The Vallejo Grand Prix and other Claw Foot Tales


By Charles Bartlett


Can you fathom the City of Vallejo turning the Downtown neighborhood into a road race course for high-powered race cars? Indeed we did, and it was called the Vallejo Grand Prix. My memory of this race was jogged by the upcoming Bathtub Regatta.

The Vallejo Grand Prix was certainly not a long-standing tradition as it was only held for four consecutive years. Ultimately it succumbed to liability issues as insurance for the one-day event became cost prohibitive.

Hundreds of people standing behind the hay bails, watching the cars struggle for traction as they accelerated around the street corners. The very same corners and intersections that we walked across everyday.

The roar of the engines reverberating through the downtown streets was great fun. Downtown Vallejo truly felt alive.

As the regatta approaches next week, I wonder how many Vallejoans realize this is actually the return of the event. I recall the first regatta from long ago because my Father and a bunch of friends built an enormous pontoon boat in our driveway.

Complete with a cast iron claw foot bathtub, it was built and launched at the race within 24 hours.

What chance does a 10′ x 10′ platform buoyed by a dozen 55 gallon drums have of winning? Not much. Add a 200 lb. cast iron bathtub and you may as well christen it the USS Futility.

But building the boat only for the sake of winning would entirely miss the point. The 48 hours of work, jokes, laughs, and occasional accidents are what friends and community are all about.

It’s something you can’t get from social media or an online forum. The kind of reward that only comes from physical participation.

Even if you’re just a 9 year old boy leaning against the waterfront railing, cheering your Dad along to the finish line, you are participating in something real that defines you and your community.

I am definitely looking forward to the return of the regatta as it signals Vallejo’s return to a time when fun and exciting events were common.

Hopefully the Bathtub Regatta joins The Obtanium Cup and Pirate Festival as one of the great regular Vallejo events.




'The Vallejo Grand Prix and other Claw Foot Tales' have 3 comments

  1. June 30, 2014 @ 2:30 pm wharf rat

    The Vallejo Grand Prix was BIG it became one of the most popular events in all of SCCA , who by the way covered the insurance and ran a very organized event . The race had people comming from out of state to participate and view , this was the only one of it;s kind at the time . While insurance might have been a factor the events real demise was a lack of support by staff (extra workload) who cited the residents of marina tower’s complaints of the noise . Jack McDonald concieved of the event and laid the foundation He was livid that staff basicially canned the whole event , being one of SCCA’s premium venus and his own brainchild. If downtown is an issue it could be held on Mare Island but I would think the downtown merchants would like the foot traffic by folks with $$$ in their pockets . This event really put Vallejo on the map at least for awile , as families did the race and then marine world for the weekend .. It was pun intended an economic engine .


  2. July 2, 2014 @ 6:13 pm Clarke Johnston

    I remember the Grand Prix. It was fun, exciting, and an event that brought visitors and interest into our downtown. Now, with our damaged streets and indifferent civic pride, such an event is so remote as to be inconceivable. Along the same time frame, Howard Arneson brought his wicked fast and totally world-class twin-turbine powered speedboat to visit Vallejo, docking briefly at Brinkmans. Which, by the way, is looking more and more like total blight. There are more letters missing from the the Brinkmans sign than there are left up. Sad, annoying, and fully representative of the City’s supreme indifference to the visual disaster that is this facility. Utterly devoid of ownership pride.


    • July 3, 2014 @ 9:22 pm wharf rat

      @ Clarke We might be living in a bygone era but the Grand Prix was a class act in all respects , this was in the day when City Staff answered to City leadership and the Community , since the shift of local controll has morphed to PAC’s and other special interest groups the will of the People has been at best in the back seat … This indefrence has become indemic throughout City Government , who cant even board up a City owned building properly … The breaking point must be near !! “the natives are gettin restless”


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