There’s a reason the hill climb was one of the earliest forms of motor vehicle racing: Competition doesn’t get much simpler. All you need is a hill (duh), a handful of competitors with cars and sympathetic local authorities. Race up to the top one by one, then see who did it the fastest. That’s about all there is to it.
Starting life as a two door sedan produced early in 1926, the first year of Pontiac production, the car was sold by McRorie-Sautter, a Utica, New York dealer. The owner had the car for only a short time when an accidental fire destroyed the car’s interior. The dealership bought back the damaged chassis and had it taken across town to the Willoughby Coachworks, a builder of high end custom automobiles. There the car was rebodied from the dash back into an open, two seat speedster. This was not a typical high finished job, typical of the coachworks, but quick and dirty, witnessed by the fact that there was no Willoughby number plate attached.
The dealership had a purpose for this investment, hill climb racing, which was popular in that period. They had dealership signage painted onto the car, and on August 14, 1926, the Hill Climber, as it was come to be known, was entered in a Sherrill New York hill climb. They were successful taking first in their displacement class and third in the unlimited displacement run.
The dealership returned home that day with two silver trophies and $20. Two days later, the Utica newspaper ran an ad for the dealership proudly describing the results to encourage people to consider a new Pontiac. This had to have been the first Pontiac “Win On Sunday, Sell On Monday” ad.
The McRorie-Sautter dealership continued to campaign the Hill Climber for seven years until 1932, at which time it was placed in storage at the dealer. In 1983, the dealership closed, and the car was given to a family friend. The car suffered neglect for a number of years. The present owners purchased it from an on-line ad in 1997. Since, they found the McRorie family, from whom they were given the history of the car and a number of photographs from 1926. They then did extensive researched in Utica newspapers to further build the car’s history. The restoration kept as close to the original 1926 photos as possible. Hill Climber’s history has been accepted by the AACA 24B judging class (open course race cars) and has earned a Grand National Senior award. It also received the AACA Past President’s Racing Cup award for outstanding race car, Eastern Division in 2008.
The car participated in numerous Concours ‘d Elegance events throughout the eastern US and made demonstration runs in several “revival” historic hill climbs; Hershey, PA, Newport, IN and Algonquin, IL. In 2003 the car received an Amelia award at the Amelia Island Concours ‘d Elegance. It has also been on display at several museums over the years. The Hill Climber was also used on the General Motors mid-way displays at two NHRA Nationals drag races. The GM
Racing press release in 2002 was titled, “First Pontiac Race Car To Be Featured At U.S. Nationals”.
The Hill Climber has also been featured in several magazines. The car drives and shows well.