Elva 50th Anniversary at Sebring
(posted 4 April 2008)
It finally happened!!
After the long build up it has happened and it was FABULOUS! The anticipated arrival in the States was fine except for the wait to process through immigration, the next hurdle being Customs, when I knew I had a problem when the office said 'okay Sir, you take aisle 2' when everyone else was sent down aisle 1. After the usual questions it was 'let me see what you have' and ELVA goodies were examined and many questions asked about why I had all this Elva stuff! Visions of the rubber gloves and Vaseline came to mind but thankfully the big boss intervened and was not unduly worried so I was allowed to struggle on my way with various underpants hanging out of the hastily reassembled cases.
There was a lot of stuff to carry to the tram which went to the main terminal, but a helpful lady said that the conveyor belt would deliver it, which was true, but she failed to mention that the stuff would seemingly go via Australia. Eventually it all reappeared and soon I had a car! Luckily I remembered which side of the road to drive on and headed off in torrential rain hoping I was heading in the right direction, I arrived at the condo and I settled down to enjoy Florida and think about the trip down to Sebring which was an easy drive of about 60 miles each way, but took around 80 minutes. I headed south on Tuesday to meet up with Jack and Bob and get things happening. Now the fun can begin.
Once I had set foot back in America and got into the correct time zone, the memories of many previous trips flooded back and it was good to see Allan and Annie Miles from the UK and share stories of previous and memorable Elva Reunions. However, it was a mistake to casually but jokingly mention that alligators can appear up through the toilet as I don't think Annie had a wink of sleep all the time they were there!
The Sebring circuit is of course famous for the annual 12 Hour Endurance Race and we were celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Elva first racing at the track. Many thousands attend for the Mobil sponsored Saturday race which starts soon after 10am with all the big manufacturers entered including Porsche, Audi, Ford etc etc. with the GT sports cars capable of close to 200mph ... exciting stuff! The lead up to this race includes many other races, including the historic/vintage cars and this year Elva was given prominence due to the anniversary. There was plenty of Elva information given both in the race programme and via the commentary, so good exposure.
To avoid carrying even more Elva stuff I had contributed to the design and financed the production of a batch of T-shirts in nearby Daytona, again famous for the Daytona 500 and motoring gatherings both on and off the huge beach. We were to set up an Elva display in a tent kindly supplied by the SVRA and on arrival I tracked down the SVRA trailer and aforementioned tent in the huge paddock.
The race track itself is a 3.7 miles circuit. There was much excitment and jovial greetings and I was greeted by two huge boxes of shirts. The shirt design had been a team effort from both sides of the pond and they looked superb. The SVRA tent was full of fold away tables and chairs and a good number of fire ants too! People came at me from all directions with greetings, questions and endless photos of cars that they were rebuilding.
Bob and Sherry Engberg, who had instigated this Elva meeting at Sebring, had driven all the way from southern California and cars and owners continued to gather and it was wonderful to meet 'old' friends and enthusiastic new owners too. There was track time in preparation for the 1 hour vintage race for SVRA vintage/historic cars which resulted in Dave Handy in a McLaren M6B finishing 1st across the line, closely followed by a McLaren-Elva M1B. The highest placed Elva sports racer was the Mk.VII driven by Robert Lojkovic.
Things looked good as we approached the time for the police escorted trip into the very unspoilt old style town of Sebring which was about 4-5 miles away from the race track. Elva sports racers and Couriers lead the way following the police car with all lights flashing and with me sitting on the 'passenger' floor of a full race Mk.III Courier with Chris Silvestri the owner/driver anxious about over-heating, but we soon left the circuit and headed across country towards the town. It was great to be driven at speed along the narrow road and I was delighted to find all the town folk waiting and cheering the cars as they welcomed us into the town centre.
Umpteen local people, including cheering school kids, came to 'oooh & aarh' over the cars while we enjoyed a drink and natter, and after an hour or so there was the shout of 'start your engines' and we were away. Fortunately someone had slipped the police driver $50 and once we left the town he put the pedal down and we hurtled back towards the circuit even faster. Absolutely brilliant....
Friday evening was the Elva 'Party' night, or 'dinner' as Bob had described it and this was to involve me saying some words and presenting some special Elva awards. However on Wednesday evening we enjoyed a relaxing 'nibbles' party after a busy day selling the special shirts and Elva goodies which were now shown on a table set up under the awning of a large covered trailer owned by Russ Mowry and his lovely wife.
There was of course the usual motorsport fun happening all around me with some owners buried head first under bonnets, or lying under the car preparing for the race or trying to fix problems ... the cars can run perfectly until you reach the circuit and then refuse to go anywhere near that nasty track.
I later gave Elva Courier owner Russ one of the Elva awards, having watched his desperate attempts to get his beloved car running properly but fortunately he made it to the track with seconds to spare. He so wanted to drive at Sebring and would have been devastated had he not made at least a few laps around the circuit. He had owned the car for some 30 plus years, flew US Army helicopters, was big and tough, but man enough to have a few tears of joy after the race while his lovely wife covered him with hugs.
The Feature Race for the SVRA Vintage Group was 10 laps around the 3.7 mile circuit and 1st place was awarded to Alex Quattlebaum III in his twin-cam powered ELVA Mk.VII ... a fantastic effort from both driver and team owner Richard Scott and his very professional Andiamo Racing Team. Equally enthusiastic Bob Youngdahl was 5th in his lovely Elva-Porsche, with the next Elva finishers being Alex Quattlebaum Jnr in a Mk.V, Stefan Weisen in his Courier Coupe, Chris Silvestri in a Courier, Bob Rothbard in another Elva-Porsche, Mike Oritt in a Courier, Bob Engberg in the Mk.II, Peter Uztavinis in a Courier, Paul Alexander in his newly acquired Mk.VII, Robert Lojkovic in a Mk.VII, Steve Smith in a Courier. Those who DNF included George Smith and Russ Mowry in Couriers.
By now the T-shirt pile had reduced but there were still a lot and the thought of trying to bring them all back to the UK and the resulting hernia would not be good news, but it was fast approaching the time for the Friday evening dinner, presentation of Awards.
Suddenly the tent was full of people and around 70 sat down for an excellent meal produced by Joyce and her small team. Once everyone had their fill, I talked about a busy 2007, latest Elva news and in particular the pressing need for funds for the Bexhill Museum Elva Mk.III rebuild.
The five E L V A awards were made, being for..
Thankfully the evening went well and so did the remaining shirts, so in the end there were relatively few to bring home. It had been a great team effort and everyone agreed it had been a superb event. There had been great camarardarie, superb racing and although hugely busy it really was fun too! If anyone is looking forward to some summer camping, I still have a couple of XXXL shirts which will make great tents!! All offers considered!
There are many 'Thank You' messages due to all concerned, particularly to ALL Elva owners that attended with or without the car, to Stan Mason, Bob and Sherry Engberg, to Jack Woehrle and all the folks with the SVRA, to Chris Silvestri and Richard Scott for their generous sponsorship, to Bill Peters, 'Rip' Ripley and his son, to Karen Kurtz and Burdette Martin and other special guests and those who wanted to be there but for many different reasons could not make it.
I am looking forward to seeing you next time.
Many thanks to all of you who sent many photos of the Sebring event. Here are just some to view. Click each of the links below to view an album of photos. The album will open in a new browser window. Just close it when you've finished.
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