Going Vintage: Making the Switch from SCCA to Vintage Racing


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Story by James Heine • Photos as Credited

This MGA has seen the racing world from both sides now. Since purchasing it back in 1979, Kent Prather has driven it to eight SCCA Club Racing national championships. In 2010, however, he moved the car over to vintage racing.

We caught up with Kent shortly after The Hawk International Challenge with Brian Redman. We wanted to know about his connection to vintage motorsports as well as the differences he’s observed between SCCA Club Racing at its highest levels and vintage racing–whether at The Hawk, Monterey, Indianapolis, the Mitty or another venue.

“After the Runoffs left Heartland Park in 2010, I bought my Mazda Miata. Over the winter, I made the MGA a vintage [race] car,” Kent explains. “But we had an MGB [for vintage racing] before that, and we’ve been servicing vintage customers for 20–maybe 25–years.”

Prather’s introduction to vintage racing came by way of Vintage Racing Services in Stratford, Connecticut. In the 1980s, the shop tagged Kent for engine work and race support. He also supported their Carrera Panamerica effort, where he was partnered with a pair of Colgate Palmolive executives running the race in a Volvo P444. (His assessment of the great Mexican road race: “It’s grueling and expensive. But it’s something that you’ll never forget.”)

As for the differences–or similarities–between SCCA Club Racing and vintage racing, Kent offers these observations.

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At the SCCA Majors level–and especially the Runoffs–the difference between a vintage racing weekend, even one as large as The Hawk, and a national SCCA event is one of intensity.

“You can feel the intensity in the air [at an SCCA race],” Prather says. “At a vintage race, it’s not so intense. Because there’s no impound at the end of a race, you don’t actually get to hang around with your competitors and talk with them, or swear at them, or whatever it is you might do in impound. That’s something you have to get used to. You come off the track and just go back to the paddock.”

The downside to that MO: Sometimes it’s hard to actually meet your competitors, he adds.

A second difference is track time. Generally, there’s more of it at vintage events. While the races are shorter–maybe eight laps for a vintage race instead of 20 during an SCCA contest–there are more sessions. Even at an event as large as The Hawk, Kent says, “you’re out on the track for three days. If you do a test day, you’re out there four days.” The SCCA, on the other hand, rents tracks in a way that makes two-day events more typical.

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People are friendly in both SCCA racing and vintage racing, Kent acknowledges, but in vintage racing, drivers often appear less aggressive. In SCCA Club Racing, a competitor might make a last-corner, high-risk move that boots you out of the race. That almost never happens in vintage racing, Kent explains.

“In SCCA, a driver will try an uncalculated move and then not apologize for it afterwards, whereas in vintage racing, the person that hit me would be mortified.”

What does Kent see for vintage racing down the road, say, in the next 10 years?

“We are getting older, and I think the younger bunch hasn’t caught on quite as much,” he says about the demographics of vintage motorsports. “I think there are so many different opportunities for young people in racing that they may not be that interested in these old cars.

“We went to Schwarz’s [in St. Anna, Wisconsin] a couple of years back and were hanging around the bar. Just for fun, I went from person to person and asked, ‘Hey, are you going to the races in Elkhart Lake?’ Some said yes and some said no. I said, ‘Well, come check me out. I’m driving an MGA.’ And they all said, ‘What?’ In the entire bar, none of those kids knew what an MGA was.”

So what’s the thrill to fix up an MGA or an MGB or a Sprite or another car for the younger generation? Kent wonders.

“I’d say in 10 years’ time we may lose quite a few of our older people who have restored these expensive Can-Am cars and expensive Formula 5000s and Mustangs and Trans-Am cars. I’m hoping not. Our age group, even in SCCA, is getting older, and we’re not doing the best job we can in either venue to recruit new enthusiasts.”

Still, Kent has always been a positive thinker, and he remains positive about vintage motorsports. “I’m cautiously optimistic,” he says. “We’re certainly going to do our part to maintain it and keep it going.”

Making the Transition

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Moving Prather’s MGA From SCCA to Vintage Involved Less Work Than You Think

So, what did it take for Kent Prather to convert his venerable 1962 MGA from the SCCA’s G Production, where it has run for years, to vintage racing specifications? Actually, not much, says the eight-time SCCA Runoffs champion.

“This is a famous car, and most groups allow the car as-is. SVRA may not, but most groups do, because it is, indeed, a historic vintage car,” Kent explains. “When I race it vintage–and I still race it [with the] SCCA sometimes–I make sure there are very few stickers on it.”

That’s pretty much the extent of the SCCA-to-vintage conversion story, says Kent, who took the MGA to the SCCA’s Runoffs 25 times between 1984 and 2008.

In addition to spiffing up the car’s exterior, Kent also cleaned up and detailed the cockpit. “As far as having to take off flares and redo suspension components, etc., because of the prominence of the car and the fact that the car has evolved–this car started racing in 1963, and it’s always been on the track every year since 1963–they allow it as it exists today,” he says of most vintage organizing bodies.

“What would you do with Paul Newman’s Can-Am car? Or Jackie Stewart’s 1972 Lola T260?” he asks. “It shouldn’t have anything done to it. It should be exactly like it was. So that’s the way this car is.”


This article is from a past issue of the magazine. Like stories like this? You’ll see every article as soon as it's published, and get access to our full digital archive, by subscribing to Classic Motorsports. Subscribe now.

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Comments
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johnstydo
johnstydo
3/6/19 10:05 a.m.

This MGA is nice but doesn't comply with vintage club rules for "period correct" production cars.  Would have to be in a "modified" class. 

Donatello
Donatello New Reader
3/6/19 11:02 a.m.

Perhaps more young people would be interested in vintage racing if it were clear that any car older than 25 years and generally period correct would be welcome. I am also interested in making the switch to vintage in my 30 year old car, but I am receiving mixed messages about how elligible a 1989 model would be. I think it's cool that people like Kent race the old stuff, but that is not where my interests are, and I know I am not alone in saying this.

russellsifers
russellsifers None
3/6/19 2:45 p.m.

I do not race but I do "run" my stock 1949 MG TC at the Lake Garnett Grand Prix Revival (www.LGGPR.org) every year in the Historic Group.  It is quite a thrill for a 71 year old guy to run a 70 year old MG and speeds up to 72 mph.  I do ponder who will maintain the breed after I am gone.

jwr914
jwr914 New Reader
3/6/19 7:51 p.m.

The first thing I look for when someone tells me their car is period correct is a working horn.  Never find one.

 

GregAmy
GregAmy New Reader
3/8/19 8:53 p.m.

Nice post, well done.

I'm making this transition now myself, from "srs bzns" (as-much-as 30 years or more SCCA Club Racing) to historic/vintage in a 914.

For me, the biggest part is mental, tightening that nnut behind the wheel; like Ken writes, managing the "intensity". My trick is to sit on the grid, under the five, and just look around me and tell myself, for example, "I am *not* going to be the guy that takes out that absolutely gorgeous E-type. He's buying the beer tonight, and I ain't'a gonna piss him off..."

wspohn
wspohn Dork
3/13/19 3:10 p.m.
jwr914 said:

The first thing I look for when someone tells me their car is period correct is a working horn.  Never find one.

 

My race car had one - hooked up to the brake light switch.  A tap on the horn as you are going into the tight hairpin turn with an adversary right on your ass seems to miraculously open up some space between you. Have to do it about where he'd expect you to start braking though......;-)

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