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VSCCA Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix 2004
at Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
PVGP 2004

R>ain may have been an unsolicited guest, especially Saturday’s continuous mist, but its presence didn’t deter the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix (PVGP) from celebrating its 22nd birthday this past July 17–18 with yet again all of the participants breaking as many traffic laws as possible. However, no speeding, going–the–wrong–way down–a–one–way–street, reckless driving or even failing–to–stop tickets were issued, as this disobedient romp through Pittsburgh’s flagship Schenley Park was actually encouraged by tens of thousands of spectators attending the two–day affair.

And whether you were one of the fortunate enthusiasts to have witnessed the venue’s unprecedented growth and popularity since its inception a couple of decades ago or were just enjoying the unique spectacle for the first time, you surely can appreciate the unimaginable logistics and manpower needed to methodically convert overnight (beginning late Friday afternoon) this scenic park into a formidable racecourse, and more impressive, it is still put together by an all–volunteer army.

It’s a marvelous undertaking as miles of crowd control fencing, thousands of “No–Parking” signs, hundreds of strategically placed Jersey barriers, and thousands of hay bales providing token protection from the park’s light poles, hydrants, grates and other stationary appointments were in place by Saturday morning. Comprised of 16 turns (including five 180 hairpins), 21 corners, a one–quarter mile straightaway, and a speed reducing chicane, Road Schenley was born.

The benchmark number of entries which included nearly 200 Vintage Sports Car of America (VSCCA) entries, non–VSCCA legal guests, and a healthy slew of boxy Minis (the event’s feature “marque of the year”) antsy to demonstrate their road handling characteristics around what is the only vintage street race conducted on public blacktop, wasted no time breaking as many moving violations as possible.

Additionally, the two–day festival included various other entertainment as a perfect complimentary backdrop that dotting the typically tranquil 456–acres of rolling fairways and grassy terrains throughout the park. A potpourri of car shows, including a huge All British Car Show on Saturday (their 18th year and biggest gathering in Pennsylvania), and vendors of all types supplied plenty of diversion from the blacktop battles. Moreover, the PVGP circa 2004 has grown to a weeklong celebration of car rallies, car shows, a black–tie gala and for the first time this year (and planned for future events), kickoff races at the new purpose–built road course at BeaveRun Motorsports Complex, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

In general, the race at BeaveRun fielded the full gamut of vintage machinery and was opened to many racecars not eligible to run through Schenley’s challenging configuration. Too bad, as it would have been really exciting to see Fran Kress’ double dose of GT40s (one driven by Jim Locke and the other (on Saturday) by one young gun, Andrew Prendeville) barking loudly around the tricky circuit.

As in the past, official winners were recorded and “special” trophies given out to one deserving recipient from each individual race group. However, everyone who was able to attend this or other GPs was rewarded the unique opportunity (or prize) to sample street racing circa late 40s and early 50s when running through the public avenues, boulevards, and streets of Watkins Glen (New York), Elkhart Lake (Wisconsin), and numerous other quiet hamlets was a common happening.

The following were the 2004 PVGP winners:
Group 1 (Pre War): Ian Landy’s ’36 ERA R6B
Group 2 (Under 1–Liter / Preservation): John DeMaria’s ’59 AH Frog-eye
Group 3 (Under 2–Liters up to 1960): Bill Shaw’s ’59 Elva Courier
Group 4 (Under 2.2–Liters 1960–1964): John Barhydt’s ’75 BMW 2002
Group 5 (Over 2–Liters): Tivvy Shenton’s XK140
Group 6 (Formula Juniors): JR Mitchell’s Lotus 18 FJ
Group 7 (Sports Racers): Dick Fryberger’s Lotus 11
Group 8 (Mini–Featured): Larry Holloway’s Morris Mini Cooper S

Despite continuous growth since the one–day inaugural grand prix in ’83, today’s PVGP still remains free to all spectators and offers free transportation between the numerous viewing spots. All the monies raised benefit the Allegheny Valley School and the Autism Society of Pittsburgh. The vintage auto racing was outstanding as usual, especially the event-closing, featured Mini contest where Larry Holloway’s ’68 Cooper S battle and outlasted pole position holder, Whit Ball’s newer 2003 entry (contact with curbing forced a DNF). But even more exceptional are the people of Pittsburgh, who are most warm and friendly. So make your plans early to attend next year’s PVGP and witness the thrill of seeing more “legal” traffic infractions!.....Walter Pietrowicz

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