Story and Photos by Dean Larson

The Last Open Road is a novel written by B. S. Levy that tells the story of a young grease monkey named Buddy Palumbo who becomes captivated by American road racing in the 1950s. At that time, real road racing mostly took place on closed public roads, which created quite a spectacle for attendees, but often ended with cars careening into groups of race fans. A particularly tragic incident occurred in 1952 at Watkins Glen, which ended road racing on public streets. While the era was short lived, its spirit lives on in the vehicles and places that were part of this phenomenon.

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is only one of the tracks covered in Levy’s writings, but it could be argued that this place best reflects the phrase “The Last Open Road.” Parts of the original race circuit still form the streets downtown and the location is on the National Register of Historic Places. Race cars are still found on the streets today, but now that’s limited to organized car shows. These days the racing is done nearby at Road America. The 4-plus-mile course has remained largely unchanged since opening in 1955 and has a rich history of its own. 

Affectionately known as “vintage weekend,” Elkhart Lake comes alive for the WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman. The four-day event features plenty of historic racing from vintage Can-Am cars to open-wheel Indy Lights. When the racing wraps up on Friday, a police escort leads a group of race cars to downtown Elkhart Lake for the Concours d’ Elegance. The event attracts a huge volume of people that can make it difficult to even navigate the street. On Saturday night, it's time for the street car event, where we were lucky enough to display two cars this year. With live bands, several bars and thousands of car people in a few square miles, there’s plenty to do after the show is over.

We went all in for 2017 with a booth at the track and a couple cars on display. While it cut into our normal track festivities, (including not taking a single lap of the CTECH Manufacturing Motorplex go-kart track, which I’m still sore about) we had a great time and met hundreds of awesome people as enthusiastic about cars as we are. Dick Kitzmiller of Scarab Motorsports also joined us in our booth with some goodies on display from the new Miester Brauser Edition Scarab. With a car like Scarab on display at a historic track like Road America, we knew we’d be talking to some interesting folks, but we were amazed when both Don Devine and Bill Wuesthoff walked into our booth to chat. Having piloted the original Scarab roadsters on the track, these guys were the true experts and lit up over our continuation Scarab. Talking with these two next to a Scarab roadster is going to be a tough experience to beat.

It’s tough to summarize our experience at Road America, so hopefully these photos do it justice. You’ll be seeing a few of these cars in upcoming issues, and you’ll definitely see us next year for vintage weekend in Elkhart Lake.