TOPEKA, Kan. (February 26, 2014) –The world was locked in a war that wouldn’t officially end for another 18 months; average car cost $1,220, if you could find one currently being produced; a house averaged $8,600, bread was nine cents a loaf, and minimum wage was 30 cents per hour. It was a different place, 70 years ago today, when seven sports car enthusiasts met at the Boston, Mass. home of Chapin Wallour on February 26, 1944, to form a club dedicated to the preservation of sports cars.
They may not have known it at the time, but the birth of the Sports Car Club of America that evening changed the face of motorsports, and – in the minds of many race fans today – the world.
The first meeting of the SCCA was a bit more exclusive than today’s members would recognize. The list of cars owned by founding members Everett Dickinson, John Duby, Arnold Engborg, Theodore Robertson, George Schulz, Robert Townsend, and Chapin Wallour sound like museum pieces today: a Duesenberg “J” double cowl Phaeton, a Lancia Lambda 5th Series Roadster, a Kissel Speedster, Stutz DV 32 Sports Tourer, Mercer series 4 Raceabout, Isotte Fraschini type 8A Castagna Convertible Coupe, a Rolls Royce Phantom I Ascot Phaeton, and on. Not a single Mazda in the bunch!
Those humble beginnings would grow to today’s 60,000 member club, hosting events around the country and helping to launch legends Mark Donohue, Jim Hall, Skip Barber, Bobby Rahal, Roger Penske, George Follmer and so many more.
The recent rallying cry of the Club, urging members to “make it easy, make it fun,” may have turned the stomachs of the early members. The constitution drawn up by Ted Robertson stated that membership in the Club shall be restricted to owners of sports cars, sponsored by one current member, seconded by another, and elected by unanimous vote of the officers. Then, that new member must pay the yearly dues within 30 days – three dollars.
No matter their intentions, there’s little doubt that today’s SCCA is a better place. It’s hard to imagine that the founders wouldn’t look out at the 1,200 competitors at the Tire Rack Solo National Championships in Lincoln, or the more than 700 competitors at last year’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs in awe and smile at their accomplishments.
While the Sports Car Club of America stands on the shoulders of these giants, the next 70 years might be even more impressive. Youngsters like 17-year-old Peter Portante, 2013’s Formula Continental champion at the Runoffs, Amanda Hahn, the 17-year-old B-Street Prepared Ladies Solo National Champion, and 22-year-old Solo Driver of the Year Tom O’Gorman continue to set the groundwork for the SCCA’s future – and they’re not alone. Each SCCA event continues to showcase the next generation’s stars, many who have already begun to take that leap toward Hall of Fame status.
The founding members laid the building blocks for the current version of the Club, as has every passionate member along the way. The building blocks continue to grow today.
Today, SCCA members will deservedly pat themselves on the back for an impressive accomplishment – many clubs, businesses, products and organizations have come and gone in 70 years. Next week, those same members will get together at the SCCA National Convention to discuss the plan for the immediate future and the next 70 years, because that passion isn’t any less today than it was in Boston in 1944.