GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Thursday, May 5, 2011

GTO 3987 at speed

I am in the middle of editing the documentary on the Carrera Panamericana and find myself relying on the Racing Sports Cars website to discover or confirm the identities of the cars and drivers I see in the vintage footage. I kept seeing a particular Osca and, thanks to the website, I discovered that the driver was Louis Chiron.

For as long as I can remember, I've been told that Richie Ginther raced my GTO at Riverside Raceway when it was owned by Otto Zipper. This fact is also cited on the Barchetta database. However, when I searched Racing Sports Cars, there was no listing of Richie ever driving 3987 at Riverside. Possibly an oversight--an event no one took the trouble to post on the site?

In conducting this search, I came across two photographs of 3987 taken by Scott Sperka. They show the GTO at Road America with Augie Pabst (in color) at the wheel and the other with Roger Penske (black & white) driving. The two drivers were paired in the car when it was owned and campaigned by Texas oilman John Mecom. I went in search of Scott to ask permission to use the photos and found him to be a real car enthusiast and a dedicated photographer. In discussing the photos, Scott wrote, "All too many shots that you see online are of the car only and the human element is cropped out. It totally changes the photo and the 'being there' element is lost. Kind of like a Norman Rockwell cover--you gaze at it and relate to the scene."

I am in complete agreement with Scott. Studying the photos and comparing them to the cropped versions presented on Racing Sports Cars, I find the full, wide framing of the original photos to be the more compelling as they better convey a sensation of speed, the car's attitude in the corner and give a sense of the driver's control of the car.

The photos seen here are courtesy of Scott Sperka whose other racing photos are equally compelling. His contact is :


Scott said...

The b&w shot with Roger Penske driving is actually the same race as the color shot, the 1963 Road America 500. It was taken later in the race - note the wear and tear on the left front fender including black tire marks. The Pabst/Penske duo finished 8th.

Tom Schultz said...

Stephan, you are right about Riverside. Richie Ginther did drive 3987 there in 1964 in a preliminary event to the annual Riverside Times GP. It was a GT race and he finished fifth, I understand.

Tom Schultz
Road America Track Historian

Stephen Mitchell said...

Thank you, Tom. I wonder if there are any photos of the car in that event.

Mike Gulett said...


I love these pictures. It is interesting to see the dents in the front fender on a GTO! But that is a part of racing.

I just read an old R&T article about the GTO.

Vic said...

I agree with Mike, love the pictures of the GTO in action!

Scott said...

I've always been a little amused, in the b&w photo, of the tire on the left rear clearly labeled RR.

Scott said...

The placement of the RR tire on the Left Rear was undoubtedly done late in the race when a fresh skin was needed on the high load corner of 3987, this being a clockwise course, and all the LRs were used up. ;-)

Stephen Mitchell said...

I think you are correct, Scott. In fact, the entire car has a 'used up' look to it at this stage of the race. :)

One of the GTOs at the 45th anniversary event looked like someone had taken a ball-peen hammer to its fenders. It looked like a real race car!

Scott said...

Regarding the car with the damage at the 45th Anniv., were those historic injuries or current injuries?

Stephen Mitchell said...

It appeared to be wear and tear over time rather than one traumatic event. The dings and dents I speak of don't even register in a photograph I took of the car that day. It is the pale green GTO in the photo at: