History comes racing back at Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival

Races at Road America are only part of the attraction of the annual Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival

Changing leaves and migrating birds are just two of the autumn attractions that draw tourists to Wisconsin. Fans of vintage racing and classic cars have another reason to celebrate as the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival presents a fall weekend full of collector car activities and events.

Unseasonably warm and clear weather has extended the racing season the last few years, and the September 17 event drew over 250 entrants to the Vintage Sports Car Driver’s Association annual meet at the historic Road America racetrack in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

The large field boasted a variety of interesting cars. One of the most intriguing (if not harrowing) was the Dreossi Special, constructed from an external fuel tank of an F86 Sabre Jet fighter aircraft. The bolt-upright seating of the 998cc Healey-powered roadster caused many spectators to do a double take as it barreled around the winding racetrack.

Dreossi Special built from aircraft fuel tank

Fast Friday gave racers and fans a first look at the 4-mile road course for practice and qualifying sessions. Featured classes of Formula Junior and Porsche cars swelled both upper and lower paddocks, something that usually only happens during Road America’s big July vintage event.

The festival also hosted The Aero Warrior Reunion, with over 40 examples of 1969-1970 stock car-era Plymouth Superbirds, Dodge Daytonas, Ford Talladegas and Mercury Cyclones spotted throughout the paddock and village during the three-day event.

On Saturday, the Road Course Re-enactment Tour enlisted 100 race and street cars to participate in a police-escorted tour from the track on the original road course around Elkhart Lake. The parade closed down Lake Street for a casual car show; another tradition that extends back to the original races held on public roads of the quaint village from 1950-1952.

Saturday evening, race cars joined show cars for the Gather on the Green, convened on the lakefront lawn of the Osthoff Resort. A diverse mix of 125 cars and motorcycles displayed alongside live music for an elegant cocktail party and concours. VSCDA’s banquet followed, with guest speaker Vic Elford providing an entertaining synopsis of his career driving factory Porsche rally and LeMans cars such as the legendary 917.

Sunday afternoon, there was Bill’s Thing, a post-race, wind-down party held in nearby Rhine Center and sponsored by Club Auto and America’s Automotive Trust. Racers, car-lovers and others converged for bench racing at the Civil War-era tavern and stagecoach stop in the historic hamlet.

Former ARCA and USAAC Stock Car champion Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa, appeared with his No. 7 Superbird race car and was toasted by the assembled crowd before being saluted by the town’s historic schoolhouse bell which rang out seven times to acknowledge the racer’s storied speedway career.

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William Hall

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  • Geoffrey Horton
    September 22, 2017, 2:23 PM

    With the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival at Road America this weekend, you might enjoy
    my family video, Phil Hill Road America 1955, On Vimeo or YouTube. Rare footage of The Inaugural race, Sept 11, 1955. Also rare footage of Phil and Paul O’Shea.


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