I know this photo well.
Combing the Internet for vintage Bugeye images over the years, I have run across this picture several times. It speaks volumes to me, of the glory days of amateur sportscar racing, when a Bugeye owner might spend his or her weekend tangling with Minis, Spitfires and the like, and then bolt the windshield back on and drive their Sprite to work Monday morning, for another week at work, all the while longing to be back on the track.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from one Joel Taylor in San Diego, who had raced Bugeyes in the mid 60s, and then open wheel racers. He went on to his professional career, and now, has arrived at a point in life when he wants another Bugeye, after owning a string of Porsches and BMWs of late.
He offered to send me a picture of himself racing in 1965, while driving his former Bugeye at Riverside, in a cotton driving suit, on laps that often eclipsed 120 mph on the back straight.
He sent me the picture above.
PS: It didn’t take long for a few of you to email in doubt of 120 MPH in a Bugeye, so I followed up with Joel to inquire.
He told me that the back straight was at Riverside was a mile long, so the cars were flat out at peak revs. With no speedometer and only a pegged tachometer in the cockpit. No one knows just how fast they were traveling down the straight. But Joel was told it was 120, so we will leave it at that. And does it really matter? These guys were flat-out in their cotton racing suits with just about no safety gear, so whether it was 104 MPH or 120, it was a bold feat representative of a special moment in sportscar history.
For what it’s worth, my Bugeye top speed is 100, which I hit with ease in a 1275/five speed/3.9 car. That was fast enough for me.