(first posted 7/16/2013) The 2013 Race to the Clouds is over, and not surprisingly new records were set, albeit on a completely paved course. Pretty hard to work up any excitement for such an accomplishment. Back in the day, as it is said, a stock car win by a front-wheel drive Olds was news. Without all-wheel drive and mucho technology today, you don’t stand a chance. So what. Who says that front wheel drivers don’t make good racers? Nick Sanborn, Jr. was the fastest stocker at Pikes Peak in 1966 driving a new Olds Toronado. His time was 14:36, not a particularly fast time when compared to Parnelli Jones, the first stocker to run up the hill in under 14 minutes (13:52.2) two years before in a 1964 Mercury Marauder prepared by the legendary Bill Stroppe.
The race Toronado ran an automatic, as did street Toronados. A disadvantage? Apparently not. When I attended the Hillclimb in 1977, numerous stockers were running autos, some still with parking stickers on their bumpers from regional colleges. At that time all stockers, including the winning Toronado, ran live or beam rear axles. Lots of wheel hop under braking. I was a witness.
Even at the finish line, which was pretty much a straight line run, the Olds exhibits lean to the right. When the run to the clouds was was still gravel, all cars were set up soft so as to transfer as much weight to the outside tires to maximize traction, very much like USAC championship cars that ran the dirt tracks at state fairs at that time. High center of gravity, lots of weight transfer, that was the goal.
To not refer to Ak Miller as a legend at the hill would be to overlook numerous class wins in cars that he built himself. Here he takes the checkers and win in class with a time of 13:53.6 driving a Devin-bodied 427 Ford.
The name of Unser is synonymous Pikes Peak with Al, Bobby, or one of the numerous other family members. Here Bobby takes the 1966 Sprint Car win in the Open Wheel division running a Chevy at a time of 12:23.8.
Ted Trevor, running a Volksvair Manx, took the top time of 15:43.5 in the under 2000 cc Sports Car category.
All photos were provided Mobil, (ie, my dad) the title sponsor of the event.
Great pictures. Your explanation makes clear why Mobil’s name on the banner was so prominently featured in each shot. I’m surprised at the B&W film by 1966. Still, beautiful shots.
Mobil was a longtime title sponsor of the Hillclimb. The photos were sent to newspapers for possible publication, and at the time they only printed black and white (halftones).
1966 was the final year that Mobil Oil sponsored the event – and the first year for this Mobil logo design still used to this day. The winning Toronados at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb were prepped by local dealership Money Oldsmobile in Colorado Springs (owned by the same family as the world famous
Money Olds dealership in Phoenix). In 1968 two years later, Toronados won the top three placings in that year’s Hill Climb.
Krikey tis all bee a pile o crap compared to me Hilman, no car can ever handle NZ, now back to me sheep…
There, I’ve saved KiwiBryce the trouble of posting, just copy and repost for the rest of the day.
Compared to the race for the sky at Cardronna Pikes peak was better known then, but front drive make excellent gravel racers Subaru tried 4wd on gravell and lost out in the WRC to front drive Citroens. Nothing special about that road its smooth but gravell and uphill. Monster Tajima uses Pikes peak as a practice run for Cardronna.
I started putting this at the end of all my work emails today. Can’t wait to see the response I get.
Carmine, I trust that you are not disappointed with Kiwibryce’s response. Pavlov anyone?
This entire exchange wins the internet.
I almost bought the Grand Prix turbo coupe prototype that was used as a Pikes Peak hill climb race car.
An interesting competition to learn about. I’d love to go see it someday.
Was the Volksvair a four cylinder hybrid of VW crankcase and heads mixed with Corvair cylinders and pistons? The smallest Corvair engine was 2.3 liters, and by ’66 they were up to 2.7 liters.
More than likely the car was running a destroked Corvair engine in a VW chassis. The body is a Meyers Manx which was designed to work with the VW chassis pan and suspension.
I assume the same as Kevin. In 1966, nobody was building 2 liter VW engines yet, and they parts don’t really intermix.
Once upon a time in Popular mechanics they did VW Corvair conversions and tricks I cant remember details but someone will know, I was impressed with how much grunt a VW transaxle could take.
I’d no idea a Toronado could burn rubber like that!Thanks for the great article and pictures Kevin
427 cubes of torque massive rearward weight transfer due to stupidly soft springing on gravel of course it wheelspins,
Well this is on gravel but on pavement they could really fry the tires on pavement too. Set the parking brake, stomp the throttle and you could destroy a set of tires in a couple of minutes.
I wrongly thought Toronado’s were built for comfort not speed and a massive engine was required for a huge car with all the accesories.
No Gem you had it right they are a personal barge loaded with everything except brakes and cornering ability
Great shots and interesting cars too. If that Ak Miller Devin was a 427, I wonder how he managed to put all that power down on gravel.
As a kid I had a great poster on my wall, of a 67 Impala hustling up Pikes Peak. (Can’t find an image on the internet, but apparently driven by Bill Daniels and a centrespread from Hot Rod Magazine Sept 67)
I’ve never been there, but would have loved to see it.
6 years on Kevin and his articles are still missed. 🙁
But I did find a thumbnail of the Impala poster
Fantastic. I was hoping for another Pike’s Peak article.
There are more to come, in glorious Kodachrome.
Can’t wait. Also curious about the “Bultaco”?
Great shot of the Toronado. I’d not seen that before.
Still, In my mind nothing tops Parnelli Jones’ assult on the Peak in ’64. Dude had balls-o-steel
Watch Sebastian Loeb doing that climb in a front drive Peugeot he treats it like a Sunday drive at speeds those cars couldnt achieve downhill.
I’d give almost anything to have watched, heard & felt those huge brutes climb the Mountain…especially that Toronado…my kind of beautiful…
If they’d set the Toronado up properly it could’ve been really fast lower, harder springs, stiffer shocks it could have been awesome, 1966 is the year FWD won the Monte Carlo Rally a real handling event BMC Mini was the car that showed how FWD could perform, the Toronado was an interesting sideshow on how not to build a car thats all.
Shorty and Bobby DGASWYT
Having just driven Pikes Peak a few weeks ago (and following one of the racers downhill after qualifying was over for the day) all I can say is that I would love to drive that Volksvair up the climb, and that I now have more respect for my grandfather who drove the road with a Model A.
So friggen’ cool… I’d give anything to go back in time and witness this (or any) Pike’s Peak event run on gravel. I was curious if there was any footage of that Toronado out there and sure enough there’s an excellent video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziYJVoaOeiI
The car at the beginning isn’t the same one in Mr. Martin’s photo, but later into the video there is footage of the winning car as well as Louie Unser driving a different ’66 Toronado. I think the first car may have been run as part of a GM photo shoot after the fact, because this Olds’ ad seems to match:
Cool stuff Kevin, looking forward to more.
They PAVED ithe course this year? Too bad.
Sadly, this year’s event was low lighted by the death of ace motorcycle racer Carlin Dunne. I know he was doing something he loved, but like the Isle of Man TT, this event, especially with the high speeds enabled by the full pavement, may have run its course. At least for 2 wheelers. Also, the highly specialized cars of today just don’t interest me like the front engined USAC dirt track cars, a Meyers Manx, or this Olds.
I love Pikes Peak 1966, and I hate Pikes Peak 1966. The (Meyers Manx) VolksVair that won the small sports car class was only the street car they brought. In practice, the racing (Meyers Manx) VolksVair blew away everybody except the four fastest champ cars. In the race, it got stopped by a loose wire. I will always suspect foul play. The tight knit V-8 clan at Pikes Peak was so upset about the near upset that they banned Dune Buggies until 1970, until the V-8s had a chance to catch up. That’s when Bobby Unser came up with, “Just a furious furious racecar”. The coverage was so sparse that the above picture is only the second one known to exist of that car. There are no pictures of the doomed racecar.
I’ve been thinking about my post. Who loosened the wire? It’s like the
kennedy assassination. Big national sponsors and small local sponsors with money on the line; teams and fans with reputations and traditions to uphold. In boardrooms across the nation, and in campers on Unser Mountain there must have been one resounding sentiment: “We cannot let the world know that we got beat by a VOLKSWAGEN!!!” I don’t mean to point fingers, but I think of the big publicity deal Oldsmobile was planning with the debut of front wheel drive. You can’t have your big technical achievement upstaged by a couple of surfer dudes from California in a VOLKSWAGEN!!! . . . . . . . . . . or maybe the wire fell off by accident.