The Stillman Camaro at the Pikes Peak race

The “Stillamn Camaro” at the El Pomar Museum in Colorado Springs

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 Stillman Camaro on display.

 

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.

Nice family touch on each quarter panel. The hearts have the owners siblings inames on them.

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.

Results

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 !

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

 

 

 

 

 

Noel Bullock 1922 (part 2) Pikes Peaks’ first Hot Rod .

Noel Bullock 1922 Pikes Peak race

( If you haven’t read part one jump down and catch up.)

Race to the Clouds 1922

Prior to race day hardly a mention of Noel Bullock made the newspapers. The weather was bad the night before the race and left the upper section in muck. Early hours on race day was described as “Crimpy (?), but soon the sun dispelled the chills”.    Three events were run that day and event number one which Noel was entered , he would take the fastest time of the day. 19:50.4. The only person to break in the the nineteen minute mark in 1922 and the fastest every for a event number one small engine class car. King Riley in the large motor class, the 1921 winner came close with a time of 20:05 in event three for the large displacement cars .

Results form the Gazette Telegraph 1922 PPHC

 Shock and Awe and the press.

The overlooked kid from Nebraska, would now get his due in the press, sort of. “Tho Veteran of Dirt tracks” was a dig on unauthorized racing. The factory teams didn’t compete in such trivial things like dirt track racing. How dare they, those circle track boys think they can compete with the high and mighty. factory teams in a real race such as Pikes Peak. Another headline would read, “Nebraska” Kid Mechanic” built Flivver out of Junk, Won Pikes peak Hill Climb”, ….another,  “Aviator, in first road race”tho Veteran of Dirt Tracks” overcomes huge handicap’,  One more from the Gazette Telegraph, 9-5-1922,  “Bullock Upsets Dope, closely followed by Rhiley and Abbott” , under the main headline in large letters, ‘King Wins First Place in Large Car Class”

Ford Dealership ad from 1922 PPHC

A local Ford dealership would take advantage of the Noel Bullock win. Didn’t matter that it was a salvage yard built car with parts from several vehicle, and driven by a dirt track racer. The old Nascar saying “Win on Sunday Sale on Monday” , way before there was a even national stock car racing association.  The establishment had been shocked on race day for sure, but the following day would send chills down their spines. Reporters asked Noel about the knowledge he gained yesterday of conditions to be met on the course and if he would be returning in 1923.,  Noel commented that he he would return with his car built to hold the road better and capable of cutting down his winning time and declared  ” Next year I’ll break the record”

The new rules for the 1923 Hill Climb race

The American Automobile Association (AAA) made the rules in the establishment racing world and in the 1920s was in a battle with dirt track racing. They controlled the contest board for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. There would be major changes designed to keep out the lightweight home built cars from competing in the 1923 race. Minimum weight requirements would be added to each class. no longer would a smaller (lighter) higher powered car have an advantage.  The two Nebraskan, Noel Bullock and King Riley were not worried, they offered to add weights to their cars in order to compile with the rule changes. Just weeks before the race the AAA blacklisted the two drivers, for driving in unsanctioned racing events.  The only AAA sanctioned race in Colorado was Pikes Peak. No local driver could afford to build a race car that could only be used once a year. The rule, up until 1923 had never been enforced . The timing of the the banishment just weeks before the PPHC left the drivers with little time in order to get reinstated.  The local politics of racing the Pikes Peak Hill Climb for some is still apparent today.   Glen Shultz in the “Essex Specia”l would go on to win the 1923 race with a time of 18:47.3

The last laugh belongs to Noel !

Noel Bullock started his racing career in Colorado, in 1918 and , later moved to California where he started an automotive parts and machine shop. On the west coast he would also continue his racing ways. Noel  was inducted in the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame in August of 2000

Automobiles were not his first love, it was the world of aviation. At a young age, like his father, he was also a pilot.  Prior to racing Pikes Peak in 1922, Noel was working at a flying school in North Platte Nebraska.  later he would be involved with commercial aviation , aircraft mail delivery and even his own airport in Nevada, that supported the making of the Hoover Dam.

Bullock Airport Boulder City Nevada

WAIT, there is more !

Thankfully the story doesn’t end.  The car that Noel won the PPHC in 1922 is still alive. Thanks to Rick Rawlins who found the car, or you could say piles of  parts  from the car on a Nebraskan farm.  Mr Rawlins not only restored the car to better then raced condition ,but he also took it to a few vintage races and ran the “Old Liz” before loaning the car to the El Pomar PPHC Museum in Colorado Springs.  The car looks great and garners much attention.

1922 PPHC winner, Noel Bullock Ford Spl.

One of things that stands out about the car to me, is the steering wheel, drivers seat and the metal windshield visor are all on the far left side. Could be the earliest circle track designed surviving car with those features. Still has the Dayton wire wheels, Rajo head and its Warford trans.

Amazing after racing 90 plus years and its still with us. Thanks all around to everyone who helped keep this small part of Nebraskan and PPHC history with us today.