Anybody know what year this was?
A sleeping giant legend returns. The Hershey Hillclimb was held for the first time in 32 years the weekend of 20 and 21 April. Thirty-year or older race cars ascended the 7 tenth mile scenic service road to Hotel Hershey. Although rain showers were in the area they stopped each day to provide a dry run with lots of course cleaning by corner workers. Many where heard to say things like, “I don’t even sweep my house or shop this clean.”
The “HILL” has been shut down for 32 years and used as a hiking and nature trail. Hershey Executives recognized the value (both $ and community partnerships) by recognizing the potential of an event that was very successful in the past. In it’s heyday, the Hill had over 215 entrants and an estimated 10,000 spectators for a weekend.
The inaugural Hershey Vintage Hillclimb (HVH) was stolen by Sunbeams, an IMP, an Alpine and three Tigers ascended the famous hill. There were some really neat cars running, Lancia, Allard, a 1926 Pontiac Oakland hillclimb car, Porsche, Sunbeams, Aston Martin, Healy’s, Volvo, the aromatic acoustically challenged two cycle Saabs, and many others. Did I mention Sunbeams?
The red Series I Alpine, a local PA car owned by Frank Troxel, was raced for the first time in about 30 or more years. It was previously used as an F production hill climb and/or road race car. The IMP is an East coast favorite owned and raced extensively by Rick Rose at road races and hillclimbs. The IMP was always a successful race car having been a dealer sponsored (Beck Foreign Cars, York PA) The car is prepared to the latest race technology and is always a crowd pleaser along with the driver. It is a very fast IMP, and quick car until it hits a tree. Rick gets the dubious honors at the inaugural Hershey Hillclimb of being the only car to be extracted from a tree and drug home. And Rick still had a smile on his face. The Hill is that much fun.
The long distance award goes to Curt Bowland who towed is BRG street drivable quick C-production type race Tiger from near Chicago. That’s about a 1/3 of the way across this US of A, folks. Now that’s dedication to the marque and a lot of effort for 50 second thrill. This was Curts first hillclimb. His expression related to a comparison of sex for the first time., When Curt got off the hill, he was Beaming all smiles and puckered up after coming down from a high.
Geof Byrd brought his bright eye sucking crowd stopping yellow race Tiger from VA along with his trusty side kick, Co-driver Gilbert Grable. This too was their first hillclimb. There is no rush like flogging a Tiger up a narrow twisty road with trees on the edge and bringing it back in one piece. Both Geof and Gilbert managed to keep its brilliance in tact while pushing the limits of physics all the while turning respectable times from years past.
The crowd favorite geewiz wow pucker factor car, Fastest Time Of the Day and breaker of the hill record by over two seconds was…you guessed it, a red and white Tiger driven by Merlin Miller. Merlin has driven this Tiger on other hills and East Coast racetracks. The car is an engineering marvel closely resembling a SCCA GT-2 car. But more importantly, is how Merlin drives. He makes a Tiger dance with a fluid smoothness and balance of a ballet dancer by rear steering the car with his go pedal. It is a visual rush that even captivates the spectators.
Sunbeam racers did our marque proud. Both the drivers and cars stole the crowd’s attention. One even garnered its way into the record books as the fastest car ever beating out all the Vettes, 600HP purpose built vehicles, Open wheel formula cars, Porches, etc. . Out of 61 entries we had more Beams than MGB’s, Healeys, Porches, VW’s and other popular marques. The bar has just been set. The Hershey Vintage Hillclimb and Sports car show date has not yet been set but a late April date is being considered. The new record challengers have to break a Tigers record and the Sunbeam spirit from racers and spectators alike.
Ever notice Sunbeam drivers always garner spectators’ attention. Must cause that extra Beam they all have.