From the time the wheel was invented and people realized that they could pull their cart faster than the neighbor in the next cave, competition was born. The carts may have changed, but the spirit of competition has not.
Growing up in the 50s, I did get to see the development of drag racing and the beginning of sports car racing. Street racing started growing, and building hot rods got big. The West Coast took the lead on building great cars, but those of us back East weren’t far behind.
Gearheads really came into their own in that era, and with that, so did challenges. Social media didn’t exist, but connecting with friends was just as popular. Driver’s license in hand, we wanted to drive any car we could. House parties happened on weekends, and the topic with the guys was always whose car was faster. “We were having a party and a race broke out.” Finding a place to race was not easy, and if you found one, you had to get there and go. When the cops got wind of a place, we had to look for another. Luckily, the cars of that era were not as fast as those of today, so there were few bad incidents.
In the early 60s, there was a movement to take street racing to racetracks, and tracks were opening all over the country. Sports cars were getting more popular and most of them were only available from Europe. They were already being raced there. To get hooked, all you had to do was drive one of them to realize how much fun they were. American and Japanese sports cars had not made the scene yet. This was the grassroots of what we love doing today.
In my second year of college I met a former member of the Air Force who was driving a Triumph TR3. He had done an autocross at the Air Force Base before he got out. I had no idea what he was talking about until he took me out for a ride through a local park with winding roads. I was hooked! I sold my car and found an Austin Healey 3000.
I had graduated from the hot rod community to the sports car life. The first thing I did was to take the Healey to the drag strip to see how it went in a straight line. Not what the car was built for, but it did pretty well, and I got my first trophy. On weekends we would take rides in the country looking for winding back roads.
Life got in the way of my sports car life, the military, getting married, having kids and developing a business. Flash forward to 1970 and the introduction of the Datsun 240Z. I saw it at the New York Auto Show and had to have one. Within two weeks I bought my first Z car, and since then I have owned at least 20 of them.
Over the years, sports car clubs had started up, and when I was ready to take the Z to the track, there were places to go. My first event was at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, and that was all I needed to get hooked once again. The car was great and it fit my style of driving, but that wasn’t enough. After another event at Bridgehampton in Long Island, N.Y., I realized it was time to upgrade the suspension, tires and brakes. Within a year, the car was turned into a full-blown racecar and was very competitive. I got a competition license and raced on and off till 2004.
In all that time, the parties never stopped, especially those at the track.
However, now after the race, a party breaks out! That’s a NASA thing.