Caldwell, Howard Stanley and Pike Green in a dash race
Victoria, B.C.s, Langford Speedway officially opened in 1936
its construction came from the formation of the B.C. Automotive
Sports Association (BCASA) in 1934. The BCASAs first president
was Jack Smith, a transplanted Albertan who raced in the 1920s at
both Vancouvers Hastings Park and Victorias Willows
half-mile horse tracks, and he would be a constant figure in the
development of the speedway, its cars and its drivers. Early on
he was being called the father of racing in Victoria.
After holding races at Nanaimos Maxey Field (5/8ths
mile dirt oval), The Willows and the Colwood mile horse track it
was the building of the Langford track (Langford is about 8 miles
north of Victoria on the old Island Highway) that began to put Victoria
racers on the map.
first race was June 6, 1936 on what was called a dirt oval. Driver,
builder, one of the founding members of the BCASA, and correspondant
to the National Speed Sport News, Johnny Wright wrote about the
opening day a few years after Langford Speedway had closed:
Speedway was built in 1936 on property owned by a racing enthusiast,
Jack Taylor. Taylor, with the help of the club members, cleared
the land and scratched a 3/8ths mile track out of the rough raw
earth. Clay was hauled and gallons of old crank case all was poured
into the recipe and there was the track, loose as a goose and with
millions of big rocks just waiting to be tossed up by the flying
wheels. To make the plant perfect a set of bleachers was erected,
and a board fence wrapped around the deal, all ready for the grand
opening. On opening day all the city big wigs were invited, and
with their ladies fair all dressed in spotless white, they were
given preference of ring side seats. Well the results were self-explanatory
as the field included from Washington, and elsewhere, Johnny McDowell
with a DO Dreyer, Jimmy Wilburn with an SO HAL, Adoph Dans in an
SO McDowell, Dave Dippolito had a Riley, Ernie Spalding a Ford V-8
and Yam Setterman with his Schofield. Needless to say the local
dry cleaners had a bumper week and before too long the track was
Dave Wildman Dippolito won the opening days 20-lap
feature, shortened due to the corners softening up. He finished
ahead of Wilburn who had been the 1935 northwest champion and who
would go on to win so many races in southern California and the
U.S. mid-west that his nickname would become Ho-Hum
as if winning was boring to all concerned, including himself. Johnny
McDowell, who would start in the Indianapolis 500 four times, was
in Glen Shaws Seattle-based car and set the track record at
22 1/5 seconds in front of 1500-2000 fans.
Local drivers included Fritz Miller in the Jack Smith and
Ed Allen built car, Bill Pearson in Lloyd Vaios car, and Bert
Sutton in his own car.
second event held July 1st, was much like the first.
The Victoria Times said spectators bowed their heads under
a rain of mud and dust. Dippolito again won the feature, this
time in the Glen Shaw Dreyer. Fritz Miller was second. Time for
the 10-lap even was 4 minutes 17 2-5 seconds, an average of under
25 seconds a lap. Fritz Miller won a trophy from the BCASA for doing
a qualifying lap in 24.32 seconds, his time comparable to the times
of the U.S. drivers.
By the end of the summer managing director of the track,
Jack Taylor, announced that Langford Speedways Limited had been
formed with capital estimated at $15,000 and the track would be
hard-surfaced in the near future.
that task completed for 1937 twice as many races were held and speeds
increased. The ads in the Colonist and Times announced international
auto races with five American and seven local drivers scheduled.
By the end of the season the track record was down to 20 seconds
for the 3/8ths mile, set by Seattles Jimmy Seim in a 220 cubic
inch rocker arm conversion. It was equalled at the last race that
season by Bert Sutton in the Jack Smith Special.
the U.S. cars won, the Victoria lads made their presence felt. Jimmie
Logie, Buddy Green, Bill Pearson, Ron Mayell, Sutton, Bob Wensley,
Lloyd Vaio and Art Leason all raced that year. Along with Jack Smiths
car, Phil Foster and Jimmy Laird had built competitive machines.
Sutton and Fred Carson, 1938
and 39 saw the track come into full bloom. Eleven race dates were
held in 1938 and fifteen in 1939. The track record was lowered to
18 seconds, again by Jimmy Seim, by the end of 1939. Some of the
better drivers in the northwest were making regular appearances
at the track, loading their racers on the ferry in Seattle only
to be met by the Victoria enthusiasts at the CPR dock to tow the
cars to the track.
Drivers like Swede Lindskog, Woody Woodford, Jack Spalding,
Bert Bloomgren, Chick Barbo, Lew McMurtry, Seim, Claude Walling,
Wes Moore and Wally Schock all came to the track winning either
Helmet Dashes or Feature events. Lindskog won ten features in those
two years and created a legend that had him never losing a race
at Langford which wasnt quite true but was printed as fact
when he lost his life in 1946.
race Lindskog didnt win was the first win for a local driver
in the international competition. Bert Sutton in the Silver Streak
Special of Jack Smith beat Lindskog, Jimmy Wilkinson, Chick Barbo
and Jack Spalding. It was Dominion Day, 1938, and maybe it was a
bit of a gift but the crowd jumped the fence to congratulate their
frightening incident occurred in 1938. Early in the season Buddy
Green rolled his car over twice on the front straight during the
feature. He was loaded into a car and taken to hospital where he
regained conciousness but had injured himself enough to not race
again until late in the season. A positive outcome was that late
in August Jack Taylor donated an ambulance to the St. John Ambulance
brigade for all the good they had been doing. The ambulance was
used on regular occasions at Langford Speedway and both locals and
visitors would make use of it due to their spirited racing.
interesting character that showed up with his car but couldnt
race due to mechanical problems was Rajo Jack. Being one of the
few black drivers of the era made him a novelty but his 255 Offy
might have over powered the track as Wally Schocks initial
attempts had proven. Schock brought a car more suited to the tight,
slick track and did much better. Rajo Jack only made the one appearance
end of the 1939 season was the beginning of the Second World War.
The 1940 and 41 seasons saw racing curtailed to ten races in 1940
and six in 1941. The U.S. hadnt yet entered the war so cars
were still coming north and if the local boys hadnt been assigned
posts outside of Victoria they continued racing. Americans like
Les Anderson (who would start two Indianapolis 500s after the war)
and Bill Gehler were new feature winners from the south. Jack Spalding
relocated from the U.S. to Canada and would become a legendary figure.
Other locals like Jerry Vantreight and Digger Caldwell gained speed
and were poised for better things.
the war put everything on hiatus. Bert Sutton, who had taken ill
as the war began, lost his life in 1944 from tuberculosis. Others
served. Jack Smith was in a world war for the second time. Pike
Green followed his brother Bud south, as their father had been an
American, and served in the U.S. military. Johnny Wright was stationed
in various Canadian locations and began writing for the National
Speed Sport News about Langford. That continued when the war ended
and racing resumed.
Johnny let the racing community know that Saturday,
January 26th (1946) marked the date of the first car
to run on the track since it closed down for the war. Pike
Green was the driver of the car Bud had driven to the BCASA title
in 1941. Pike had been too young to race before the war but had
been a pit rat helping anyone who would let him. Now
he was more than ready to go.
first season back had eleven races and it was Jack Digger
Caldwell who dominated winning all but three of the feature events.
The Green brothers won the others, Bud with one and Pike with two.
Digger took the points title in what was now called the Bert Sutton
Memorial trophy with Pike second. Pikes rookie driving improved
to the point that on the night of the 50-lap championship race he
eked out a close win over Digger only to end up in the fence but
Green, Howard Stanley and Ken
next two seasons, 1947 and 1948, were spectacular for the number
of cars entered and races run. Seventeen races were held in 1947
and twenty in 1948. The track record of 18 seconds from before the
war had been equalled in 1946 by Digger Caldwell but by the end
of 1948 it was down to 17.50 seconds, set by U.S. driver Don Olds.
Americans were making the regular ferry trip to Langford because
the big crowds were making the purse worth racing for. That, combined
with the increasing number of local cars, made it necessary to run
a B feature as well as the 30 or 40 lap A
feature. Pike Green had relocated to the U.S., returning by air
(he had his pilots licence by then), to Victoria. He often
drove cars from the U.S. but a special machine was being built for
him in Victoria by mechanic John Dalby.
had been another one of the originals of the BCASA and had worked
on various cars at the Speedway before the war. The 2-port Riley
he debuted part way through the 1947 season was special in a few
ways. It had inboard brakes instead of the hand lever used on most
other cars. The clutch was the lever. And the car was the inspiration
for a young high school lad, Grant King, to build his first race
car for the 1948 season.
story has it that Grant was hanging around the Dalby car taking
measurements when Pike asked what the hell is he doing?
Dalbys response was that the crazy kid thinks hes
going to build a race car. Grant King did build that race
car and many after that, going all the way to Indianapolis in 1964
and staying there for the rest of his career as a mechanic. One
year he had three entries start the 500. In 1948 his driver, the
popular Bung Eng, won a feature at Langford with the new King car.
car for the 1947 season was built by Jack Smith. It was a rear-engined
machine with four wheel independent suspension. It attracted the
attention of the newspapers and those in the pits. For Smith it
was more of an experiment to see if the ideas that Ferdinand Porsche
had put in the Auto Union would work on a short track like Langford.
Even with a rookie driver, Howard Stanley, the car worked and, because
of the UFO phenomena occurring around the same time it was nicknamed
the flying saucer by everyone.
Green almost won two 50-lap championship races in a row but slowed
due to overheating the Dalby car in 1947. Digger Caldwell took that
main and retained the points title. Caldwell also held onto the
Jimmy Laird trophy for most wins in the Helmet Dash for the season.
Others to win feature races in 1947 included Jack Spalding, Jerry
Vantreight, Pike, George Haslam and Dave Cooper. Cooper co-owned
his car with BCASA president Eric Foster. Erics young son
Billy could be found at the races and would, in future years, go
on to make a racing name for himself.
Caldwell couldnt hang onto the Bert Sutton Memorial trophy
for 1948. That went to Jack Spalding. His nickname from the before
the war was the little man with the big cigar because
he raced with a cigar in his mouth, like Barney Oldfield from a
Spalding would hold onto the title in 1949 as well. His brother
Ernie, who had been at the opening day of Langford Speedway in 1936,
came north winning a number of features and lowering the track record
to 17.31 seconds. Ernie won more races than Jack, but because he
was based out of the Seattle area unlike his brother who was based
in Vancouver, BC, Ernie was not eligible for points toward the BCASA
title. Ernies son, Cliff, also raced at Langford and would
go onto run USAC midgets many times.
to capture one or more of the eighteen feature events in 1949 included
Vern Bruce, Digger Caldwell, and Seattles Del Fanning and
Vern Bruce car that 1949 season was the second rear-engined Jack
Smith creation. It was owned by Bruce Passmore who had taken over
ownership of Langford Speedway after the war and was having great
success with it and his house cars, whether they were
front or rear engined. Passmore would eventually go on to own a
car dealership that imported Volkswagens, another of those Ferdinand
Porsche creations that interested Jack Smith.
Speedway had been built next to some school property and at the
end of the 1950 season the track would be sold to the school board
to allow for expansion of the school. The last season had eleven
big car events plus two nights for the newly formed travelling show
of the Washington Hardtops.
Dave Cooper won the most main events that year it was Brownie
Brown who took the points title. Others to win features were Jack
Spalding, Del Fanning, Ernie Spalding, Bob Simpson, Brown and Ed
Kostenuk. Bob Simpson also had a pretty bad wreck which sent him
to hospital. During the ensuing years he would team up with Grant
King and the pair would prove to be a powerful team in the Pacific
northwest. Ed Kostenuk, who raced John Dalbys car, would continue
on into the 1960s eventually attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis
500 in 1962 and 1963.
interesting note for that season was the seizure of slick
tires by customs officials over alledged non-payment of duty.
Speedway did not return to action ever again, and it wasnt
until 1954 that the Victoria area would have another track
Western Speedway. In the intervening time a track north towards
Duncan, BC, near Cobble Hill, called Shearing Speedway was built
and helped keep the interest up in the racing community. During
the final season at Langford crowds of 3000 were not uncommon. The
track record ultimately was 17.11 seconds by Del Fanning.
the years the track and its fans saw the usual thrills and spills.
There was one fatality. A spectator, Mrs. Edra Mulder, was hit in
the grandstands by a wheel that came off one of the cars. No drivers
lost their lives in spite of some spectacular crashes.
track, the brainchild of the BCASA, helped develop the driving skills
of those local drivers who competed against some of the better racers
from the Pacific Northwest and they became as good as those racers.
In an economic time when racing was probably more unaffordable than
at any other time well over a hundred different drivers and their
cars, with over half of them from Vancouver Island, competed. Langford
Speedway was the building block for the next generation of drivers
to move up and away from the Victoria area to race, and be successful,
but those racers always seemed to hold onto that connection with
the beginning of a new club aimed at keeping the younger lads involved,
the Vancouver Island Track Roadster Association (VITRA). That club
would last for many decades. Its first president? The same
as the first president of the BCASA, Jack Smith, the father
of racing in Victoria.
champions, BCASA sanction:
Bill Pearson (championship trophy)
1937 Bert Sutton
1938 Bert Sutton (Burdies Café Cup)
1939 Bert Sutton (not sure if this is correct)
1940 Bud Green
1941 Bud Green
1946 Digger Caldwell (Bert Sutton Memorial Trophy)
1947 Digger Caldwell
1948 Jack Spalding
1949 Jack Spalding
1950 Brownie Brown
Victoria Daily Times
National Speed Sport News
photo collections of Pike Green, John Dalby, Don Clay, Lew McMurtry
and Johnny Wright and Jack Frumento.
Photos from after the Second World War were taken by Chuck Hobson.
Track owner Bruce Passmore gives Don Olds $250 cheque
for setting new trackrecord in 1948. Owner Les Wasilchen
Vern Bruce, Bruce Passmore, Jack Smith at Langford
Through the fence, pre-WWII, Digger Caldwell on
Swede Lindskog, 1939
Rajo Jack at Speedway Service in Victoria, 1939
Pike Green, early 1946
Pike Green in John Dalby 2-port Riley circa 1947
Pike Green into fence after winning 1946 50-lap
John Dalby, Dorothy Saunders and Pike Green in
Jimmy Wilburn, 1936
Jimmy Seim, 1939
Jerry Vantreight in a single-stick Fronty circa
Jerry Vantreight circa 1937
Jerry Vantreight after eating some oil.
Jack Taylor, Glen Shaw and Fran Morris, circa 1938
Jack Spalding in Duke Ramsey car, former Glen Shaw
Jack Smith and Bert Sutton circa 1938
Jack Smith 1938
Howard Stanley in Jack Smith-built Flying Saucer,
Ed Kostenuk 1948
Driver Bung Eng in the first car Grant King built,
Digger Caldwell with Jimmy Dempster accepting Jimmy
Laird trophy for Helmet Dash wins 1946
Digger Caldwell accepts trophy from starter Bob
Wensley, crew Jimmy Dempster, Walt Wakelyn and George
Del Fanning, Seattle
Dave Dippolito at Victoria, 1936
Bud Green in a Phil Foster Dodge circa 1939
Brownie Brown 1948
Billy Foster and Dave Cooper
Bert Sutton and Bud green circa 1940
Bert McLeod goes through the fence with Jack Spalding
below, circa 1947
post-WWII Langford patch
After races, Jack Smith in glasses, Brownie Brown
in front with jacket
pre-WWII Langford patch