Community Sports

Racing restored: B.C. competition sheds light on historic cars

The B.C. Historic Motor Races hosts its 38th annual event on Saturday, Aug. 16, and Sunday, Aug. 17, at Mission Raceway Park in Mission, B.C.
The B.C. Historic Motor Races hosts its 38th annual event on Saturday, Aug. 16, and Sunday, Aug. 17, at Mission Raceway Park in Mission, B.C. FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Travel back 40 years and one might see a world of rally-car racing that relied on a mechanic and not a computer to tune the car. Cars such as the Ford Escort dominated the English racing ranks and it was the finest tuned car with the best driver that won, not the team with the best technology.

Fast forward to Saturday, August 16, and one might see a much similar picture. Not on a NASCAR track or in a sprint car race, but at Mission Raceway Park in British Columbia. The B.C. Historic Motor Races will hold its 38th annual event on Saturday and Sunday, and its roots have not been lost.

Ford Escorts, Sunbeam Tigers, Chevrolet Camaros and many more cars at least 40 years old will be driven against each other not only to win a race, but to show off history. “The goal is to restore them back to the way they were presented at that point in history and race them,” Bellingham resident and racer John McCoy, 58, said in a phone interview. “It’s depicting how racing was in that era. Back in those days, it was a mechanic’s car not a technology car.” McCoy will be racing a 1969 Ford Escort, which is valued at around $50,000 and a car he’s been racing for 10 years, in Saturday and Sunday’s races. With as much history the Escort has in racing and the versatility McCoy has in displaying it, the choice of this car was an obvious one. “It’s a pretty relevant car in motorsports,” McCoy said, “because it raced in so many different formats from the Mark I to the Mark II and on up. It had a lot of different engines and race formats. It’s an interesting car to run in that regard.” McCoy, who owns Omnitech Engineering in Bellingham, has been a part of racing for about 30 years and has seen the sport grow, for better or worse. But vintage car racing allows people to stay in touch with the old ways. It’s about the mechanics, about the driving, about tuning and it’s a whole lot of fun. “The biggest draw for most guys, even the younger guys, is the fact that it is purely a mechanic’s sport,” McCoy said. “You aren’t tuning a car with technology. When you make tweaks and changes to the chassis and the engine, you have to understand it mechanically.” The sport also presents many challenges. With some cars valued at more than $100,000, vintage racing is a no-contact event. As McCoy puts it, a beat-up race car doesn’t get a lot of respect from viewers. When the drivers are sliding around a corner neck and neck, they make sure to avoid denting another driver’s ride. That isn’t to say racing isn’t competitive. “We put our head buckets on and go out and try to beat each other up on the track,” McCoy said. “But it’s about the cars, not about the drivers. There’s a deep appreciation for that.” Contact does occasionally happen though, as it did when fellow Bellingham resident Roger Flescher, who will be driving a 1969 Sunbeam Tiger on Saturday, bumped McCoy one time. After the race, Flescher was at McCoy’s pit apologizing and offering to help get the dent out, the same as any driver would do. Respect for the cars allow fans to see cars valued at $250,000 racing as they did 40 years ago. For McCoy, he has no plans on stopping. “It keeps my mind off reality,” he said. “It’s so intense, the concentration is so involved, you lose touch with where you are, which is really good. Every human needs something to get away.”

Reach Joshua Hart by email at or by phone at 360-715-2851.