75 Years of SCCA: The Modern Era

Image by Dave Green

75 Years of SCCA: The Modern Era

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

75 Years of SCCA: The Modern Era

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75 years ago this week, the Sports Car Club of America came to be. Truth be known, the SCCA has made more motorsports history than most automotive clubs combined. And to celebrate this anniversary milestone, RACER.com has taken you through a historical journey this week. So far this week, we’ve seen how SCCA began, played witness to its early motorsports events, caught a glimpse of how SCCA transformed road racing in America, and learned how through it all the SCCA stayed true to its roots. And this brings us to what could be called the modern era of the Sports Car Club of America.

The 1970s saw major changes in the professional side of the SCCA, as the highly successful SCCA Pro Racing Can-Am series fell on hard times due to the cost of maintaining and racing virtually unlimited cars; the series was discontinued in 1974. The Continental Championship only lasted two more years, and died after the 1976 season. The cars from this series were recycled, covered with new fully enveloped bodies, and used to create the second generation Can-Am, which produced some truly great racing until it also perished in 1986. Only SCCA’s Trans Am series remained healthy through these times, although it was joined by a new production sedan-based series, which became known as World Challenge, in 1984.

Also in 1984, SCCA moved into a new arena of activity, marketing its own race car, initially know as a Spec Renault, and later as a Spec Racer Ford. This car would become the most popular purpose-built race car in American history, with well over 800 of them built and raced.

Trans Am is reborn and thriving. Image by Chris Clark.

Trans Am, the longest running professional road racing series in SCCA history, eventually ended its 41-year run in 2006 — although the series was relaunched in 2009 and is incredibly strong today. Around the same time, SCCA discontinued participation in Pro Rally in 2004 due to safety and insurability. But while this these days may seem dark for the club, during this time the SCCA was also seeing incredibly positive growth in overall membership numbers at the National Championship Runoffs, the Solo National Championships, and through things like the creation of the Formula Enterprises chassis by SCCA Enterprises. The fact of the matter is that the SCCA succeeded due to its amateur motorsports roots and the dedication of its membership, which had ballooned to more than 65,000.

Bobby Rahal at the SCCA Hall of Fame. Image by Philip Royle.

It was around this point in time that the SCCA began to truly celebrate its own history. Initiating the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2005, the intent was for the club to honor those individuals who had made a significant mark in the sports car world — and as you can imagine if you’ve read the other four installments of this series, the list of SCCA Hall of Fame inductees is breathtaking. To name a few SCCA Hall of Famers you might have heard of: Bill Milliken, John Fitch, Mark Donohue, Carl Haas, Kjell Qvale, Paul Newman, Nick Craw, Briggs Cunningham, Jim Hall, Skip Barber, Bobby Rahal, Carrol Shelby, Dan Gurney, Dr. Bob Hubbard, Jim Downing, John Bishop, Randy Pobst, Roger Penske, Peter Brock, Phil Hill, Lyn St. James, Peter Cunningham, Augie Pabst, George Follmer, and Dorsey Schroeder.

And to top that off, the SCCA Foundation (SCCA’s charitable arm) also kicked into high gear in its support of numerous worthy causes. Today, the SCCA Foundation is aiding the success of everything from the Street Survival teen driving schools to Formula SAE events to VETMotorsports to the preservation of SCCA’s historical documentation through the SCCA Archives, which is located — fittingly enough — in Watkins Glen N.Y.

And now the SCCA celebrates its 75 anniversary, having survived growing pains, uncertainty about its direction, political turmoil, fuel shortages, economic crises, classes and series that grew to huge success and then dwindled, and a host of challenges in keeping up with a changing society and membership needs. Yet it remains just as it was in 1944: An organization for those who enjoy cars that are, quite simply, fun to drive.

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