SCD: What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Vintage and Historic racing in the past 20 years?
BC: The preservation of the cars, the originality of the cars, the quality of the drivers. I mean a number of things have happened. Number one, everybody’s learned that the car being original and correct and as it was is very important. You kind of have to thank Steve Earle for that. He was the first one who planted that seed, saying, “You don’t take an old car and race it like it was a new car.” Whether it be a Ferrari Testa Rossa or a 935 Porsche, you should be driving it, and it should be restored and built as it was originally. I have to thank him because a lot of guys wouldn’t understand that mentality if it wasn’t for Steve. Because of that now, for me, that’s the only way it should be. I can’t imagine it to be another way, but what I do see has changed, is the cars have become more and more valuable, which is not a bad thing. It’s nice that your portfolio has something that is appreciating. There aren’t that many things doing that.
It allows you to make the investment in the cars and make sure they’re totally correct, take care of them, get them up to the highest standard they ever were so that they’re all in good shape, and then have a little bit of time to be able to enjoy them and drive them the way they were supposed to be driven. A lot of guys are making a real effort to do that. I see a lot of guys who have never raced in their life and they have driver coaches and they are testing all the time, they are driving lots of different kinds of cars to get experience. They’re driving tracks both here and abroad. I see guys who can afford this really putting a lot of effort into it and it’s a lot of work. A lot of seat time is a lot of work. For me it’s easy now because I did it my whole life. These guys are trying to compress that into a very short window of time and that’s work, and that’s not fun all the time. It’s fun to drive the cars, but it’s work to drive them efficiently. There are so many guys who have become really, really good drivers, and back when I drove these cars they could have been pro racers. Examples, Ken Epsman. Kenny drives well enough that he could have been a pro driver. Rob Walton drives well enough that he can run pro cars. He started pretty late doing this, and yet he has great hand-eye coordination, he has great car control. He seems to be very focused when he does it, and you have a lot of guys like this. I see them all the time so I watch their driving skills. There are a lot of guys who are really good at this, and they only did this in the latter part of their lives.
SCD: What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the Concours d’Elegance shows in the past 20 years?
BC: Not a lot of them. On and off all the time. Last year we showed a car at Beverly Hills that we just restored. A lot of that has to do with restoration. We had done a ground-up restoration on a Cobra, so we showed it at Beverly Hills. We were invited, Bruce invited us and we showed it there. And won an award. Then we went to Pebble Beach last year with two cars. At Pebble Beach they had a Porsche racecar class so we took the 917-10 Can-Am car and the 962 Rothmans car and ended up with a first and a third, which was really nice for a first time at Pebble Beach. Usually we do concours because we get asked to bring stuff we have. I’ve made, my company’s made, the effort to go out of our way to take cars to concours so people can see them. Those things aren’t easy either, they’re a lot of work. Load up the car the day before, make sure everything is working right, get up and 5 a.m., get it out of the museum, and get it spotless clean because they are going to look at it. My cars are spotless clean, but you get it spotless clean at another level, so you spend a day preparing the car at a minimum, and this is on cars that are already “perfect.” Load it, take it there, leave at five in the morning, unload it on the grass, be there with it, hang out, be there all day, take it home, and then I tell guys we clean it all up again before we put it back in the museum. It’s a lot of work, but it allows people to see cars they otherwise would not see. That’s why I allow the public to see the museum any time they want to see the cars, it’s not restricted.
SCD: Where do you see Vintage and Historic racing headed?
BC: Where is it headed? I think it’s headed just to higher levels of quality and perfection and driving, than it is today, that’s all. Future generations — I don’t know what they’ll be like with the cars, but I know I have a son who’s 19 and he likes old cars. Part of it’s because he’s around me and he has to like them, but he does like them, he likes them a lot. He likes my Javelin as much as he likes any modern thing on the freeway, he thinks that’s cool. Hopefully these generations will be able to afford these cars and do what we’ve done with them. They won’t be doing it with newer cars I don’t think, because I don’t think new cars are the same anymore. Based on how they are built. Street cars have no real identity anymore. They’re all somewhat the same for trim and styling. Because of the safety laws and electronics they’re all the same platform now, they’re very similar. And there are no more light, nimble sports cars, touring cars and GT cars, they’re all heavy. That’s part of all the laws and regulations. I think people will continue to like old cars. They get in old cars and they get to feel and hear and do things in them. New cars are almost automatic; they almost don’t need a driver anymore. Old cars, you have to drive them, you have to turn them and stop them, you have to get a sense of what they’ll do and figure out how to make them do it. I think it will just keep going.
This year at Monterey we had 850 entries and were going to run 600 cars, which is the most we’ve ever run there. Pre-reunion, we’ll have 375 at that. What is happening is that we added another day to the main week because guys have come this far and made all the preparations and then don’t get a lot of driving time. We added another 15-minute session so they get four instead of three. So we start on Thursday. Eventually, my goal is to get all the SCRAMP guys to agree we run the thing all week long with a day off in the middle. Because there are so many great cars that should end up on the track. That event is a full week event anyway. Concours is Monday and Tuesday and there’s McCalls on Wednesday, and there are the auctions. It’s not a weekend event any more anyway. There is no lack of interest, even in these economic times. Here we are with 800 entries. We got to experience what Steve experienced when he ran that event, he had to tell 200 or more people that they don’t get to come. And try to whittle through that when we did that.
The selection committee included John Lamm and Bill Warner and Steve Earle and myself; that was a hard task. Who do you tell, “you have to stay home.” I don’t think we made enemies. We did not receive any hate mail afterward. And sure enough, people had my email address. I think most guys appreciated that we did more than ever before and tried to accommodate as many cars as possible. We put as many cars in the classes as we could, figured out the paddock so we could get more in there. We redesigned the paddock to gain enough space. By grouping the F1 cars together, there are two F1 cars per garage, and there are 20 garages. So that’s 40 cars and 20 less spaces you need. We put the Bugatti group together. We put the NASCAR drum brake group together. We’ve had to do some work on the paddock so there won’t be an empty spot. There will be nothing but great racecars in the paddock, and some great street cars. We’re not going to have trucks, or vans, or rental cars. I tell my friends, you can have an AMG Mercedes, that’s a great car, but it’s not going to sit on the paddock. Bring your Sprite, and that you’re going to park in the paddock. To me the paddock is a big showplace. Our goal, and Steve’s goal is, if Infineon is the same, just take care of all the details. It’s a lot of work. Our hat’s off to Steve because how he did what he did at Monterey, with his staff, is incredible. The reality of it is, if you want to bring that to a higher level than it was, and that’s our goal, it takes ten people. We have ten different people who are working on ten different things daily. I know my weekly total is five or six hours a week, at a minimum, and that’s just on little stuff. Then there are ten full-time people, and that’s not including volunteer people. Really, we’re just trying to do what Steve did and take the time to do all the details no one had time for.