It's every Corona beer commercial you've ever seen...white coral sand, turquoise water, palm fronds rustling in a Caribbean breeze, seagulls caw-cawing. Except instead of a suntanned couple in beach chairs hoisting a brew, it's Maseratis, Jaguars, OSCAs and Corvettes thundering down Nassau's waterfront, rattling the panes of fish-fry restaurants and delighting the fans...a mix of Caribbean cruise tourists on shore leave, local Bahamians, journalists, friends and families of the 40 or so entrants.
This inaugural Revival is a multifaceted event, different in scope from the original Nassau Speed Week races held from 1954 to 1966, but the same in spirit. Originally it was head-to-head racing, a season-ending event where the best from America and Europe shipped their race cars over to New Providence Island—by far the most populous of the 700-island archipelago that makes up the Commonwealth of the Bahamas—and duked it out on an airfield road course. Driving deities like Roger Penske, Stirling Moss, Mark Donohue, Augie Pabst, Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt raced their hearts out, and the competition often extended to the celebrations afterward. Now we're here at the modern Revival, a four-day event that encompasses a concours, hillclimb, island tour, a festive nighttime display of the cars on Bay Street and culminates in timed sprints on a specially constructed street course in Arawak Cay, between Cable Beach and downtown Nassau.
The Revival's Grand Patron, Sir Stirling Moss—whose first Nassau race (which he won) came in 1956 driving a borrowed Maserati 300S—was ever-present, his vigor, smile and suntan belying his 82 years. He could be seen at the head of the pack driving his diminutive OSCA FS 372, whether it was the Island Tour (complete with motorcycle-cop escorts), the Fort Charlotte Hillclimb or heading into the concours at Lyford Cay, always with a wave to the crowd and with Lady Susie Moss at his side. Said Moss of the original races: "It was always a fun time. It really was competitive racing; we really had to drive quite hard. In the early days, it was as much partying as racing. For me, it was get on with the racing and forget the party. But now I feel like, `Forget the racing and let's have a little drink,' you know!" Of the Island Tour, which ran around New Providence's perimeter: "This reminds me of the Mille Miglia. I tell you, the speeds we're doing over the back there... The police were coming up and pushing people to the side, waving us by, very reminiscent of those times."
The Hillclimb, an 800-ft. course snaking from Bay Street to the Fort Charlotte overlook, was won by a Morgan +4, expertly driven by Adrian van der Croft, with Phil Brett taking top honors in the modern class with a Ford GT. But special mention must go to the Bocar XP-5 driven by Mike Fisher—a striking car whose Rochester-injected Chevy 350 V-8 echoed thunderously off the hillsides.
The Sprints were single-car timed runs around the 1.1-mile circuit, flagged off from a standing start by an official clad in a proper white cotton jumpsuit. For modern iron, Brett's GT again proved victorious, but it was Stephen Bond's exquisite Lister Bristol that posted top time for the Period Cars, followed by Rob Walton in a Maserati 450S and Geoffrey Hobbs in a Chevrolet Corvette.
That Maserati, incidentally, won top honors at the Lyford Cay concours, held on the lawn of the clubhouse in this exclusive gated community. Its most famous resident and car guy, Sean Connery, could be seen in the crowd...checking out Astons, I presume?
Of course, no vintage event would be complete without gala dinners, hors d'oeuvre sampling and storytelling, and one such event was held at the Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant, with a tour of its special cigar-rolling room and extensive cavern-like wine cellar, where we were shown what has to be one of the world's oldest bottles of wine, a Riesling from 1727!
If you're on the fence about taking that Caribbean vacation, the Revival might just provide that extra push. Tropical breezes, vintage race cars...and perhaps that little drink Stirling mentioned.
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