2016 Monterey Car Week: Historic Race Cars
Highlights from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
The whole Pebble Beach Concours thing started as an adjunct event held concurrent with races that were run in the Del Monte Forest. These days the racing happens a few miles east at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but it's still central to the events of Monterey Car Week, with practice, parade laps, and racing scheduled throughout the week. The paddock always serves as a competition concours as epic as, if less fancy than The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. We've got highlights.
1936 BMW 328 Mille Miglia Roadster "Buegelfalte"
The 328 Mille Miglia roadster earned the nickname Buegelfalte, or "trouser crease," for the crisp line that tops each fender. This example, displayed in the BMW Centennial tent, was one of three built to compete in the last pre-war Mille Miglia race. The aluminum coachwork was streamlined to improve aerodynamics and hence top speed performance in this fast race. Its 130-hp engine (in a 1,598-pound body) pushed it to a class win.
1963 Shelby Cobra CSX2136 Factory Race Car
Shelby American records show 45 cars were "factory built" race cars, of which 29 were campaigned by Shelby. But many of these were upgraded to racing spec at Shelby American. CSX2136 was the first of six cars that were purpose built as LeMans-spec racers at the AC factory in England and further modified by Shelby American. At its first outing, the 1963 SCCA's U.S. Road Racing Championship at Elkhart Lake, Wis., it was listed as being co-owned by Shelby American and actor Steve McQueen and driven by Bob Bondurant and Dave McDonald. It eventually fulfilled Carroll Shelby's goal of winning the SCCA A/P National Championship in 1964.
This 1953 MK7 Cooper F3 is equipped with a mid-mounted 1,720cc Porsche engine, which earned it the nickname Pooper. That self-deprecating moniker belies the fact that this 1,100-pound aluminum-bodied featherweight regularly whooped up on Porsche 550 Spyders in the 1950s. It reportedly inspired Roger Penske's Zerex Specials, too.
1961 BMW 700 Sport
Lots of cool BMWs were on hand this year, including this 700 coupe. One of the first to arrive in the U.S. in 1961, it was exclusively used as a race car from new. Its motorcycle-derived two-cylinder opposed air-cooled engine was race-tuned by Willie Martini to crank out 60 hp from its 697cc. Not too shabby. No wonder they called these "the poor man's Porsche 356."
1996 McLaren F1 GTR
On the occasion of its 100th birthday, BMW would like to remind everybody that it built the 48-valve V-12 that powered the three-seat, carbon-fiber McLaren F1, the first modern hypercar. It produced 636 hp in road-going 231-mph form, perhaps a bit more in racing trim, where various examples won their first LeMans outing (1995), the 1000-km race at Suzuka, and the 4-hours of Silverstone. BMW owns this one and campaigned it just three times, preserving it ever since in its as-raced form.
1975 BMW 3.0 CSL Art Car
BMW has commissioned a whole series of art cars, starting with this one, which was assigned to Alexander Calder. Famous for his mobiles, he did quite a job on this auto-mobile, which ended up being one of the last works he finished before his death. He brought the same bright colors and curving expanses he employed in mobiles and sculptures to the design of this paint job. It was raced once at LeMans by Sam Posey, Jean Guichet, and Herve Poulin and has been a display piece ever since.
2010 BMW M3 GT2 Art Car
The 17th car in BMW's art car range was executed by Jeff Koons, and its number, 79, pays homage to the 1979 art car penned by Andy Warhol. As has been the case for many art cars, this one was unveiled and signed by the artist in Paris at the Centre Georges Pompidou and then raced at LeMans by Dirk Werner, Dirk Muller, and Andy Priaulx.
1960 Sunbeam Alpine
This perky little merlot-colored Sunbeam Alpine may look vaguely familiar to extreme fans of the Disney classic, Herbie The Love Bug. It's featured in several race scenes dicing with our hero Herbie and the antagonist's "Thorndyke Special" (an Apollo GT). A bona fide racer, it was campaigned in real life on such storied tracks as Riverside, Willow Springs, Santa Barbara, and Phoenix.
1989 Mazda 767B Group C
Building on lessons learned in its 757 and 767 series racers, the 767B appeared in 1989 and was highly competitive right out of the box thanks to a heavily updated 13J four-rotor engine that was then producing around 630 hp. It won its GTP class on its first outing, the Fuji 1000-km. It finished ninth overall with 365 laps at LeMans that year. Its successor was the even more successful 787. The car is now campaigned in vintage events like the Monterey Historics by Mazda's Heritage Collection.
1991 Mazda RX-7 IMSA GTO
Don't mistake the "O" in that name for "Omologato" or homologated. Here GTO stands for Grand Touring Over, as in "over 2.5 liters." This racing class required cars to run the production roof panel and windshield glass, with bodywork below widened to accommodate race-spec tires and suspension. Mazda dominated with its 13J four-rotor engine producing over 640 hp (well up from the road-going RX-7's 130!). In 1991, Pete Halsmer claimed the Drivers' Championship and helped Mazda earn the Manufacturers' title, too.
1992 Mazda RX-792P IMSA GTP
After rules changes put the kibosh on Mazda's LeMans-winning four-rotor 26B engine, Mazda was forced to campaign it in the wild 'n crazy IMSA GTP class where practically anything was embraced. Tuning in this series reached about 750 hp at speeds approaching 9,500 rpm in the RX-792 program. But it was never competitively funded, and required major revisions for practically every outing to alter aerodynamics, cooling, driver comfort, etc. During this development year it put up a brave fight against Jags, Porsches, Nissans, etc., but the collapse of the GTP series and a recession in Japan killed the program in 1993.