Club News

The 2016 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is in the history books, and once again, a wonderful time was had by all. For many years, I have told anyone who asks how we at the Allegheny Chapter prepare for this huge event: Prior to the event, our volunteers make sure that 90% of the event is planned perfectly—and the last 10% just happens. Our goal is to make sure that our guests do not know which is which!

As part of the 90%, the weekend started with a great drive to Indiana, PA. Thirty-eight participants made the drive. This was the first Chapter tour that I was able to attend in several years and I forgot why everyone raves about our Friday drives. Many participants commented that the tour was one of the best parts of the weekend. Glen Beattie did a fabulous job organizing the day and ran the tour with precision. The roads were interesting, the scenery good, and lunch at Bruno’s Italian Restaurant was tasty. At lunch, it was nice to catch up with Layton Ives III from Ohio and Andrew Wilson, who made the trip from Maine in Athena, and Tom Dressel from our Chapter.

After lunch, there was time to visit AutoSport Co., a vintage Corvette dealer. Several amazing Vettes from the mid-60’s and early 70’s were for sale. The place had the feel of a small museum. The surprise for many of us was the 1986 E28 535i in the back of the shop—worn but probably still capable of another 100,000 miles.

We then toured the Jimmy Stewart Museum. In addition to making some great movies, Stewart had a life-long interest in aviation and had an extended military career. In addition to flying 20 bomber missions in World War II, Steward rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Air Force Reserve and served our country for 27 years. His role in the Spirit of St. Louis is easier to understand after reading that he made his own transistor radio while sick at home so he could follow Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight. 

On Friday evening, the Allegheny Chapter’s welcome reception was held at Gaetano’s Restaurant. Although the view of Banksville Road may not compare to last year’s venue, the food was well seasoned by another year of friendship. A big thank you goes out to Pete and Kathy Stephanovich who coordinated the silent auction held as part of the dinner. The silent auction was one of many activities the Chapter hosted throughout the weekend to raise funds for the PVGP charities, the Allegheny Valley School and the Autism Society of Pittsburgh.  

After playing David Rose’s 2014 video which provided an overview of the PVGP, we were pleased to welcome Dorothy Gordon. Dorothy is Chief Development Officer at the Allegheny Valley School. Dorothy told us about the work of AVS and the uses of the funds raised through the PVGP. It was Allen Christain’s idea to invite Dorothy. We were very surprised to find out that in the 34 years of the PVGP, no other car club has had this idea. It is great to see the Allegheny Chapter continue to be a leader when it comes to supporting the PVGP charities.

Car show day dawned a bit soft, but the skies cleared and the day turned out perfect. Michael Meehan is to be congratulated for taking over leadership of our event this year. It was a seamless transition. In addition to bringing back our social partner, Spaten, Michael should be given credit for managing 40 volunteers and another record crowd. We had 259 cars pre-registered for our corral, and with walk-ups, we probably had over 320 in the show. PVGP estimates that 2,500 cars show up annually. PVGP increased its estimate for this year to 3,200 show cars! All new records!

Over the two weekends of racing, first at PittRace and then at Schenley Park, we counted at least 11 separate 2002s on track. Perry Genova of Skidmark Racing won Schenley Park’s BMW/Porsche Challenge Race as he managed to stay ahead of a couple Porsche 914’s. In Sunday’s feature race, despite his best efforts, Perry finished third behind a couple of Lotus cars. Thanks to all of the BMW drivers who came out to PittRace and Schenley Park for entertaining us for two weekends!

In 2018, in addition to hosting Oktoberfest, PVGP will also feature BMW as the Marque of the Year. Because of their love for our event, we consider Roy Hopkins, Adrienne Hughes, and John Barhydt to be our race side ambassadors. To help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 2002 in America, we charge our ambassadors with finding every 2002 race car still running in American for 2018! We hope to have at least 40 race cars on track and 200 2002’s on the show field!

We were excited to once again welcome Mike Renner of the BMW Performance Center and Andreas Kiss from BMW Classic. Thanks to the support of the Performance Center, George Mitchell, will be heading to South Carolina to enjoy the two-day M School which was awarded during our event. Folks continue to smile every time they get out of Mike’s car after a charity lap and those of us who own vintage cars are happy to see BMW’s commitment to keeping its historic cars on the road.

Of course, I was befuddled when I came back to the tent at the end of the day on Saturday and saw Mike Renner and Jim and Chris Williams of our chapter putting an extra set of two enormous Continental Sport Contact 5Ps from the Performance Center M3 in the back of our beer trailer. I had to ask what they were doing? The first answer was since the M3 spends most of its time in South Carolina, Continental asked us to do some extra cold weather testing by freezing the tires overnight. The better answer was that by letting the tires soak up Spaten overnight, the car naturally stumbles sideways in the morning when Mike drives through Turn 13. The boring reality was simply that the tires are expensive and the Spaten trailer could be locked.

After spending the hot day in the park, it was great to cool off at the reception at Artifacts hosted by Chapter member Mike Tyrrell and his wife. If you are ever in Pittsburgh, you owe it to yourself to stop at Artifacts and peruse the store. You will not be disappointed.

In short, I think we met our goal again this year—a great car show, entertaining racing, and funds raised for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Valley School. Although I considered sharing some of the 10% for your entertainment, for now, you will just have to guess what all happened that wasn’t planned.—Eric Zagrocki

[Photography by Tom Dressel]