De L’ Automobile and sanctioned by the American Automobile Association. (AAA).  Wow, that’s a mouth full !

Only three cars would be in that first class and all Jaguars . Robert Carnes who would later go on to manufacture the famous BoCar line of fiberglass sports cars, would be driving a XK-120 coupe carrying the number “1”.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb race 1953. Bob Carnes, Jaguar XK-120

Gueraro Piffard would be in a XK-120 drophead coupe and would carry number 13.

Race day 1953 at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Frank Bramley from Denver Colorado would carry number “3” on his metallic bronze XK-120 coupe. During time trails Frank would slid off the road on a curve just a mile from the start line ending up on his top. The car would have the roof dents popped out and was ready by race day.

Results PPHC 1953

  1. Frank Bramley  19:47
  2. Robert Carnes    20:33
  3. Guerard Piffard 20:80

The cars were mush slower then the traditional open wheel cars that the crowds were accustomed too. In the Championship Class Louis Unser in a Kurtis KK4000 took the overall win with a time of 15:15 and the slowest car came in 20th place with a time of  17:01.  Not the best start for the Sports Car Class.

You can just see a glimpse of the metallic bronze color on Frank’s Jaguar behind Unser’s yellow Kurtis

If anyone has color pictures from the 1953 race please email me. The pic above is the only one I have seen.

1953 Sports Car Class trophy

If you are in Colorado Springs swing by and check out the PPHC museum. They not only have the 53 trophy , they also have an engraved belt buckle from Frank’s win in 1953. For more information on the museum:

https://www.elpomar.org/About-Us/penrose-heritage-museum/

One thing of note from the race in 1953, Bob Carnes would go on to race in the Buffalo Bill Hill Climb outside of Golden Colorado in the same Jaguar winning in 1953. In later years he swapped the Jag motor out for a V-8 from a Cadillac and named his car the ” Jagillac”  .

The Sports Car Class was not continued at Pikes Peak in 1954 but it would come back in 1958.

 

1958 Pikes Peak Hill Climb Sports Car Class.

By 58 sports cars of all types were racing at tracks around the county and there was a new demand to have them back at Pikes Peak.

Sports Car Class at the 1958 PPHA

As you can see the competition had made leaps and bounds since the 1953 class. A Porsche 356 driven by Bill Paine, a first at Pikes Peak and Bob Carnes was entered with his newly designed Bocar.  Bill Rutan a record holder at the Mt. Washington Hill Climb in a Volvo and four powerful Corvettes including Bob Hall with his fuel injected Vette.. The Jaguars would have a tougher time this go around. Frank Bramley was back hoping to best his time from 1953 (19:47) and Paul Kingley brought another XK-120 Jag to compete. The favorite going into race day had to be Ak Miller in his Chevy V-8 powered Devin called the “Hot Rod Magazine Special” . New for 1958 was the requirement to have a roll bar for driver protection. The early attempts at what that meant at that time, seem laughable today but improvements in safety had to start somewhere.

Paul Kingsley number “0” gassing up at the “Official” Mobil station for the 1958 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race .Notice the low square rollbar

Time trails and practice were uneventful for the Jaguars,  Paul qualified in 7th and Frank was 10th fastest. The large difference in cubic inches was apparent through out the field.  Race day would see the large V-8 fiberglass cars at the top. Ak Miller taking first with a time of 15:23.7 . The smaller displacement cars brought up the rear. Of those Frank Bramley in his XK-120,would improve on his 1953 winning time taking 7th place with a 17:20.7 beating all of the foreign sports car . Paul Kingsley time of 20:23.8 was good enough for 10th, beating Bill Paine in his Porsche 356, at 21:26.1 and the Austin-Healey driven by Ray Rowe in last place with a time of 24:08.

The Jaguar XK-120s time at Pikes Peak had met it’s end, but the good news was Bobby Unser in his modified 3.8 liter Jaguar engined open wheel car. He took the Championship Class win setting a new overall record time of 13:47.9 , shocking the old guard who loved their V-8 powered cars. That would be the only other year for a Jaguar powered car to be in the winners circle at Pikes Peak. ( Frank in 1953, and Bobby in 1958)

The early years for Jaguar at Pikes Peak could be called a hit or miss. With only Jaguars in the first sports cars class in 1953 somewhat tarnishes the win. Frank and the other smaller motor XK-120’s just couldn’t compete with the new breed of sports cars entering the hill climb. Luckily Bobby Unser carried the flag for Jaguar in 1958 with his custom engined championship car. Rule changes in 1959 would split the sports car class into three groups by engine displacement, helping to level the playing field somewhat.

D-Type Jaguar hot rods at Pikes Peak !

Stay Tuned for part two of the Jaguar story at Pikes Peak and find out about the D-Type Jaguars that raced in the early 1960s and more .

 

 

 

 

Ferrari’s at the great race, Pikes Peak (part one)

 

That is right, Ferrari’s at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. In 1952 Ferrari rebuilt four 1951 race cars to tackle the upcoming Indianapolis 500. They called them  “Ferrari Type-375 Indy” . The cars came with a V-12, 2.5 liter engine, running three 2 barrel Weber 40IF4C carburetors, producing 400 horsepower.  Speed Age magazine at the time quoted the price to be $40,000 each. One of the cars would be for the factory team at the Indy 500 and the other three would go to privateers for Indy.

Johnny Mauro of Denver.

A veteran of Pikes Peak since 1933 and the largest Ferrari dealer and importer, in the Denver area, Johnny Mauro wanted one of the new 375 race cars for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 52. The manufacturer said no, that breed of race car wasn’t to be entered in such a lowly event as the PPHC. Being an astute business man the answer of no, wasn’t something he was used too. Easy enough to fix, order the new race car and entry it at the Indy 500 and then afterwards take it to Pikes Peak . Problem solved !

Johnny Mauro’s Ferrari entry in the 1952 Indy 500

The Indy 500 race was the trick, to get himself one of the four Ferrari 375s. He got chassis No. 3. , Johnny didn’t really put much effort into qualifying at Indy , he did get a sponsor at the last minute, “Kennedy Tanks”. Only one of the  four Ferrari’s cars made the field at Indy in 1952. It was the factory car and was driven by Alberto Ascari. The car only lasted 40 of the 120 laps, due to a wheel failure, not what Ferrari expected ! (They wouldn’t go back to the Indianapolis 500 again, until the year 2000)  The good news, Johnny Mauro had the car he wanted for the  September 1st Pikes Pikes Hill Climb race.

1952 PPHC

The first year with the new race car at Pikes Peak, it was listed as the “Pylon X-Q Special” . Still wearing the white paint with the blue number 35, from the Indy 500.

The race car was a bear to handle on the dirt and maintaining any sense traction was difficult. Johnny held on to make it to the summit with a finishing time of 16:29.15 putting him in 10th place for 1952. Not bad for it’s first time at Pikes Peak, but not good enough for Johnny Mauro.

The CRASH !

September 28th 1952 “Centennial Park”, just south of Denver was the location. Just a few weeks after the PPHC and having made some changes to the car , Johnny was eager to test it out. A 100-mile race sponsored by the AAA at a dirt horse track was set for the 28th. During qualifying he lost control of the car, went off course, through a fence and rolled the race car twice, Johnny had two broken ribs, internal injuries and was in a coma for three days. After a week of recover at General Rose Memorial Hospital of Denver, he was released. The car was worse off then Johnny, oh well that is racing and the race car was sent back to Italy for the Ferrari factory to repair. There would be no racing for Mr. Mauro in 1953.

1954-1956 at Pikes Peak and Blue ?

Once the required repairs were made to chassis No.3, someone at the factory decided to paint the car Chinetti Blue, not the white Johnny had requested. (Maybe it was an inside joke from Luigi Chinetti, the first Ferrari dealer in the Untied States who also had his own race team wearing that same blue color ?) No matter the car was back, same chassis number, same engine number and ready for the 1954 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. Entered as the “Mauro-Ferrari Special” and wearing the number 33, Johnny and the car were faster and the car handled better. But his time of 16:12 on race day was only good enough for 17th place. In 1955 it got worse, spinning out during qualifying and not even making the field. 1956 would be the last year for Johnny Mauro at Pikes Peak and his trusty 375 Ferrari ran it’s fastest time at Pikes Peak.  The “Mauro Special” finished in 9th place with a time of 15:29.4. The fastest time every for Johnny Mauro too ! Nice way to go out !

Hard to see, but that’s Johnny’s Ferrari with the Chinetti blue color at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race in 1954
Johnny Mauro in a Ferrari 375 (chassis number 3) at the 1956 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race.

After racing.

Johnny Mauro continued in the car business for a few more years and started the “Untied States Truck Driving School” in 1958, which is still ran and owned by the Mauro family today. His Ferrari 375 Indy, still survives (donated by johnny) and has been with the Indianapolis 500 museum for many years. When the museum restored the car they repainted it in Ferrari red like the one Ascari drove in 1952 at Indy with Johnny’s number 35 on the car. Wish it would go back to the white with blue numbers some day. If you get a chance stop in and see it !

Wait there is more, but you will have to check out part two for more info on the OTHER Ferrari that raced at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb .

One amazing car with SEVEN wins !

The Moore-Unser Special.

Bobby Unser had 13 overall wins at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. Seven of those wins were in one car. The Unser-Moore Special.

The Kurtis Kraft KK4000 race car serial  number 356-52 started life in 1952. The car was built for John Zink to run at the Indianapolis 500. Jimmy Reece,  Jerry Holt and Gene Hartley raced the Offy powered car at the brickyard in the 1950s.  The best finish was 7th in 1952,  with Jimmy Reece driving the car # 37 the “John Zink Special”.  The details of how the car went from “Zink” racing team to Bobby Unser are not totally clear.  The first mention of the car at Pikes Peak was in 1958. Still owned by John Zink, with Louis J. Unser driving and it  was still being called the “John Zink Special” . By that time in 1958 the car was running a Pontiac engine. The 360 inch motor was built by Denny Moore,  the chief mechanic for John Zink. The engine was dyno tuned on alcohol at 380 horsepower.  The car had handling problems but was fast on the straight aways, Louie took 1st in qualifying and 4th on race day with a time of 14:12.5. !   Younger brother Bobby took the win in the Jaguar powered “Ugly Duckling”.       ( check my other post for info )

 Louis J. Unser best known as “Louie” was the twin to Jerry and the two were the elder of the four Unser boys. (Jerry, Louie, Bobby, Al )

Bobby Unser takes the reigns 

My guess is after the 1958 season the Unser family bought “356-52” from John Zink.  At the 1959 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race the car showed up with Bobby’s  number 56 and in Unser racing colors, sponsored by the Grandview Hotel.  The car ran a worked over, Pontiac 360/380 HP motor with Tri power carburetors in 1959 . The handling gremlins from 1958 must have been overcome.  The results with Bobby at the wheel, second place in qualifying  and FIRST on race day with a time of 13:36.5.

Racer Brown Camshaft engineering .

Unser-Moore Results at PPHC

  • 1959     Grandview Hotel  (sponsor)    #56   Pontiac Tri-Power    1st    13:36.5
  • 1960    Jerry Unser Special                      #56  Pontiac  FI                      1st   13:28.5
  • 1961     Jerry Unser Motor Co.                #92  Pontiac  Hilborn           1st  12:56.7
  • 1962    Jerry Unser Motor Co.                 #92 Pontiac  ”         ”              1st  12:50.8

( Bunkie Knudsen of Pontiac supplied the motors 59-62 )

  • 1963    Sproul Homes Inc.                        #92  Chevrolet 327                1st  12:30.6
  • 1964    Sproul Homes                                 #92 Chevy 327                              2nd to Al
  • 1965     Bobby drove a rear engine car,Slim Roberts raced the Unser-Moore to 9th place . 1966 rule changes on minimum weight effected all rear engine cars
  • 1966     Sproul Homes Special               #92 Chevy                                   1st   12:23.8
  • 1967    Rislone Oil Additive Spl.              #92 Chevy                                          5th
  • 1968   Rislone Oil Additive Special      # 92 335 Alky Chevy             1st   11:54.9

The 1968 race !

Several factors would make the 1968 PPHC remarkable. Going into the race Bobby was looking at beating his uncle’s record for the most PPHC wins. Additionally his racing endeavors were taking off in other type of race cars, mainly the Indy cars. The purse money at the hill climb race had also diminished,  since he  first started at the Peak. If this was going to be his last time at the Peak (it wasn’t), he was going to give it his best.  The engine and car set up was left to his older brother Louie.  in later years, Bobby would say ,  “ I never had what you would call a great engine at Pikes Peak until 1968 when I had Louie build me one.    The 335 Chevrolet V-8 was built at a cost of $10,000. It ran Hilborn fuel injection, a Vertex magneto, 650 horsepower and a Borg Warner tranny.   Bobby Unser set three records in 1968, fastest qualifying at 5:11.29, fastest time on race day 11:54.9, ( the first person to break in the eleven minute mark),  and the most wins by an Unser !    That was the last time that Bobby would run in the Championship class but, he would get additional wins in the stock car and rally classes.  ( Career total of 13 PPIHC wins)

Champion Spark Plug ad Bobby Unser

 

The car still survives and is publicly available .

You can see the Moore-Unser Pikes Peak Hill Climb Special at the Henry Ford Museum.  Details can be found :

https://www.thehenryford.org/collections-and-research/digital-collections/artifact/366636/

 

If you think it is odd for a Pontiac and Chevrolet powered Kurtis Kraft race car to be in a Ford museum.,Don’t feel bad.  I thought it was odd at first too. The Unser family used a Ford F-100 to pull their race cars over they years to Pikes Peak. It made for an impressive package with the truck, trailer and race car all in Unser red , white and blue racing colors. . They have the entire package displayed at the Henry Ford Museum. Quite impressive !!

Hot Rod magazine card series. Moore-Unser PPHC

Kurtis Kraft race cars at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Frank Kurtis and his race car designs changed automobile racing .  He started at a young age working on race cars in California. 1946 would be the first year that cars he worked with and helped design, would race at the Indianapolis 500. The cars he fully designed,  were called “Kurtis Kraft” race cars. Those cars hit Indy in 1948.  You could buy the cars as “kits” or as complete ready to race car.  Kurtis Kraft would go on to make a little over 100 Championship race cars and somewhere between 550-600 midget race cars and kits.  When it came to the midget auto racing, his cars were considered “virtually unbeatable for twenty years” .The  Kurtis Kraft “Championship” race cars would take five of the Indy 500 wins, in the 1950s  .  There are many books about Frank Kurtis and his race cars available for additional information. My goal today is to follow the cars impact at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race.

The car nicked named “Esmeralda” was a KK2000 model with serial number 317.  This car raced at the Indy 500 as well, as the PPHC. (Check my other posts about for more info on the car above, search under Esmeralda)

KK30000-335-50

When you think of a Kurtis Kraft race car and Pikes Peak, the car above is the one most people think of.  In 1950 the cars first race was at Pikes Peak and was driven by Louis Unser “The Old Man of the Mountain” and was sponsored by Federal Engineering. The price of the completed car in 1950 was $32,000. (2017 inflation adjusted dollars would be $ 327,362) .   The car was brand new and the PPHC would be it’s first race. Power came from a fuel injected 270 Myers-Drake Offhauser motor, with 335 horsepower.  It was a copy of the 1950 Indianapolis 500 winning Kurtis Kraft race car.  This was a new model line for Kurtis in 1950 and was called a KK3000 . The serial number to this car was #335-50. The last two digits identifying the year built.  The car would race at Indy from 1951 to 1955 with a best finish of 8th in 1952.  Louis Unser would spend the next six years racing it at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb with the following results:

  • 1950 w/car number 31,   3rd place   16:02       Federal Engineering Special
  • 1951 w/car number 44,   3rd place    16:06                   ”                                “
  • 1952 w/car number 54,   2nd place   15:34.70            ”                                 “
  • 1953 w/car number  7,    1st place      15:15.4           (Louis was 57yrs old)
  • 1954 w/car number 28,  18th place  18:53.8   Federal Engineering Special
  • 1955 w/car number 41,  11th place    15:24.4   Federal Automotive Special

Identifying which year the car ran is made easier with it having a different car number each year. I have seen a color photograph of the car from 1951 and it was a light brownish color. My guess it was the same from 50-52.  By the 1953 race it was a bright yellow with blue numbers.  I do not know what happened to this car in later years. Does it survive?

Winners circle 1953, insert Louis on the course

Several other drivers tackled Pikes Peak in Kurtis Kraft race cars of the KK2000 and KK3000 designs. Confirming the type of race car raced in the Championship class is difficult for me currently. Race results and entry forms generally have the car listed by sponsors and engine type, not chassis design or make.  The listings will show things like, Joe Hunt Magneto Special, or Raybestos Special , etc……..with engine type, Offy, Ford McDowell , Chevy,  etc…..   Frank Kurtis wasn’t done yet, what about a sports car ?

Kurtis Kraft KK500S race car.

As the sports car movement arrived at Pikes Peak, so did a new Kurtis race car design. Frank’s cars were still winning in just about every field they entered, but he didn’t have any cars that could qualify as a sports “Car”.  Taking his latest Indy the 500k design and widening it to allow for two seats, adding small doors, along with a few other changes he had a kit that appealed to the sports car racers . The KK500S package came with a ladder frame, Kurtis suspension, body, radiator, and steering. You would supply your own engine , transmission and brakes.  Many customers would deliver the power train to Kurtis Kraft and have them complete the car and others, bought the rolling chassis and body and completed the race cars on their own.

Charlie Lowderman 1964 and 1966

Ray “Charlie”Lowderman raced Pikes Peak in the Championship Class from 1953 to 1974. He took his turn in the Sports Car Division first in 1964 with a Kurtis Kraft 500S and again in 1966 with the same car.

Charlie’s best time in 1964 was 14:40.7 and  14:42.5 in 1966.  The car prior to his ownership ran a Dodge Hemi motor and was known as the “Van Buskirk Kurtis” (?) . The engine was changed for the PPHC to a small block Chevrolet and later a big block Chevy. The powers that be, decided  after the 66 race to close down the Sports Car Class. Charlie would go back to the Championship cars for his remaining years at Pikes Peak.

The Lowderman car survives !

The car since 1954, during its time racing was owned by Dale Young of Denver. After the cars racing career was over,the family turned it into a street car and kept it until 1990. Some time in the early nineties it was purchased by the co-creator of the “Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles”, Kevin Eastman. The Eastman family have used it for vintage racing events through out the country to include Mt. Equinox and Mt. Washington Hill Climbs. 23 years of racing fun !

In 2015 the car was put up for sale at several auction sites. Currently running a Chevy 350 and painted a bright racing red. Not sold so far. Last time I checked the asking price was at $450,000 in Hemmings.

If you know of other “Kurtis Kraft” race cars that competed at the PPHC,  please message me . (Thanks).

Motorcycles are back at the Pikes Hill Climb in 1954

Last time was in 1916

Crazy I know, but after that first year 1916, the motorcycles were not invited back until 1954. The locals made up for it by inventing the Pikes Peak Snow Run that ran on New Years Day.  But there wasn’t any official races for the bikes on the Peak until 1954.

(Check back later for information about the “Pikes Peak Snow Run”)

A friend of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race, Floyd Clymer. 

Floyd was the Editor and Publisher of “Cycle” magazine and a big promoter of Pikes Peak. Check out the article form November 1954.

An insider story !!!!!

Another friend of the Hill Climb sent me this letter to the editor from “Motorcyclist” magazine about the 1954 race. ( Thanks Bill B.)

That is a crazy story !!!!!

Where are the photographs ?

I have been fortunate to review thousands of photos from the PPHC in the  1950s, some from private collections and others from formal archives.  I wonder if it was the “Outlaw” image of the the bikers, or if it was just harder to capture the motorcycles as they came by. Either way finding pictures from 1954-55 races has been challenging.

A few from winners circle below:

Pikes Peak Hill Climb 1954

Above is the winner Bill Meier on his Harley with the Princess Power winner Shirley Klinker. ( Dodge was the race sponsor) and to the right is Denver Harley-Davidson dealer Ray Koch. He was a huge sponsor of the race. Even when the bikes did not run, Ray would always sponsor a car in the Championship Division. I like the Mobiloil decal on the tank and the Harley shirt.

Above is another picture of the race winners. Right to left- Shirley Klinker,  Mrs Andrews, Keith Andrews car winner, Lloyd Faddis PPHC president and Bill Meier bike winner. On the very far right you can catch Ray Koch. Picture shows a little more of Bill’s bike. Dodge sponsored the race and awarded the car winner an engraved serving platter that Keith is holding. Also notice the leather riding pants on Bill, not sure who is the guy holding his bike. (If you know, message me )

Motorcycle results 1954

A big hurdle for getting results had to do with how the motorcycles ran compared to the cars. The cars always ran first and took off in five minute delay one car at a time. Rarely was there more then one car at a time hitting the finish. The time gap gave the officials at the top the ability to mange the results better then what happened with the bikes. The motorcycle riders started off , in rows of four in  mass . At times several bikes could be hitting the finish line at the same time causing chaos, with the scorers timing the event.  Many years bike results would not be final until later that night or even the next day. Some years only the top three spots would be published. Newspapers either skipped bike results all together or listed them several days later.  Below is what I have found for motorcycle results in 1954.

Entry list for motorcycles 1954 PPHC
Time trial results Motorcycles PPHC 1954
Motorcycle race results PPHC 1954

Did you notice the 15th place finisher?  Yep, Marsh Potdorf the fill in rider from Pueblo !

If you have photos from 1954-55 and would like to share them or stories form those years please message me.

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.

 

If I won the “Unser Racing Museum’ lottery .

The Unser Racing Museum.

The Unser racing family have built a truly wonderful museum in Albuquerque New Mexico. Winners in all sorts of automotive racing series, dirt cycle track, hill climbs, IROC and Indy cars.  Four generations of race cars are on display. If you are race car crazy, like me, this is a must see on your bucket list. As the brochure states:

” Look Explore, Step Back in Time.  A multidimensional museum experience utilizing modern technologies to educate and immerse the viewer into the exciting world of racing. “

 

Dreaming of a “Unser Museum lottery”

The list or rotating cars at the museum  includes Indianapolis 500 winning cars, the family has “NINE” Indy wins, famous dirt track cars, hot rods , Pikes Peak Hill Climb winning cars and much more. The other day, I was daydreaming, what if the museum held a lottery and the winner could pick out one of the Unsers’ cars to keep. Being a huge PPHC fan,  I would lean more towards those race cars. But with so many legendary and winning Pikes Peak race cars which one would I choose ?  After giving this fictitious idea too much thought, my answer surprised me.

The 1955  #58 Jag powered Pikes Peak Special.

Available on Amazon

Jerry Unser Sr. was the father of the four Unser boys, twins Louis and Jerry Jr, Bobby and youngest son Al.   There are several books about the history of the Unser family, pick one up to find out more info. Jerry Sr was a master mechanic and could do miracles with Imports. He hot-rodded  a Jaguar engine for Bobby to run in his first PPHC in 1955 .  The engine was a XK, 3.5 liter Jaguar straight six motor, punched out to 3.8 liters.  A first for racing Jaguar engines.  Jerry went to California to have special pistons, cam grind and redesigned valves made for the engine. The “Secret Unser Recipe”, it would later be called. All together the changes added another 80-100 to the standard 3.5 jag motor.

The rest of the homemade high-bodied sprint car was principally built from Ford parts, per Hot Rod magazine (Sept 1956). The Jag motor was considered small compared to the big league V-8s  that traditional won at Pikes Peak. Bobby’s car wouldn’t have the same top speeds on the straight-away’s , but would be lighter and much easier to handle in the corners.  Painted in the Unser family colors, of red white and blue with a shining chrome grill and four carburetors sticking out the right side it was ready to go racing at Pikes Peak in  1955.

Bobby Unser in the Jag powered #58

 Pikes Peak Hill Climb results 1955-1958

1955 was the year of the Uncle Louie “fiasco” and Bobby ended up letting his older brother Louie Jr drive the Jag motored car while he quickly built and raced the “Ugly Duckling” . (Check out my post on that car !)  On race day the brake handle broke off on the way up and Louie had to spin out at the summit just to stop the car. The 14:50 time was good enough for 3rd place.

1956 Bobby gets his first of many Pikes Peak Hill Climb wins !! 14:27

1957 Bobby  takes 3rd with a 14:19.2

1958 Bobby wins AGAIN and sets a new record . He was the first driver to get into the 13s at Pikes Peak with a time of  13:47.9

In 1959 Bobby decided to junk the jag car, moving on to faster and more modern equipment.

How can you not like a race car that gets compared with a tractor for advertising ?

See the car today at the Unser Racing Museum

My answer to the, what if I won, “Unser Museum Lottery” question, the car  would be the 1955 #58 Jag powered car.  Not just for the fact, it was the car that got Bobby’s first PPHC win. The entire process of the homemade build, going with an out of the box motor and figuring out how to hot rod it before anyone else. The family connection with Bobby and his dad building the car and then Bobby letting his brother drive it first. Plus the good looks of it, with the “Jerry Unser Motor Co” lettering, the red white and blue color scheme . Let’s not forget the large chrome grill and the high-bodied front end. I even like the red painted stock steel wheels .

Yep, that would be my pick, of all the other cars. What about you ?

Please visit the “Unser Racing Museum”when you get a chance. You wont regret it, and check out the  1955  #58 Jag powered race car.

 

Man it’s great to be a lottery winner. Wait ……. it was just a dream ???? Noooo !!!