The Stock Car Class
The first go around for the stock car class started at Pikes Peak in 1927 and ran until 1934. The second time around for the class wasn’t until 1956. The reformed class was popular with the fans and the manufactures. Factory hot rods and lightweight cars took advantage of the loose enforcement of class rules (1956-65). Noted examples, was a 1957 Chevrolet Black Widow Coupe, a factory hot rod, several Supercharged Fords, and couple of Bill Stroppe built lightweight Mercury’s . By 1966 the rules were tightened up enforcing the minimum weight requirement of 3990 pounds, keeping the factory “specials’ at bay. Things were back in order and the cars you saw winning on Pikes Peak, you could really go out and buy at your local dealership.
Chevrolet Camaro’s and the PPHC
1st generation Camaro’s 1967-69 did not appear at Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Reviewing the rules of the time , more then likely they would have been placed into Sports Car Class if any would have entered during that time period. The 2nd generation Camaro’s showed up in their first year of production. John Rhodes of Denver Colorado was the first to race Camaro at Pikes Peak. The week of the race, while practicing away from the Peak, John had the misfortune of rolling his brand new race car. Not letting his accident keep him down, Johnny still got his car back on the road and took fifth place in 1970 at Pikes Peak Hill Climb with a time of 15.01. Bob Silvers would be the first to win the Stock Car Class in a Camaro in 1972. Ted Foltz would take the second Camaro win in 1975, running a 427, with a time of 13:39. Ralph Bruning would take wins in his Camaro in 1976,77,78 .
The Stillman Camaro.
The car started as a 1973 Chevy Camaro bank repro that was involved in a minor accident. That was just fine for the Stillman family, they wanted to build a race car. Basically everything on the car was sold off , except for the shell. A new 350 cubic inch motor was built by John McClintic of Albuquerque , using a brand new LT1 block, Racer-Brown cam, Isky rockers and Mogul bearings. A highly modified Holley carb , Hooker headers with a NASCAR type extension pipes and Hays Stinger ignition, round out the motor.
The suspension up front has unique blend of parts, running Ford truck spindles, Chevrolet one ton truck upper ball joints and Chrysler Imperial lowers. Hubs were made to mount Lincoln disc brakes. A CAE quick-change read end out back and large drum brakes.
The interior is sparse as expected. Of note is the roll cage design, there is the additional support bars around the door area. NASCAR would in later years mandate that style of protection in all of it’s cars. The Stillman team built in that protection, years before the rules required it, in order to keep their drivers safe at Pikes Peak.
The body is basically just the outer skin of a Camaro with the doors welded shut. Nice to see the look of a vinyl top being used, which was a big fad in muscle cars coming from the factories in the 1970s. Steve Stillman, the man behind the car build, his first car was a Sunflower Yellow Chevelle with black stripes, thus all of the Stillman Camaro’s would wear the same sunflower color.
Very few survive !
Only a hand full of PPHC stock car class cars survive. Bobby Unser’s Ford Torino from 1969, Frank Petersons Oldsmobile Toronado and the Stillman Camaro are the most prominent that remain. All three of those cars raced in the days when the bodies had to come from the factory, real steel cars with true factory frames designs. Finding any race cars from that era in great shape is a challenge and finding Pikes Peak raced ones are even harder.
Charlie Sprague was the first to race the Stillman Camaro at the PPHC in 1973. He qualified 10th during time trials. On race day Charlie was one of the 14 stocks cars that failed to finish. The largest “Did Not Finish” stock car class field in the mountains history. (Road conditions ?)
Dale Mewhorter had the reins in 1974. Qualified 16th but made up for it on race day with a 6th place finish and a time of 14:13. Dale took the car to it’s best placing in 1975. Fourth place with a time of 14:09.
Go see the car !
The Stillman family would go on to build two other Pikes Peak Hill Climb Camaro’s. By 1976 this car was already outdated, with new build designs and rule changes it was easier to start on a new car then updating the 1973 car. That decision ended up being a good thing for history fans. Being the first of three PPHC cars that the Stillman’s built, and it was still in great shape, the car became a showpiece at their business . The car spent many years on display in Albuquerque and additional time at the original Hill Climb museum in Mantiou Springs, Colorado. Out of the elements and on display most of it’s life ,the first “Stillman Camaro” has aged gracefully.
In 2017 the car may of found it’s final home in the El Pomar Hill Climb Museum in Colorado Springs. Go see it !