My Car Quest

July 17, 2019

We Had The Only Band In The Pits At Nassau Speed Weeks

by Mike –

Ken Phillips is a friend and the original owner of my former Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada (chassis No. 0256). He has been involved with fast cars and motorcycles all his life. Below, through a series of emails, he shared with me some of his memories of the races in Nassau, The Bahamas in the 1960s.

What a great time that must have been. A home on the beach – driving all the best cars in the world. And who knows what else?

Text and photos by Ken Phillips

The Ferrari 250 LM replaced the Ferrari 250 GTO. Giotto Bizzarrini and Piero Drogo wanted the Iso A3/C (Bizzarrini GT 5300) to replace the GTO but that was not meant to be.

It was an unwelcome surprise that the 250 LM was a mid-engine (behind the driver) – that was supposed to have traction advantages except for the engine shared none of the proven parts of the GTO.

Also, it was balanced much different and handled “different” (not necessarily better) than a well balanced mid-engine (in front of the driver) alternative. At least that is how we felt as the transition started.

If you have never seen a 250 LM from the back or top, the air intake for the Webers is forward deep under the roof buttress. When the car arrived I looked at it and found it hard to believe that position would work.

Ferrari 250 LM and Ken Phillips

Ferrari 250 LM and Ken Phillips – This photo was taken at the dock on the way to Nassau Speed Weeks.

The Ferrari 250 LM was a good race car

It worked pretty well, however, as one of the Ferrari 250 LMs won overall at Le Mans in 1965. The most important disappointment for Ferrari and Ferrari racers was that these LM cars were rejected as GT cars (Ferrari had tried to convince the FIA that the LM was just a GTO with the engine moved back) and were forced to compete as “Prototypes”. They were fast but were not designed to run against the prototypes.

Ferrari 250 GTO – like a brick

The Ferrari 250 GTO had been successful mostly because it was as dependable as a brick. Unfortunately it had the aerodynamics of a brick being much too tall and could not take the much wider tires that had been developed after it was designed.

The Drogo/Bizzarrini design (Iso A3/C Bizzarrini GT 5300) solved those problems. When fitted with the Corvette 327 cid engine it was even better because the V8 engine is shorter than the Ferrari V12 and sits even further back in the chassis.

The Chevy engine easily produced 120HP more than the 290HP 3-liter Ferrari. Even that was conservative as we were producing Small Block Chevys with over 500HP.

I doubt the 250 LM had better aerodynamics than the Bizzarrini GT 5300 although the Bizzarrini did need a front spoiler which had been designed and built for me as a favor by one of the worlds best aluminum fabricators, Harry Tidmarsh.

Simca Abarth Carrera

The second photo is the Simca Abarth Carrera – an all aluminum pure race car. It is parked at the house by the beach in Nassau. This was part of the fun of Nassau. The trucks and trailers normally used to transport the race cars could not be taken on the WW2 LST (Landing Ship Tank) used to ship the race cars and were left at Miami. So, we drove the race cars all over Nassau!

Simca Abarth

Simca Abarth Carrera

Bahamas Star

The third photo is in Miami next to the ship we all used to go to Nassau; the Bahama Star was famous. The start of the festivities of Nassau Speed Weeks were underway and it ended with the “Governor’s Ball”. While on the ship we received invitations to all the parties presented by each of the best Nassau hotels.

While having dinner at one of the restaurants our team was serenaded by a Calypso band. They were creative making up lyrics to go with the people at the table and the race.

After the music they asked if their performance warranted race passes. We replied sure – if they brought their instruments. They said great and we had the only band in the pits!

Ken Phillips

Ken Phillips and the Bahama Star

The photo above is before loading the race cars on the other ship which was a WW2 LST (Landing Ship Tank) as I said before.

From the first step on the Bahamas Star until we got back to Miami to pick up the trucks that we had to leave in Miami (which meant we drove the race cars all over Nassau which is why the Abarth is at the house) the emphasis was on fun. Something that no longer seems as much a part of racing.

Find an old racer and ask him about Nassau Speed Weeks and watch the smile but maybe not much explanation. I am smiling now.

Back home

Below is the Ferrari 250 SWB at home in Pennsylvania. Notice the rare gold color and it is a right hand drive.

Ferrari 250 SWB and Ken Phillips

Ferrari 250 SWB and Ken Phillips

Yes, a hat for every occasion just like a car for every occasion. Those were special times. OK, the hats are strange – but they had a purpose. The small one is the official cap of the Royal Yacht Club in Copenhagen.

When I went to the wonderful restaurant on the harbor near the “Little Mermaid” in Copenhagen that cap would get me my parking place and a table at the window.

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada with the custom front air spoiler

by Mike Gulett –

Below is the Bizzarrini GT 5300 (No. 0256) with the custom front air spoiler that works.

Bizzarrini GT 5300 with spoiler

Bizzarrini GT 5300 (No. 0256) with spoiler at Pocono in 2000 – photo supplied by Darren Frank

The Bizzarrini GT 5300 was not designed with an air dam, or spoiler. The original owner of my Bizzarrini was Ken Phillips and he worked with an expert race car body designer to create the spoiler shown below for his Bizzarrini because “at 150 MPH the front end feels a little light” he told me.

This spoiler clearly changed the looks of the GT 5300.

Bizzarrini GT 5300

Bizzarrini GT 5300

It really stood out in a crowd, even more than normal. Below is Piero Rivolta standing next to some of the creations of his company, Iso Rivolta, and to his left is the silver Bizzarrini with the spoiler.

Piero Rivolta, Iso, Bizzarrini, Iso Grifo

Piero Rivolta

The Bizzarrini pictures above are compliments of Darren Frank.

The spoiler is an excellent aluminum sculpture and is no longer installed on the silver Bizzarrini as you can see in the pictures below.

Bizzarrini GT 5300

Bizzarrini GT 5300

Bizzarrini GT 5300

Ken Phillips was very pleased with the performance results of this spoiler design. I have yet to test it myself, although, it will be easy to install the next time I plan to drive the Bizzarrini at 150 MPH or faster.

Here is a picture of the air dam in 2011 on display and safe in my home office.

Bizzarrini GT 5300

Below is a Bizzarrini race car with a small spoiler that is not nearly as large as the Ken Phillips design.

Bizzarrini GT 5300

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Thank you for supporting My Car Quest

 

Part of this was originally published in January 2011 and part in November 2013.

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We Had The Only Band In The Pits At Nassau Speed Weeks
Article Name
We Had The Only Band In The Pits At Nassau Speed Weeks
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Memories of Nassau Speed Weeks in the 1960s; the great race cars and the fun had by all.
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Comments

  1. Dan Rinker says

    I cannot imagine driving race cars on city streets today. I do remember seeing a Ferrari 250 LM on “city streets” about 20 years ago (it had been restored by a shop nearby) and even then considered the risk the owner took to be excessive. There’s a lot of nuts “out there” and that’s not including distracted soccer moms! I see what appears to be Campagnolo wheels on the Abarth, but it almost appears that there are spoked wheels on the 250 LM. Is there better detail in another picture?

  2. Darren Frank says

    When you meet someone for the first time, it’s quite impossible and very presumptuous to assume that you know what they’re all about. When I first met Ken, I had no idea what a dashing fellow he was as a youth, or about his outrageous cars and experiences. It’s so easy to underestimate people. I’m sure Ken’s forgotten more than I’ll ever learn about cars, and I’m sure that fate awaits me as I age as well.

    • Darren,

      I stay in regular contact with Ken and he is sharp! And he knows more about cars than I ever will.

      Listening to his stories I sometimes think I was born 10-15 years too late. Where can you go do what he did in The Bahamas today? Today it is historic racing but in Ken’s day it was the real deal.

  3. Don Meluzio says

    I agree guys, what a life! It must have been cool being Ken in the 60s. Ken was one of the first Bizzarrini owners that I ever met. He was very instrumental in my buying a Bizzarinni. You have to have a lot of respect for the early guys in the hobby that had the forsight to buy cars like Bizzarrinis, and then the sense to keep it for 40 years. We have shown our cars together a couple of times, and I still see Ken at some of the local shows. I consider myself lucky to consider Ken a friend. Great story Mike! Ken is also quite the motorcycle guy, you could do another story on his 2 wheeled Hot Rods. I hope you are doing well Ken! Don

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