And How! features open and innovative formats for notices, articles and posts.
This car was hard to identify. We did, but it took a bit of help from our friends. But instead of telling our readers what it is, why don’t we give away a free copy of the VeloceToday Select “Cuban Grand Prix, 1957” to the first one to email firstname.lastname@example.org and correctly identify the chassis, engine and coachbuilder?
Bob Temple photos courtesy Dale LaFollette at VintageMotorphoto
Before he went west when he was a young man (see Bob Temple at Palm Springs), Bob Temple journeyed to Watkins Glen to see the 1950 event, which was a very big deal. He took along his trusty camera loaded with Kodachrome film, and came back with negatives left in a box until Dale LaFollette found and purchased them after Bob’s death in 1991. The Temple photos have never been published before.
As usual, we asked our resident experts what they could add to the photos: Eric Davison, who was there watching eagerly, while he himself was taking precious color photos; Jim Sitz from the West Coast but who knows everyone, and Philippe Defechereux, who wrote the book “Watkins Glen, the Street Years • 1948-1952” and who kicks this off.
Defechereux: “Watkins Glen can fairly be called the birthplace of organized road racing in America, the sweet date being Saturday October 2, 1948. The following year was a building year for the new sport, with a second event added to the calendar: the first official race at Bridgehampton (Long Island, NY) on June 11, 1949. That event drew praise and 15,000 spectators, also featuring the first Ferrari ever to race this side of the Atlantic: Briggs Cunningham’s V-12-powered 166 SC. Watkins Glen in September ran its second event which proved an even bigger success, thanks in part to new entrants driving a gaggle of new racing cars from Europe besides BSC’s Ferrari. There were H.R.G.s, Allard K1s, and Cisitalias among others.
“It is the year 1950, however, that truly witnessed the “Big Bang” for road racing here. Palm Beach Shores, Florida, opened the season as early as January 3, with the Jaguar Factory even entering an official XK-120. Despite less-than clement weather, 19,000 spectators were counted. Next California joined the fray in the summer with two races that matched the formula, now well-established by Cameron Argetsinger. They took place in Palm Springs in April and Santa Ana in June. That month also witnessed Bridgehampton’s successful second run on June 10. Then a trio of enthusiastic Chicagoans, Jim Kimberly, Fred Wacker and Dave Garroway, using a private Cessna to make a broad aerial survey, determined that Elkhart Lake, WI, would allow for a great Midwest replica of Watkins Glen. Locals then organized the first big road racing event in in the Midwest on July 23. Again, tapping on obviously growing love affair with road racing, the new venue and its race proved an instant hit.
“So when Bob Temple arrived at the Glen in the third week of September, 1950, his timing was perfect, and he would have the privilege to witness three races instead of two as before: the Seneca Cup, the Queen Catherine Cup, and the Grand Prix. Good thing he had plenty of color film rolls for us to relish today.”
Sitz: A Mercer in the Watkins Glen car park. Interest in ‘old cars’ was growing and the Glen even had their old car Concours d’Elegance. When the SCCA was formed in 1944, their purpose was to preserve this type of car from being scrapped. There were no plans for racing since it was assumed ARCA would resume their racing after the War.
Sitz: Alfa 2500 Pinin Farina Convertible. This could be one owned by Alec Ulmann who did arrive at a Suffolk County NY race in May 1950 with an Alfa convertible. Hoffman Motors did not import that many and Ulmann would certainly have been at the Glen.
Defechereux: Tom Cole in his Cad Allard led the 1950 Grand Prix event on the first lap. On the second lap, Cole was exiting Townsend Road Corner ‘with a tad too much speed’, ended up in a ditch where our intrepid Bob Temple was standing.
Sitz: Oddly the year before in 1949, Cole debuted the J2 model in US, with a Cadillac engine. But the American press ignored the car!