There has been a resurgence of interest in the two auto races that took place in Montauk during the summers of 1939 and 1940. Sponsored by the American Road Racing Club, this event filled Montauk with excited spectators who set up chairs at strategic positions to experience the action firsthand.
This week’s Throwback Thursday reveals a map showing the route that would be taken by the drivers. A description of this race comes from the Hampton Chronicle, dated July 5, 1940. (Thanks go to Henry Osmers, Montauk Lighthouse Curator, for sharing this research): “The second annual Montauk Grand Prix automobile road race will take place Saturday with a field of 18 amateur drivers facing the starter for the 63-mile race over a winding course set amid the dunes … [They will complete] 22 circuits of the 2 3/4 mile course lying between Lake Montauk and the Montauk Downs golf course.” The defending champion Lemuel Ladd, a Boston mechanic, won the race in 1939 at an average speed of 56 mph.
Last year Tim Gilmartin donated American Road Racing: the Automobile Racing Club of America in the 1930’s to the archives at the Montauk library. Written in 1963 by John C. Rueter, the author gave a good historical account of the Montauk races and published photos that represent the goldmine content of this book. However, if you’d like to see the armchair racecar drivers who participated at Montauk Downs in 1940, click on this link in Montauk Library’s page in New York Heritage: https://cdm16694.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15281coll78/id/816/rec/110
Harry Bruno, maverick of aviation advertising and an aerial daredevil himself, was an early supporter of Kodachrome and no doubt, a huge fan of the Montauk Grand Prix automobile road race.
Finally, watch this early film footage of a Montauk road race, shared as a youtube link with the Montauk Library by Dan Rattiner. It’s fun! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyUYgRqK6F8
Great history, I am working with the Port Jefferson historian and we are working on a LI auto racing photo show . Could I view your archives of the, 39 and 40 races?, thanks Bob