5 things not to miss at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix traditionally honors one make of car as its Marque of the Year during the world-class summer motorsport event held in and around Schenley Park in Oakland.
For this year’s 37th PVGP through July 21, benefiting the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Merakey Allegheny Valley School, the celebrated marque will be Shelby and Mustang – and Jason Uhler of McCandless couldn’t be happier.
Back to the ’60s
He’s been a member of the Greater Pittsburgh Mustang Club since before he was old enough to drive, attending car events with his parents, also fans of the cool cars of the 1960s. His Shelby GT350 – one of several classics and sports cars he owns – was selected as this year’s PVGP poster spotlight car.
In conjunction with PVGP Marque of the Year festivities, the grand marshal of the PVGP parade on July 21 will be Chuck Cantwell, who developed the iconic muscle car GT350 as project engineer for Carroll Shelby.
The Shelby American Automobile Club and Team Shelby will hold their national convention for the first time on the East Coast at the PVGP on July 11-13 at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Beaver County. Uhler, who is managing the Marque activities, says it doesn’t take much convincing to “sell” the PVGP to car enthusiasts.
“This is the best car event in western Pennsylvania for sure – maybe all of Pennsylvania,” he says. “Where else can you see 3,000 cars displayed on a golf course – and more cars racing all around you? And a lot of these cars don’t come to local car cruises; they’re unique to the Vintage Grand Prix.”
Family of vintage racers
Among the vintage race car drivers competing in PVGP races will be Jim Dolan, formerly of Fox Chapel, now of Naples, Fla. He’ll be racing in his Ford GT40 and Shelby Cobra. His three sons, Brian, Charlie and Peter, of Pittsburgh, will join in.
Jim Dolan, who has been racing vintage cars since the 1990s, has found the sport to be even more special with his sons, who all attended racing school and tend to “beat up on their dad on the race course – they’re faster than me,” he says.
“It’s about the cars and the history, and celebrating the time and place in America and world motorsport that was the last before the age of electronics.”
At age 36, Brian Dolan, the oldest of his brothers that race, says that besides the historical aspect of vintage racing, he and his siblings also are competitive among themselves.
“It’s all of that, but there’s bragging rights at the end of the season – and another whole year until you can beat me,” he says.
At least a few of Brian’s seven children, ages 1 ½ to 12, are into vintage racing like their dad. Even his youngest son, while still a toddler, shows interest.
“He’ll be in a race car the first day he can,” Brian says. “He’s already behind the wheel driving – just not with the engine on.”
New model debut
Dan DelBianco, executive director of PVGP, says that in addition to vintage Shelby models at the show, “Ford Motorsport is bringing in the new 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 with 760 horsepower. It roars like nothing you have ever heard before!”
The 2019 PVGP also will mark the return of a 1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM with a unique history.
“It was raced by Juan Manuel Fangio at the 1953 24 hours of Le Mans, and later it was owned by Argentine President Juan Peron,” says DelBianco. “Eventually it was purchased by noted Alfa Romeo collector H.W. Wessells, who raced it through Schenley Park in 1984 where he totaled the car!”
It has been fully restored and will be featured at the 2019 Alfa Romeo Owners Convention being hosted at the PVGP’s Italian Cortile on the Schenley golf course.
DelBianco says Race Weekend at Schenley Park is the ideal family outing because it’s free to the public and it has something for everybody.
“Dad can watch the races and browse the car shows or even shop for a new car with mom; there are 17 automobile manufacturers represented,” he says. “There are activities for the youngsters in the Ford Kids Tent and a Vendor Village for mom. It really is a family-friendly environment.”
5 things not to miss at the PVGP
1. Roberto Clemente’s MVP ‘trophy’ car: One of the special vehicles on display at Schenley Park will be the 1972 Dodge Charger that was awarded to Pittsburgh Pirates superstar Roberto Clemente as MVP of the 1971 World Series.
The restored vehicle is being brought north from Daytona, Fla., where it is a permanent fixture in the showroom at Randy Dye’s Dodge dealership. The Charger is only uncovered on the 21st of each month, according to the dealer, in honor of Clemente’s player number.
It will be parked at the entrance to the American Car Show on Schenley Drive during Race Weekend. Clemente’s former teammate and Pirates announcer Steve Blass will make an appearance from 1-2:30 p.m. on July 20.
2. ‘Passport to Elegance’ airport party: Not all of the action at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is on the race track. This is the third year the PGVP is hosting its “Passport to Elegance” Jet Center Party at the Lynx Jet Center at Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.
DelBianco says the premier event from 6-10 p.m. July 18 will feature museum-quality concours cars and historic aircraft displayed “at an amazing party in a unique location. This year we have a P-51 Mustang fighter plane that will appear beside the new Ford Shelby GT350 and GT500.”
The exclusive party includes food and wine pairings and live music. Tickets in advance are $375 each.
3. Cool cars in the city: As many as 100 race and show cars will parade from Station Square into downtown Pittsburgh to car displays at U.S. Steel Plaza, PPG Place, Market Square and Point State Park from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. July 17 as part of PVGP’s Downtown Parade and Car Display.
Spectators are welcome to view the cars for free; it’ll cost $10 to participate in the parade and car display.
4. Tune-up party at Heinz Field: Race cars, exotics and show cars will be displayed on the plazas around Heinz Field and down on the Riverwalk when PVGP’s Tune-up Party returns to the North Shore stadium from 6-9 p.m. July 17.
Also being shown are Marque of the Year Shelbys and Mustangs and Spotlight cars from Alfa Romeo, as well as new cars from Maserati, Bentley, BMW, MINI and more. Attendees can bring their own cars to be part of the show; advance registration is required.
5. International car show: Hundreds of classic, antique and exotic makes and models will make up the International Car Show at Schenley Park July 20-21 on the Bob O’Connor Golf Course.
From British Car Day and the Italian “Cortile” Car Show to Shelby and Mustang Marque of the Year cars and a Cars ‘N’ Coffee exotic car display, there will be so many cars to see while vintage racers compete on the Schenley Park track. A food courtyard and vendor village add to the fun.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.