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Grace
Hagerty Employee

Throwback: Cheats, mud, and metal: The 1961–68 (and ’71) Trans-Canada Rally

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/

16 REPLIES 16
1933ford
Intermediate Driver

Fantastic

brb
Instructor

Real people having real fun.  The Bentley and its owners are just awesome.

40Ford
Detailer

Not me, I'll watch it on YouTube.

psmith
Intermediate Driver

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.  

DWJ
New Driver

I agree 100%. Also the disappearance of relatively affordable sports cars. A base Miata is close to $40k Canadian after-taxes, etc.
psmith
Intermediate Driver

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. 

RallyeRalph
Intermediate Driver

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".
Adam12
Pit Crew

@RalleyRalf. Ha do remember the comment by Pat Moss, but remember she was Pat Moss- Carlsson and married to one of the best rally drivers ever. Erik Carlsson. Mr. Saab.
Could you imagine those family get togethers.
Mr_Persnickety
New Driver

I can't believe that you wrote this story and included photos but failed to include one of Don and his Bentley in current condition. Fail. 

dusty
New Driver

Absolutely amazing story. 

RallyeRalph
Intermediate Driver

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".

Adam12
Pit Crew

@RalleyRalf. Ha do remember the comment by Pat Moss, but remember she was Pat Moss- Carlsson and married to one of the best rally drivers ever. Erik Carlsson. Mr. Saab.
Could you imagine those family get togethers.
jrfreed
Navigator

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!

michaelrussom1
New Driver

My friends Dad was a professional race car driver who had two Carrera Porsches and taught me to drive at 16 in his national show winning Porsche 356 Super. His name was Bill Wells Senior and was head of the Corvair Monza Raving team that won tge Trans-Canada Rally three years in a row, if memory serves, or if he wasn’t lying. His office had the scariest huge photo blowup I can recall; his partner took the picture across a wide canyon where the car with spikes in the tires is going sideways at high speed on a toad clearly not much wider than a corvair sideways. The rock wall soars 1,000 feet at least straight up and 1,000 feet straight down, with no barrier between the road and the abyss. A solid wall of ice curves sharply up from the front side of the car and sweeps sharply across the roof and beyond like an ocean wave breaking. It scared the daylights out of me just looking at it. But I never forgot it all these 60 years or so. Any record of Bill Wells you know of?
Michael Russom
DAW1
Intermediate Driver

As a young kid living in Montreal I went downtown a couple of times to see the cars coming in or leaving. Even at 13 or 14 I was car crazy. I always thought that the rally ran from Halifax to Vancouver. I do have scraps cut out of The Montreal Star and The Gazette. The two Montreal English papers did a pretty good job of following the event.
Also the Star and the Gazette did a good job of following all the races at Le Circuit Mt. Tremblant-Ste Jovite, even listing the results of supporting races. Those papers were very supportive of the motorsport scene around Montreal so unlike CBC’s pitiful coverage these days. It is sad the The Shell 4000 went away but nothing good lasts forever. We still have the Canadian Rally Championship. These days motorsport as are all sports is mostly about the money. Motorsport has never been cheap but today even racing a kart is just about impossible for an ordinary family to afford. Back in the fifties and sixties many sports car owners would drive their cars to the race track, race, and then drive home after. That could never happen these days.
RABRI
New Driver

Check out the film made by Chrysler Canada when a Plymouth Barracuda won the last Shell 4000 in 1968. It on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-uqhn8awm0&t=28s