Classic Cars: Remembering the Bridgehampton Racetrack

Bridgehampton Race Circuit 1970
Bridgehampton Race Circuit in 1970, Photo: Racing in America

Recently I attended the Bridgehampton Museum’s vintage car rally and auto show. Compared to other automotive events, it was relatively modest. Yet there were world-class automobiles and automotive enthusiasts in attendance.

The person who organized the event, the Rally Master, was Sally Spanburgh, who obviously put a great deal of effort into making everything go smoothly. You try getting a bunch of men and women “hot shoes” to drive 20 to 60-year-old cars around the back woods of the Hamptons in a safe manner without getting lost.

Very special thanks to a dear old friend, Guy Frost, who is head of the Bridgehampton Racing Heritage Group and has been instrumental in keeping the memory of the glory days of the Bridgehampton race track alive. To those of you car enthusiasts, too young to remember, we once had a world class sports car race circuit right here in our backyard. Besides being host to many world renowned races, on open track days, as it was called, anyone could pay a fee and drive their car on the track. It was a dream come true for all the car enthusiasts of the Hamptons. Guy Frost, along with the Bridgehampton Museum, puts this event together annually to pay homage to this wonderful sporting memory.

Bridgehampton Race Circuit MAP

There were some very interesting people and their machines at the event. I co-drove with Dick Roth in the Rally as his navigator. In all honesty, I was a terrible navigator, and gave Dick the wrong directions many times. Thankfully, for our team, Dick was an expert Rally driver, and many years ago was a New York State Rally champion. Dick and I go back hundreds of years, since we both were in the same graduating class of the best high school in America, then called the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. However, the car Dick was driving is really the story. It’s his 1958 Porsche Speedster. Dick has owned it for 48 years and it has only 34,000 miles. It’s all original and showroom new. Next to a pure racing Porsche, a Porsche Speedster is the most collectible Porsche one can own. The car is black on black, probably the best color for this model, and is shod with a super-rare set of Rudge center-lock knock-off wheels. These original wheels, if you can find a set, are currently worth about $40,000. What’s this speedy German rocket worth? Not for sale.

What does one drive to this prestigious event if he owns about 80 of the finest collector cars in the world? Why, a red Ferrari 250 Short Wheelbase Berlinetta, of course. Let’s be honest, most car enthusiasts have never really seen one in person. Only drooled over them in pictures. Bob Grossman lent me his many years ago, and in fact it prompted me to buy the “grandson” of that car a few years later, a 250GT Ferrari Lusso. Motor Trend Magazine named the 250 Ferrari Short Wheelbase Berlinetta the 5th greatest Ferrari of all time. Just last week another Ferrari, a GTO model, broke all car auction records when it sold for $52 million. The 250 Berlinetta is not far behind. Anyway, when this car pulled onto the grass, I was both stunned and delighted to see it and knew it could only be driven by Herb Wetanson. If you look up “world class car enthusiasts” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Herb. As an aside, 30 years ago I accidently broke the driver’s door lock of Herb’s spanking new Ferrari Daytona when I was making a presentation to write and direct a series of television commercials for his company, the Wetson Hamburger chain. I got the assignment. Herb’s been a gentlemen to this day, and has owned every car imaginable.

There were many other very interesting and beautiful cars at the event. Peter Larkin of Bridgehampton was there with his French blue Bugatti Type 37 race car that had the patina of a car that had raced the 24 hours of LeMans many times. Ed Boyd of Southold had one of his two 300SL Gullwings in attendance. Like Dick Roth, he has owned the car for 49 years. Wow, these German cars have a long life.

Other interesting cars included Barry Rice’s Lotus Eleven race car. It was a replica, but so what? It was downright beautiful, and could not be told apart from the real thing. There were several Morgans, all looking very British, and a few new Mini Coopers pretending they were vintage cars but fooling no one. Hank Senkel brought his rarely seen Lancia Fulvia, a great affordable Italian classic.

This was a great car event for car enthusiasts. If you missed it, make sure you attend next year.

Bob Gelber Classic Cars
Bob Gelber (right) at the Bridgehampton Historical Museum

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