Peekskill Vintage Grand Prix

October, 2017

Vintage Grand Prix Impressions by Rob Markovich

For me, the Peekskill Vintage Grand Prix essentially began as I rushed to get my recently restored 1953 Austin-Healey 100 registered for the big day. “Restored” in this case meant as good as I could get it mechanically—in other words, better, safer, and more reliable than any 64-year-old British sports car was when new—and as good as I could make it esthetically with a limited budget and my own two hands. In this case, though, “Grand Prix” didn’t mean a race. It would be a spirited driving event, as organizer Rich Pepe put it, so that Peekskill’s governing officials, its inhabitants, and the friendly folks who insure our cars might rest a little easier. Yet even that description doesn’t quite capture the experience of that particular October day.

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Instead, it seemed as if nearly 60 vintage cars and their owners had managed to slip through a wrinkle in time to a simpler era when Healeys, MGs, Alfas, and Porsches battled it out on road courses as race fans watched from fence rails and lawn chairs. The hay bales and tire chicanes were there just as they were in the early days at Lime Rock or Watkins Glen. So were the peeling rubber and tire smoke as the Camaros, Corvettes, Mustangs, and Road Runners strutted their high-horsepower stuff at the start of a two-mile route that ran through town, down along the Hudson, and back again over several well-monitored laps. Grouping all this vintage metal and fiberglass by country—Alfas with Fiats, MGs with Triumphs, a fire-breathing Rambler (yes, really) with a race-ready Shelby Daytona—seemed to complete the weird and wonderful impression of time travel as I tailed an early TVR along the undulating course, both of us up-shifting, down-shifting, braking, and accelerating in a sort of carbureted choreography.

 

Not that this wasn’t also an impressive car show in its own right. There was ample opportunity to engage with admiring spectators, answer questions, ask questions of other car owners, and even watch an impromptu pit stop to repair an MG brake line that had leaked, as old British brake lines sometimes will. And in the end, all car shows are a time trip as you listen to the oldies music and revel in your own private time machine during the drive there and back. What this inaugural Peekskill Gran Prix did was make that journey startlingly real, if only for a few hours.