at Play on the Palm Springs Airport
in the
Mid-50s (1)
Photo: 300SL hits the hay bales

A Mercedes 300SL (the "gull-wing" coupe) driver misses his apex at the last turn before Start/Finish straight. I want to say "Rudy Cleye" for the driver's name. I'm not sure that was him, but I believe there was such a man driving such a car in this era.

The Palm Springs airport, like the town, is desert-bound. That means sand, sand, and more sand. The builders thoughtfully paved the runways, taxiways, and access roads, but didn't do much else. You can imagine the scenario after the races: people who drove there and made their way to the far (east) side of the course had rolled on in and up to the snowfence spectator barrier and stopped. When it came time to leave many of the cars (including ours, on at least one occasion) had settled in sand up to their axles.

If you parked and walked away from your car it seemed likely you could drive it forward and over the snowfence to pavement. If you were in and out of it over the course of the race day it sank a little deeper with every disturbance. If you were first to try and back away there could be trouble. Once the dilemma was clarified and the fence brought down progress—or lack of it—was clearcut. Some young entrepreneurs were making twenty bucks a car (three minimum-wage workdays worth) muscling them out.

Photo: Porsche leads two MGAs at Palm Springs, 1956

Palm Springs Airport, February, 1956. Looking northwest as a Porsche speedster leads the first two MGAs on the West Coast. The white MG, driven by Eliot Forbes-Robinson (Senior), won the race.

This venue was still in use while I was at UCR and on the Long Beach MG Car Club and L.A. Region SCCA flag teams, 1960-1962. Before his death in 1955, James Dean raced here. On one occasion Monitor Radio caught up with him in the pits after he finished a race. "Wow! Here's James Dean, rising star in the Hollywood firmament! What about that race, James?"

"Ain't that a crock o' s**t?!"
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