Saturday, March 25, 2017

Alexandria Bay Road Race, 1938

A British Austin won the 50 lap race.
In the race:
3 Austin Ts
5 M.G.s
2 Bugattis
A Supercharged Alfa Romeo
A Ford engined Amilcar
A Special Ford V-8
A Hybrid Car with a boat engine!!!

The topic of road racing in the 1930s is important to the understanding the post-WWII sports car phenomenon in the U.S. Brothers Barron, Miles and Sam Collier along with Thomas Dewart played a key role in this story, as does the Automobile Racing Club of America which they founded in 1934.

It has been said that Barron received a British MG from his fiancé and that began racing around the driveway of the Collier estate in Pocantico Hills, New York. This activity brought together the upper crust from Harvard, Yale and the St. Paul's School to socialize, try their often modified cars and gadgets. As it turned out, Sam and Miles Collier would become the first agent for MG cars in the US, and future GM stylist Bill Mitchell would design the clubs logo.

A.R.C.A. would sponsor a series of events during the 1930s, including:

Sleepy Hollow, NY

Briarcliff Manor, NY

Roosevelt Raceway, NY

Montauk Point, NY

Alexandria Bay NY (see above video) -- "The Race Around the Houses"

Wayland, MA

Marsonton Mills, MA

Mount Washington, NH

Memphis, TN-- "The Cotton Carnival"

New York World's Fair, 1940

The goal was to represent America in European racing venues, and to that end Miles Collier drove his MG special at Le Mans in 1939. The cars driven were often specials combining the chassis of one car with the engine of another, but also Bugatti, Austin Willys, Ford and Alfa Romeo were represented.

With the coming of WWII and US entry A.R.C.A. dissolved on December 9, 1941. In tis place the S.C.C.A. was established in 1944, and amateur sports car events flourished beginning in 1948 and into the early 1950s.

Origins of institutions often set the course for future developments, and certainly sports cat racing in the US began as an affair for the well-to-do, and those who aspired to that class. As the 1950s and 1960s unfolded the increasing number of sports car owners were a response to the conformity of the Cold War era and during a time of prosperity, a desire to be upwardly mobile and take on higher class aspirations.

A logo of The Automobile Racing Club of America. New York Historical Society, MS 168, William Thompson Dewart Collection of Frank A. Munsey and New York Sun Papers

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