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One and Only 2020 Completion - Pikes Peak Hillclimb Toronado


Danno
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The one and only model I managed to get to the finish line in 2020 . . . although many started, all were DNFs except this one.

My club - Cactus Car Modelers - had an interesting challenge. A member donated a boatload of old glue bombs to the club; each member was allowed to pick two of them but was responsible for restoring/rebuilding at least one of them for a judged showdown a few months later.

I was fortunate enough to get a '67 Toronado. I immediately knew what I would do with it.  In '67 General Motors promoted its new front-wheel-drive Oldsmobile Toronado by providing two of them to two veteran Pikes Peak Hill Climb competitors. One of the recipients of the cars (and all-in engineering and monetary support from GM) was Nick Sanborn, a local racer who had won a couple of stock car championships at the Peak already. Sanborn ran the big GM car up the hill fast enough to win the overall championship that year.

My grandfather knew Sanborn well. As a local law enforcement officer, he frequently chased Sanborn around the mountain roads near Pikes Peak whenever Sanborn took one of his race cars out on the public roads for "testing."

Years later, I became a race official at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Nick Sanborn was still very involved in the race (although no longer competing) as a senior race official. I came to know him even better than my grandfather had.

So, the gluebomb Jo-Han Toronado became a replica of Nick's championship factory-backed Toronado race car. 

This was back in the day. The cars were truly factory stock cars with race modifications, not one-off fabricated suggestions. The bumpers were fiberglass replicas sprayed silver. The interior was gutted but for a roll bar and a single bucket seat, racing harness, and shifter. I ground off the dashboard trim, radio, and instruments and replaced them with a flat aluminum plate and array of round Stewart-Warner gauges. The kit's wheels were replaced with Toronado wheels from an MPC kit and some heavy duty snow tires from the parts box supported all four corners. The decals were home-made by sourcing various logos online, and the numbers are gold-foil provided by a friend and his ALPS printer. 

It was a fun build!  Thanks for looking.

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PS: I never saw the 1:1 car compete . . . I was too young when it ran. 

PPS: The other competitor who was given a factory ride was Louis Unser. A third Toronado ran that year but it was privately fielded and had none of the blessings of GM's largess.  

 

 

Sanborn 99 PPHC 67.JPG

Sanborn 99 PPHC 67b.JPG

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Thank you, Nigel, David, Chris, Gerard, and Bob!  I appreciate your comments. The pix were quickies - before polishing out a couple of overspray spots that didn't seem as noticeable until posted on the 'big screen.'  LOL.  [Fixed, by the way.]

Here's one of the photos I used as reference. It shows the Toronado at work!

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99 in the Ws.jpg

Edited by Danno
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On my many visit's to Pikes Peak over the years I only once had a chance to stop by the museum. Is this a replica of Toronado  in the museum?

 

 

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1 hour ago, Bowtienutz said:

On my many visit's to Pikes Peak over the years I only once had a chance to stop by the museum. Is this a replica of Toronado  in the museum?

 

 

The museum (before it closed) had more authentic vehicles in its inventory than it could display at one time. So, they rotated some of the displays. I don't recall which version of the Toronado may have been on display.  There were three cars of the 66-68 body style, then another friend of mine, Frank Peterson, campaigned an updated '70 Toronado later.

One of the interesting things about the Sanborn Toronado is that he was not the first driver behind the wheel of the car on the Peak.  The first was Bobby Unser.  Oldsmobile hired Bobby to help them shake down the Toronado in final development and race preparation. The car was fresh from the factory with a stop at the GM Proving Grounds garage in Manitou Springs, CO near Pikes Peak. The car was solid maroon (factory) and had no markings. GM rented Pikes Peak for testing (common practice among big buck manufacturers), and Bobby ran the Toronado up the hill several times. He gave the engineers suggestions and feedback which they employed in further developing the car. His times were close but slightly slower than the 1966 stock car winner.

PS: The 'red' color of the Sanborn car was the remaining factory maroon. It was over-layed with white on the sides and blue along the rocker panels. The white was chosen to assure that sponsorship and advertising lettering would stand out. The result was an all-American red, white, and blue scheme.

Bobby's contracts and scheduling prevented him from driving the car in the upcoming 1967 Hill Climb. That's when GM tapped Sanborn, who received a new car with the changes Unser recommended. The Unser car was handed off to another driver and competed in the same maroon finish.

Sanborn was no slouch, having won the stock car class in 1965 in a hemi Plymouth. Also, one of the development engineers involved in the effort was famed driver/engineer/manager John Fitch (of Corvair and Corvette fame).

In the '67 race, Nick Sanborn proved the Toronado to be a viable and formidable competitor by winning not only the stock car class, but the overall race (beating all other classes, too). 

 

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Edited by Danno
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Really like the model and the story as I was not aware that there were Toronado hill climb race cars. I thought for a longtime they would be good racing up hill until I was told the slope of the hill shifts the weight of the car towards the rear. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Fantastic build, story, and personal connection, @Danno!

While "This is not your father's Oldsmobile", it sure was destined to make it into your loving hands.

Incase I missed it mentioned above, have you considered showing/presenting the finished model to the Pike's Peak Historical Society? Looks like they'll open up in the springtime, as restrictions lift, and I'm sure they'd LOVE to display this beauty!

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I've been remiss; sorry!

Thanks for the generous comments, Vince, Bruce, David, Carl, Joe, Larry, Phil, Jim, Tom, and Stef!!! Very much appreciated.

David, I view this model as a tribute to not only Nick (he was a HELL of a driver and knew Pikes Peak like only a handful of men ever did), but also a tribute to the GM engineering and racing effort that put such a big-azz car on top of the mountain faster than anybody else that year! Keep in mind a couple of the classes were lightweight, open wheel, purpose-built race cars with big engines! 

And, I consider this model to also be a tribute to Pikes Peak. Like most everyone who has ever had a racing affiliation with The Mountain, I love it. I was hooked on it the first time I participated in the event and I've loved it ever since. 

There is nothing more exhilarating than getting up at 3:00 a.m. and being on The Mountain by 4:00 a.m. to begin race preparations in the clear, clean and nippy mountain air, waiting - anticipating - the sunrise so things can get GOING!  Wonderful memories.

Phil, you're not wrong about the weight shift and other dynamics and physics that make racing on Pikes Peak unique. The insight Bobby Unser provided the GM engineers was eye-opening to them. With their training, experience, product-knowledge, and vast resources they were blown away by the unique experience of the Toronado as a successful race car. Bobby gave them some invaluable advice and it led directly to the Sanborn Toronado's win.

Jim, guts?  You bet. That race is truly unique and it played out on (back in the days) on a gravel road with no guard rails! There are 156 turns on the race course, many of them sheer drops on one side. There was a turn we called "Blue Sky Corner." As you raced through that left bender at speed, there was nothing visible on your right. It was a sheer drop of hundreds of feet - no guard rail, no foliage, no trees you could see above the edge of the road. The legend had it that if you ran off Blue Sky Corner, your engine would burn up all your fuel and starve out before your car would hit bottom. It was a LONG way down!! One year, Bobby Unser, Jr. tested the theory. Fortunately he only dropped about 75-100 feet before a large pine tree's huge upper boughs caught him/his car like an infield fly.  Still, remember: 75-100 feet is the equivalent of a 7-1/2 to 10 story building.

Stef, thanks for your comments. I'll have to consider that. I'm just selfish enough that I kinda like being able to look at it every day. But, I'm not gonna live forever . . . there may be a bequeath in the cards.

Thank you all!!

-danno-

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Edited by Danno
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Hey, Charlie!  

Thanks for the comments.  

The other gluebomb I snagged was an AMX. Unusual, but I just couldn't find inspiration for it, so it is still waiting patiently for its turn.

The Toronado wasn't in terrible shape, but it had a thick coat of gold paint and the wrong wheels. Some of the guys in my club came through with a set of correct wheels.

This is what the Toronado looked like when I acquired it.

 

Toronado As Is 1.jpg

Toronado As Is 2.jpg

 

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Edited by Danno
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On 1/10/2021 at 12:56 AM, Danno said:

Stef, thanks for your comments. I'll have to consider that. I'm just selfish enough that I kinda like being able to look at it every day. But, I'm not gonna live forever . . . there may be a bequeath in the cards.

Thank you all!!

-danno-

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Ha ha, @Danno. I'm sure they'd be happy with a few pictures along with a lovely essay/poster/card (and I could certainly volunteer to assist with the design/layout), until such a time as you'd like to bequeath anything. Maybe they'd even put it up on their website. I did see a lot of galleries there; who knows.

Are there any other Pike's Peak cars you've done, or would like to replicate? You could end up with your very own starting grid!

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