History of the Pebble Beach Road Races – Page Three
The second event in 1950 was the “Del Monte Trophy,” for Classes D and E (1500-3000cc). The seven starters included the “Edwards Special Sports Roadster,” driven by Sterling, of course. Others included four supercharged MG-TCs. John Edgar entered his supercharged TCs for Bill Pollack to drive. Bill would go on to win the main events at the next two Pebbles.
John Edgar (1902-1972) was one of those fascinating characters who populated the fifties-era sports car scene. John, along with Pollack, was also in the April 1950 Palm Springs. Edgar, the heir to a Ohio manufacturing company fortune, moved to Los Angeles in 1943 and enthusiastically joined the Southern California “car and motorcycle craziness.” His first sports car was a 1947 MG-TC he bought from Roger Barlow’s Los Angeles dealership (where salesman John Von Neumann sold a TC to Phil Hill). Unsatisfied with its performance, Edgar took it to Ernie McAfee, who turned it into a Ferrari-beating hot rod. For the rest of the decade, Edgar became one of the leading wealthy “sportsmen” who sponsored the very best cars and drivers, among them Jack McAfee, Carroll Shelby, Richie Ginther, Pete Lovely and Phil Hill. John’s son, William Edgar, a prolific motorsport journalist, has preserved his father’s legacy.
Pollack drove the Edgar TC in the Del Monte Trophy race. In practice John had Bill use Edgar’s brand-new XK120 because he wanted to save the TC for the race. Pollack’s remembrance of that race was memorialized in American Sports Car Racing in the 1950s (1998 by Michael Lynch, Will Edgar and Ron Parravano): “Ernie had that thing ready to orbit the earth. There were some big Allards and Jaguars ahead of me. When the flag fell, I went up the outside of the pace and was really hauling butt, going by everybody and got out in front. But then, all of a sudden, the car just quit.” Edwards won handily followed by two supercharged TCs.
“The Monterey Unlimited Class Race” was next on the schedule. The “unlimited” meant that it included all cars over 3,000cc. Originally, ten cars were entered, but at the last minute, three were withdrawn. This left three XK120s including those of Phil Hill and Don Parkinson, two Allards, a “Canon” special and an Auburn-Ford. This last was interesting in that it was a 1933 model “Breexymobile” Auburn with a 1937 4-liter Ford engine. Among the Allards was Al Moss in his J2. (Moss started and ran Moss Motors for many years). He was an also-ran in this event, but the next year, he flipped his Allard at Carrell Speedway and never raced again until in vintage some 40 years later. In addition to the Allard, Al had an MG-TC he purchased new and kept for his entire lifetime. He used to drive it from his home in Arizona to Monterey, race in the Historics, and drive it home. A very cautious driver, he always finished dead last.
Michael Graham in his Cad-Allard took the lead and stayed there. Phil Hill, trying to pass, had to take an escape road on the first lap and dropped back to fifth. Back on the road, Phil passed one car after another. At the checker, he was only 10 second behind Graham. During the race, Hill had cooked his clutch. Don Parkinson came in third half a minute behind Phil.
The fourth and final race of the day was “The Pebble Beach Cup,” a 25-lap main event. The field was open to the first four finishers of the previous three races. Not all, however, decided to run. Although he finished only fifth in the second race, Arnold Stubbs was on the grid in his MG-TC with a V8-60 engine (the famous 2Jr). Stubbs was one of the very early Southern Californians who participated with the Cal Club even before that first Palm Springs. (He was Phil Hill’s navigator in the 1952 Mexican Road Race. They finished sixth in a Ferrari). Although disqualified after the Cypress Point event, John Von Neumann entered, so perhaps the SCCA officials had withdrawn the disqualification by then.
A total of 13 cars and drivers sat on the grid waiting for Al Torres to make his run up the side, turn, and drop the flag. Stubbs in his MG took the lead followed by Michael Graham’s Allard and Bill Breeze in his XK120. But on the second lap, Graham made a pit stop for repairs on his cooling system. On the sixth lap, Breeze passed Stubbs and took the lead. By the 11th lap, Phil Hill went ahead and went on to win.
During the time I was writing my book, Pebble Beach Remembered, Phil talked to me about the race. He and his pal, Richie Ginther, modified the XK120 extensively, having enlarged the 3.4-liter engine to 3.8 as well as reducing the overall weight of the car. During the third race, because his clutch had blown, Phil had to shift without it. He and Richie (Phil’s pit crew) didn’t have time to fix it before the main event. He was supposed to start in the middle of the pack, but the only way to get going was to push-start the car. So he started at the tag end. The problem was that when the flag dropped, the engine wouldn’t start. Finally, after a number of push-starts, he was off and passing car after car. At about half way, he was in front. But Richie held out the pit board reading: “Long Lead.” Since Phil didn’t know he was leading, he assumed Richie meant someone name “Long” was ahead. So he pushed harder and harder, trying to catch “Long.” When the checkered flag waved, the engine was starting to overheat and wouldn’t have made another lap. Phil Hill had just won the first important race of his career. He went on to become America’s first World Champion. And 1950, culminating in Pebble Beach, put road racing well on its way to becoming a major factor in U.S. motorsports.
I would like to thank John Burkhard, Will Edgar, Michael Lynch and Kjell Qvale for their contributions for this article. If you are interested in more detailed accounts of the races at Pebble Beach, my book, Pebble Beach Remembered (2005) is still in print. Call 800-289-3504. Kjell Qvale is featured in two books written about his life: I Never Look Back (2005) and Lunches with Mr. Q (2002). Bob Devlin wrote Pebble Beach: A Matter of Style (1980). You can probable chase down copies of these two on Amazon as well as American Sports Car Racing in the 1950s.