On October 2, 1948, the small village of Watkins Glen, New York began a new chapter in the history of American motorsports.
The village hosted the inaugural Watkins Glen Grand Prix, the first major road race held in the United States after World War II. Daring men raced their machines around a 6.6-mile course, which combined the village streets and county roads winding through the woods south of Seneca Lake.
The Watkins Glen Grand Prix became an annual event, and in 1951 Harley J. Earl attended the race. Known today as the “Father of the Corvette,” Earl was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame’s first class in 1998. As the head of General Motors Styling, he came to Watkins Glen to display his GM dream car, the Le Sabre. But what made the biggest impression on Earl was the thousands of fans cheering for all the European makes. He later credited this visit to “The Glen” as the inspiration for designing the Corvette, “America’s Sports Car.”
This September, the National Corvette Museum returned to these fabled streets for the Watkins Glen Vintage Weekend. This event celebrates the early days of racing through the village. Corvette was the featured marque for this year’s festival, taking part in a special “Showcase of Speed” display of Corvette race cars.
Piloted by Brian Baker, National Corvette Museum Director of Education and Community Outreach, the Museum’s Mobil 1 Corvette Stingray paced some of the most famous Corvette race cars in history. Baker led a rare opportunity to run several laps of the original street circuit in front of 20,000 cheering fans, retracing those early racing lines that made “The Glen” iconic.
Following the pace laps, Baker presented a session, “70 years of the Corvette in popular culture” on Saturday evening. The presentation included stories, themes, music, and advertisements from the Museum’s latest exhibit, “An American Love Affair: 70 Years of Corvette.” Hosted by the International Motor Racing Research Center, other discussion topics included the Solid-Axle Corvettes by noted author Alan Blay, who drove his 1953 C1 #76 From Merrick NY for the weekend.
The National Corvette Museum was honored to represent our members and the Corvette community at this historic gathering. Harley Earl’s visit in 1951, and the birth of Corvette 70 years ago, are forever tied to the colorful history of auto racing in Watkins Glen.
Discover the magic of Watkins Glen with Brian Baker’s captivating video tour – it’s a journey you won’t want to miss!