Classic cars shine at Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
Revving up the engine of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix every year is a task that requires the skill of a race driver, as well as those of a mechanic.
Executive director Dan Delbianco says he realizes he has to keep the grand prix centered on the two days of racing at Schenley Park and classic cars that draw thousands of fans. But he knows life sometimes hinges on change.
“You're just always looking for some kind of event that will fit in and yet give the grand prix a new look,” he says.
This year, the grand prix will present Cars & Guitars, an evening of music at the Hard Rock Cafe in the South Side, as a new element to what has become a 10-day festival of cars, their owners and the roads they travel.
Delbianco hopes Cars & Guitars is greeted with the same enthusiasm that met the Countryside Tour, a Thursday afternoon trip through some of the area's back roads. That event had its first running in 2012. It was sold out about a month in advance for 2013.
The grand prix is focused on two days of qualifying and racing at Schenley Park on July 20 and 21. Those days also feature a display of the marque car, the honored vehicle, which this year is the Ford Mustang. The display will feature more than 300 Mustangs in various forms, from the dark-green fastback from the film “Bullitt,” to the classic Shelby Mustang with its Cobra nameplate.
Preliminary events, however, began July 7 and continue to build this week with car shows, parades and social events.
The grand prix is in its 31st year and has raised $3.2 million for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Valley School. Delbianco says the grand prix raised $250,000 in 2012, its best year, and he hopes to top that figure this year.
Handling all the aspects of the grand prix is not always easy. Delbianco is constantly looking for someone in the ranks of planners who will be enthusiastic enough about some grand prix event to make it fly.
“You have to have someone who wants to own the event,” he says.
That ownership took place last year, he says, when Bud Osbourne of the Greater Pittsburgh MG Club took charge of the Countryside Ride and made it into a success — even though it is on a midweek afternoon.
He thinks the leadership of Paul MacIntyre will give Cars & Guitars the same success.
MacIntyre, a member of the operating committee of the grand prix, says he suggested Cars & Guitars both as a way of perhaps attracting some younger participants to the grand prix and as a fun outing for volunteers.
“The volunteers have been going crazy for weeks, and this will give them a way to relax a little,” MacIntyre, a White Oak resident.
He says he was helped along greatly when he talked to the band Tres Lads, and “within 48 hours” the band had three other groups agreeing to play — Nina & Nick, Bobby Kellar and Blake & Dean.
The grand prix had a concert event about eight years ago, MacIntyre says, but “logistical issues” kept it from returning.
But cars are the centerpiece of the grand prix, and Delbianco is enthusiastic about the Mustang being the marque this year. Since the car's emergence in 1964, he says, the Mustang has taken so many shapes and forms, it has created a varied world of admirers.
Dan Taylor, a member of the grand prix board who led the Mustang push, agrees.
“The Mustang is the sports car for the working man,” says Taylor, who is from Grove City, Mercer County. “It is affordable, but you can then make it what you want it to be. It is an affordable sports car.”
When the Mustang was introduced in 1964, its base price was $2,368, the manufacturer says, and that reasonable price led to 418,000 sales in the first year — then a record.
The Mustang was the heart of the racing Mach I and has gone through many stylistic revisions over the years. Taylor has four of them: two Mach I's, a Mustang GT and a Boss Laguna Seca, named after the California raceway.
Taylor is a representative of the Neighborhood Ford Store, a cooperative promotional venture for 81 Ford dealers in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and the panhandles of West Virginia and Maryland.
He looks at the grand-prix event as a “great way to celebrate the car.”
For Delbianco, though, it is simply part of a bigger celebration.
“Everybody's been scrambling,” he says of all the work for the event. “Now, it's nice to see things happening.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.