MMR Blog

The Santa Fe Experience

Posted on October 11, 2013 Comments (0)

I have enough Frequent Flyer Miles now that when I board a flight the stewardesses salute me, kick some rich soul out of first class and tell me when the Captain is “looking peaked” so that I can be aware that they may soon ask me to take over. If they only realized that I suffer from a rare and merciful disease called Flightus Dormantis. I am generally asleep before takeoff and  awaken only when the cleaning crew shakes me as they are rifling through my pockets in search of the unopened peanut packs.

The Santa Fe Experience

photo credit ©Tim Considine

But landing in Santa Fe is different. Due to thermal updrafts, Santa Fe is heaven for glider operators but hell for commercial pilots.

But landing in Santa Fe is different. Have I said that already? Well here is why. Upon deplaning one walks to the terminal (the choice of that particular word to describe the building from which one launches oneself into thin air, shows a lack of consideration) and two things become immediately apparent, first this place feels like 1960. I assume the TSA have been too busy elsewhere to lobotomize and surly-ize the good people of the Santa Fe airport. And once inside the doors, guess what? You are in a museum! And a fine one at that! True, it isn’t a large collection but anyone who has visited the Dutch Painters Collection at the Met in NYC knows that the long dead burgher in the twentieth Rembrandt in the row isn’t the only one that is glassy eyed. These pieces, though few in number are exquisite and oddly, they are not behind glass or being guarded. Is it possible that they are not being stolen because you could never leave Shangri Fe. Oops! And that is a clue to your Santa Fe Experience.

In the 1937 Frank Capra movie, Lost Horizons, the hero, played by Ronald Coleman, (my mother’s favorite actor) is kidnapped. His plane crashes in the Himalayan Mountains and he is taken to Shangri La, a small village on no existing map whose inhabitants are very happy and seemingly live forever.

All that Santa Fe and Shangri la have in common, other than the fact that you virtually have to be kidnapped to end up there, is that all the people seem very happy to be there and in the one year since I first met them, none appear to have aged, or very little. Natives chat it up incessantly.

Though unquestionably a city, it plays more like a town, and is nestled close to what appear to be friendly mountains and a friendly sage colored desert. (I was once in a friendly harbor side bar in friendly Annapolis with a business friend, we were both on the wrong side of several scotches and he was chatting up the girl next to him. He was telling her about his 40' Sea Ray boat and she seemed rightly skeptical. She asked about the interior and the color of the interior. He said “sage” and turned to me for confirmation. I nodded. It was the most I could handle.) I remembered that color and story as I looked out the plane window as we approached the landing. Friendly mountains, sage colored desert, a Whole Foods Market and a Traders Joe’s, oh, and one more thing, by law every house in town is done in the Spanish Pueblo style and painted an approved color. Perfect.

The Spanish and native Indian influence is everywhere and not at all hard on the eyes.

Santa Fe is best known for its artist colony and more recently its Santa Fe Opera. Similar in concept to the Baths at Caracalla, patrons enjoy Santa Fe Opera performances outside, framed by the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains. In town, galleries and antique shops are everywhere.

But locals feel, quite rightly, that Santa Fe should be equally recognized for its food. From a humble place like Back Street Pizza, to the Chocolate Maven bakery, both in an industrial section, to Café Pasqual’s, a breakfast delight, to Harry’s Roadhouse, a busy highway café where I had one of the finest salads of my life, Santa Fe is Food . And like many other aspects of Santa Fe, rooms etc, it is reasonably priced. The local merchants have yet to learn what Monterey and Amelia now celebrate as flexible pricing.

But we are here for the 2013 Santa Fe Concorso. Purportedly hatched at the kitchen table of transplanted Michiganites Dennis and Beverly Little in conjunction with Denise McCluggage and Phil Hill, it is ahead of itself in many ways. In this, its fourth year, it drew several spectacular cars and those that weren’t, were not shabby at all.

The roads surrounding Santa Fe run out in all directions. The Concorso Tour, held the day before the Concorso offers participants an opportunity to drive their treasures in the company of fellow enthusiasts on roads that are in excellent condition and sparsely populated. Our friend Royce Rumsey has provided us with some excellent shots of the tour participants in motion.

This year, world famous glass sculpture artist Dale Chihuly installed a sculpture of slim red reeds on the field near his black 100/4 Healey marrying the art of glass and metal sculpture to the manicured green fairway and a nearby sand trap. A brilliant display, the depth of which was really quite difficult to convey as an image.

Along with the Honoree, Denise McCluggage, other celebrities in attendance included artist Dale Chihuly, Sir Stirling and Lady Moss, Al Unser Sr. and Jr., Norman Dewis of Jaguar fame, photographer/publisher Michael Furman and actor/author Tim Considine, whose image of the RS Porsche is shown in our Newsletter.

The class winners were all worthy, particularly a 1907 Renault racer which participated in the previous day’s rally and the 1928 Chrysler Dual Cowl Phaeton. The current owner’s grandfather won it in the New York Stock Exchange raffle and toured Europe from 1929 to 1935 with it and his family. A great story!

The winners, as reported last week, were a 1933 Delage Sport Coupe and a 1967 275 NART Spyder. The latter raced to a second in class finish at Sebring in 1967 by Honoree Denise McCluggage. Both rare and spectacular cars.

The organizers have rightly seized the opportunity, provided by their location, to not only field a broad array of noteworthy vehicles, but also provide participants and spectators with a Santa Fe Experience. Tough to find...other than in the Himalayas of course.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 3, 2013 Comments (0)

Santa Fe Concorso

The fourth iteration of the Santa Fe Concorso was like a coming of age party. Each year it has gotten better. There were enough significant cars on the field this year to insure that an invitation to next year’s event should be taken seriously by collectors.

The organizers are fully aware that hosting a Concorso in Santa Fe is a double edged sword. Santa Fe is hardly on the main road to anywhere and neither is it densely populated. This means fewer qualified local cars and a smaller base from which to draw spectators. On the other hand, Santa Fe is a deliciously manageable city with a unique style and character in one of nature’s more gently beautiful settings. This year’s event was very well attended yet, mercifully, it hasn’t reached the crowd sizes we saw at Amelia and Pebble Beach this year. The Sunday show was a culmination of two days of road tours and tasteful parties. Think, Pebble Beach writ small.

Best of Show – Elegance: John Hayden Groendyke’s imposing 1933 Delage D8S Sports Coupe. The Best of Show – Sport: Lawrence Auriana’s rare 1967 Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART Spyder. This important car, one of only 17 built, was driven to a Second in Class by this year’s Santa Fe Concorso’s honoree Denise McCluggage and co-driver Pinkie Rollo in 1967.

A full gallery of our Santa Fe Concorso images will be posted to our website next week.

Racing Over the Age Limit

We received numerous interesting responses to our commentary about aging drivers and we share some with you. As ever with these issues, where you stand often depends on where you sit. Motorcycle collector, lawyer, and racer, Ken McGuire even shared his thoughts and an exciting image of four beautiful Bultacos lined up at the beginning of a race.

In F1 and IndyCar the Race for Second Remains Close

In F1, Vettel has won but the battle for second and third is still interesting with only 38 points separating them. In Indy Car, Castroneves will be difficult to unseat. The next four places are only 25 points apart. Both series run this weekend. F1 in South Korea and IndyCar runs a two race weekend, Saturday and Sunday in Houston.

MMR Fall/Winter Garage Tours

Don’t forget to sign up for our upcoming garage tours. Our calendar for these events is firming up as you read. These are Bring a Camera tours, which means that each visit will feature a special car to be photographed by you with instruction from a professional photographer. Tours will be limited in size.

Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa

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Responses to Last Week’s Editorial

Posted on October 3, 2013 Comments (1)

We had a significant number of responses to last week's commentary about Driving over the Age Limit. Most agreed that some sort of testing or other qualifier was needed. Several people felt that racing was a dangerous game and that everybody involved, including photographers, knew that going in and had no right to complain if they were killed, or even just maimed.

Let me be perfectly clear. I have no issue with people going fast, rich or poor. But when a driver is going door to door at high speeds with strangers, he has a right to expect that whoever let him out there knew they both could handle it. Physically and mentally.

Peter:

We have the same problem in vintage motorcycle racing. In the day, if you weren’t good enough you couldn’t get a fast ride…now the only pre-requisite is a checkbook. The sanctioning bodies need to establish a licensing program (like regular professional racing) and stick to it. The “strong medicine” is that it is better to lose one rich cry-baby, than to kill someone. Most owners of fast vintage equipment would rather see competent drivers realize the potential of their machines than to putt around in the way. See attached pic of me (#6A) coming of the line with Three-time AMA Grand National Champ Jay Springsteen (#9) at a vintage race last month in Indy. He was way faster (and riding one of my bikes) but at least I wasn’t a moving chicane!

~Ken McGuire

Ken Springer


Dear Peter ..... old crocks racing powerful cars and coming to grief is nothing new. Experience is actually more important than age in my opinion. Surtees, Moss and many other serious drivers from the past were well up to the task in their early seventies. There were some very near misses and a few actual coming togethers at the Revival this year from young drivers who haven’t yet worked out that F1 scouts do not abound at vintage races. There is no need to carve up a slower car that’s entering the chicane and risk damage for the .1 of a second it will cost you. There’s no need to dart inside a car turning on to the apex of Fordwater flat out and risk pushing him off onto the grass and thence into the immovable barriers.

Apart from the risk to life and limb that sort of behaviour may cause an entrant to no longer want to enter a great original car with a very high value if it’s going to get punted off by a virtual replica with a goon behind the wheel.

I know what I’m talking about. It happened to me this year as indeed it seems to happen most years. Slowly but surely these goons are getting weeded out by race organisers. It’s never going to be too late to do it either. There are plenty of formulae for rock-apes to strut their stuff in cheap cars. Imagine a bunch of oldies in combat with young Kamikaze drivers in Formula Fords. Great sport and the best way possible to prove as the older guy that you can still hack it.

~Alain de Cadenet

I have to comment on your vintage racing article. After driving some faster cars with different clubs, I decided to return to the VSCCA. While I’ve driven race cars since I was 19, I recognized during my first Skip Barber race school that I was not in it to someday start at the Indy 500. Now that I am in my 60s and semi-retired, I have “downsized” to a very original Formcar Formula Vee (the first iteration). There are two other old Formula Vees in the club driven by guys my age or older who have also had much faster cars “back in the day.”

Vintage racing, at least as I’ve experienced in the VSCCA, is a place where the cars are the stars. We get to drive them fast, which is what they were built for. However, the attitude of the drivers is pretty consistent; we don’t think we’re in Formula 1 and we believe it’s way more important to bring the cars home from the event in one piece than to bring home some misplaced bragging rights about how we beat the field.

I remember walking through the paddock at an SVRA race a few years ago at the Glen and spotting more than one “retired” Formula One car. At the time I thought, “Affording it isn’t the same as being able to handle it.” I think it was at the same event I remember having a “dive bomb” pass executed upon me at a very dicey spot with a bad mix of faster and slower cars. What was the point, I thought? Well, it was about winning the race, regardless of the “cost/benefit” or “risk/benefit.”

Your point is well made, but there are options out there for anyone who is willing to honestly consider what their ability and commitment is and to act accordingly. Luckily, there are some really great clubs and options today.

~Tom Monti

You are right.

How do you tell an 80 year old that it’s time to retire? Especially when he just won a monster race at Road America running a sportsracer over 170mph to beat the “young studs” in their Lister Chevys or their Lola MkII coupes?

If there are no preconceived age restrictions, we need enforced annual physicals, stress tests, EKGs and up to date medical histories with the governing bodies not afraid to lose an entry or two.

But the real test is organizers (like Earl) with the backbone to tell bad drivers they can’t race.

We face a growing problem of aging drivers regardless of whether they drive an MGTC or a 312pb Ferrari.

The VSCCA is woefully behind in dealing with this issue.

~OOTAD (one of the aging drivers)

Hi Peter

Interesting comments about Vintage Racing. As you know I participated in both SVRA and SCCA with my GT1 X Trans Am Vette. Both series have their share of “More Money” than “Ability”. Your comments on the increased age of the drivers in both series is very true. Even more so in the big bore very fast formula, vintage and GT1 cars. I have been wrecked twice. Once at the Glen at the entrance to the bus stop in practice no less by cup car in the hands of a bone head. Second time at NHIS with an attempt to pass me on the inside of the south chicane. Very fast GT1 Mustang in hands of less than capable guy who had the “Red Mist” in his eyes. He had two wheels in the dirt on the inside just as I was turning left onto the back straight. Nearly put me into the wall at the exit, Porsche slammed into my nose and Sunbeam Tiger into the rear of the Porsche. 3 Cars with significant damage and done for the weekend. Both SCCA and SVRA are trying to control both ability and equally the Red Mist but it is difficult. Ultimately it is the driver who must recognize he is not Paul Newman and there is a time to hang up the helmet. I did last year even though I likely never put The Red Car past 85% of what it was capable of doing. Result was a wonderful 10 years of racing with only 3 DNF’s including the two wrecks noted. As a side note one does not see much on this subject and end of the day money and ego are tough to overcome! Nice piece by the way!

~Fred Myers

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