Story by Eric Davison
Photos courtesy Dale Powers
Vintage racing was an activity ideally perfect for Dale Powers. He joined the SVRA in 1978; his membership is #9. In 1978 vintage racing was a great place for those who had dreams of being Stirling Moss, and magnificent old race cars were available on the cheap.
Many cars that were no longer winners and had been put out to pasture still had high quotient of fun left in them. For the most part that has changed, and a visit to a vintage race paddock reveals tractor trailers hauling priceless vehicles and paid crews to service them. Rare is the owner/preparer/driver.
But, when Powers set out to compete, fulfilling your dreams was a distinct reality. His first vintage racer was a J2X Cadillac Allard. He had put one on his bucket list when, in the 50s he and a friend drove the family pick up into Manhattan and paid a visit to J. S. Inskip just when a Cad-Allard was being fired up in the showroom for a prospective customer. That was all it took.
The first Allard he purchased appeared to be the one developed by Cadillac engineering whiz Frank Burrell for GM pilot Fred Warner. It utilized a Hydra-Matic transmission and Warner had been competitive on the SAC Air Force base races sponsored by General Curtis B. LeMay. Dale spotted it being driven on the streets of St. Petersburg, eventually tracked it down and made an offer.
His next Allard, also a J2X, arrived with a Packard that was quickly replaced by a Caddie. After passing through a few hands it wound up with Clive Cussler.
After the Allards came a few Corvettes, the last one being a Stingray powered by a Chevy 427. Dale recalls that it was fast as blazes on the straights but that stopping was a problem.
He also restored a Lister Knobbly, a car that had been imported to the US by a sports car dealership in Dallas that was run by Jim Hall and Carroll Shelby. Hall sold the car to Ronald Hisson of Midland, Texas who raced in SCCA events.
On from there was a Cooper Monaco, a rather tatty derelict that was made race ready and that was a definite sensation to drive.
His last vintage racer was, of all things, a Bentley. It was a very special 4 1/4 liter speedster of which two were built. One was owned and raced for many years by the noted English sportsman Eddie Hall. It was built in 1933 and had been raced up to WW2 and then brought out of mothballs to race again at Le Mans in 1950 and finished eighth. Hall was 42 at the time and drove the entire 24 hours solo. Dale’s car was a factory experimental vehicle with a two-seat body.
Dale acquired it when Brian Redman, whom he knew from vintage racing, obtained it for Brumos Porsche where he had been working. The seller was Michael Rahal, Bobby’s father. Redman knew of Dale’s love of Bentleys and offered it to him for a price well beyond his means. Dale offered half and kept the offer on the table. Eventually it became his and became his ride for the next five years. He never had a DNF.
Over the course of his vintage racing days, Dale and Marcia drove their motorhome with race cars in tow from Sebring to Watkins Glen to Laguna Seca.
When he retired from active competition he sold the Bentley to Baron Collier and it is now on display at the REVS Institute museum in Naples.
Now that he is over 80 his enthusiasm for the labor of restoration is waning. He just sold a Rolls and a Deutsch Bonnet that he recently purchased and put back on the road. The DB, a 1961 Le Mans model had been purchased by a serviceman and used to tour Europe. He shipped it back to the states where it sat garaged in Chicago until recently. Powers recently sold the car to the Cerf collection of French cars in Pinellas Park, Florida.
Plus each year he goes to Hershey where he sets up tables and sells that which he has collected over the past year; parts, literature and memorabilia.
While downsizing is a necessity faced by many, it is difficult to think that Dale Powers is out of the classic car business. He says he is but I doubt it and judging by the number of phone calls he gets from buyers, sellers and those in search of advice it won’t happen any time soon.