Oldsmobile Toronado at Pikes Peak (part 2)

To recap part one of the story. Oldsmobile had a hit with the Toronado at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race, starting with the pre-production model testings in 1965 to the stock car class wins in 1966 and the 1-2-3 finish in 1968.

Gazette Telegraph newspaper ad from June 1969
Even the comics were advertising the Oldsmobile Toronado advantages at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1968

1969 PPHC

Nick Sanborn had the two stock car class wins with the Olds Toronado but switched to the Mercury Cyclone in 1969. When asked about the change, Nick simply replied, ‘Bigger engine”.  Four drivers would take the challenge with the Toronado’s in 1969. Frank Sanborn, Bruce Jacobi, John Rhodes and Butch Lacey.  Bobby Unser had a factory backed monster Ford Torino built by Holman-Moody-Stroppe with engine work by Smokey Yunick. From day one of practice it was going to be a race for who would get 2nd place to Mr.Unser.  As anticipated the 429 Torino would take Bobby Unser to first place in the time trials and first on race day.  The Toronado drivers had it rough on race day finishing, 6th Rhodes, 7th Peterson, 8th Jacobi and Lacey with a blown engine, “Did Not Finish”.

Was the Torondo finished at Pikes Peak , did they pass the torch over to the Fords for good?  Frank Peterson didn’t think soand he would be back with a vengeance in 1970.

Red-White and Blue !

Frank Peterson already had 3 years racing the Toronado at the Peak and a veteran of the hill climb since 1959. He already had a hand in the two previous Oldsmobile wins as a builder on Nick Sanborn’s winning Toronado’s and the other Money Olds teammates that finished 1-2-3 in 1968. The fantastic patriotic red, white and blue paint job on his 1969 Toronado would take him to his first stock car class win in 1970. Believe it or not at the time some people did not like Frank using the flag as a paint theme on his car in 1970. He definitely started a trend, and by 1976 the majority of the race cars on the Peak carried a patriotic theme. (In my opinion it is one of the best paint schemes to ever race the mountain.) Dick Harris and rookie Jerry King would also drive Toronado’s in 1970.

1970 PPHC

Nick Sanborn still in his Mercury, would take the first spot in time trails in 1970 with Frank Peterson and his Olds in second. Race day would finally see Frank Peterson get his stock car class win and the Oldsmobile Toronado was back in the top spot. The bad news, the two other Toronado’s driven by Dick Harris and Jerry King did not finish on race day.

Frank Peterson ads after winning the 1970 Pikes Peak Hill Climb in his Oldsmobile Toronado

Even the model car companies got on the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Toronado band wagon. These models bring big bucks at online auction sites.

The 1970 PPHC winning Toronado race car lives !

Frank retired the Toronado in 1971 and the car remained in storage for decades. Mechanically the car was still in good shape but the paint job needed help. Level One Restorations of Arvada Colorado would get it looking like new once again. Check out their work on the Toronado at :

https://levelonerestoration.com/portfolio-view/pikes-peak-hill-climb-1969-toronado/

Muscle Car Enthusiast magazine did a full feature on the car after the restoration. The article can be seen at Frank’s own site,  “Lakewood Manufacturing”. While you are there check out his other Pikes Peak Hill Climb cars.

http://www.frankpetersonlmc.com/Petersons_-_Muscle_Car.pdf

 

I was fortunate to spend some time with the car this summer at the Hagerty Insurance open house.

The 1970 PPHC Stock Car Class trophy on display with the car
The seat and pedals were moved towards the center of the car for better weight distribution.

 

Larger then stock radiator and custom made Hooker Headers
Nice touch in engine compartment next to the coolant overflow was a military ammo can full of lead weight and engraved with crew members initials

Thank you Frank and Kaye Peterson and Hagerty Insurance for a great time.

Last gasps for the Toronado at Pikes Peak.

Jerry King the Rookie of the Year in 1970 would go on to run his Oldsmobile Toronado until 1972 . Bob Fling would make history by running the fastest time of any of the Toronado drivers with a 14:17.16 in 1972 which by that time, was only good enough for 7th place. Two others Rudy Proctor, 11th place finish and Jerry King “DNF” ran Toronado’s in 1972.   That was the last of the breed to compete in the Race To the Clouds.

Overall in seven years from 1966 to 1972 the Oldsmobile Toronado would take THREE overall wins in the Stock Car Class, TWO second place finishes ONE 3rd and ONE forth place finish. (Not too bad). Ten different drivers in seven years and the fastest time of 14: 17.  The car may of had a short time frame racing on Pikes Peak, but it  definitely made an impact. To this day when folks are asked about the top ten all time cars of the PPHC, Frank’s Toronado seems to come up on everyone’s list.

If you have additional information or photographs of the Toronado’s racing at the Pikes Peak hill Climb , please comment or email me. Thanks !