Driving Back In Time With The SCCA

Matt Murray is a 28-year member of the Sports Car Club of AmericaSo he knows 2014 is its 70th anniversary of the enormous auto racing organization.

He also knows it started in Westport.

Digging into its history, he found the location may have been 1276 Post Road East. That’s near the Turkey Hill South corner — near where the Big & Tall Men’s Shop is. (I’ve never been there.) (Go figure.)

Matt thinks it might have been a bit further east though — perhaps where La Normandie restaurant sat in the late 1950s and early ’60s. (Later, among other names, a restaurant called Beethoven.) (Now, among other places, Fast Fitness.)

Inside La Normandie restaurant. (Photo courtesy of CardCow.com)

Inside La Normandie restaurant. (Photo courtesy of CardCow.com)

Matt would love to hear any stories, and find photos, about the SCCA’s time in Westport. If you have info on the SCCA/Westport connection, click “Comments.” 

One thing Matt already knows: a Westport auto racer was an SCCA member for over 30 years. Guy by the name of Paul Newman.

20 responses to “Driving Back In Time With The SCCA

  1. Thanks, Dan!

  2. I believe SCCA was in the big (then red) barn that’s now behind the barn-like building that Big and Tall is in now. I remember it pretty clearly from my youth in Westport–can’t recall it being anywhere else in town. As a young car buff, I always though it was cool that an organization like that was in my hometown, and sad when it moved away (in the 70s?).

  3. Cameron R. Argetsinger, former Exectuive of the Watkins Glen, NY Grand Prix Association, was named as director of professional racing for the Sports Car Club of America.(Stars and Stripes 1971)

    Shakeup at the Sports Car Club of America finds Director of Club Racing Jim Patterson and Public Relations Director Dic Van Der Feen ousted…..Patterson a two year Vet, is replaced by San Fransican Bob Tomline, while Van Der Feen who held the position eight years is successed by an interim basis by motorsport journalist Tony Muldoon. Since early 1969, SCCA has lost an executive director, (John Bishop) and pro racing director (Jim Kaster,) Patterson and Van Der Feen
    Bpt Telegram, 1971

  4. Westport AP Bpt Telegram, Nov 22, 1969
    Astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad will find Sports Car Club of America competition license number 12 waiting form him when he returns to his home in Houston. Tracey Bird, Exectutive director of the SCCA, Said the Apollo 12 Commander completed requirements for his national license as a race driver last summer. “It’s a top Grade competitions license” Bird Said, “meaning that Conrad is eligible to drive in any of our national or regional events in a car of this choice” Conrad’s application for license was received at SCCA’s office on the day Conrad walked on the moon, Bird Said. Nrmally, a license application received this late in the race season would be held over until the first of the year when he would receive his 1970 permit. “But Conrad wrote saying he would especially like to have his national license waiting for him upon his return from the moon” Bird said. Conrad raced at the regional level at Osceola, Daytona International Speedway in Florida during 1968 and 1969

  5. Wendy (Kramer) Posner

    I’d like to hear about the history of the La Normandie Restaurant, where I ate frequently as a child. I still remember the breadcrumb toppings that Mrs. LaMuir used on the menu.

  6. Last one.. in the Gazette Mail, August 9th 1959, there was a quick sentence in there about t sports car fad being started with American Made cars..and the SCCA was founded in Westport, Connecticut 1944 with no foreign cars in the lineup.
    Good Luck, Matt.. it’s a cool part of Westport History, for sure!! Love the Astronaut Connection!! I would never have guessed!!

  7. Matt–I have a vague recall of the organization being located in the vicinity of where GS said it was above. In any event, the Westport Library has old phone directories which will tell you the exact address in different years. Also, the library has files of old newspaper clips on a variety of subjects (including probably La Normandie for the reader who is interested in that).

  8. The Sports Car Club of America was located on the corner of Post Road East (f/k/a East State Street) and Turkey Hill Rd South. That barn style building was painted red back in the 50s/60s. Don’t think it was ever located where the La Normandie restaurant operated.
    Briggs S Cunningham II, husband of Lucy Bedford Warren, was one of its original founders and I expect that is the main reason it was headquartered for a time here in Westport. Dan, you ran a nice profile of Mr. Cunningham a while back. He was a remarkable sportsman, auto racing, America’s Cup etc. I believe John Mckinney our State Senator is his grandson.

  9. Thanks to all! SCCA magazine “SportsCar” has reasonable archives back to the fifties. It seems there’s a gap from 1944 to about 1957. From Philip Royal editor of SportsCar:

    I actually do know the address of the first SCCA meeting and the approximate location of the first office building. The first office building the SCCA moved into was in 1957, and that was in Westport, Conn., “located on the Boston Post Road (U.S. 1) approximately two miles from the center of Westport” (that’s how they described it in the magazine in 1957 — no actual address for the building was given. It probably didn’t have one back then). According to what you sent, I believe I found the building. It’s actually behind a newer building, and the original has since been added on to. Not quite sure what the building is now, but when you see the original building (photo attached) and the current building (screen grab attached), it’s pretty obvious it’s the same building. The only address they gave in 1957 when they got the new building was a PO Box, which is pretty much useless.

    As for the first meeting, it was held in Boston at 140 Mt. Vernon St., Boston, Mass. (The zip code back then was “8.” How cute.) When I look at Google Street View, it shows quite a nice four-story brownstone — probably the best looking unit on that street. I’m assuming it’s individual apartments, but I can’t really tell.

    Philip

  10. We asked our reference librarians to research the location. Here’s what they found:
    According to the 1961 Westport Directory (old phone book), the Sports Car Club of America was located at 1276 State Street East (Post Rd) which is, indeed, the address of the little shopping cluster which includes Big & Tall. The executive director of the Sports Car Club was Hugo P Rush. The first entry we could find was 1954 when it was referred to as the Westfair Building and the last entry we found was 1972.
    La Normandie Restaurant was located at 1300 State Street East (Post Rd) just nearby. It appears that the restaurant was listed for the first time in the directory in 1954 and we found entries until 1981.

    See Google Map link below:

    http://goo.gl/maps/f0pwW

  11. Dear Marcia,
    Thank you for digging into this. It confirms the others suspicions. I’m guessing the liquor license went from La Normandie to Beethoven’s and then went away when the gym came in (or the license was transferred to Tengda? It sure didn’t go to Arnie Kaye). Land records show Mr. Rush and “Breag Cunningham” involved with a transfer in September of 1962. That’s not Briggs. In the town records it shows a Briggs getting married in 1929 to Lucy Bedford and then a Briggs the 3rd in 1953 to a Ann Merrifield.

  12. The gambrel roof building at the corner of Turkey Hill South and East State Street (#1248) was built by my family (Jennings) for their business Ayr Scotch Wools, Inc. as well as, later, Seaspun Wool Inc. The original building was constructed was around 1940-41, I think. Perhaps SCCA once occupied a space in the building – I’ll ask around.

  13. OK, my family sold the building at issue (East corner of Turkey Hill Road South and Post Road East, nee East State Street) in 1957 to the SCCA. We sold the adjacent lot to the Conn Light and Power Co. I’m told that it was a struggle to find a buyer for the building at the time. As an aside, it’s perhaps fitting that the building was sold to the SCCA as it was constructed by my great grandfather Erwin Morehouse Jennings – who, in addition to founding Ayr Scotch Wools, was also the Northeast distributer for Essex and Hudson automobiles. A historic image of one of the E.M. Jennings Company “Warerooms” (in Bridgeport) depicts an outrageously elegant scene that includes potted palms, oriental rugs, chandeliers and, oh yes, Essex and Hudson cars…

  14. Hi Matt, I’ll ask if any images exist of the original building. I know that the architect of record was Talmadge.

  15. On a completely different note…

    I am desperately hoping that the small white dots I see floating down the page are representations of snow, and not something much more sinister in my vision!

  16. Matt, no luck on historic images of the old SCCA headquarters – so sorry. Thanks to you and Dan for bringing this nice bit of Westport history to light for those of us who were unaware! As a side note, my father was a SCCA member in the late fifties (Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite with totally verboten engine modifications) and probably darkened their doorway more than once or twice. Small world.

  17. Normandy’s building was redone and then a chinese place took over the lease “panda?” prior to the gym. The newer building in front of the old sportsman club was once a shop called sundace if I remember right, and their ski department was in the back on the bottom floor of the old sportsman, I think. I bought some ski’s there. When the front building was built it wasn’t allowed to have post road access but that was before I was born. My pops know bunch about those buildings I’ll ask him! He has been next-door for 45 +yrs
    .