WHEN THE Savannah Speed Classic portion of the Hilton Heads Concours takes place on Hutchinson Island this weekend, vintage race cars of many different eras will be present, as well as vintage motorcycles.
There will be cars there that you remember from your youth, no matter when your youth was. Corvettes, Porsches, Triumphs, Austin-Healeys, Shelby Mustangs, maybe a Ferrari or two.
There will also be some vintage NASCAR racers, from those wonderful days when you could actually tell a Ford from a Chevy, Dodge, or Plymouth. There will be a few Indycars from the Champcar era, much prettier than the current cars in that series.
This event has grown exponentially in recent years, as word of mouth from competitors has spread among the vintage racing community. The drivers love the track, and of course they love Savannah for all of the same reasons we all love Savannah: the restaurants, the history, the architecture, the squares, and everything else.
I have attended the event every year it has been held on Hutchinson Island, as either a volunteer, spectator, or member of the media, and as a race fan, it has been gratifying to see the number of entrants grow each year, bringing more interesting cars to the event, and more dollars into the local economy.
The sounds of 4, 6, 8, and 12-cylinder racing engines are music to my ears, though I understand it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I have been told that the sound carries across the river and into town, though the sounds are not that loud on the track itself, as golfers continue to play on the course adjacent to the track.
For those attending there is also the availability of being a passenger in a racecar or high-performance road car, driven by a professional driver, for several laps around the track. The car owners and drivers are mostly friendly and chatty, and love to talk about their cars and their history.
Numerous areas around the track provide excellent views of the racing, and there are plenty of local heroes to cheer for, including Robert Parker, who races a beautiful BMW 2002.
Among the more interesting and unusual entries is a 1955 Chevrolet dirt track car, operated by a South Carolina charter school, the Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports. The students at the school have fully restored the car, after the school’s owners found the car in the woods, where it had been left after a racing accident.
The students learned engine building and rebuilding, body work, welding, frame and suspension design and repair, and numerous other skills that will aid in their future employment.
Lots of interesting characters populate the paddock at a vintage racing event, and not all of them are on two or four wheels. The racers include a chemistry professor from Rice University, a designer of road beds for bridges, and a Sri Lankan IT engineer now living in New Jersey, among many others.
The cars range from some cars from before WWII to postwar English sports cars like Austin Healeys and Triumphs to fairly modern, high-powered, open-wheel cars that raced at the Indianapolis 500.
If you’ve never been, I recommend giving it a try, and if you have been before, I’m sure I’ll see you out there again this year..