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American races in Germany (1950s-1960s)

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#1 Rob Semmeling

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 15:47

Around the mid-1950s, American soldiers stationed in Germany founded a number of motor clubs, which began organising sports car races (mostly at military airfields), hillclimbs and rallies, as well as more leisurely events.

This is an attempt to outline the rather poorly documented American races in Germany of the 1950s and early 1960s.

First of all, there were the Eifel Motor Sport Club (EMSC), founded in Bitburg in 1953, and the Hesse Motor Sports Club (HMSC), founded in Wiesbaden in 1954. Both still exist today.

The latter club is best known for organising the Pferdsfeld airfield races:

03.04.1955 - 1st Pferdsfeld Races
18.09.1955 - 2nd Pferdsfeld Races

29.06.1958 - 1st Wiesbaden National Benefit Races (marred by a severe accident)

12.10.1958 - 3rd Pferdsfeld Races ('Columbus Day Races')
08.03.1959 - 4th Pferdsfeld Races
06.03.1960 - 5th Pferdsfeld Races
19.03.1961 - 6th Pferdsfeld Races

31.05.1959 - 1st International Pferdsfeld Races
08.05.1960 - 2nd International Pferdsfeld Races - cancelled

16.10.1960 - 2nd HMSC Races (Nürburgring Südschleife / not sure when or where the 1st edition was)

07.05.1961 - 3rd International Pferdsfeld Races
06.05.1962 - 4th International Pferdsfeld Races - cancelled

The HMSC organised at least two further meetings in the mid-1950s - the Landstuhl Air Force Base Road Races and Sembach Air Force Base Road Races - which are mentioned online twice, here and here:

If there was any doubt that the name of Sebring was being carried around the globe, evidence was presented in June, when a local boy stationed in Germany informed the Highlands County news that a 'Little Sebring' race had been staged by the Hesse Motor Sports Club in Landstuhl, Germany. The competition was run on a 3.9 mile course, which had been laid out on an unused airfield. Pvt. Alton Harnage said he also had seen newsreel footage of the Sebring races, and became homesick when he recognized Bucky Kahn cavorting around the track.

Johns compiled an enviable record of wins in European motor sports during his three-year stint there. He competed in more than 25 events and scored several important victories including first place finishes in the Eifel Motor Sports Club's annual lap times on the Nurburgring course; Landstuhl Air Force Base Road Races and the Sembach Air Force Base Road Races.

As the German media did not cover these events, nothing further is known. In later years, the HMSC ran races in Hockenheim and at Mainz-Finthen airfield.

Around the same time, the Eifel Motor Sport Club organised races at Trier-Euren airfield:

xx.xx.1956 Trier Airport Races (1)
28.04.1957 Trier Airport Races (2) ('Eifel-Race-Meeting')
27.04.1958 Trier Airport Races (3) 
10.05.1959 Trier Airport Races (4)
08.05.1960 Trier Airport Races (5) 
30.10.1960 Trier Airport Races (6) 
21.05.1961 Trier Airport Races (7) 
27.08.1961 Trier Airport Races (8) 
10.06.1962 Trier Airport Races (9) 
19.08.1962 Trier Airport Races (10) 
05.05.1963 Trier Airport Races (11) 
13.10.1963 Trier Airport Races (12) 
03.05.1963 Trier Airport Races (13) 
25.07.1965 Trier Airport Races (14) 
01.05.1966 Trier Airport Races (15) 
01.05.1967 Trier Airport Races (16) - cancelled

Aside from these races, I found three more dates for the year 1957. All three events took place, but I'm not sure who organised them:

03.03.1957 Wachenberg Hillclimb
12.05.1957 Race on the Nürburgring
22.09.1957 Hockenheim-Ring-Races (organiser: ISCC ?)

Then in 1958, the American Touring and Motorsport Association (ATMA) was founded in Frankfurt am Main, apparently as a sort-of umbrella organisation for the American clubs in Germany. ATMA announced these races for 1958 and 1959, but of most events it is not known if they took place or not:

27.04.1958 Trier Airport Races
29.06.1958 Pferdsfeld Races (moved to Wiesbaden-Erbenheim airfield)
20.07.1958 Zweibrücken Airfield Races
31.08.1958 München-Schleißheim Airfield Races
05.10.1958 Wachenburg Hillclimb (sic)
12.10.1958 Nürburgring Races
26.10.1958 Kaiserslautern Hillclimb
16.11.1958 Bitburg Hillclimb

01.03.1959 Wolfsfeld Hillclimb (near Bitburg)
08.03.1959 Pferdsfeld National Races
19.04.1959 Taunus Hillclimb
10.05.1959 Trier Airport Races
31.05.1959 Pferdsfeld International Races
28.06.1959 Sembach Races (or 16.08.1959 / tentative)
12.07.1959 Leipheim Races
06.09.1959 Pirmarens Hillclimb
04.10.1959 Wachenburg Hillclimb (sic)
25.10.1959 Wolfsfeld Hillclimb (near Bitburg)

One additional meeting not listed is known to have been held:

06.09.1959 Nürburgring Races (Betonschleife) (Link)

There was also an ATMA championship at least in 1960.

Anyone know more ?


#2 Michael Ferner

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 18:40

The EMSC is, today, a German club, and has been all the time I can personally recall. I suppose it's possible that it was originally founded by Americans, although that'd be news to me. Many, many years ago (about twenty-five!) I tried to research the Trierer Flugplatz Rennen, but didn't get very far. I looked into microfilms of the local newspaper, and asked the then president of the EMSC about their archives. Net result: almost zero! The newspaper did its best to ignore the event, and the EMSC president was clueless about any archives of the club, so I quickly forgot the entire episode. The EMSC still organises the Wolsfelder Bergrennen once a year, and I wouldn't think much (if anything) else.

I also recall a report in a fifties (sixties?) Auto, Motor und Sport about Americans racing in Germany, including I'm pretty sure the Pferdsfeld races. It was quite a good article, running to two or three pages with a number of photographs. Alas, I cannot really recall which issue, and I rather don't feel like going through my collection to find it (sorry!). In any case, it was the sort of "we had no idea" article, highlighting the curious nature of the event, and almost certainly a one-off. Throughout the postwar history in this part of Germany, Americans have lived here, but at the same time in another world. I wouldn't say they do not mingle at all, but they pretty much keep to themselves, and sort of hide from us. I know that, still in the eighties, Americans provided 50 % of the population in Bitburg, and also lived in most of the many small villages around here. Yet, you wouldn't have known from roaming the streets; they were (and still are) almost invisible.

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 19:10

My guess would be that the only publication which might have reported these would be Stars & Stripes. A basic search for "Hesse Motor Sport Club" between 1950 and 1970 returns 390 results, although "Eifel Motor Sport Club" has only 16 hits. "American Touring and Motorsport Association" returns 17.


Seems very reasonably priced at $4.95 for a day pass or $7.95 for a month!

#4 Rob Semmeling

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 09:30

"Auto Motor und Sport" and other German magazines did cover some of these events, and "AMS" also published an article about ATMA (issue 7/1958 - thanks Lutz!). But most of these races fell under the radar because German involvement, especially in the early races, was relatively limited.

The main thing I would like to know is which races of those announced for 1958 and 1959 took place. A primary source for the as-yet undated Landstuhl and Sembach races would also be nice.

"Stars & Stripes" looks fairly promising, but I don't have a credit card... ):

#5 hlfuzzball

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 00:47

Quote: 06.09.1959 Pirmarens Hillclimb

That should read : PirmaSENS

I was stationed there and attended the hillclimb as a spectatorin 1960.

I should have some snapshots or 35mm slides of that event. I'll dig for them, but it will take some time.

I do remember Gerhard Mitter in a Lotus Formuls Jr., and I seem to remember Hans Stuck, the Gran Prix driver, also driving there in a BMW 700 !

I Found results for the Formula Jr. class in 1960 on the Net:


Pirmasenser Bergprüfung 1960
Deutsche Meisterschaft, Rd 9
Pirmasens, West Germany

August 21 2 x 3300 m = 6600 m Pole Position: --- Fastest Lap: ---

Pos Cla. # Driver, Nationality Entrant Car - Engine/Tuner Time, Laps Reason Out
1 1 Gerhard Mitter, D Autohaus Mitter Lotus 18 - DKW/Mitter
2 2 Herbert Ott, D Herbert Ott Ott-Eigenbau - DKW
3 3 Günther Wels, D Günther Wels PBA - DKW

And This:


Born for motorsport: the BMW 700 Coupé.
The sporting qualities of the BMW 700 Coupé came out quite clearly from the start, shortly after the beginning of production in July 1959: The first Coupés were to be admired on the track before the end of the year, for example in the Sahara-Lappland Rally. In 1960 BMW's fast Coupés brought home both gold medals and titles, Hans Stuck clinching the German Hill-Climbing Championship once again at the wheel of a BMW 700 at the age of 60.

#6 Ralliart

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:18

Pferd is German for horse so - horse field - strange name for an airfield.

#7 johnnicholson80

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 23:59

Good Afternoon Gentlemen...John Nicholson here.....First-I was a member  of the International Sports Car Club in 1957-58...Re: Hockenheim 22-9-57.   Do not believe ISCC sponsored the event as I would have worked it instead of being a participant.  It rained off and on.  The event I believe was to be 80k or perhaps longer but was shortened because of weather.  Winning Porsche I believe averaged at around 87mph...the event proved to be challenging and several drivers left the track because they considered it dangerous.  The rain was blinding on the back stretch and wipers were useless.  Participants mostly DD civilians and USAF and US Army.  Many Germans were very helpful in staging the event and I believe some of them drove.  We raced for fun.  The few records have probably been lost for this period and only the "Winners" if still alive will remember the particulars. I was not a club officer (minimum age to drive), but I do remember the organization of ATMA, sponsorship by AVD, 1957 German GPrix, etc.. I remember a few names and have a few black and white snapshots.  Really would appreciate hearing from and about old friends (remember , I was a real novice and was looked-at a littlebit sideways after my miraculous survival of an "unplanned" event at Nurburgring in the Spring). Have pictures and maybe 8mm of Trier and 1957 1000k (Brooks-Aston Martin).  Will share if interested.  John ONS Fuhrer Ausweis '57 and '58, ISCC member #106.

#8 johnnicholson80

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 22:27

Good Afternoon Lady and Gentlemen...John Nicholson here again.  New "old stuff" located after exhaustive (carbon monoxide with a scent of Castrol)search.  I have found an old application for Hesse club's "Rally Nurburgring", May 3-4, 1958.  I was not able to participate (no leave time...no money...and Uncle Sam really needed my particular skills and requested my continued presence).  This was an ATMA championship event and applications were to be sent to A.J. Nuthall, Merkurstrasse 3, Weisbaden.  Organizers were ATMA, AvD, and ONS.  Names of organizational committee members and sports commissioners are available if someone really wants them.  ATMA club membership included the following: Hesse Motor Sports Club; Heidelberg Sports Touring Club; Eifel Motor Sports Club; International Sports Car Club; Wurzburg Sports Touring Club; Bavarian Sports Car Club; German-American Automobile Club; Bamberg,Frankfurt  Auto Sports and Touring Car Club; Ulm Sports Touring Club; Kassel Motor Sports Club; and Augsburg Sports and Touring Car Club. I also have a list of ATMA championship events including Speed championship events, Rally championship events (ATMA), and Rally championship events (German Club Organized). All scheduled for 1958.  It is interesting to note that membership in Hesse only required  a "sporting interest in automobiles".  Everything was rather casual, perhaps a pressed cardboard motorcycle helmet (speed events),  No tech, no roll bars, no seat belts, FIA rules generally applied...spare tire, tool kit, FIA suitcase...Anyone remember Leo Levine ? (Stars and Stripes,Darmstadt)   Thanks for being here, Tunes of Glory, John

#9 wolf sun

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 07:54

Welcome to the forum, John!


Great posts, great topic. I think many of us would be very interested in seeing your pictures, and/or films!


(As an aside, contrary to how Fines' describes the presence of the US populace in his neck of the woods, growing up in and around Frankfurt, the Americans (Amis, as they were known) were omnipresent to me as a kid. Had some American friends, too. Actually, these days I sometimes find myself baffled at how little is now left of that presence.


Indeed, after having caught the motorsport bug in '78 (at age four) at a local motocross event in Brittany, next up must have been - fanfare - a drag racing meeting near Frankfurt. Think it was Hanau, all organised and run by American forces, can't remember exact date and location. Needless to say, I was not the same kid afterwards - just being close to these machines as they were lighting up the rears did it for me.)


Edit: these drag races were organised by Hanau Auto Racing Association, founded in 1969, pioneers of the sport in Germany, apparently. Meetings were held at Fliegerhorst, Hanau Erlensee. Lots of pictures to be found on the net.

Edited by wolf sun, 25 June 2015 - 08:26.

#10 Rupertlt1

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 11:21

There were drag races held at Ramstein (Air Force Base) in the sixties - I remember reading about it in the British publication Drag Racing & Hot Rod Magazine.



#11 fbarrett

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 15:49

John writ: "Anyone remember Leo Levine ? (Stars and Stripes,Darmstadt)"


Yes, he's retired from Mercedes-Benz and is still around.If you want his contact info, email me at fdb912@gmail.com.


There are photos of him and his Speedster in the recent book Racing at Solitude. A friend here in Colorado now owns the car.



#12 johnnicholson80

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 17:13

Hi to all of you...thank you Rupertit....not until the late sixties was I able to get back into the sport.  Marriage, university, baby, house mortgage, station wagon.  You all know the routine.  As for drag racing...Moss and BMC gear boxes were not really designed for acceleration.  One exception would be Jimmy Clark's fantastic performance at Indianapolis in 1965.  Volkswagens would regularly beat me  across an intersection as I sang a verse of "God Save the Queen" between 1st and 2nd gear.  Speaking of Jimmy Clark....Hockenheim could be a lonely place in the fifties and probably in the sixties too. Ghosts.  And speaking of  ghosts.  There must be some superstition among the "old racing drivers/teams.  As an old German gentleman (I remember his face. A slight slim man) helped me out of my badly bent MGA (Nurburgring 12 May 1957) whispered in my ear. "You have used all the luck for today...there is no more luck for anyone".  Remember,  Milla Miglia 12 May '57,  Portago and Nelson , I am truly sorry.       PS:The ISCC sponsored the 12 May "57 race... we only used the front straight...down through the Sudkerve, back up behind the stands/pits,  into the banked curve,  and then a very sharp right hand hook onto what might have normally been some sort of very narrow access road which led back onto the main straight and up past the pits again.  Each class got ten laps.  As many drivers have experienced...in such very short races on a very short track....the first car into the first turn has a good chance of taking the first place trophy. Sadly I learned that an MG cannot follow  a couple of hot Porsches into a curve.."Tunes of Glory"  John   ( More to follow..pics as soon as I learn to post them.)

#13 johnnicholson80

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 18:45

Frank...thank you....it would be truly wonderful if Phil could reply in the forum...he could not possibly remember me, but I am sure he could post many interesting stories.  The era after WWII was exciting for all motor sports.  Money was  very scarce for average Germans and few could afford much more than  150cc Hoffman.  Few GIs while having a few resources spent their last phenning  (sp)..on sports cars.  Many commanding officers "requested" that GIs not participate.  (I myself was threatened with some sort of "disciplinary action" when the post safety officer discovered my pranged car in the motorpool). The Air Force seemed to be more understanding than the Army.  Of course the DD civilians seemed (to we GIs) to have money to burn and permission to do as they pleased(just a few sour grapes..green envy..what color was that script?)   Just a teaser...in case anyone from this period is listening...do you remember the American Ford racing team?  Two tan and cream sedans and a matching station wagon?  I have the pictures to prove it! (by the way..what are shock absorbers?)  Tunes of Glory, John   And by the way again....has anyone discovered an easy way to get off the white "house" paint that sign painter used to put numbers on our cars at Nurburgring?   Hey..put up with me I'm eighty yeas old!

#14 PonysiteEd

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 13:38

The Hestermanns were in the middle of the hotspot of Ramstein and airfield races. The linked page is mostly in german, but it speaks about first drag races in UK in 1960 and them appearing at Ramstein mid 60ies also with Hedis 66 Mustang later. The family may connect you to some other genuine people still being around to fill gaps.



Some pictures http://www.dragracin...erie1960er.html

Edited by PonysiteEd, 27 June 2015 - 13:40.

#15 johnnicholson80

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Posted 28 June 2015 - 17:26

Thank you Ed.....dropping names..hope it is OK...but one or two of these racers, rallyists may recall some very interesting stuff.  Try Maxwell (white MGA, blue XK140 fixedhead, Jimmy Lee, Silver 360, Rod Heuit(sp), white 100-4 & 300SL.Bill? Tilly(sp),red TR2 (who "got lost in the woods" at Hockenheim), (there is a rather funny side story to Tillys wet walk through the trees), George, last name?,turquoise MGA, powder green Alfa 2000, Hickock, very fast Alfa Veloce coupe,red (it's Italian).  Side note: Hickocks 1300 Veloce (he followed its manufacture on the assembly line, wicker seats, folddown plastic sidecurtains..we marveled that it even had paint.  No one wanted Hickock and that coupe in their class.  I don't know where they put him, but he did race.  Now to the Tilly misadventure... This was a relatively long race on a long course...on the back stretch nothing but a tunnel of trees.  You could not see a car in front of you or one behind..no one.  As I have mentioned the patchy rain didn't help vision.  Why am I driving so fast?  I'm not racing..no one to pass..no one to pass me. Contestants had their share of pit crew, friends, fellow clubmembers etc.  Tilly was a very popular driver and personality and when He failed to pass the stands(what lap?).  The alarm bells went off..another lap may have passed.  It seemed as if all observers were looking at each other....boards went out "where is Tilly"  Another lap passed drivers gestured to officials...we don't know? 

Soon a "white" flag was produced at start/finish line.  No one had ever seen a "white " flag.  There was a scramble for a rule book.  The only 300SL in the race whizzed past the stands...put it into reverse and backed up more than several yards...driver yelled "what is a white flag",  Everyone yelled "we don't know".  He then proceeded down the track passing several competitors before the first chicane.  Time seemed to pass very slowly for we spectators.  Drivers seemed to slow a bit, but the flag wasn't yellow/black? So they kept on racing.  A new car sped onto the track from behind the officials position (wrong side of the track for any entry).  It was a new car to many of us.  It was American, it was blue, and it accelerated very fast (impressive).  Later found out it was a Dodge D400? D440?.  A rule book was located, finally "white flag..service car on the track" .If I remember correctly they found the disabled and abandoned Triumph concealed by some trees..there was no physical damage to the car, but no Tilly.  Time passed slowly for everyone but the drivers who continued to race.  A damp figure appeared from the dense forest behind the stands.  It was Tilly.  He had hiked cross country back to "Grandmother's House. ("Over the river and through the woods to Grandmothers house we go"). No prodigal son was received with more relief.  So much for "Tales from Hockenheim"  Tunes of Glory John

#16 wolf sun

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Posted 29 June 2015 - 20:16

Thank you for sharing your fascinating recollections - by all means keep going!!!


PS - when it comes to the Ring, did you always race on Betonschleife (start/finish loop) only, or did you participate in races held at Südschleife, or even Nordschleife as well?

#17 johnnicholson80

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 05:41

Hi Wolfgang....I sent you an email......please understand...I was a novice....a PFC in the US Army....I only participated in two events the first of which a complete disaster.  I think some of those who witnessed my Nurburgring crash were placing bets that I would never showup for another race.  But I fooled them!  The "Cold War" was not so "cold" for me.  The army kept me very busy and even a 3day pass was hard to get. I missed many of the regular ISCC meetings so I never really got to know all of the club members.  I hope that Leo Levine of Hesse will be able to fill in a lot of the blanks.  Betonschleife might be the short loop we used for the 12-5-57  club race.  Wait for some pictures.  Tunes of Glory John              

#18 terry mcgrath

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 13:03

another great topic
does anyone have any information such as entry lists, results or photos etc of the Eberbach Hill Climb which was held certainly around 1960 as to how long it had been running before this date or after this date I don't know.

#19 Tuboscocca

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 18:28

another great topic
does anyone have any information such as entry lists, results or photos etc of the Eberbach Hill Climb which was held certainly around 1960 as to how long it had been running before this date or after this date I don't know.

1959-70...Entry lists and photos are scarce...