And hey, I’m talking really high… 14,110 feet to be exact. As a matter of fact I have already begun training for it. Last week when Gary was here visiting Aaron and I took him for a quick spin around San Francisco. It was while I was stopped so Gary could snap off some photos in the middle of the very steep Lombard Street better known as the crookedest street in the world that I began thinking, “Hmmm, I haven’t done Pikes Peak yet.”
The world famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb had not run vintage race cars in many years until last year and even though I was invited sadly I was unable to attend. This year that is not the case. It was simple… There is Pikes Peak, the ultimate hill climb that I have spent a lifetime of watching drivers race up to the clouds. Some of my fondest memories of my father include him and myself glued to a TV set watching as some of the biggest names in racing gave it their all.
Racing in the La Carrera Panamericana is one of the toughest races in the world for a driver but even harder for an engine builder and engine when you consider the amount of horsepower lost at the altitudes found there. But when it comes to altitude La Carrera Panamericana simply has to be considered child’s play when compared to Pikes Peak considering it starts out at 9,390 feet and then rises up to 14,110 feet. The good news is, the course is only 12.42 miles long. The bad news is it has 156 hairpin turns, 6 miles of which are paved and the restÃ‚Â are gravel. Last years event was blessed by beautiful summer weather but it is not at all unheard of to start out in 85 degree temps and on the way up to run into rain, fog or snow. To make it just a little more interesting the grade of the road is 10.5 percent.
Lucky, my GT350R came out of the trailer early this week and a lot of detail and research has begun. What tires, different carb, lower rear end gears, all of which is remarkably different than running La Carrera Panamericana. Remove the transmission and tear it down for inspection and so on. Since Lucky was only allowed a two barrel carb he will be fitted with a custom built four barrel carb built by the best high altitude carb builder in North America and the extra horsepower will be a welcome addition.
Speaking of Shelby and Pikes Peak here is some ironic trivia for you… Right after Carroll Shelby had won Lemans the first place he went was to Pikes peak because he was the Goodyear race tire distributor. It was at that very event that Carroll ran into Ford’s, Dave Evans, and he said “Mr. Evans, I understand you have a new small-block V-8, and I have an idea how to use that engine.'”
Evans invited Shelby to Detroit, though Shelby wanted to make sure he could get his arms around the AC Ace chassis and body before he met with Ford. “I flew to Europe, and sat down the Hurlocks (owners of AC) and told them what I had in mind, and they said yes, they would be interested.” Shelby then went to Detroit, where he met with Evans, Don Frey (assistant general manager of the Ford Division), and already prominent Ford exec Lee Iacocca.
“I told him that I had a chassis, and that, if I could get these Ford engines, I thought I could build a car that would blow off the Corvette. I needed to borrow $25,000 to build two cars, plus engines. Iacocca agreed.”
Needless to say the rest is history and here I am 45 years later preparing to take a car up Pikes peak that came to be a reality due to Carroll Shelby meeting a man on the mountain there. Makes me wonder who I might meet while I’m there.
Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the second oldest race in America, just behind Indy this being the 87th year. Since I have family in the area and have spent lots of time at The Broadmoor and Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs there have been countless times I have gazed upon Pikes Peak and dreaming of making the run but that dream is about to become another reality.