JEFFERSON 500 HISTORICS: SUMMIT POINT!

Celebrating its 45th year, Summit Point hosts more than 200 cars at its Spring Spectacular. Mike Matune was trackside.

After a somewhat soggy start on Thursday that saw rain pummel the track, the weekend stayed dry with blue skies. Here Ralph Manaker’s Chevron B-16, left, climbs the hill towards Turn 10 about to sweep under the vehicle bridge. For more than 20 years, the Jefferson 500 has occupied a place on Summit’s Spring Vintage Racing Calendar, evolving this year to incorporate over 200 cars in eight groups under the Vintage Racers Group (VRG)’s sanction. John Morton served as this year’s Grand Marshall and was busy all weekend judging the car show, speaking at Saturday’s dinner, magnanimously welcoming all and signing his latest book Inside Shelby American, http://www.motorbooks.com/books/Inside-Shelby-American/9780760343944

In 1970 at Le Mans, Porsche painted one 917 LH purple with green and white swirls. The car became known as “Le Psychedelic” or the “Hippy Car.” Olga Reindlova’s ‘69 Porsche 911 pays tribute with a similar paint scheme. Her car bears the styling cues of Porsches of that era with a rear duck tail spoiler and five spoke Fuch wheels.

In the 1966 Trans-Am season, Bob Tullius led a team of Dodge Darts while Scott Harvey competed in a Plymouth Barracuda. Chrysler elected to withdraw in 1967 and wouldn’t return until the 1970 season. Vintage racer David Mapes recalls those days. Beginning as a street car converted to an autocross racer, Mapes’ Dart has undergone continual development while remaining street legal, if perhaps not street practical!

Chrysler’s nemesis during that inaugural Trans-Am season was Ford’s Mustang that would end up taking the season championship, at the final event of the year in Riverside. Mike Kincaid’s Mustang is typical of that period, but has an unusual lineage. It was built and raced in period in Mexico. Its preparation included as many parts as possible from the early Shelby program.

Moving a little later in the 1960s, we have Tony Conover’s ‘68 Mustang. Conover is still compiling the car’s history that he thinks includes competition in SCCA A/Sedan races, but perhaps not Trans-Am. Bill Clausen, a Ford engineer who raced a number of cars in the Detroit area, originally owned the car. It has been restored to a very high standard.

Sometimes lost in Trans-Am history are the exploits of the Under-Two-Liter crowd. Jochen Rindt captured the first Trans-Am race at Sebring in 1966 in an Alfa. The smaller cars ran in the same races until a separate series was created in 1970. A field of vintage cars, as diverse as those that originally competed, dances into (Turn 3) looking like their moves are choreographed.

Jim Freeman brought two sports racers, each with a distinct personality. His first was this Devin SS. Bill Devin was a post war entrepreneur who began building sports car bodies bearing his name after copying an Ermini body in then new fiberglass technology. Around 1957 he became a constructor utilizing a Chevy powertrain components and an Irish-built chassis to create the Devin SS (Super Sport), sometimes referred to as the “Super Shillelagh.”

Freeman’s second car is a ‘67 Matich SR-3. Originally built and raced by creator Frank Matich, the car competed successfully in both Australia and the U.S.  It is amazing to compare the
two cars and see how far racing technology progressed in a few years. Then contrast it
with a modern car and the march of progress is evident.

Just watched a Jay Leno segment in which he said that his favorite era in racing was the Shelby years of the 1960s and I think I must agree. It all came flashing back as Mike Zappa’s Superformance GT40 squirted around the track with its lights ablaze, harkening back to another time. Here is Mike catching the apex at “The Loop” (Turn 1).

You can tell by this Corvette’s attitude that Alex Heckert is hard on the brakes at the end of the front straight. This color was called Milano Maroon in 1966. Heckert’s car is fitted with the right touches such as endurance racing plexi headlight covers, Torq-Thrust wheels, side pipes, windshield clips, short front spoiler, etc. The whole package conveys speed and muscle.

Story & photos: M. M. “Mike” Matune, Jr.

For more information, please visit:
http://summitpoint-raceway.com/
http://www.vrgonline.org/

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