Cumberland 1962, Five Ferrari SWBs

by David N. Seielstad

Marlboro, Maryland
April, 1962

The Ferrari SWBs of Bob Grossman (# 90) and Charlie Hayes (# 7)
lead the Corvette 327 of Dick Thompson in the early laps of the AP race.
A few weeks later at Cumberland, the order would be reversed.

(photo courtesy of David N. Seielstad)

Road racing had a continuous tradition in Europe from 1894. Winning drivers were lionized and treated like rock stars. The United States also experienced road racing from 1895 until 1920. On both sides of the Atlantic manufacturers built racing cars to compete in these events. After 1920 U.S. racing became a specialized oval track affair and manufacturers concentrated on utilitarian or luxury, coach built vehicles. In Europe the tradition of racing, taxation and the economics resulted in small engine, but nimble cars

Hence, when road racing was revived in the U.S at Watkins Glen in 1948 there were no American made cars to race. The race cars were all imported. In Europe racing was structured around open wheel formula cars, touring cars and racing cars which were usually open two seaters. These cars were generally classed by engine size and races were organized for each type. When the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) entered the racing game in 1948 it took a slightly different approach. Cars were divided between production and modified and classed based on “performance” as much as engine displacement.

Production cars were called touring cars in Europe while modified meant sports racing. There were many European marques with long histories of competition; Mercedes, Bugatti, Jaguar, MG, Alfa Romeo and Maserati just to name a few. After the war one new Italian venture named after its founder, Enzo Ferrari, appeared on the scene. Ferrari had grown up at Alfa Romeo racing then managing the racing team before he struck out on his own.

Enzo Ferrari
1898 - 1988

Ferrari automobiles quickly gained renown as successful racing cars by winning the grand classic open road races and endurance contests such as the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, Spa 24 hours and Le Mans 24 hours. Wealthy individuals with a passion for racing began importing Ferraris for SCCA races. The SCCA considered most of these as “modified.”

Ferraris competed successfully in SCCA races winning the main events and taking class wins in EM, DM, CM. Until the mid 1950s the SCCA only recognized a few Ferrari as “production.”

While Ferrari was making a name as the car to win SCCA races, Detroit started to flirt with the concept of an American “sports car.” GM launched the Corvette in 1953 and Ford followed with the Thunderbird in 1955. The first Corvettes were sneered at by the sports car set for the six cylinder engine and slush box transmission. The Thunderbird did not do much better. It was a heavy floundering brakeless whale on the track. Ford did not pursue its sports car. After three years it became a four seater. At Chevrolet Zora Duntov was pushing for a real competition car. In 1955 a light 265 cid V8 appeared, but the best transmission was still a three speed. The Corvette started to gain respect as a street and race car. The SCCA classified the Corvette as CP with the 265 and BP with the four speed, 283 cid in 1957 while the Ferrari 250 GT (180 cid) was CP so they did not actually race against each other. Besides Ferrari GT cars were very few while 283 Corvettes began to fill up grids.

In the late 1950s races between BP Corvettes and CP Ferraris, the Ferrari generally eked out the overall win. CP was dominated by Jaguar XK 120s and the Mercedes Benz 300SL, but in 1956 a dentist from Washington, D.C., Dr. Richard Thompson won CP with a Corvette 265. The larger engine Corvettes dominated BP from 1957 until 1964, while Ferrari captured CP in 1958 -59.

In October 1959, at the Paris Salon, Ferrari unveiled a new 250 GT which had a shorter wheelbase, more powerful 180 cid engine, disk brakes all around and tubular shocks. The SCCA did not recognize this new Ferrari as “production” so the few which appeared in the US had to run as DM with the sports racing cars. Three of the new Ferrari berlinettas ran at Sebring in March 1960 and Ed Hugus raced one (1785) at Cumberland in May coming home 80A DM3. In early 1961 the SCCA classed the new Ferrari as AP along with the Aston Martin DB 4 GT and sensational new Jaguar E Type.

The first Ferrari 250 GT SWB, Chassis No. 1539
Introduced at the Paris Salon, 1959

(photo courtesy of David N. Seielstad)

Aston Martin had no following in the US and the E Type did not live up to its potential, but the Ferrari, called in the U.S., the short wheelbase berlinetta (SWB), was a winner right out of the box. All three of these marques were technically superior to the Corvette with light frames, disk brakes all around, responsive steering and light bodies. The Aston and Jaguar were DOHC inline sixes while the Ferrari was a SOHC V 12 all with multiple Weber carburetors. The Corvette, even the fuel injected 283, continued in BP with drum brakes and antiquated suspension.

When the BP Corvettes and AP SWB Ferrari met the racing was close. In head to head meetings in 1961 it was SWB six vs Corvette three for first overall. At the end of the season Thompson was national BP champion with 50 points while Bob Grossman, Charlie Hayes and Bob Hathaway tied as national AP champions at 10 points each. The reason for the low points in AP was that SCCA required at least three cars for a class. At eight of the 12 national races there were no AP points awarded. The situation was so dire that Grossman would bring two or three cars to the track in hopes of selling two so that there would be a class. This strategy worked at four races.

For 1962 GM unveiled its new Corvette the 283 was replaced with a fuel injected 327 cid. With brake and suspension improvements the new Corvette was moved into AP. The stage was set, old Europe against America. The $5,000 5.6 liter 360 hp ‘Vette vs the $13,000 3.0 liter 290 hp SWB Ferrari. Did America have a real sports car at last? Let the racing begin.

The first meeting was at Daytona in January 1962. AP and BP were lumped with CM, DM, EM and FM race cars. The first five positions were dominated by Maserati T61, Chaparral, RS 61, Lister Corvette and another RS Porsche. In sixth and first AP was Doug Thiem driving the SWB which the Rodriguez brothers had used to win the Paris 1000 km the previous fall. Dick Thompson was 70A and AP2 with his 327 Corvette.

The next encounter was at Marlboro in April. This time there were three SWBs facing seven AP Corvettes and one E Type. At the start Hayes leaped in front with Thompson and Grossman close behind. On lap 2 Thompson took the lead. On lap five Grossman passed Hayes and set out after Thompson. Hayes retired two laps later in a cloud of oil smoke and protested Grossman for pushing him into a spin. On lap 17 Thompson’s fuel injection drive sheared and he coasted to a halt in the toe of the Boot. Grossman went on to win followed by Don Yenko with a BP Corvette. Ben Moore in 4th was the first AP Corvette home followed by Thiem in his SWB. The stewards did not uphold Hayes’ protest because they could find no evidence of contact on either car.

Years later Bob Grossman, chuckling, told me that he had “popped” Hayes in the Hairpin and sent him over revving. He said that he hit Hayes on the left rear hub with his front right. Because only the hub nuts touched there was no body damage.

At VIR Grossman was all alone against seven AP Corvettes. Thompson led from the start, then was passed by Grossman on the ninth lap. Thompson repassed on the 17th lap when Grossman pitted. He had been disqualified for passing Thompson under a yellow flag. Thompson went on to win the race.

So the SCCA AP contingent arrived at Cumberland in May 1962. This time five SWB appeared. As far as the author knows this is the most SWB Ferrari to race in the same event in the US. Thiem had his ex Rodriguez 3005, Grossman had his 1961 LM 60A 2731, Hayes had his two year old 2237, Chuck Dietrich drove Dr. Baxter’s 3327 and Allan Wylie entered the ex Denise McCluggage, Sebring GTIII winner, 1931.

Cumberland Nationals, Race No.9 - B, A Production
May 13, 1962

The front row (from left) was the #11 Corvette of Dick Thompson,
alongside the Ferrari SWBs of Bob Grossman (# 90) and Charlie Hayes (# 7).

(photo courtesy of

Opposed to the Ferrari were nine 327 Corvettes and one E Type. By this time the the AP race was over shadowing the all modified Main race as the most exciting event at SCCA meetings.

Thompson won the drag race to the first corner and held Grossman at bay for the rest of the race. Hayes pushed Grossman, but was unable to pass. Yenko (BP) dropped out and the race ended up Thompson 327 1st, Grossman, Hayes SWBs 2nd and 3rd, Lang and Moore with 327s next followed by Dietrich and Thiem AP6 and AP7. Ralph Sayer was next and the first BP Corvette in 8OA. Wylie finished 17th AP11.

Thompson leads Grossman and Hayes through the Esses
1962 Cumberland Nationals

(photo from Today's Motorsport August 1962)

After Cumberland, Thompson bested the Ferrari wherever they met. SWBs won at Lime Rock, Thompson and Road America, but Thompson did not contest these and two were very tight courses unsuited for the 327.

At the end of the season the AP standings were: Thompson 70 points Thiem 56 points Grossman 36 Points Lang (327) 24 points

In 1963 Carroll Shelby unleashed his 289 Ford Cobra and blew away both the 327 Corvette and the new Ferrari 250 GTO. Cumberland 1962 remains the high water mark for the 250 SWB Ferrari in U.S. Racing.

********** ADDITIONAL MATERIALS **********

1961 FERRARI 250 SWB




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