The Nostalgia Forum, 1999-2013, RIP

The Nostalgia Forum first saw the light of day on 13 November 1999. It was a new forum on the Bulletin Board of what was then Atlas F1. It was not the first internet forum to be focused on the history of automobile racing, but there was a time it was undoubtedly — and by far — the very best such forum on the Web. Period.

None of the other similar fora really came close at the time, and none have since then.

The Nostalgia Forum, or TNF as it was always referred to, was both the outgrowth from my Rear View Mirror column for the Atlas F1 Journal and the need for a dedicated history forum given the persistent problems with the general Atlas F1 forum.

It did not get off to a great start, but it did manage to grow and develop over the years. That it managed to attract a great number of literate and knowledgeable people, many of whom who had a good grounding in the history of motor sport. It played a central role in several hard looks at various stories or myths associated with the sport, as well as being literally the forum for several important research efforts. Halcyon days, indeed.

Due to a number of issues and conflicts with the editor of Atlas F1 that I will not go into, some trivia and some very serious, I departed Atlas F1 in September 2004. I quit both writing my column and serving as the moderator of TNF. Although I did return after a period and participate in the discussions, things for me were never quite the same, of course.

After Atlas F1 was acquired by Haymarket and re-branded as Autosport.com, there were few noticeable changes on TNF, the forum continuing to function, almost on cruise control, which was one notions I had attempted to embed into the forum from very early on. That my successor as moderator took a very hands-off approach to the forum made this self-policing trait a fortunate one, one that, however, was less and less evident as time passed and there was little — if any — direction to the forum.

In the Spring of 2010, as Joseph Heller put it, Something Happened. Several members of TNF, Michael Ferner and Allen Brown, for reasons of their own, decided to “out” one of the long-time characters on TNF, “Buford.” This was actually an attack on Buford. I was still deployed on my second tour in Southwest Asia when this happened. Having known Buford for many years at this point, I protested and condemned what Michael Ferner and Allen Brown had done.

Both Ferner and Brown were suspended for their action. Ferner returned using a new “name” — using his own in place of the previous “Fines” — and Brown served out whatever the term of suspension was, relatively short as I recall, and then returned and continues to participate. Unfortunately, this incident led to Buford pretty much abandoning TNF. His absence was something of a blow, at least to me, given that Buford was exactly what he said he was, to say nothing of his adding some much needed color and character to the forum.

In the sort of bizarre scenario that Kafka would haveĀ  truly appreciated, I was tossed into the outer darkness, banished or banned or exiled or something. No warning, no explanation, no nothing. Needless to say, this did not go over well with me. It was a matter of simple courtesy, if nothing else.

Although I continued to “lurk” at TNF, it was evident that the forum was missing something, my absence being rather inconsequential in all honesty. In August 2013, after a few efforts to return, none of which were very serious, I managed to return to TNF. This was due in no small part to a massive forum update and the usual lack of involvement by the moderator, Stuart Dent.

The implementation of the new format and layout of the forum was seriously botched by the Autosport.com folks. It is now literally an eyesore, the bland, uninspiring layout being difficult on the eyes. The “upgrade” also dropped into the “archives” all those threads and posts prior to 1 January 2011 being locked away. Of course, more than a few of the threads genuinely deserve that fate, but one of the things that made TNF unique was that nothing was ever archived given that information might later emerge regarding the issue and, thus, updating the thread. Needless to say, this demonstrates the regard — obviously very little — with which Autosport holds TNF.

Since the update, there seems to be a very noticeable drop in both quantity and quality at TNF.

At any rate, I managed to last on TNF until the forum’s 14th birthday, when I was once again tossed out, Stu Dent being unable to tolerate my presence — as muted and low profile as it was, it would seem. What is different this time around is that it really does not matter. It was the unfortunate dullness and lifelessness of the forum combined with the irony of being booted on the forum’s anniversary that finally cut the Gordian Knot solving the situation that, unfortunately, allowed me to stay tied to the forum.

So, at least as far as I am concerned, The Nostalgia Forum and dead and gone. Given the direction it seems to be headed, this might be the case for many others — and, perhaps, the forum itself. The only way for TNF to begin to save itself is to finally ditch Stu Dent, who is for all intents and purposes an absentee landlord and scarcely involved in its activities, and finally replace him with someone who might be able to turn the forum around and point it along the correct azimuth. Nine years is long enough, especially given that the forum is clearly in a serious decline, something Obvious to Even the Untrained Eye. Along with this, there should be some effort put in making the site layout and format more akin to what it once was, along with restoring the archived threads.

Needless to say, I am not holding my breath…

RIP, TNF, it was great knowing you!

HDC

Rear View Mirror Archives

Image

Here are links to the post-Atlas F1 edition of Rear View Mirror:

http://gmu.academia.edu/HDonaldCapps

http://8w.forix.com/when.html

Here is a link to the very first Rear View Mirror column that appeared on 21 April 1999:

http://atlasf1.autosport.com/99/apr21/mirror.html

I cannot post a link to the final RVM column, published on 8 September 2004, given that it is now hidden behind a paywall at the Autosport.com site, but here it is from my personal records. It was written while I was in what is an all too obvious foul mood, the situation at Atlas F1 finally reaching the point where I had decided that it was intolerable. Certainly not one of the better columns, but not the worst either…

The Persistence of Memory

I don’t know why I bother.

It was a bit of a jolt to realize that it was about a decade or so ago that I really began to end my irrevocable drift from contemporary race fan to racing historian. Although my interest in motor racing history was almost as old as my interest in racing itself, by the mid-1990s this was my primary interest in motor racing. While I have often wondered exactly why the contemporary scene – especially in Formula One – began to lose its appeal, there is little doubt that it was the result of numerous small things and nothing that could be laid at the foot of a single person or event. Actually, my interest in the contemporary motor racing scene dwindled from a wide-ranging interest in many series to just a handful of series.

Long before the salt of Formula One lost its favor, that series was becoming more and more secondary in my universe. Part of that was due to age (mine) and part of that was due to the series just lacking that appeal it once had. The more technology that got poured into Formula One, the less and less I seemed to enjoy it. The more and more organized that Formula One became the less and less I enjoyed it.

From about the mid-1970s until the early-1990s, one series I thoroughly enjoyed was the GT series that IMSA (International Motor Sport Association) sanctioned and was sponsored by R.J. Reynolds through its Camels brand of cigarettes. The Camel GT series was great stuff and I really, really enjoyed it. The venerable Trans-Am series nearly died in the late-1970s because the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) miscalculated by just that tiny bit and IMSA almost handed them their head. But, after John Bishop sold IMSA it soon began to feel the effects of not having his vision and leadership at the helm and soon IMSA began to slip from its perch. A decade after the departure of John Bishop, the American sports car racing world was in disarray, a state of affairs which continues until today.

After about a half-dozen seasons in which the National Championship Trail exploded from being something that USAC (United States Auto Club) tacked onto the International Sweepstakes (AKA the Indianapolis 500) each year to being a series which now actually had a following, for the 1971 season things changed a tad. A separate national championship was created for the dirt track events and road courses were dropped from the National Championship Trail itself. There were teams lining up to play and the ante got raised considerably to take the field. Unfortunately, most of the events on the National Championship Trail – which USAC had convinced first Marlboro and then Citicorp to sponsor – still paid about they same as they way back when, which is say very little.

By 1978, there was obvious dissension in the USAC ranks which finally led to an open revolt and the formation of CART – Championship Auto Racing Teams. In 1979, there was the often bewildering situation of USAC and CART hosting “championship” events on the same weekends. This did little for either organization and the two attempted to patch things up for the 1980 season by forming something called the “Championship Racing League,” where each group alternated handling the rounds for a re-united championship. That is, until USAC terminated its participation in the CRL after the fifth round at Mid-Ohio in July.

For the 1981 season, USAC created a new version of the National Championship Trail, the Gold Crown Championship. In addition, it changed the name of the former USAC national dirt track to the Silver Crown Championship. Due to problems attracting sufficient entries for the Gold Crown Championship, which would begin with the 1981 International Sweepstakes and end with the following year’s event, both Silver Crown car and events were pressed into service. George “Ziggy” Snider managed to win the first Gold Crown Championship, but in the coming years it was basically reduced to simply being awarded to the highest-placed USAC driver (in good standing with the club) in the International Sweepstakes. No one ever said this was easy.

CART and its IndyCar World Series managed to go from strength to strength during the years following the 1980 season, only USAC managing to continue to sanction the Indianapolis event each year marring its control over American major league open-wheeled racing. Road courses were an important element of the schedule and reflected the fact that many of the CART teams entered the series from the world of road racing. In 1984, CART replaced Formula One at Long Beach and the crowds didn’t blink. The same thing happened in Detroit. Along with IMSA, CART was riding high as the 1980s ended and the 1990s began.

In 1966, the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) and with its Canadian counterpart – the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs or CASC – created a series of a half-dozen events for what was rapidly becoming a most popular form of road racing – the two-seater sports racing cars formerly known as the “modified” sports cars in the SCCA way of thinking. In 1958, USAC had created a professional road racing division and in doing so let the hypocrisy of the SCCA system of “amateur” racing face some competition by herding up some of the best drivers and cars in some of the best events and creating what was to become known as the Fall Pro Season within a few years – events at Riverside and Laguna Seca alone catering to thousands more than most road races could dream about in a year.

In 1963, the SCCA finally created a professional racing series, the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) and the USAC series died despite USAC continuing to sanction many of the Fall races for the next several seasons. The USRRC came along just as it was becoming apparent that an American engine with lots of cubic inches jammed into the rear of a racing sports car was the ticket for some righteous racing. The appearance of the Chaparral team in the USRRC in 1964 and 1965 was the stuff from which legends emerge….

The Canadian-American Challenge Cup – as the Can-Am was grandly and formally known – opened with a season that saw the title not decided until the final round in Las Vegas. There is now a strip mall and residences sitting where the Stardust Raceway once sat. Then the Can-Am died in 1974 from a combination of some sort of apathetic collapse. It was revived in 1977 for single-seater, full-bodied cars and after a few encouraging seasons passed away largely unnoticed at the end of 1986.

In 1964, a SCCA committee looked at single-seater racing and suggested creating a “Formula SCCA” which in 1967 spun up a series grandiosely called the SCCA Grand Prix Championship. The first series champion promptly quit when the SCCA changed its rules to allow cars with American push-rod, stock-block engines with displacements of up to five-litres join the fray beginning in 1968. The 1967 champion, Gus Hutchison, returned in 1970 with a pukka Grand Prix car – a Brabham BT26 with a Ford Cosworth DFV engine – but soon switched to a Chevrolet-powered car.

The series became the Continental Championship, picked up sponsorship from the L&M cigarette folks and became quite a nice little series. It became known as Formula 5000 in an effort to show some sense of unity with its European counterpart. Then it croaked in 1976, but not before running for three seasons in a cooperative effort with USAC – of all people. I missed it and never quite had the same fondness for the converted F5000 cars that now became the basis for the “new” Can-Am.

Once upon the Grand National Division of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) ran a championship could have as many as fifty-something events and began in November of times. It was quite a feat to survive a full season on the GN circuit – it was a brutal pace with events at the small half-mile tracks under the lights during the week and then the larger tracks – the “superspeedways” – on the weekends, more and more of the latter appearing throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. Ironically, the so-called “stock cars” were really much more stock than one would imagine today. One of the great joys of this period, the 1950s and 1960s, was that the GN circus usually came to town twice a year.

The R.J. Reynolds sponsored a championship within a championship in 1971 and then sponsored the whole series, the name Winston Cup replacing the old GN name in time. The factories came and went and then television discovered the sport – it was the same sort of luck that the debut of Howdy Doody had in December 1947 in that the 1979 Daytona 500 was run when a snowstorm had many on the East Coast looking at their television sets for ANY form of entertainment on a Sunday afternoon in February. Throw in a last lap fracas on the track, a fistfight off the track and suddenly people who had probably never really watched an automobile race featuring stock cars were saying to themselves, ‘Gee, that was pretty neat and exciting!’

Ah, but Indianapolis was still supreme, the epicenter of American racing. Then a serious of poor management decisions, unnecessarily cruel remarks, inflated egos, and an appetite for geese that laid golden eggs landed American open-wheeled racing in the malaise from which it has yet to recover – the Indy Racing League and – I hope this is correct – Champ Car World Series both playing to generally less than full houses. Ironically, only the other Americans – the neighbors to the north and south in Canada and Mexico – seem to appreciate the series formerly known as CART and the IRL is now struggling to even pack ‘em into the Speedway. As David Phillips of Racer put it so well, it is like “two bald guys arguing over a comb.”

So, what was all this rambling about?

Nothing. I am just wondering why I bother, that’s all….

 

“National Colors for 500-Mile Race”

The 25 June 1914 issue of The Automobile provides this interesting tidbit in an article regarding the 1915 International 500 Mile Sweepstakes race:

Racing colors in the next Indianapolis 500-mile race, it is announced, will be uniform, according to the nation which a car represents. German machine will thus be white; French, blue; English, green; Belgian, yellow; Italian, red; and American, white and red. This move will do away the freakish individual color combinations which in the past have marred speedway racing, and at the same time give bolder relief to the international aspect of the sport. Credit for the idea is due E.C. Patterson, the wealthy Chicago sportsman.

(Page 1351)