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Ed Rahal, 1925–2009

Edmund Rahal, who though mainly unknown was the first of the racing Rahals, passed away last December 16 at the age of 84. Ed and Michael (the better-known father of Bobby) Rahal’s grandfathers were brothers, so Michael (a racer himself) and Bobby are distantly related to Ed. In VR’s January 2008 issue, Willem Oosthoek wrote “The First Racing Rahal,” that provided a detailed and comprehensive look at Rahal’s racing career.

Ed Rahal first raced in 1952 in an MG-TD; then competed in a succession of racers, including AC-Bristol, Arnolt-Bristol and Chevy V-8, Cobra, Jaguar XKs, Lancia Aurelia, and Maserati 200SI. He raced extensively in the south, taking in SCCA races in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. He raced an AC-Bristol at the 1959 Sebring 12 Hours, and a Cobra 289 roadster in the 1964 Daytona Continental.

He earned the majority of his wins in his Jaguar D-type (XKD 553), which he first raced on May 17, 1958. One of his best-known wins came at a nondescript SCCA Regional at the Daytona International Speedway on January 31, 1960. CBS was there to televise the 12-lap race for its “Speed Spectacular” program, and it’s said to be the first time road racing was featured on television. Rahal’s D-Type wasn’t just any D-Type, however. It was first owned by Jack Ensley, who raced it with Indy driver Pat O’Connor to a DNF at the 1957 Sebring 12 Hours. The car—featuring a fin, quick-change brakes, larger calipers, and torsion bars—was brought to Sebring by the factory for testing prior to turning it over to Ensley. The photo to the left shows Rahal’s D-Type (#100) and Art Huttinger’s Bocar XP-5-Chevy (#45) at the start of the rainy three-lap qualifier at the first SCCA amateur sports car race held at the Daytona International Speedway on September 5, 1959. Rahal won three races that weekend with his venerable D-Type. He ended his successful 14-year racing career by winning his final race on June 19, 1966, in his beloved D-Type at the Montgomery (Alabama) Industrial Terminal.

After reading about Ed in Oosthoek’s article, I called and chatted with Ed to tell him how much I enjoyed seeing him race. I’d seen him in his Arnolt-Chevy V-8 and D-Type at the Cocoa-Titusville Airport and Daytona as a star-struck 18-year-old wandering around Florida with a camera. He was still enthusiastic talking about racing some 40 years later, and sounded like he was ready to jump back into a racecar and have a go!

It’s also important to recognize Ed Rahal for his unselfish service to our country as he served as a Marine during WWII and in Korea. Edmund E. Rahal, Sr. is one of the reasons you’re reading Vintage Racecar, being one of the many amateur racers who formed the backbone of the motor racing culture and heritage we celebrate today.

by Jeff Allison