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Have You Ever Heard Of The Super Cool BARC Boys?

suixtil-rally-bag-1961-watkins-glen-gurney-bonnier-mclarenv3-barcboys-comThe internet is a funny thing, you begin clicking around and end up uncovering something you’d never heard of. This happened to the guy who brought back Suixtil, the once famous race driver apparel.

While he was searching online for vintage racing photos of drivers wearing Suixtil and he stumbled across a website dedicated to the BARC Boys with the above photo of Jo Bonnier and Dan Gurney at Watkins Glen and a track bag.

dave-and-the-honeybeeThe result was an introduction to a gentleman by the name of Dave Nicholas who has become a wonderful source of vintage race stories and photos. We met while I was the US distributor for Suixtil and watched him race his famous MGA called Honeybee many times. It is always interesting, the paths people have taken…

While most 16 year old boys were concerned about chasing girls or making the varsity team, Dave Nicholas and his closest friends were collecting sports car magazines and trying to get to the next SCCA race at Watkins Glen. The rest is history, a very entertaining and amazing history during the glory years of automotive racing.

The Binghamton Automotive Racing Club, BARC, was formed in Nicholas’ kitchen the summer of 1957 with three friends, Joe Tierno, Steve Vail and Dave Zych after they discovered their mutual obsession with cars. They were now BARC boys. This was official with assigned member numbers, a light application of order and young men immersed in all things related to sports car racing.
Original BARC boys

Just After BARC was formed, the group met Edwin E. W. “Spankey” Smith who quickly became their mentor and BARC member #029. Spankey was a team manager, car owner, pit crew chief and photographer who shared a love for sports car racing. He took the BARC boys under his wing and shuttled the group to SCCA races up and down the East Coast:

  • Sebring
  • Lime Rock
  • Montgomery
  • Cumberland
  • Marlboro
  • Vineland

They didn’t mind sleeping on floors in motel rooms or in cars, they were just happy to be immerse themselves in racing. As BARC grew to over 20, then 42 “associate members” their circle in the racing community grew. This group of guys were a force.

Denise McLuggage at Sebring

Denise “Valise” McCluggage before the 1961 race at Sebring.

One of their most memorable trips was to Sebring in 1961, to save $3, they crammed into a trunk to sneak into the track. Later that night met Denise Valise (later McCluggage) who kindly got them on her pit crew. Despite the rather unorganized crew, Denise pulled through, won her GT class and first in GT overall.

BARC boys 2008 Reunion

BARC members and friends gathered at Watkins Glen, September of 2008 for the 50th Anniversary BARC Reunion. The four original BARC boys shared an unbreakable bond over their automotive passion and we’re thankful they’ve shared their stories.

Visit their history page to learn how they made it to Sebring and back on $30, and more hilarious recollections of their automotive antics. They were front and center to many of the greatest races in American motorsports history, right there with the famous drivers, and these boys were simple impressionable teenagers, many who’ve gone on to do great things.
Cars bring people together, Dave and I catching up a few weeks back in Palm Desert, CA.
Vintage photos are courtesy of www.barcboys.com.


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