As we reported a couple of weeks ago, there have been more than a few feathers ruffled over the decision to induct Carroll Shelby into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. That organization has morphed into the Canadian Motorsport Heritage Museum and Executive Director Brad Brown has joined the discussion to set the record straight regarding the reasoning and the realities of operating a museum of this type. This letter was sent not only to The Garage, but also the members of the Canadian Motorsport History Group on Yahoo which is largely made up of racers who have been involved since the early days of Canadian Racing.
There is far to much negative reaction to far too little information on the subject of the induction of Carroll Shelby, so please allow me to weigh in with some of the truths.
The notion of an international category was raised at a board meeting and, after lengthy discussion, approved as a separate category from Honourable Members who are Canadians.. The notion is that there are a number of people in motorsport who have had an enormous inpact on the sport in this country and it would be appropriate to give them a nod as well. Might even add a certain level of prestige to have some international names mingled with our own. This decision was reached in the full expectation and mandate that such a category would be supportive to the induction of deserving Canadians, not take away from that. Our core purpose is “to celebrate Canada’s proud motorsport heritage and encourage future generations of enthusiasts. ” Our plan is to build and operate on a self sustainable basis, a museum that will help to accomplish this.
Now as it happened, The auto show was planning a gala event to celebrate the lifetime achievements of Carroll Shelby. In addition they will have a 40,000 sq. ft. display of cars that he either drove or built, including the Aston Martin in which he won LeMans. They asked if we would help them put on such a show. Here is the opportunity that appeared: the chance to induct an internationally acclaimed icon of motorsports at a time when he will be here in Toronto amidst a large selection of the finest examples of cars he raced or built so others could race them – an opportunity that will never present itself again. Our board believed that was an opportunity not to be passed over. I happen to agree.
Is Carroll Shelby the ideal candidate for the first international induction? Maybe not. But it is a tremendous opportunity to make it special.
We do not plan to have dozens of international names flooding the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, but as some of you have pointed out, there is quite a deserving list. Names like Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss, Mario Andretti, Jim Hall, Roger Penske – you know who they are. Would any of these people add to the stature of the CMHF – you bet! In the future we will select one or two per year only. The focus will be, as always, on celebrating the achievements of our own.
There are many ways we can do that and one is to create a steady stream of visitors to our new museum where the Hall of Fame will be located and let them become acquainted with Canadian heroes. They will be immersed in the achievements of Canadians and a few international figures who add a little colour.
Jack Boxtrom has offered to provide Jim Hall’s Chapparal 1 chassis #001to the museum on long term loan. We leapt at the opportunity to have such a significant piece on show. The car did race in Canada but its ties to Canada are not much more than that. Anybody think it is wrong to display it? Anybody not want to see it up close and personal? Personally, I can hardly wait. I hope we can get Jim Hall to come up for an event where people can also see and talk to him up close and personal. As I recall he is definitely a Texan.
At this year’s induction gala our guest speaker will be Dr. Sid Watkins who comes from the UK. Is that wrong? He deserves to be considered for induction sometime in the future as well.
So my fellow motorsport enthusiasts let me close with this thought. Let’s forget whatever warts may have existed on previous administrations since they were all volunteers who did their best and anyway we cannot alter the course of history. And let’s understand that the new board has a fair number of people on it who are concerned enough about preserving our motorsport heritage to donate so far $600,000 of their personal money to help build a permanent home for our motorsport heritage. Lets turn the energy it takes to grouse about what has been, or what is, or what will be into saying what can I do to help in this cause that is important to me.
The Canadian Motorsport Heritage Museum will happen and thrive if the motorsport community wants it to. It will be yet another dismal failure if you do not. Give us a chance. You just might be pleasantly surprised.
Canadian Motorsport Heritage Museum
I think Brad has summed it up quite nicely and I’m certainly excited to see this project grow moving forward. Indeed, while Shelby may not be the best first choice, Brad is right that this is not an opportunity to pass up. Some may disagree with me, but I doubt many young enthusiasts know who Bruce McLaren, Jim Hall or even Roger Penske are but ask any 10 year old that plays video games who Shelby is and they know he builds cool cars and that makes him cool. Youngsters will come to see Shelby stuff and then it is up to the museum to introduce them (and their parents) to the enormous amount of cool that we have and had here in Canada.