50s & 60s vintage racing, the way
FOT mail list thread was started by someone talking about vintage
a racing Triumph that does not meet the rules for allowable modifications,
followed by someone mentioning his Triumph raced in the sixties
with flared wing wells but is not allowed to race in vintage in
the configuration that the car was originally raced.
Reply by Kas Kastner:
I think it really amusing on how people think the cars were raced
in the late 50's and 60's. Most of the production cars I have
seen aren't even on the same page.
Kas, can you expand on that thought for us? I assume you mean
the cars were run harder then? All the FOT would welcome your
I raced from 1952 thru 1960, then ran the driver school at Riverside
for three years and was on the Board of Governors at the Calif.
Sports Car Club, so I've seen a lot of production car racing and
been in a lot too. I was also on the Contest Board and the Nat'l
Licensing Chairman for the SCCA. (credentials)
In the Fifties almost everyone drove their car to the race track
and on the street. We had Riverside, Pomona, Willow Springs, Paramount
Ranch, Del Mar, Hour Glass Field and others too. The Porsche drivers
usually had a VW engine that they put in their cars after the
event for their street driving. I would change heads, camshafts
and tires and then drive the same car to work on Monday.
We raced generally about 10-12 times a year. In my class of E
production, there were the MGA Twin cam cars, Morgans (not supersports)
TR-3's, Healey 100, Arnolt Bristol, Porsche Super and an occasional
funny kind of car or maybe a Jowett Jupiter. Anyway there would
be an average of 35 to 40 cars in the class, all production cars
of which all but maybe two or three were either flat towed or
driven to the track and hopefully home again.
1959 was the first year that I was sponsored by Triumph and won
the Championship and had a trailer and pickup. What a difference.
Most people had retread tires and they had to be treaded. No slicks
allowed, no re- grooves allowed. As everyone was driving their
own car it was a matter of survival with your wallet so you didn't
crash. You take it right out to the 'nth of your ability at every
brake marker and corner but you looked around and weren't as brave
as some I see today risking cars ( not their own) for not a good
reason. You had to be careful with the revs and be accurate as
this car also had to take you to work.
You want to get funny with the engine or chassis? There were
people as part of the tech inspection that were looking for locked
rear ends, alternate springs, oil coolers and goofy setting on
suspension. You had to be very cool. No options were allowed.
The TR's of course had the overdrive but most guys didn't use
it as they hadn't figured out how to make it work very many laps.
It was really fun when I worked that out and be racing with a
Porsche side by side down a chute and have him waiting for me
to shift, flick the switch and he was history.
The Porsche had a lot of the best of it as they had adjustable
suspension and many transmission ratios that were all listed as
standard. If you couldn't buy the option or feature off the showroom
floor you were not allowed to use it in any of the racing. Now
that was Cal Club where the rules were pretty darn good as the
SCCA later copied them almost exactly.
I was part of the team that wrote the rules and a feature that
was great about the no options was that you could not then go
to Germany or England and buy a special car that had been homologated
by the FIA for factory racing and run it as a production car.
At the same time in the EAST the SCCA did allow options and that
created a class of cars well beyond the reach of most people.
One of the major regulations that was picked up by the SCCA from
the Cal Club was " You may take away material but you may not
So this allowed you to mill the head, grind a cam, lighten a
piston or cam follower or push rod, but you can't weld up the
combustion chamber or the manifold or other parts of the car like
the spider gears because you were adding material . Some guys
tried to pull off the deal that they cut off part of the inlet
manifold, melted down into a stick or rod then used this to weld
up another part of the manifold. ( I didn't get away with that
Heavy suspension springs were not allowed unless delivered off
the showroom floor on that model. But you can get around that
by cutting a coil off then heating the spring partially, pulling
the coils further apart to get the right length and you wound
up with a stiffer spring. A lot of work but absolutely workable
and LEGAL. There were a few folks unhappy about this little deal
but it certainly didn't cost much to do and was available for
anyone that had the right frame of mind that there was very little
that made a car go fast that was too much trouble. ( They did
change that rule and allow springs the next year) No anti-roll
These were for the most part true production cars that were raced
very very hard but a pain in the neck to get thru tech inspection
if you had your heater hooked up to the oil pump and you tried
to have a cooler under a fender or something of the that nature.
At tech you were refused entry if caught, fix it and come back,
okay. BUT if you raced with it and were caught in the after race
inspection (top 3-5 cars plus one car at random from the field)
you would probably lose your license for at least 6 months and
maybe a year. So if you were getting loose with the regulations
you had to be prepared to defend your position in a court called
the "Contest Board". Bring your proof or argument and lay it out.
It worked amazingly well.
There was also the opportunity to protest any vehicle in your
class that you wanted by putting up a $50 dollar bond. After the
race the car was sealed in the portion protested and anything
from a full scale engine tear down to whatever else was protested
was done later in the following week in the evening and presided
over by the Contest Board members. If you refused the sealing
or the protest you were OUT right then no maybe about it. This
makes you think really hard and be very very determined to improve
your car in a extremely clever fashion.
The part about not being able to just buy options and put them
on and the restriction of "add no material" keep the costs down
and created a class of hard driving and very careful preparation.
The cars used the stock cranks, rods, pistons or replacement type
with .040" oversize the max. No oversize valves etc. etc.
From my experience in this business it was found that the majority
of the BIG cheaters were in the field about midway or fast of
the slow guys. This position in the field generally just could
not believe that the people who were in the front could possible
be legal but it was very seldom indeed that anyone in the front
was put down for an illegal car. Crazy driving , yes, but not
for cheater cars.
Now that was the Fifties thorough very early Sixties racing in
Southern California. The SCCA also was putting on races both in
So Cal and in the San Francisco area under the Nat'l SCCA rules
(with the options and stuff)
I had a complete different set of stuff for my car so that I
could go play with those people also. All the options that Triumph
listed and there other preparation rules also. Silly stuff but
that was ironed out when the Cal Club merged with the SCCA.
I was a part of the negations on that deal and looked after the
regulations for production car racing. It was then that the National
organization took up the Cal Club rules and went on to be a really
good organization. To this day the Cal club is the only region
of the SCCA that has its full name involved as the name of their
region. The California Sports Car Club region of the SCCA.
There were no fender flairs or even enlarging or "bumping out"
of the fender lips at that time. When the slick race tires came
into being and were allowed in production classes that was the
start of the allowed body modifications ( bad deal too). Just
a little stretching to begin with then roll the lip a little then
bump it out a bit then finally flairs (ugly). But it did take
over twelve years for that course of events to happen.
Another time maybe some more on the 60's. Anybody care?
Bill Burroughs replies:
Dear Kas and FOT'rs....
Care to hear more? I was riveted. Kas, As you know when you signed
our team cars at Tustin several years ago (I was intent on that
happening some day....Shelby owners have nothing on us now!!),
Paul, Mordy, Steve, Chuck and I literally carry your prep books
with us to every track event (We had you sign those too!!). And
to a man we've used your Competition manuals as our bibles for
prep and without exception the E Ticket Triumph Team has a reputation
for preparation, sportsmanship and finishing.!
Oh, we could spend a lot more money (well maybe we couldn't....smile)
but we couldn't have more fun. With the local So Cal part suppliers
and exporters sponsoring TR's with 92mm pistons, $1500 Quaife
differentials and fiberglass custom molded TR fenders, we (E Ticket
Triumphs) race hard and finish and always have one or more cars
in the top five in E, E1 or F Production.....and we've done it
for the most part with 87mm pistons (some .030 or .040 over) except
the Spits and Steve's GT6 of course (or is that the way you've
been catching Paul Steve?), real Salisbury limited slips,(OK one
welded rear end after we couldn't find parts for the Salisbury),
TR6 sway bars on the TR4's (nothing custom or heim jointed), and,
until this last year factory alloy option magnesium wheels or
TR6 5 1/2 steel rims.
Our approach has been....we come to race, to finish...and drive
it back on the trailer (yes we all have trailers as the California
Highway Patrol has gotten fussy about cars with roll bars cruising
PCH) and it's very satisfying to do it with a near stock displacement
motor and run competitively in the upper quarter of all the big
buck cars. Hell, at times we've even had class winners...that's
a real grin.
OK, ok... some of the team have moved up the preparation (and
displacement) ladder and invested in some later technology to
keep the TR grinning grill work in the front of the pack. And
there is nothing wrong with that as long as the spirit with which
we race doesn't change.
I ran SOLO II for numerous years with Cal Club (German Capri's
and Mustangs) and found the whole organization to be entrenched
in the philosophy of "Keep it simple , keep it clean (to interpret)
and keep it fun" .... and as a Frisco Region SCCA member I just
don't find that kind of attitude in racing outside of Vintage
today. So I loved your feel for the character of Cal Club and
hope more Vintage Race bodies can learn from the Cal Club tales
you tell so very well.
I drive a Wimbledon white/Guardsman blue stripe 1965 TR4A in
EP1 class with a full interior, full chrome badging trim (although
I do leave the bumpers off but have them), all lights and fittings,
stock displacement, SU carbs, non-overdrive, glass windscreen,
even door glass rolls up, steel rims, bias ply tire, lots of safe
roll bar and safety equipment and still have great fun. And you
can see my #195 glued to the rear deck of a Healey 3000 on the
page 80 photo of the newest Spring 99 Vintage Voice Magazine.
(I have been accused or magnetizing the front valance and getting
dragged around the track but a certain quick Volvo but I say ...
No flairs, no Quaife, no alloys, no regrets ... just grins ....
and I am working on that front valance magnetic film material
team.... just give me another season to figure out how to get
it to work on all that front row aluminum and fiberglass).
But before everyone thinks I'm out to drag Vintage Racing back
to the hands of the purists only, let me confuse you all further
by saying this.... as long as there is respect amongst the drivers
I drive with and an attitude that this is a gentleman's sport
.... intense, hard racing yes, but respect for your fellow competitor's
investment and a respect for his (and mine) driving skills (which
like any good sport that respect has to be earned .... and can
be lost .... and a few have) then I really don't care that the
other guy has put three times the money in his car to make it
run like a striped ape. For me racing is one car at a time (or
a tight group of five if I'm fortunate)... and I love it when
it gets reported like the bottom of page 81
" The real race were these five guys in the pack who were wheel
to wheel for all 17 laps and changed leads every lap.... and stayed
clean the whole race". Somebody noticed!! OK ... so the author
drives a Triumph too (Thanks Jerry). But that's the kind of racing
that makes my grin hurt for weeks. That means more to me than
the fact that someone told me I'm leading the points for my group
for EP1 this year. I'd trade those "points" for one more five
car wheel to wheel race even if I was last place.
Well the fate of Vintage Racing is certainly not in question,
but I had to share my two bits in this fascinating chain. (One
of the better this unofficial bastion of Triumphs has stuffed
my email box with in some time!). My only real wish for Vintage
Racing is to be able to do more of it. Seems to be a direct correlation
between track time and retirement...... 6 more years........
WOW, did I get off track!! (no pun). Apologies kind Kas. Your
query was 'did anyone else want to hear more about the sixties?'.
And with my grin still hurting from your last posting I have to
ask... "Could we have more please?"
Wait... let me get another Guiness first... ok... I'm back.
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