VotW – Chimney Rock Hill Climb

Our video this week is a great period piece celebrating the Chimney Rock Hillclimb which ran in North Carolina for approximately four decades.

Chimney Rock Hill Climb circa 1960The Chimney Rock Hillclimb was the most legendary hillclimb in the South. Held in Chimney Rock, North Carolina, it was a rite of spring for both drivers and spectators. Beginning in 1956 when sports cars and sports car racing was still in its infancy, the climb challenged Triumphs, Jaguars, MG’s and their drivers to a high-speed rollercoaster ride that scared even the most fearless. With two miles of hairpins and switchbacks and trees for guard rails, it was an event to behold. Sadly the challenge to the mountain came to an end as a result of “changing times”. In 1995 “the Rock” fell asleep again.

 

 

To quote the Chimney Rock website

Engines roared. Tires squealed. Knuckles faded to white. The pungent smell of fuel hung thick in the air.

It was 1956 and the Park became a race track. They called it the Chimney Rock Hillclimb, and it tore up the tortuous, nearly two-mile road with more than a hint of danger. Pitted against the clock, drivers ran point-to-point in as little as 110 seconds.

It all began when some fellow who just loved to drive—drive fast, that is—came to the Park and inquired, “Hey, can we run up that road?” What started as a lark grew into an annual event for the Sports Car Club of America and just kept getting bigger. (Even a few NASCAR drivers entered in its final years.)

Race fan Jennifer Francis recalls working the Climb as a girl with her mom, uncle and aunt, where they kept time, recorded scores and even put out a few fires on the Climb’s well-known hairpin curves. “These drivers all did other races, but this one was special,” she says. “Chimney Rock is beautiful, and it’s a lot more scenic than a race track.” Francis remembers the best part of the day was the final ride back down the mountain, when spectators could hop in with their favorite drivers and zip back to the starting line, flags flying from the winning cars.

The Hillclimb endured for 50 runs. A shift of priorities and a growing Park brought the race to an end in 1995, but the exciting memories linger.

For the full article on the hillclimb, check out the article, “King of the Hill” by Bryan Sullivan. which originally appeared in “Our State” magazine.

Michael Carnell
Editor at Just British
Michael Carnell is the editor and founder of the Just British Online Motoring Magazine. As a lifelong British car enthusiast, he has owned or driven British cars of all ages from Austins and MGs to Jaguars and Triumphs. He currently owns a 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100 and a 1977 MGB. But there is always room for more - no matter what his wife says.

5 Comments

  1. I went for years.The hillclimb was probably only second to Pikes Peak.It is a shame the fans became so rowdy but the officials could have stopped the alcohol and everything would have been fine. That was the reason it was closed.It was the official opening of the Hill annually and a real challenge.

  2. Think I got the ‘friendship trophy’. Don’t remember what year. Always
    fun – went with my friends Smokey Drolet and Frank Harrison. Beautiful
    country.

  3. I had a car entered in the climb from 1959 until about 1969. I spotted myself at about the 7:25 minute mark and my car, a Mistral Triumph, competing at about the 11:19 minute mark. After the Triumph, I entered a Cobra with John Scott driving. It won 3 times and held the course record for several years. The racing didn’t stop because of rowdy crowds, it was because Norman Greig, the park owner, decided it was time to develop the land and sell lots on the hill. He can be seen at about the 12:05 minute mark.

  4. WHO WON 1956 RACE FROM A STORY TOLD BY JOHNNY BOLLINGER WHO WAS LOCAL CHEV PARTS MANAGER WHEN I WAS A KID HE SAID HE TOOK THE FIRST V8 CORVETTE AND WON THE RACE. HE SAID HE DID NOT STAY FOR FOLLOWING EVENTS HE SAID HE LOADED HIS CAR ON HIS TRAILER AND WENT HOME TO CONCORD,N.C. HE SAID MOST IF NOT ALL THE CARS WERE FOREIGN SPORTS CAR. HE WAS A INTERESTING AND A COLORFUL GENTLEMAN TO SAY THE LEAST. IF ANYONE HAS ANY INFORMATION ON THIS PLEASE GIVE ME A CALL. 704-782-7716. THANK YOU, JIMMY MORRISON

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