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This year is the 28th Annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix (PVGP), and the final event in a 10-day automotive celebration. Since 1983, racers and enthusiasts have flocked to Schenley Park to witness racing through city streets, a phenomenon that has become a rarity in modern times. The event draws over a quarter-million people each year and since its inception, has raised over $2.5 million for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School. This is truly impressive, as the PVGP is a free-event (no cost to spectate) and is organized by an army of 1,200 volunteers.
The first event of the celebration was the Kick-Off Rallye. Over 75 drivers were challenged on a type of scavenger hunt on wheels, following a route that took them through the streets and neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, PA and its suburbs. Trivia questions were presented along the way, and the drivers were scored on how close they followed directions and stay within the posted speed limits and reached the finish line. Prior to the start of the 'scavenger hunt', the cars were on display in the scenic South Craig street in Oakland, PA. In proper Grand Prix style, the finish line held a party and awards ceremony for the participants.
In 2004, the event grew to include the Historic Races at the BeaveRun Motorsports Complex. This track is more forgiving and properly suited for larger displacement cars. It is situated a short distance away from the city of Pittsburgh, PA and has proven to be a perfect venue for expanding the list of vintage and historic racers.
For the sixth year in a row, the Allegheny Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America, have challenged their Porsche counterpart in the BMW/Porsche Club Race Challenge. Though the majority of the field was made up of BMW's, it was a Porsche that would cross the finish line first.
Though many of the cars that competed are rare, there were three memorable cars in attendance. The first was the Aston Martin Nimrod GTP, a pure-bred race car that stood out among the many production coupes and sedans that circled the course. The Ford GT40 was another welcome sight, as its nameplate won the 24 hours of Le Mans four times in a row, from 1966 to 1969. It is the only car, built by an American company, to win overall at this prestigious and grueling race. The Aston Martin, labeled as a Tipo 151, is a bit of a mystery, as the actual builder of the Kamm tail body remains unknown.
The Invitational Car Show on Walnut Street was held the day following the BeaveRun Historics. Situated in Shadyside, PA, this laid-back event displayed an eclectic array of 125 cars, both vintage and modern. All the cars on display were by invitation only. In the Post-War category there was a pair of Franklins, an elegant Packard, and a very unique American-LaFrance. The T-head engine displaced 14.7-liters, meaning each cylinder is about the size of a coffee can! It requires two spark-plugs per cylinder to combust the fuel and drive the piston. During the infancy of the automobile, the motto was 'There is no replacement for displacement' - meaning the bigger the engine (displacement) the more power. The American LaFrance was capable of producing 105 horsepower, a very impressive figure considering the period in which it was created. Post-war cars at Shadyside included such memorable marques as Lamborghini, Ferrari, Lancia, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, and Bentley.
The next event (Tuesday) was the Car Cruise at the Waterfront in Historic Homestead. It typically features over 600 vehicles of all types making it the second largest car show of the PVGP. (Top honors go to the Schenley Park Car Show)
Wednesday is a full day affair, beginning with a parade through downtown Pittsburgh. The approximately 50 cars were driven through the streets with police escort and dropped off at various locations throughout the city. This not only provides those employed in the city an opportunity to view some rarely seen metalwork, but also to promote the PVGP races. In the evening, the party moves on to Bossa Nova, a trendy bar located on 7th Street.
The Bossa Nova event is the final event before the Vintage Races and Car Show at Schenley Park, the highlight of the week. Nearly 2,000 classic, antique, and exotic cars converge on Schenley Park forming the 'International Car Show.' Included in the plethora of cars and groups is the 'British Car Day', the creation of the Western Pennsylvania Triumph Association and has been an annual event since the early 1980s. It is one of the country's largest displays of British cars, with over 500 examples representing 50 different classes from Rolls-Royce to Morris Minor.
This year's spotlight car is the Corvette in memory of Donna Mae Mims, a legendary driver who passed away in October of 2009. The Corvette was a favorite of Donna's; another favorite were the Yenkos, resulting in the 'Yenko Sports Car Reunion' at this years PVGP.
Audi is the Featured Marque, an honor they enjoyed in 2000. Over one hundred Audi's are expected to line the fairways of Schenley Park including some very rare examples from private collectors. Sadly, the poster car - the D-Type - is not expected to attend.
On Sunday, July 25th, 175 race cars will snake their way through the picturesque course as they are cheered on by thousands of spectators. There are seven VSCCA-sanctioned vintage races with each group racing eight laps. At the conclusion of each race, trophies will be awarded at the Crown Royal Winner's Circle at the Start/Finish line.
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