Sunday October 15th, 2017 will soon be a hallowed date for those who love the sights and sounds of vintage Austin-Healeys, MGs, and other classics on an actual road course. That’s when the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce hosts its first-ever Peekskill Vintage Grand Prix—an annual, two-mile jaunt through downtown Peekskill and along the Hudson River that marks the beginning of what will be known as Hudson Valley Car Week.
Open to classic cars 50 years old and older, the event will channel celebrated road races of the 1950s and 60s like the original Watkins Glen Grand Prix, where everything from Allards and Triumphs to Cadillacs and Chryslers drove on public streets. Only this Grand Prix won’t be a race, but, rather, a spirited driving event, its cordoned-off course closely monitored by the local constabulary, its spectators safely situated, and its drivers duly pledged to showcase their cars, rather than their driving skills.
“The Peekskill Vintage Grand Prix is first and foremost a motoring event,” says Rich Pepe, its organizer. “It’s not a race or rally, and it’s not a Grand Prix in the usual sense of the phrase. Nor is it the usual car show in a parking lot. Instead, car enthusiasts get to enjoy their cars by driving them on our scenic roads along the majestic Hudson and through downtown without being encumbered by stop signs, street lights, and daily traffic,” he adds.
While drivers are likely to cherish this inaugural classic-car experience, for spectators, the Peekskill Vintage Grand Prix will be a sensory engagement with some of the world’s most unique and beautiful cars snarling along public roads as they did decades ago. Local patrons and other sponsors will also have the opportunity to invite enthralled attendees into their restaurants and shops.
“A growing number of car owners want to do more than just stare at their cars in the garage,” says Pepe. “They want to be involved with them, to drive and share them in a way they can’t at a typical car show. The Peekskill Grand Prix lets them do that with like-minded enthusiasts within the Hudson River’s breathtaking setting.” Indeed, while most classic-car events take place on a static field or an exclusive track, Pepe bills the Peekskill Vintage Grand Prix as a true driving tour that heralds a new genre of inclusive automotive events.
Despite its name, however, Pepe stresses that the Peekskill Vintage Grand Prix is not a race in any sense of the word. “This is simply an opportunity for owners and spectators to experience these historic cars in a more active and accessible way,” he says. “Each car is allowed onto the course at timed intervals to provide courtesy spacing. There are no trophies, no timers, and competition isn’t part of the venue.”
Pepe is no stranger to the hobby. A retired NYPD Highway Patrol officer, Pepe grew up watching his older brother work as a mechanic. “I used to watch him drag-race at Englishtown in New Jersey,” Pepe recounts. “I’ve been involved with a number of car shows, including the Carmel Mission Classic in Carmel, California, held during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance car week. I love car shows. But the Peekskill Vintage Grand Prix is designed to be something different, something unique. It’s not just another car show. It’s an Automotive Event.”