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Thread: Early Days of Hot Rodding and Racing in Santa Barbara and beyond.

  1. #61
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    Ah Roger,
    Usually at this time I am doing a thread about the Laguna Seca Historic Meet but it was not to be the case this year.
    There is even talk that the track may be sold for housing development which would indeed be a sad occasion.

    Another entrant at Santa Barbara in 1955 was movie actor James Dean driving a Porsche 356 Super Speedster # 33

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    Dean liked the look of the Porsche 550 Spyder that was being raced at Santa Barbara.

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    James Dean purchased a brand new Porsche 550 Spyder when he returned to Los Angeles.

    It was in his new car about 3 weeks after the Santa Barbara races, that he was killed in a high speed collision about 140 miles further north.
    And the legend of James Dean began and the place of his accident is visited by many to this day.



    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 08-17-2020 at 06:11 AM.

  2. #62
    World Champion Roger Dowding's Avatar
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    Thanks, Ken H,
    - have read a book about James Dean with quite a section on the Cars [ the two Porsche' ] and that accident. He was supposed to have the car on the trailer towed by the Ford Wagon, but he and Ralf decided to drive it, being hit by Donald Turnupseed [ spelling ? ] at the junction. Lots of theories as to why ?? the sun, reflections etc, etc..
    Cheers

    Roger

  3. #63
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    During 1956 Ken Miles was part of the British George Eyston team that went to the Bonneville salt flats in Utah with a beautiful MG Special to set some international speed records.
    I found this 20 minute YouTube clip most interesting.






    (Ken H)

  4. #64
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    For the 1956 racing season in California, Miles had put his skills into taking a 1955 Cooper T39 "Bobtail" sports car and he put in a Porsche 550 Spyder engine which allowed the front radiator to be removed and produced a sleek and again an instant winner including the races at Santa Barbara and a new track that he helped design at the Paramount Ranch north of Los Angeles.
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    Once again in his favorite number 50 Ken Miles drives to victory in the Cooper Porsche {Pooper}
    (Allen Kuhn photo )

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    Another view of # 50 in 1956.


    (Ken H)

  5. #65
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    This is part of my "Santa Barbara and beyond."
    The Paramount Ranch race course was situated in the hills between Malibu and the Ventura Highway # 101.
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    Many movies were filmed around here including the Gunsmoke series and everyone's favorite "Little House on the Prairie"
    New owners of the ranch built a race course and Ken Miles helped with the design and layout.
    Being close to LA they had good crowds and a lot of exciting racing.
    In fact it was so exciting and dangerous the track was closed down after just 18 months due to the fatalities (3) and other injuries etc..
    August 1956 to Dec. 1957.
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    One of the first races. August 15 1956.
    " Thousands of Southern California spectators witnessed Harrison Evans, in his Ferrari Monza, battle it out with Eric Hauser, Morgansen Special, Sunday August 19, at the first sports car road race to be held at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura, California. Evans zoomed across the finish line just two seconds ahead of the home-build Special to chalk-up another victory for Ferrari banners. Richie Ginther, driving a Von Neumann Porsche, upset favorite Jack McAfee in Saturday’s go by a close half-second proving that the young driver belongs with the top ranking drivers on the West Coast. Ginther sailed to an easy victory in the Sunday under 1500cc race also when the closely anticipated race between him and McAfee failed to materialize after McAfee’s Porsche was forced out early in the race."

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    The same area as it looks today.


    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 08-23-2020 at 12:07 AM.

  6. #66
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    I was recently at small gathering talking to a couple I've known for over 20 years and I mentioned how I enjoyed going back to NZ to visit family and also go to race meets if possible during the warm NZ summers. The wife, said she didn't know I was interested in racing otherwise she would have had me meet her mother who sadly passed away in 2014.
    " She took me to lots of races at Santa Barbara, Paramount Ranch, Torrey Pines and Riverside etc. as a child, because she was the "Lady Racer," Ruth Levy.
    Ruth lived her final years just a few miles away in Solvang and I truly regret not having met her and discussing her remarkable driving career. Although if she had not liked my questions she would have quickly let me know as her reputation of choice words was well known ! Her daughter Jackie has been a real gem and given me several books from Ruth's collection and I will attempt to share some of that content here;
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    Ruth moved to California with her two daughters from New York in early 1956 after divorcing Lou Levy who was a well known jazz pianist with Tommy Dorsey's Band etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Levy_(pianist).
    She had learned to drive on the icy roads and lakes of Minnesota growing up on her parents Minneapolis farm and always wanted to be a race driver among other pursuits ! She had done some ice racing with a new Porsche Speedster at Lake Phelan in 1955.That is Ruth on the left
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    After arriving in California Ruth entered the first race meet at Paramount Ranch, August 1956.
    Unheralded and unknown she proceeded to show others her driving skills.

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    In that first race Ruth drove like a seasoned expert and won her class driving driving her Porsche # 253.
    Narrowly defeating Bob Bondurant ( https://bondurant.com/ ) in Morgan # 19 and Lew Spencer( Morgan # 145)
    Lew would go on to assist Carroll Shelby in developing the Shelby Cobra and also drive for the Shelby Team.

    (To be continued.. Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 02-20-2021 at 08:37 AM.

  7. #67
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    The next day Ruth came out again and easily won the ladies race.
    Collecting a course marker cone on the way.
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    (Al Moss photo.)


    After five laps Ruth was so far ahead at the finish and no other competitor was in sight !
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    (Ruth Levy collection )



    Ruth's daughter Jackie, told me today that she remembers gatherings at her home and many drivers would come around to visit after driving at the Paramount and other races.
    Such as; Phil Hill, who was a lifelong friend, Richie Ginther, Dan Gurney, Lance Reventlow, Dan Gurney etc.
    Jackie was about 6 years old but it was a wonderful memory that she has never forgotten especially as she had no dad and these visitors treated her like a little princess.


    ( Ken H )
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 02-21-2021 at 08:32 AM.

  8. #68
    World Champion Roger Dowding's Avatar
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    Good stuff Ken H,

    Thanks for sharing .. and I have been to Solvang, the " Danish Town " of the Pacific Central Coast, California - interesting place.

  9. #69
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    Ruth was trying to get quicker in her Porsche 356 Speedster and one day in January 1957 went to the Willow Springs circuit inland from LA and was running laps against fellow Speedster drivers including Dan Gurney. Carroll Shelby was there with his team owner John Edgar. They were impressed enough with Ruth's previous results and her driving that day plus John wanted to add a female driver to his stable of drivers so he invited Ruth to join the team which was a tremendous opportunity for her and she did not disappoint the team in 1957.

    Once upon a time, long before the Penske fleet …
    One of the very first Big Race Car Transporters on the racing scene, parked here at the Palm Springs Airport in November 1956. The hot-rodded GMC tractor hauled this Fruehauf trailer designed to carry three race cars and fitted with stove, refrigerator, sink, well-stocked liquor and Champagne bar, and four pull-down sleep bunks. The two John Edgar-owned Ferraris are (left) the former factory 1954 Le Mans-winning 375 Plus s/n 0396AM (rebodied by Scaglietti) # 78 and the 1955 Carroll Shelby-driven Palm Springs-race winning 410 Sport s/n 0598CM. # 98. An Edgar 550 Porsche Spyder rests snugly inside the famous, gleaming rig topped with observation deck..
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    Ruth Levy was assigned a 1955 Porsche Type 550 Spyder # 0047 that had been driven in races in Europe including the 1955 Le Mans where it finished 4th in that tragic race.
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    Previous drivers included Wolfgang Von Trips, Hans Herrmann and Stirling Moss.
    (As Jackie says "I wish Mum had tucked this one away in a garage back then" which is rather an understatement!)

    Stirling drove the car # 34 at the 1955 Goodwood 9 hour race.
    "In August 1955, the Porsche 550s were back, this time for the nine hour Goodwood. Seidel and Steed in 550-15 with #35 came in 3rd place in the 1.5 class, but the main focus was on Stirling Moss who was assessing different teams to join following the withdrawal of Mercedes from the competition resulting from the tragic Le Mans accident. Teamed up with von Hanstein in 550-0047 with race #34, unfortunately they were forced to retire on the 237th lap due to an accident."

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    Stirling Moss in Porsche # 34 chasing a Cooper T40 Bristol # 23 through the Goodwood Chicane. 1955.


    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 02-24-2021 at 04:44 PM.

  10. #70
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    After competing in Europe during 1955, the Porsche factory brought the 1955 Porsche Type 550 Spyder # 0047 over to Florida
    to compete in 1956 12 Hour Race at Sebring. March `1956. As car number 41. It came in 6th driven by Hans Herrmann and Wolfgang Von Trips.
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    ( Ken H )
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 02-25-2021 at 08:02 AM.

  11. #71
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    By 1957 the Porsche 550 Spyder # 0047 had been well sorted out and Ruth Levy won ladies races all over California from Riverside to Stockton. At one time winning 6 races in a row and she went on to win the West Coast Women's Championship for 1957.

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    Ruth on her way to a win at Santa Barbara. # 88 in 1957.

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    Ruth winning at Pomona. # 88 1957

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    Even after Ruth came up against some hay bales in # 143 she was still able to win the race at Stockton.

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    Another win for Ruth Levy at Stockton. 1957.




    (KH.)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 03-01-2021 at 05:48 PM.

  12. #72
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    I look forward to seeing Jackie tomorrow for more stories about her mother, Ruth Levy.

    In February 1957, the Edgar team was at New Smyrna Beach in Florida, just south of Daytona.
    The Edgar team’s Porsche driver Ruth Levy was also at New Smyrna and Carroll Shelby invited her to try the 375 Plus Ferrari 4.9 That had won the 1954 34 Hours of Le Mans.
    Ruth had to have pillows installed for her to sit on and no crash helmet was available !
    She managed one lap before turning it upside-down in the sand !

    Ruth decided then that the smaller Porsche 550 Spyder was the best car for her to drive.


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    Ruth flying across the sand, without a helmet, shortly before she crashed.



    (Ken H..)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 03-01-2021 at 05:47 PM.

  13. #73
    That would leave Jackie feeling she was pretty lucky to be born, surely?
    Last edited by Ray Bell; 03-03-2021 at 02:45 PM.

  14. #74
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    Ray,
    She probably tucked her small body down as the pillows fell out and that Ferrari headrest helped protect her as well !
    The more I read and learn about Ruth Levy the more I admire Jackie who as I mentioned is a wonderful woman who was born in 1952.
    So by 1957 she was a 5 year old whose dad had left when she was two and her mother was seldom home during the racing season and then had remarried in 1957 for a short period.
    I can only imagine how rough it was for Jackie and not something she is willing to easily discuss.

    (Ken H..)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 03-01-2021 at 05:51 PM.

  15. #75
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    While Ruth was winning races in the western United States another fast lady was winning in the east. Denise McCluggage was an excellent driver and writer who would go on to be the editor of a well liked racing publication over here "Autoweek" They were friends off the track and very competitive on the track. But the end of October,1957 Ruth flew to New York to join up with Denise McCluggage for a flight to Caracas, Venezuela for the Gran Premio International - a 1,000-kilometer epic in the midst of a revolution! Ruth and Denise, in the latter's RS Spyder again, distinguished themselves as the first entry of an all-woman team representing the United States in international competition. And splendid they were -finishing fourth in class and 13th overall in a brutal race that decimated Maserati's works team and saw Phil Hill, the apple of Denise's eye, win with Peter Collins in a factory Ferrari 335s. "It was all party-ville down there," says Ruth. "I had a blast!" But the revolution, on hold for the race, was now underway again. According to Levy: "There's a story they were shooting at the car-transport planes as they took off.. ."
    Ruth never forgot that it was almost safer on the track than off it.
    Although there no fatalities the race will be remembered as the demise of the Maserati racing division as it was a dreadful event for them and I will add some excerpts explaining why. They started the weekend closely tied to Ferrari in the world sports car championship for 1957.
    The 1957 Venezuelan Grand Prix.

    Masten Gregory in the Temple Buell Maserati, got off to a good start, and found it easy to pass the Ferraris and Thompson on the long back straight. As Gregory braked for the narrow turn over a bridge, he glanced over his shoulder to see how far ahead of the Ferraris he was. This was a near-fatal miscalculation. In doing so, his car hit the curbing and overturned, trapping Gregory underneath. As this was on the opening lap, the Maserati would have had a full (60 gallons) tank of petrol, fearing fire he did not waiting for the marshals and kicked one of the doors off its hinges and crawled away, covered in blood from facial cuts.[1]

    Meanwhile, Jean Behra’s 450S had moved up into third place, trailing Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins. As for Moss, he cut through the field at an incredible pace, passing 22 cars on the first lap, to cross the start line in tenth place. By lap seven, Behra had overtaken Hawthorn. By lap 16, Moss had passed both Behra and Hawthorn, and with Jo Bonnier’s 300S moving into a position of close support, raising Maserati championship hopes despite the demise of Buell’s car.[1]

    On the 32nd lap, Moss had smashed the lap record and held a two-minute lead over Behra. Then disaster struck, as on the next circuit Moss flashed his headlights as a warning to Joseph Hap Dressel in a slower AC Ace. Dressel pulled right into Moss’s braking line, hoping the Englishmen would tuck in behind. Moss could not and the cars collided. The AC careened into a lamppost and was cut in half, nearly costing Dressel his life. As for Moss, he was badly shaken and front end of Maserati was torn off. Just four laps later, Behra brought the remaining 450S into the pits for re-fuelling. Once the car was refulled, the mechanic pulled out the hose and Behra told to go. When he hit the started button, there was an explosion and a belch of flame at the rear of the car, with burning petrol spewing out the fuel hose. The mechanic tried to smother the flaming hose while Behra vaulted out of the car, his overalls afire. The local fire brigade had the fire out almost as suddenly as it began. Behra was badly bruised from failing heavily on the concrete pit apron.
    As for the car, it was all right, so team principal, Nello Ugolini instructed a dazed Moss to drive the smoking car, which was only three minutes behind the Ferrari. A lap later, Moss was back in pit lane, the seat was still smoldering, and so was Moss. The embers were doused, and Harry Schell took over the car. Schell was due to relieve Bonnier. Schell put up a tremendous show, pushing the 450S as fast as it could go and ultimately, he took the lead.

    On lap 55, Schell was lapping Bonnier, when the slower car suffered a tyre blowout. Although Bonnier fought it, his car slewed around Schell’s path. With both cars out of control, Bonnier elected to bail out at about 80 mph when he realised his car was going to collide with a lamppost. The post first cut halfway through the car, near the driver’s seat, then fell brokenly on top of Schell’s car; the car in flames, Schell jumped out just before the 450S hit a stone wall.

    At one single stroke, the last Maseratis were out of the race, and their championship hopes over.

    Two weeks later Maserati announced that a controlled administration was taking over the management of the company and that the racing department was closed... Caracas was the end of the line !

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    Stirling Moss in the lead in his Maserati 450S # 4

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    Artist Michael Turner's depiction of the Stirling Moss crash.

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    Jo Bonnier Maserati 300S # 6

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    Harry Schell Maserati 450S # 2 in flames after colliding with the Bonnier Maserati !

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    This chart shows what a disastrous day it was for the Maserati cars and the end of an era of their racing. Thankfully no one was seriously hurt.

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    The final results of the 1957 Venezuelan Grand Prix with our ladies finishing in a fine 13th place considering all the mayhem on and off the track !



    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 03-03-2021 at 08:41 AM.

  16. #76
    There are some great names in those two lists. It looks like anyone who was anyone in motor racing in those days was there.

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