COLLECTOR AWARD FOR VINTAGE RACER
by Larry Roberts
August 1, 1997
For the past three years, the Meguiar family has put up an award for the individual who has done the most during the past year to further the hobby of car collecting. The criteria is based on that person's contribution to the growth, quality, visibility, community involvement and respectability of auto collecting.
If you don't recognize the Meguair name, you probably don't frequent auto parts stores in search of products to wash, wax and, in general, clean up your vehicle. Meguair's products have been around as long as I can remember (in '46, Meguair's plexiglass cleaner was the only stuff that would work on the rear window of my '37 Dodge convertible) and I'm told the grandfather of the current president, Barry Meguair, started the company in 1909 or thereabouts.
The Meguair award is a big deal - so big that Jay Leno, last year's recipient, attended the awards banquet at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Alamo, California to receive it in person. Leno is a bucks-up collector who talks up his string of classy vehicles on his TV show.
But you might well wonder why the car collector hobby is the subject of a motorsports column. The reason is simple: I'm using it as a platform to propose and nominate a race promoter for the Meguair's award. Steve Earle and his Historic Motor Sports Association (HMSA) have been putting on the Monterey Historic Automobile Races at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California for 24 years and has done more to put forward the "hobby" of restoring vintage race cars than anyone I know.
I ought to interject here that I don't know Steve Earle personally, and wouldn't recognize him if he rang my doorbell. My own vintage "racer" (a then-derelict '58 Hillman hatchback that I converted and raced while in an economically-depressed state in the early '60s) is the subject of snickering by my colleagues when I suggest that it qualifies for The Historics. I'm sure that Earle himself would laugh out loud.
And maybe that's one of the reasons I believe that Earle is the best candidate for the Meguair award. He's kept his Monterey Historic Automobile Races open to only the cream of the crop and those cars that were actually racers back in their own glory days. To quote the first line of the HMSA statement of purpose, "The purpose of the Historic Motor Sports Association is to encourage the restoration, preservation and use of historic sports and racing cars." To me, the emphasis here is on the word "use." The drivers in HMSA races don't drive like they're competing for the World Championship of 1957, but they do run them wheel-to-wheel and in what the British would call a "spirited manner." During the weekend, the hills around the Laguna Seca track are packed with tens of thousands of enthusiastic spectators - myself included.
As a result of holding the line, Earle's races have become so prestigious that owners of some very expensive and historic cars wait with baited breath for their acceptance letters. Automakers around the world line up to be nominated as the "theme" brand for the weekend and the European companies involved bring over antique race cars that we Americans have only read about. Earle's races have made very collectible vehicles out of many of the pioneer home-made "specials" that helped make the sports of professional racing what it is today.
And rather than reducing the number of aspiring contestants, the HMSA found itself in the position of offering a less-prestigious event (dubbed the pre-historics) at Laguna Seca the weekend before the main event. One can only guess how many enthusiastic restorers are working away on their vintage race cars in preparation for the races there.
So my nominee for the Meguair's Award is Steve Earle and his HMSA contestants. Unfortunately, my voice won't have much weight since I'm not on the nominating committee, but Barry Meguair invites public input. If you're a vintage race enthusiast and want to nominate Earle for the award, write Meguair for a nomination form at Box 17177, Irvine CA 92713 or call 818-922-4353. I'd like to see a racer win.