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As we have seen, Studebaker designer and part time photographer Bob Temple recorded sports car events at the Studebaker Proving Grounds and the Press on Regardless Rally in the early 1950s. Temple also went out west, and was there with Kodachrome for the Palm Springs races on March 22, 1952. Most remarkably, Jim Sitz was there as well and recorded all the cars on his invaluable set of index cards. He was therefore able to identify and comment on the cars and the personalities at the race. Our thanks to both the late Bob Temple and the very much still alive Jim Sitz.
Photos by Bob Temple courtesy Vintage Motorphoto
Story and captions by Jim Sitz
I had the good fortune to attend the March 22, 1952 event at Palm Springs, California. The photographs were taken by Bob Temple. I also had attended earlier events there in April and October of 1951.
The April 1951 event featured Jim Kimberly’s Ferrari 166 Barchetta and a young mechanic named Phil Hill, who drove his old Alfa 2.9. What a car! What a sound! The memory of Hill’s Alfa prompted me to follow his career. Race fans also saw and heard a Ferrari V-12 for first time on west coast.
On October 28, 1951, there was a bitter battle between the Barlow SIMCA and the John von Neumann MG Special. Phil Hill’s brother-in-law, Don Parkinson, won in his own Jaguar Special.
In 1951, the Cunningham cars, which had run at Le Mans that year, were sold to local California customers. All three team cars were driven across the States in November after Briggs’ shop had reconditioned them. In 1952, Briggs had trouble with the IRS and had to sell some cars to make his operation in Palm Springs look like a real business. Irving Robbins drove a Black Cunningham, which he crashed at Torrey Pines in December.
My friend, Jack McAfee, collected three trophies that weekend with the Siata 1400 roadster, the Jag XK 120, and his fast, noisy, supercharged MG Special. The MG was the famous number 88 which John Edgar had spent so much money on. John could have had a Ferrari; he got one later when he bought a 340 America from Henry Manney in 1952. Henry had scared himself in the big Ferrari.
Celebrities at the Palm Springs Races
Clark Gable was the man who bought the first Jag XK 120 out here (Bogie was not amused to lose out.) Gable was the starter for the 1952 Palm Springs races.
Keenan Wynn, son of comedian Ed Wynn, had driven his Type 57 Bugatti from New York to Hollywood in 1947. In 1950 he bought an Alfa 2300 from Tommy Lee and ran the first Palm Springs with full body. He made the Alfa into a hot rod with a Cadillac motor, which Tom Bamford drove in 1951 and 1952. Actor Frank Lovejoy was with him at the 1952 event.
Ranald “Randy” MacDougall was a screenwriter who got Oscar for script of Mildred Pierce and shared screenwriting credit for 1963’s Cleopatra. He also directed a number of films, including 1957’s Man on Fire with Bing Crosby. He raced an MG TD and the first OSCA in California, and then 1953 new Ferrari 166/53 Vignale painted red and black. He was married to star Nanette Fabray.