Volvos in Motorsport

Mission Raceway Park, Vintage Race Weekend

From our September 2005 Newsletter
Held May 28 - 29 2005

We have been enjoying Vintage Racing in BC and Washington for a long time now, from the early '80s if my memory serves. Originally of course it was held at the Westwood "Mountain High" Raceway, now the site of Westwood Plateau Subdivision. We came to watch the great variety of old racecars on the track and to marvel at the "still crazy after all these years" vintage motorcycle racers.

Related Link!
Read an interesting article on this event on Western Driver website.

I guess for me the interest in auto racing started much earlier. In the 60's, club and conference racing at Westwood was in its prime. At that time Westwood was an important Canadian track and held all kinds of nationally and regionally sanctioned races for sedans, open wheelers, sports racers and Canam or Transam cars and Motorcycles. My Dad, Bud Morris, was the commander of the local Sea Cadet Corps Grilse from Port Coquitlam and he was always looking for opportunities to help fund their sea cadet activities. He came on the idea of volunteering the sea cadets to control parking at Westwood during Race weekends. I had no interest in being a sea cadet, but I was all for attending race weekends and that is where the bug got me, and many others.

Twenty years later, at the early Historic races I started to develop racing friendships. Charlie Teetzel, a fellow engineering student showed up, and then we met Peter Warrington who just bubbled with enthusiasm for these vintage race cars. Both these fellow are Volvo guys and general motorheads. I live near Westwood and would just turn up at the track for the days racing and then go home. However, we noticed that there were some groups that camped at the track for the weekend. One such group was the Russell family from Whidbey Island who camped with their Volvo 122 wagon and a nice 1954 MGTF with Volvo insignias on the side of its it's folding hood. We made their acquaintance and found that the MG had the drive train from a Volvo 1800S and was faster than a TF ever could be, stock. Over the years we have become good friends and we still camp together at race weekends at Mission and Seattle.

The next turn of events saw Peter Warrington decide that there should be a Volvo in the vintage racing grid and he set about building one using his 68 Volvo 1800S. Building a race car is no small undertaking, and what is even more amazing is that Peter would not be able to race it due to an eye injury. The next year the car was ready and Peter found a excellent fellow named John Riddington to do the driving duties. Now we had a car to root for, and to work on, and we even expanded our efforts to the Seattle Historic Race weekend as well as Westwood. Unfortunately John Riddington passed away, and after a couple of unsuitable drivers Peter made the acquaintance of Petroleum Engineer and road and rally racer, Gil Stuart. Gil is a real gentleman and a hell of a good racer and he seemed to like our low budget, high enthusiasm race team. He also had a penchant for old Volvos having raced and rallied them for years.

A few years later, Peter Warrington decided his 1800 was just too good to race and built a red 123GT instead, and Gil built the red PV444 racer we see racing at Mission and Seattle today. For a few seasons Gil raced both Peters car and his own. At the track these old Volvo race cars attracted a lot of positive attention. Everyone had a story about the old Volvo they raced or rallied or their father/brother/friend raced etc,. If you believed all the stories there would have had to have been hundreds of the things on road and track.

What did happen is that others in the Pacific North West decided to prepare old Volvos and join in the fun. David Winters of Swedish Automotive in Seattle built a very nice red 1800S, and Terry Erickson also of Seattle built a dark green 1800S. Here in BC, Lee Anderson resurrected an original 1968 racing 122S and finally Joe Contreiras built a black 1800S. This sure added to the interest of the race weekends.

Enough background, lets look at this years Mission Raceway Historic Race Weekend. There were 3 Volvos racing and all in the same grid. One was the new to Vancouver and resulted in this article being titled, "Car 54 Where are you?" If you read the January 2005 newsletter you may have read an article titled "New Old Vintage Racer Surfaces in Vancouver". It told of a Black PV544 racer No. 54 from Eastern Canada that is now owned by Mike Stacey of Vancouver and was being restored to race-ready condition by Peter Valkenburg of Port Moody. The car had huge potential, but still needed a pile of work before it would be to race at Mission. Thanks to a lot of hard work by Peter, Mike and Chris Naylor they succeeded and the PV 544 was at the track.

I don't know where Peter found the time but he not only managed to restore the race car but earned his racing licence too. This was great because he would be able to race the car he worked so hard to prepare. There was still one major hurdle before it would see the track. The car had to pass the dreaded technical inspection, and this is no small feat for a car that has not raced in 12 years. The tech inspector is Mike Currie who is a great guy, but he takes the safety of race cars very seriously and he misses nothing. We were all hanging around watching "Tech Mike" with his clip board and fine tooth comb inspect the hell out of Car 54. To our great relief, and the car preparers great credit, there were only two minor faults and these were easily attended to.

The reason the car turned out so well is that the owner Mike Stacey is meticulous in the way he wanted every detail handled on the race car. Peter had the skill and patience to carry out the orders and Chris Naylor built the major mechanical components to win.

Mission Raceway Park
For details on Mission Raceway Park, please see their website.

Of course this isn't a fairy tale and every new racer has lots of teething problems to contend with. For instance the carbs liked to spit up from the float bowls and the transmission caused its share of problems but he raced and practiced each day and had a couple of free tows off the track. When Car 54 was running correctly it was obvious that it had the power and handled very well. Gil Stuart's 444 and Leigh Anderson's 122 were on the track in the same grid and Peter was reeling them in despite their edge in experience. Peter made one exceptionally cool move that shows he will be a fast and safe racer. At the end of the long strait is a relatively narrow chicane and the cars approach it at speed. Peter was gaining on a gaggle of formula V's when just at the chicane one of the V's locked up his brakes right in front of Peter. In less than a split second Peter had to decide to hit the brakes, run over the V, or divert around the chicane onto the infield. He wisely chose the latter and made this last second evasive maneuver look easy.

Just to show Peter we had his best interests at heart I brought along one of the bright red "L" stickers that ICBC hands out to learner drivers and stuck it right on the back of the black PV. Looked pretty good even though Peter didn't know it was there. The other racers sure liked it. When Peter finally noticed it he just laughed and left it there for the rest of the weekend.

Thanks to Gil, Leigh and Peter for making this a memorable race weekend.

P.S. Since the spring races 2 things have happened. Leigh Anderson has sold his 122 racer to local racer Jim Latham. Peter and Jim both had their cars out August 21, 2005 at Mission Raceway for one days racing. Peters Car 54 ran consistently. The transmission problem cured by installing a spare M40. The car went well and handled great with the only problem being a leaky front seal oil-fouling the front brakes ?