Saturday, August 13, 2011

Torrey Pines Road Races / More Lost Car RacingTracks

During the early 50's European car road racing took off here in the states with returning service men wanting to try their hand at the wheel. Also, about this time Army and Navy bases were not needed and became the prefect place to let these cars stretch.

"Camp Callan" was located at the south end of Torrey Pines and accidentally became a hot-bed of racing from 1951 to 1956. The '51 race was scheduled for the fairgrounds at Del Mar when the negotiations broke down and the suggestion was made to use the asphalt streets of the old Army base at Torrey. Torrey Pines road racing was born.

The races were first organized by the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce and the California Sports Car Club. In the early years the races were sprint contest consisting of 6 lap events around a 2.7 mile course with names such as; the Del Mar Trophy Race, the La Jolla Trophy Race, the Balboa Trophy Race, the Cabrillo Trophy Race and the Torrey Pines Trophy Race. A little known fact about those early years, 3 lap motorcycle races were also held during the race weekends.

In 1955 the Sports Car Club of America joined in by sanctioning the races under the auspices of the Los Angeles and San Diego Regions of the SCCA along with the San Diego Sports Car Club and the California Sports Car Club. To Torrey's merit, it drew the like of who's-who in U.S. racing, Paul O'Shea, Carroll Shelby, Pete Lovely, John von Neumann, Ken Miles, Phil Hill and Jack McAfee driving Ferrari's, Porsche's, Allard's, Jaguar's and more.

On the final weekend of racing at the Pines it was a swan song for the course, it certainly afforded a pleasure for the drivers and spectators alike to come watch. In spite of the usual threatening fog bank offshore, a taxing six-hour endro race was held Saturday followed by six sprint races Sunday. The underbrush had been bulldozed away eliminating the former fire hazard at previous races and a large number of flags around the course gave it a fittingly festive air, with a spectator count of 35,000 at the end.

Shortly after, the San Diego City Council voted to turn the land into two golf courses and the Torrey Pines Road races sadly came to an end.

Just a note: most of these images are from the camera of fellow blog follower Bob Lampert, thanks Bob.

Classic 50s' program art with an Allard drifting around a Torrey Pine perched on a cliff.

Torrey Pines Road Races. The location of the 2.7 mile course was just west of Highway 1. The exit from the highway is where the now Torrey Pines Lodge is located.. Image via, Frank Sheffield.

Torrey Pines Road Races. Studying this photo is interesting. Note the number of spectators on the hillside and the incoming stream of cars. Image © Bob Lampert.

Torrey Pines Road Races. The Start/Finish as a sprint race gets underway with an Osca of MacDougell, Siata of Jack McAfee, Porsche left to right. MG of Ken Miles in the background making a pass in the dirt. Image via, Frank Sheffield.

Torrey Pines Road Races. John von Neumann readies in the pre-grid with his wife Elinor looking on with the Gmund Porsche in the June '52 event. Josie was also a driver. Image via, Frank Sheffield.

Torrey Pines Road Races. One of seven made Glockler Porsches sits in the pits ready for the race. Image via, Frank Sheffield.

Torrey Pines Road Races. Dan Gurney in his Triumph TR-2 leads a Jag and Porsche. Image © Bob Lampert.

Torrey Pines Road Races. John A. Porter, Jr. streaks by in his Porsche Spyder. Image © Bob Lampert.

Torrey Pines Road Races. Phil Hill in a Ferrari Monza co-driven by John von Neumann in the Sunday Main Event. Image © Bob Lampert.

Torry Pines Road Races. Dr. Troy McHenry blasting by the PA system in his Porsche Spyder. Image © Bob Lampert.

Torrey Pines Road Races. The Nichols Panhard of Jack Wilder hits the hay to keep cars from going off course. Image © Bob Lampert.

Torrey Pines Road Races. Jack Wilder received no injuries, however the Nichols Panhard was not as lucky. Image © Bob Lampert.

Torrey Pines Road Races. John and Elinor von Neumann with the 356SL Gmund at the Dec. '52 event. Before the 1952 race at Torrey, John requested to have the roof cut off the coupe to save weight, creating the first Speedster. Image via, Frank Sheffield.

Torrey Pines Road Races. The loot at the end of the day. Image via, Frank Sheffield.

Frank Sheffield's photos can be found here.

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  1. Jack Bair Facebooked: "Hey John! Really nice work uncovering the now historic races at Torrey Pines that helped launch the racing careers of Gurney, Hill, etc. Thanks for sharing! Great photos!"

    1. Great memories. Proud to have been a course worker, flagman and part time MG driver at these courses. Lloyd King

  2. Wow, those cars look awesome! I wonder if I could configure my Vision Racer to drive like that.

  3. Great Photos. a few errors in the captions: the photo of the start of the under 1500 cc race is of Dec, 1952 (front row: MacDougall's OSCA, Jack McAfee Siata, Trego, Porsche--my Dad's MG N type behind Randy--the white MG at far right on dirt, Ken Miles); both pictures of von Neumann's Porsche show him with wife elinor, not step-daughter Josie; the first taken at the 2nd running (June '52) and the last at the 3rd (Dec '52); note the number is 11/4 in the first photo, 11/6 in the second. The photo of Hill in the Monza is not from the enduro, but Sundays main (he retired) at the last event.

    1. Thanks for the corrections, I'll go back and check.

  4. Please include your name and I'll add it.

  5. It is a great article and I must say that all the pictures of the classic vintage cars which you have shared are really fabulous.
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  6. James Dean ???? See the fellow with hands in pockets to the rear of the Glockler #77 photo. Louie

  7. This is awesome, John.

    -Will Ellingham

  8. John von Neumann is a relative. Great to see some pictures of his early years.

    Bob C. Fries

  9. I have bookmarked your blog, the articles are way better than other similar blogs.. thanks for a great blog! auto paint protection

  10. Wow ! Great photos ! Thanks so much !

  11. I'm currently doing a report on the prehistoric and historic uses of the property. Your blog has been very informative and exciting to read. Thank you for your work!

  12. Very informative site and article, i must bookmark it and keep posting interesting articles.

  13. I recall early days at Torrey clearly! My 1st venture in racing driving a Crosley 750cc which went topsey-turvey in practice and I went to Torrey Pines hspt. Later raced with Porsche, formula 3, and one year with the Elva factory team in Great Britain at many events. Interesting events USA included Daytona (New Smyrna Beach) with Tony Paravono Eric Hauser, Bart Spiegleman, Richie Ginther and & two Ferrari (4.9 & 3 liter)--eventful trip!!!!! I reversed today's trend by ending sportscar racing with a blast of go-cart events. Loved all of it! ---John Peters

  14. Apparently the John von Neumann 356SL Porsche is the very Light weight special that won its class in LeMans. It has recently been the subject of a rather careful restoration to LeMans specs. Too bad they didn't save the roof, it would have save Rod Emory a bit of work!

  15. This is fantastic, thank you for posting!