My Car Quest

November 22, 2019

We Had The Only Band In The Pits – Brief Memories Of Nassau Speed Weeks

by Mike –

Ken Phillips is a friend and the original owner of my 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

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

Share you comments and questions in the Comments section.

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

  1. scott marshall says

    The silver race car pictured looks to be an Abarth Simca 1300. This had an Abarth twin can engine, an aluminum body built over a Simca 1100 chassis.
    So the cars were designated as Abarth Simca’s because Simca only provided the chassis. Just a clarification. BTW, thanks for the cool article and pictures.

    • Patrick Fauucompre says

      Simca Abarth 1300 (not Carrera)

      Rear engine Simca 1000 platform
      not the latter Simca 1100 front engine

      Very good article
      Patrick

  2. Nice pictures Ken must of had a great time

  3. Don Meluzio says

    Ken is an amazing guy, the more I learn about him the more amazed I am. What a life he has had. Ken was one of my biggest motivators to find and buy a Bizzarrini. All the best to Ken! Don

  4. Ciaran Payne says

    Just REALLY wish I had been around to experience the Nassau Speed weeks, as I am sure it was GREAT FUN and GREAT racing too, as motor racing should be but now is TOO SERIOUS!!!

  5. I love living life beyond my widest dreams and so glad to have friends who have done the same! Thanks for sharing those great memories and pictures!

  6. Ed Farrell says

    Ken gave us the site info at the Stockton luncheon. Liked reading about the adventures of the Nassau speed week. I’m a car nut from the early 60’s and enjoyed the photos from that era. Thanks for the advise to just get in our first Ferrari and hit the road. We’re really enjoying it. Hope to see you at a future event. Ed

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