Ray Brock must have loved Pikes Peak, as he covered the event for Hot Rod magazine for years.
“The thing that makes the Pikes Peak Hill Climb so interesting is the fact that it is completely unlike any other race held in this country or perhaps the world,” he wrote to open his coverage of the 1960 event. The race starts at an elevation of 9,000 feet and climbs some 12.42 miles, making more than 150 turns—some tight switchbacks—to the finish line at 14,000 feet.
Today, the road up the Peak is completely paved, but for decades it was graded dirt. Competitors had to learn how to powerslide their way across the loose surface and around those turns, some perilously close to sheer drop-offs.
Adding to the challenge is the weather on the Peak. Despite the fact that the race takes place close to or on the Fourth of July, there can be huge differences in conditions between the two ends of the course. Crowds at the start line could be enjoying balmy sunny skies, while the finish-line crew might be enduring freezing rain or even snow.
The 10 days leading up to the 1960 race were warm and beautiful, Brock reported, but race day was something else. “Before the day was over, drivers and 10,000 spectators could truthfully assert that they had been through the wringer.” Rain, sleet, and snow wreaked havoc on the roadway, while fog clamped visibility down to a minimum in places. “As if that weren’t enough, lightning and wind were soon added to the list and weather reached proportions to stop even mail men. But the race was scheduled to run rain or shine, so the cars continued to fight their way up the mountain.”
By the time the final class, for unlimited sports cars, was ready for its assault on the Peak, “all but about the first two miles of the road were completely blanketed in several inches of sloppy hail, snow, and mud,” wrote Brock. That’s why Charlie Bryant’s ’60 Corvette looks like it’s competing in some sort of mud-bog race. Given the conditions it had to be a miserable drive. But Bryant managed to claw his way to the top in 19 minutes, 54.4 seconds, four minutes off the class record but fast enough to win the class.