It is hot in the Californian desert and hotter inside the Lancia Stratos. Add the body heat of two individuals on the far side of 130mph for miles on end and you’ll get the picture.
This is the first Symbolic Invitation Sports Racing Tour, a 300-mile jaunt from San Diego, home of the Symbolic Motor Car Company, to Burrago Springs, and back. It took in flat desert letting drivers travel at absolutely any speed they pleased, plus winding hill roads reaching 3000ft before descending once more to the San Diego plain.
This first outing brought an awesome gathering of historic sports-racing cars. There was a 28 Mercedes SSK entered by Arturo Keller, two of only seven Ma Romeo 122’s and a P3; a Porsche 550 Spyder, the 1940 Mille Miglia-winning BMW, two Stratos and Ferraris galore including a 1961 250 SWB, a 500TR, a Testa Rossa, a Comp 275G1B, 250LM and others such as a Ford GT40 and a ‘proper’ competition 7-litre Cobra.
I met my co-driver, Eric Moszkavitz, just before the off when Symbolic’s Chris Renwick introduced me to Phillipe Olczyk who had entered the Testa Rossa for himself and the Stratos for Eric. “Get in” I was instructed.
Now I’m a little leery about sharing a rapid, twitchy beast like a Stratos with someone I’d never met but, apart from one moment when we were airborne for long enough to look at each other, I didn’t need to worry. Eric’s objective was to follow Phillipe’s Testa Rossa who, having once come seventh at Le Mans, wasn’t hanging around.
The scenery in California near the Mexican border is stunning. Large outcrops of rock, cactus and NO traffic; just miles of flat-out motoring to please any enthusiast’s heart. I’ve done three Mille Miglias and this beat them all, being far more in the spirit of the Carrera PanAmericana.
It crossed my mind that the desert was not a place to break down but Symbolic had hired two trucks in case of problems, the only one being that of Said Marouf’s TZ2, which devoured its electrics and needed another battery which was duly provided.
Symbolic Cars has become a legend in just eight short years. Founded by Bernie and Marc Chase, with Elliott Grossman and English ex-pat Chris Renwick, its showroom is a mind-blowing experience. There you’ll find the very first Ferrari made, 01C, and not one, but two of the 1970 Ferrari 512Ms of Le Mans fame. There’s also two Dino 206Ss, a 500 Testa Rossa, a 500 Mondial, a 250MM and an Alfa Romeo 2900B. Last year, Symbolic turned over $100m making it the most successful Ferrari dealers in the World. Symbolic has now taken on a Rolls and Bentley dealership.
The next day saw the cars take part in a hillclimb over a fast, three-quarter mile course closed to traffic for the day. This was won by Jeff Kline in the Cobra with Elliott Grossman in his 450bhp Porsche 944 Turbo in second place. The Cobra produced so much power that it left lines of rubber over 100ft long at the exit of the chicane. Finally, Sunday saw the Annual San Diego Concours d’Elegance, held in a location to rival Pebble Beach, the Torrey Pines golf course overlooking the pacific. I’m not a Concours lover but the beauty of the setting and the spread of invited cars was enough to take the breath away.
Mercedes-Benz was the featured marque and here was Lautenschlager’s 1914 French Grand Prix winner, the ’39 W154 Grand Prix car and the ’55 W196 streamliner. There was also a stunning Talbot teardrop coupe, the 1961 Ferrari 250GT which, with its aerodynamic body, had been the precursor of the GTO, and a Pegaso Z102. There was a record entry of over 120 cars, which drew gasps from thousands of spectators. Exceptional cars were everywhere with less chrome and polishing than one is used to in the American Concours scene.
To sum up: A wonderful weekend without restriction or bureaucracy. Add wonderful weather and traffic-free roads and I can see a British enthusiasts making the trip to experience the ambience of Southern California next winter. John Starkey
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