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Jack McAfee
An Early Builder of the Porsche Legend

by Michael T. Lynch

(Originally appeared in "The 25th Annual Monterey Historic Automobile Races" souvenir book.)

JOINING US THIS WEEKEND IS JACK MCAFEE, a racer, a real car guy, a gentleman of the old school and an important link to Porsche's early history in America. Back in 1930s Los Angeles, Jack was a typical car-crazy kid and, by the time World War II began, a regular dry-lakes competitor under the Throttlers of Hollywood banner with a series of hot rod Ford roadsters. After wartime service in U.S. Navy aviation, Jack returned to campaign the length of California in a D.C. Hal sprint car.

But a new type of machinery was catching on all over America - small foreign-built sports models. When sports car racing began in Southern California at Palm Springs on April 16, 1950, Jack McAfee was entered, driving two Cadillacs (!) - a Sedanette and a supercharged convertible for enigmatic Manhattan Beach contractor Tony Parravano. From this incongruous beginning, Jack would go on to become one of the first stars of western road racing, and contribute immeasurably to the establishment of Porsche's reputation in America. He would also become one of the first (September 1952) and youngest (29) Porsche and VW dealers in the country.

Jack was a calculating, self-taught driver who drove to finish and ran what was then an unorthodox wide line through corners, allowing him to get on the power sooner, carrying more speed the length of the straights. In those early rears of the sport, he drove MGs, Jaguars and Ferraris, mostly for leading Southern California entrants Tony Parravano and John Edgar, posting many class wins as well as main event victories at Buchanan Field (Concord, Calif.) and Palm Springs.

Jack's first Porsche ride was in John von Neumann's rare America roadster at Moffett Field in August, 1953, facing off against Ken Miles' almost unbeatable MG Special R-1 in the under-1500cc event. Jack's Porsche initiation turned into a victory when Miles retired. 'He had more speed on the top end, but handling-wise, the Porsche was really great," McAfee remembers. In the main event, Miles' repaired car won the class and Jack finished second.

It was another two years before Jack was in a Porsche again. Meanwhile, he continued driving Ferraris for Parravano and Edgar, winning main events at Willow Springs, Golden Gate Park, Offutt Air Force Base (Omaha) and repeating at Palm Springs.

Jack also took part in the epic Carrera Panamericana, run over five days on the Pan American highway from Guatemala to the Texas border, the race that provided a name for generations of Porsches. For the last of these treacherous contests in November 1954, Jack was a favorite in John Edgar's Ferrari 375 Plus. This car had won Le Mans in June of that year. A mechanical failure caused the car to crash, injuring Jack and killing his co-driver and friend from hot rod days, Ford Robinson.

Racing Through the Pines: Pebble Beach was the most prestigious course in the early years of California road racing. The April 1956 under-1500cc feature was one of the most hotly con-tested races held up to that time. After watching Ernie McAfee's OSCA and Pete Lovely's Pooper lead, Jack McAfee crossed the stripe first, besting eight other Porsche Spyders to win in John Edgar's 550. Photo by Don Meacham, Edgar Family Collection

Jack McAfee

Vanished Venue: Jack McAfee sits calmly in John Edgar's Porsche 550 at long-forgotten Paramount Ranch in August 1956. It was a less than perfect weekend for Jack. He finished second to John von Neumann's Porsche Spyder driven by Richie Ginther in the under-1500cc preliminary and retired in the class main. Photo by Lester Nehamkin, Edgar Family Collection

Jack McAfee

Le Patron: John Edgar (sunglasses), McAfee's entrant and friend, looks over the competition. Jack stands by in a derby, known in those days as an RFM hat. The RFM stood for Run For Money," and the hats were worn in the mid-'50s by those who favored professional sports car racing rather than the simon-pure amateurism promoted by the SCCA. Photo by Ken Parker, Edgar Family Collection

California racing


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