Why this collection?
I've been asking myself that same question since 1995 when I competed in the second of the Shell 4000 'Retro' rallies put on by the Calgary Vintage Race Club. It was at that event that I learned for the first time that Paddy Hopkirk had been in Canada with the most celebrated BMC Works rally car, GRX 5D, a 1965 Morris Cooper S. This fact was completely unknown to me at the time, so I started my research just on that car. Well, it snowballed from there. As more information turned up, I had to know more and eventually I decided I might as well compile the complete history of the 4000 and BC Trans-Canada rallies, well, because nobody else was!
But really, why?
The majority of people rallying today are too young to remember the rallies that took place before the '70's and since the history is not written down anywhere there is no opportunity to learn about them. It's not unlike doing a family genealogy: unless someone sits down to do the in-depth research, travels to all corners of the globe to compile data, do oral histories and search the records, no one will know about your ancestry. To be honest, few people care, but your ancestors sure do! To me, rally people are my family and all I'm doing is preserving a little piece of their history.
There is an old axiom that says you cannot know where you are going if you do not know where you have been. To me, this suggests that history is like a vector: an origin point with a line of a certain length heading off in a known orientation. For example, I regularly compete in TSD rallies in BC, in vintage cars using Halda's and a Curta just the way it was done in the 60's, and on many of the same roads that were used in the 60's. The only thing that has changed is that modern events are timed to the second rather than the minute. Throughout the rest of the field are modern 4 wheel drive (mostly Subaru) cars with computer equipment on board. Our historic car is the origin and they are the pointy end of the vector. We also represent the benchmark standard for progress. With traditional equipment and an antique car, if we can place better than the modern cars, well, it should send a message, eh? "That vector is not as long as you think it is." Oh sure, I know we'll never win a rally, but it's all about fun isn't it?
All About Fun
I guess that's the real reason for doing this project: fun. It's fun tracking down all the information I need, fun reading about what happened in the rallies, fun talking with the competitors. The biggest joy I get from this project is giving back to the competitors memories they had long forgotten because they thought no one cared. I also enjoy making connections between disparate pieces of information or events.
Where from here?
I doubt I will be finished with this project anytime soon, but the logical next step is a book. I am not the one to write it though, since I was just a kid when the original rallies were run. I hope my work will make it easy for anyone qualified to write the book to do so, and hopefully easy enough to make it happen.
Yes, this project has cost me some money and a lot of time. I have not been keeping track of costs, but I'd estimate $2000 has been spent on postage, film conversion, video tapes, domain name registration and web hosting costs. This is substantially less than a pack-a-day smoking habit so I count myself lucky. In terms of time, who knows? I have sent and received nearly a thousand email from competitors, spent untold hours searching the internet for more contacts, driven or flown all across Canada to interview or scan material and made my butt ache from seat time in front of the computer and scanner. All this time could have been spent in front of the television with nothing to show for it, so again, I count myself lucky.
How Can You Help?
Open up your collections. If you have photographs or stories relating to the 4000, please let me know so I can borrow, scan and return (click on the mailbox). The final configuration of this web site will have room for everything and it will all be searchable by key word, competitor name etc. If you have information relating to other motorsports events that you do not know what to do with, please send it to the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Archive (follow the link from the side bar) where it can be preserved and made available for others doing research projects like this. Do it now, or ensure the provision is made in your will, but either way, make it easier on those you love to tidy up your estate when you're gone.
You can help me continue rallying the traditional way too. If you have old rally equipment: Halda's, Curta's gears, lights that you have not used for decades and don't know what to do with, please contact me and we can negotiate. The Archive needs a display of period instruments as well, so anything I cannot use will go there.
Marcel Chichak - January 2004