Updated: The 70th running of the Mt Equinox Hillclimb, was sanctioned by the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA) which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The event was held on August 11 & 12th, 2018, on the Skyline Drive that travels to the top of Mount Equinox. The Mountain is 3840 feet high, is the second tallest peak in Vermont, and is located five-miles south of the town of Manchester on the southwestern side of the State and 25-miles north of Hemming Motor News in Bennington.
The famous Hillclimb is still run on the same road that it has for the last seventy years. In that time span famous drivers including Carroll Shelby, John Fitch, Briggs Cunningham, Bill Milliken, and French driver Rene Dreyfus, among others have traveled at high speeds in pursuit of a win that was important on the sports car and racing circuit yearly calendar in days gone by.
- Waiting for the Flag Man to drop the green flag and then begin climbing within the first 100-feet.
The race course is 5.2 miles long and climbs to 3140 feet over the distance, and the average grade is a quite steep 12% grade. The run includes forty turns, twenty switch-backs and the majority of them are extremely tight, steep, challenging to navigate at speed, and a number of the corners contain an increasing radius. If a car leaves the roadway, it either ends up in a pond, a field, the woods, or it can fall down the precipitous and abrupt drop-offs containing a substantial number of large-sized rocks.
- This is the beginning of one of the sharper turns or a switchback on the bottom half of the course.
The bottom half of the hill was repaved recently and is quite smooth, although the second half is very rough, and is filled with uninterrupted areas of bumps and is known as a car killer. To add to the difficulty of the climb, tire pressures need to be reduced to 20 pounds or lower which eliminates all tire and seat of the pants feedback to the driver.
- Passing the half way mark and parking lot at speed while entering a very sharp and tricky bend.
Just before starting a run the driver can choose to climb to the top of the mountain, which the majority of the racers do, or select the short course option which is a good spot to end a run for fragile racing cars or prewar cars equipped with high-pressure tires. Choosing this option ends the climb at the three-mile point and an elevation of about 2525 feet.
When climbing to the top, from that point on the run becomes more arduous for both the racing car and the driver, and the car speed increases to its highest point of the run on two straight sections if the vehicle is powerful enough to accelerate on the grade before it goes through the speed trap.
- One of the few areas on the top half of the course that does not contain a steep climb.
The record time was set on July 21, 1968, by John Mayer at 4:08.8 minutes behind the wheel of a very powerful and aerodynamic Can Am racing car equipped with an American made injected V-8 racing engine. Skilled drivers of good-handing and powerful purpose-built vintage racing cars are quite happy to set a time below the five-minute mark. Lower-powered production cars usually set times ranging between the six and a half to the eight-minute mark.
Wait and listen for JR Mitchell’s Lotus 18 as it passes through the speed trap at 91 M.P.H. during a run at the 2015 VSCCA Mt. Equinox Hill Climb.
The Old Motor 1967 Volvo 1800s project car made its competition debut fifty-one years after it was constructed at Equinox. The Swedish automaker is widely-known for building very durable and safe cars, and the sixties era 1800 series cars and 122s sedans are known as being “tough as nails.”
The vehicles have won many important world-class on and off-road rallies around the globe. The early P1800 (1961 to ’63) and later 1800s cars (1964 to ’69) were competitive in the SCCA F-Production races and one driver of a 1800s almost won the championship back in the period. An early P1800 racing car has won the modern F-Production championship five years in a row in one of the largest vintage racing series which runs events all across the country, it continues to remain competitive today.
- The original 110 c.i. (1.8 liter) o.h.v. four cylinder engine remains in the car. The aftermarket brake booster on the lower-left side of the photo has since been removed.
The Old Motor 1800s is a matching numbers car powered by its factory original 110 c.i. 1800cc rocker arm actuated o.h.v. four-cylinder engine with a 10:1 compression ratio and twin SU carburetors, it produces 115 h.p. at about 5500 rpm. It is backed up with its original drivetrain consisting of a 4-speed manual transmission fitted at the factory with an overdrive, followed by a two-piece driveshaft, and a Spicer model 30 rear axle with a 4:56 final-drive ratio.
- The picture gives you an view of just how steep some of the sections are on the top half of the climb.
After the drivers meeting only one brief slow-speed orientation run was available on Friday evening. Over the two-day competition that would challenge a mountain goat, the best time of 7:05.39 seconds was established by the 1800s on its 11th and final run on Sunday. This time was set after learning the very technical course and just how the car was capable of performing on the hill.
- A view down one of the formidable switch backs filled with sharp bumps and increasing radius bends on either end that are difficult to maneuver at speed
The first and slowest timed run of 7:42.24 was set on Saturday in the rain and later improved by a margin of 37:15 seconds. Some of the runs were hampered by rain, dense fog, and a wet road surface. The lack of a posi-traction or locked differential resulted in wheel spin in the wet or when using 1st and 2nd gears coming off of the corners of the steepest, and roughest switchbacks.
- The fog that lingered on the top of the mountain all day on Sunday when the Volvo’s fastest time was set. This this is the parking lot at the visitor center on top of Mt Equinox. The cars and drivers that have finished the Hillclimb wait for the last car to arrive. Only then do they return to the bottom and start the process all over again.
Instead of trailering the car to the event it was done the old-fashioned way by driving the 110-mile round trip daily through rain and fog each day over the famous Vermont Green Mountains. On Sunday morning your Editor was peasantry surprised to find that the Volvo with its unmodified B18B engine in a fine state of tune managed an impressive miles per gallon figure on Saturday.
The gas mileage figure includes six 5.2-mile competition runs totaling up to 31.2-miles, along with six runs back down Equinox along with the round trip to the Hillclimb and back home to the other side of the state amounting to 141.2-miles. The total mileage for the day amounted to 173.4 miles covered with only six gallons of 93 octane pump gas for an impressive 28.9 m.p.g. figure. During the climb the engine was run at wide-open-throttle at between 5500 to the 6500 rpm redline in first, second and third gear, with only a short stint near the bottom run in 4th gear.
- Vintage brake warning sign near the top of the Mountain.
It is even a chore to drive back down Mt. Equinox. The vintage photo above containing a few no longer standing wind-powered electric generators includes a warning sign to remind you to let your brakes to cool off. The still applies to the 1800s which is equipped with British made Girling disc brakes on the front designed in the early 1960s with unvented solid rotors. The back of the car is equipped with US made Warner drum brakes that were also used on some American cars and jeeps of the period. Photo courtesy of Monnt Equinox Vermont.