Moss and VARA celebrate a decade of success
By Ken Smith
It hardly seems possible that a decade has passed since I took my little sportscar up to what seemed to be the end of the world. In 1996, Dr. Dan Longacre (who raced a 1964 MGB at that time) and The Vintage Auto Racing Association asked Moss Motors to co-sponsor an event at Buttonwillow Raceway.
I decided to take a look. Driving some 140 miles north of Los Angeles, I saw only a few sheds and an asphalt road course—certainly nothing like a real racetrack. I was welcomed by Buttonwillow’s owners and allowed to drive on this fast, twisty circuit, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
However, where were the amenities? How could we attract people to the middle of the desert for two days? Where was the shade?
Plans were drawn anyway, and we decided to mount a two-day British Extravaganza: 10 or so VARA races on each day and a British car show on Sunday morning. Incorporating an MG/Triumph Challenge race ensured that old rivalries could be settled. We also allowed attendees to drive their own cars in lunchtime track sessions, while a huge barbecue and karaoke was laid for Saturday evening. Any profits would go to the local boys’ and girls’ clubs; more than $100,000 has been raised during the past 10 years.
One of the event’s other marquee features is the annual raffle. British cars such as Minis, Alfa Spyders, and even Jaguars have been offered for the winning ticket. The Extravaganza has also attracted one of the largest gatherings of pre-war competition cars: 3-wheeler Morgans, a 1932 Alfa, and a 1934 MG KN Special are just a few of the cars that have turned up at the event.
One constant has been track announcer Alan Bolte, whose fund of automobile knowledge has added greatly to the enjoyment of the event. Plus, many of the corner workers from the Long Beach MG Car Club have been with us since day one.
Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of changeable weather. A 1998 El Nino and 2003’s monsoon-like conditions almost put dampers on our plans, but the desert setting usually offers hot and sunny weather.
We’ve also witnessed the launch of the new Mustang, the Chrysler Prowler, and the PT Cruiser at the British Extravaganza. The trees have grown, and Buttonwillow now has proper bathrooms and a great new clubhouse on the start and finish line.
All in all, it’s been a great 10 years. We look forward to working with VARA for the foreseeable future.