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  From Bob Engberg (Elva-Climax Mk.II)
Elva at the Monterey Historics 2008
(posted 26 September 2008)

This article was kindly submitted by Bob Engberg and I would love more please! Do put together some words and if possible pictures of any events you may attend with 'Elva' connections and help keep our 'News' section up-to-date.

Organizer Steve Earle had the dazzling idea 35 years ago to bring together obsolete but beautiful historic sports cars and give them a day at the track. About 75 cars entered his first “Monterey Historics” event at the famed Laguna Seca track in Monterey, California, and perhaps not many more spectators. Yet, enough interest was shown to insure a second historic gathering a year later and the event became annual and now with a reputation of being the USA’s premier vintage racing week.

This year’s racing was actually spread over two weekends, the first known somewhat humorously as the “Prehistorics.” Earle emphasized to drivers that their safety and that of their historic cars remain the upmost goal of his event. It is the only way, he said, to insure that owners will continue to bring their valuable sports racers Monterey.

At Monterey only one CanAm McLaren and an Elva Formula Junior were bent (in different races) with more serious damage to a Porsche, which was 'destroyed', the incidents happening where cars came downhill from the corkscrew. Otherwise, cars went home pretty much in the same condition as they had on arrival. Owners from overseas and other distant places are usually given entry to both weekends, but always there are more entries than places and of the 1800 that apply only 450 are invited to the Monterey. It is an honor to be invited, but less you get big headed, Earle constantly reminds us that, “The cars are the stars” and that drivers far better than us once had these racers in their hands. Each year Earle honors a car manufacturer (or a race group) and this year it was the Formula Junior cars. Next year the featured marque is to be Porsche. Several races are held and cars are divided by years and by engine size. This makes for sometimes-odd pairings of cars but almost always a driver can find someone to race.

One class this year was Group 5A 1959-60 Formula Juniors and included entries from Lon McKinstry in his 1959 Elva 100 F-Jr (100/039); Steve Foster, 1959 Elva 100 F-Jr. (100/51A); BJ Colaric, 1960 Elva 100 F-Jr. (100/60); and Charlie Barns, 1959 Elva 100 F-Jr. (100/36A).

Others in the 5A Group race were the 1959 Elva 100 F-Jr. (100/28EX) owned by James Yule, the rear-engined cars 1960 Elva 200 F-Jr. (200/020) of Michael Clifford, and the 1960 Elva 200 F-Jr. (200/004) driven by Ralph Salomon. Unfortunately, the 1960 Elva 200 F-Jr. 1000cc (200/005) of Tom Grudovich was a DNS. All the Elva's finished their race with BJ nearest the front.

In the early 1960’s Production Car race, the sole Elva entered, a 1958 Courier of Robert Walker, of nearby Pebble Beach, finished well in his event

Scheduled to race with the big Group 7A “CanAm” Sports Racers on Saturday was the 1965 McLaren-Elva M1A of Ed Nigro. Ed bought the car at auction in the Spring and just got it ready for Monterey in time to appear. In fact, he missed the entry deadline but was allowed to compete because of the car’s historic significance and because one of the Event’s organizers was involved with beginning the CanAm series and knew about Ed’s ex-Sawyer car. Unfortunately, the Elva twisted its left rear half-shaft into a pretzel in practice and was a DNS. Ed blamed himself as he is used to racing his Lola Mk.I or Lotus Eleven and underestimated what happens when you put too much power down with one wheel on the track and the other in the dirt.

In the Sunday Group 2B race for Sports Racers 1956-60, I entered my Mk.II, a car which we now think is the ex-Frank Campbell Mk. IIb/III raced at Road America and elsewhere in 1958-59. Mark Sange entered the first ‘works’ Mk.II, chassis 100/20, famously and sympathetically restored by Roger Dunbar some years ago and recently purchased by Mark from the McCaw collection. Race organizer Steve Earle also places the early 1960’s 1100cc mid-engine sports racers into this 2B group. Entered was the beautiful Rudy Rudolph restored yellow Mk.VI with FWA Climax motor owned by Ken Palmer, and a blue Mk.VI of Tom Thinesen, who thinks it might be the ex-Elvis car but, as he says, “Who knows and who really cares?” Tom raced a Lola Mk. I for years in vintage events up and down the West Coast and only recently got the bug again and bought his Mk.VI in time to prepare it for the 2008 season. It is a beautiful car with an 1100cc Ford pushrod motor. Good to see him back on track.

Sadly missing from the lineup was the 1959 Elva Mk. lV (1460cc, chassis 100/86) of Tom Grudovich. It would have been nice to see him battle the 1460cc Lotus Elevens and the two and two-one-half litre Lotus 15’s, as his finishes in eastern vintage events are always at the top. My Mk.II qualified 9th in the group just behind the 1460cc Lotus Eleven driven by Les Keno, the TV personality of America’s “Antiques Roadshow.” His brother Lee was also in attendance with his Ferrari. The twins were extremely interested in the other Lotus Elevens and in my Elva and came over to our paddock area to inspect our cars. Leslie led my car for some laps, was passed, and then he re-passed when I missed a shift only to DNF with some brake problems. The veritable Pete Lovely passed me on the final lap when I hesitated behind a slower Lotus. While I was thinking of what to do and whether a pass would be safe, Pete flew by us both, leaving me my thoughts and his dust. Ed Nigro’s Lotus Eleven clipped me at the finish so the Mk.II was 8th. Somewhat further down was Mark but it so happened that we got to do the cool down lap together. I’m hoping someone took a photo of us together in the Corkscrew turn.

Sunday was also the 1961-63 Formula Junior race filled with mostly Lotus and Coopers and with the lone Elva of Chris Drake. (1961 Elva 300 F-Jr. 1100cc (300/003) finishing a credible 14th in a large field.

All in all it was another fine event and it was good to see the Elva's present. We had over 20 at the Elva 50th Anniversary at Sebring last March and about the same number at Monterey this August. Because of the scheduling of all the Formula Juniors there were no Mk.VII’s and MK.VIII’s invited to Monterey this year. Imagine if there was a call out to all Elvas to come to a Reunion at Monterey in 2010, the 55th anniversary of Elva Engineering and the 45th anniversary of McLaren-Elva? How many cars built by Elva could we get to such a Reunion?

I know it seems a long way off but do PLEASE express an interest and an early commitment as we really want to make this a reality. It could become the best Elva Reunion and gathering yet. (RAD)

The ELVA Formula Juniors of BJ Colaric, Chris Drake and Jim Yule together with the Elva-Climax Mk.2 of Bob Engberg.

Complete Monterey 2008 results are at .. http://www.montereyhistoric.com
Bob Engberg


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