Brothers Don and Colin McQuirk were young men in 1963 when they decided to enter a 1951 Bentley Mark VI in a race across Canada known as the Shell 4000 Rally. Don, now 86, says not everyone was happy about it, however.
Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/archived/1961-68-trans-canada-rally-cheats-mud-and-metal/
Lou Batori, driver digging his Austin/MG 1100 out of the mud, was for many years a friend and mentor to me, and his stories of the Shell 4000 were legendary (he ran all 8), made even better by the scotch he offered at his fireplace while recounting these adventures. As I recall he ran it once with his daughter as codriver/navigator. Lou stayed hale and hearty (continuing to ride his Gold Wing and ski) into his second century. He passed away just a couple of years ago.
One of the lessons of Lou's life (and there are many) is that young men and women get involved with sports cars for the sporting adventure of it. When I read club magazines bemoaning the graying of the vintage sports car scene (maybe the old car scene in general), I can't help but think that the disappearance of real adventures that could be run by enthusiastic privateers (like the Shell 4000) is a big part of the real problem.
My guess from what I've read (I wasn't there) is that things weren't that different. People with money bought the cars new, and some of them engaged in these activities. But they were cheap when used. My Dad bought a used TD for $500 in the late '50s and campaigned that in regional events. I'm sure he was not alone, and I think it would be safe to say that other than sponsored cars, many if not most entrants of these kinds of events were driving machinery that they didn't buy new. And there are a blue million used Miatas and other sporty things around for a lot less than $40k. Unless somebody can figure out how to tame the lawyers and a risk-averse helicopter culture and then get these kinds of events up and running again, $40k Miatas will continue to be the Harley equivalent for a different demographic.
My favorite quote from the Rally was one year Pat Moss (Stirling's sister, married to Paddy Hopkirk) was a competitor and was being interviewed by reporters before the event and they asked her what she would do if she got stuck on some farmer's road. They all spoke 'North American' English as opposed to 'English' English and were taken aback when she answered, "I suppose I would go and knock up a farmer".
Oh, the memories! I was in the '71 (BC Centennial) as a just-turned-21 year old, with noting but local events under my belt. Did rather well given the circumstances (IMHO), but on such a shoestring that after ripping a wheel off its bolts in Winnipeg, we had enough funds left to finish or go home, but not both. Too exhausted to think straight, (and being in last place) we dropped out - one of my life's biggest regrets!