Vintage Vibes In The Streets Of Long Beach

We always want what we can’t have.

For me, it probably has something to do with the fact that I never saw these cars race in their glory days, instead growing up around their flawed and aging — yet often desirable — road-going cousins. Whatever the reason, there’s just something special to me about race cars from the ’80s and early ’90s. Out of all of the varied classes running at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach last weekend, Historic IMSA GTO was the one I was looking forward to the most.

It’s hard to put your finger on what exactly it is that makes these cars so special, but hearing the roars of decades-old, carburetor-fed, large-displacement V8s, as well as a handful of fours, sixes, and a rotary engine, echoing off the buildings in Long Beach strikes an innate, primal chord in me. While I’m fully interested in modern day racing as well as what the future holds for motorsport, sometimes it’s most inspiring to look into the past.

Since Sara and I were only at the Grand Prix for one day, and as such opted not to get media passes, I wanted to make sure we were around and shooting what we could during both sessions on Friday when the historic cars would be running.


All of the shots in this story were taken with general admission access, and while I might generally not bother putting a story together without what I would consider proper access, Paddy kindly nudged me to do exactly that. I’m glad, too, as the character of these images taken from behind the fences are unlike anything I would have captured otherwise.


I’ll dedicate a future article to shooting the event for a day without trackside access, but for now, a nostalgic blast from the past.

With the current IMSA SportsCar Championship series running alongside these historic cars over the weekend, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in the last couple decades.


At the same time, there’s no denying we’ve lost a certain and significant amount of charm and charisma along the way. The sounds, the smells, the timeless designs, the simple classic liveries – there’s nothing quite like it anymore.

What we’ve learned since the ’80s and ’90s as far as applying the laws of physics – namely aerodynamics – to our cars has all but ruined the way they look and feel. I don’t mean this in terms of specs or on a surface level, but rather in a deeper, sensory-based way.


I just don’t have the same level of enthusiasm when it comes to an equivalent modern paddock, and when I first spotted the historic car grid within the teams’ makeshift garages in the expo center, I quickly and happily started snapping away.


Of course, it is a race, which means there’s a winner.


The #76 1990 Nissan 300ZX piloted by Craig Bennett took home the first place trophy, also clocking the fastest lap of the day with a 1:24.448. In comparison, the fastest lap during the IMSA GTLM race was a 1:17.215 — a new class record.


The GTLM class consists of cars like the 911 RSR, Corvette C7.R, BMW M8 GTE and the Ford GT, but I’ll take a grid of two dozen historic IMSA cars any day. They may be a good few seconds off the pace of what’s possible today, but they’re better in their own right.

An era where the cars looked as mean as they sounded and drivers had gonads the size of the big engines they were running up front, there’s simply no replacement for the racers of yesteryear.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto

Additional Photos by Sara Ryan
Instagram: pockowokosara



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Call me crazy, but I've been REALLY wanting a C4 Corvette lately...


They're definitely a decent amount of car for the money. Easy to work on and lots of parts laying around, too. And, like David, the looks are growing on me. Hmm...


There's a lot worse ways to spend 5k than a c4 Vette...


The styling is just really growing on me. As long as it's a '96 with the 330hp LT4, I see no problems with it! Plus, the dash in the later models looks oddly similar to the C7's; leather wrap with exposed stitching in the right places and a double-DIN stereo would probably do wonders for dragging it a little bit further out of the '80s. In traffic the other day I was sitting behind a pre-facelift model with the round tail lights and concave bumper, and was completely smitten; that conversion (with the belt line correction) would be a must as well.

So many cars, so little money...


A great morning to wake up to the #75 Z32 pictured racing, and even better that it won the race!
Ahhhh, now to go and clean up...


Something about that blue yellow white peterson pontiac just makes me happy.


Such great photography TYR!!!! My BBS E50's have been an ongoing issue with leaks but pics like this make me not want to give up on them! So many icons ran BBS wheels. Time for another rebuild LOL!


Thanks Spencer. Yeah, get those fixed!


Is that #33 Olds Newman Sharp Racing owned by Adam Carolla?


I know he owns a few old Newman Nissans/other vintage race cars but not sure about that one.


This brings back so many fond childhood memories of trans am in the late 90's. Turn working at Portland international Raceway the Insta-flame Camaro was always my favorite.


Your work just gets better and better and it’s super encouraging to see how good you can be even without special access. Look forward to seeing more and more of your coverage!


Thanks man I really appreciate that


That old Buick racer is freaking awesome


I know, such a goofy looking car from the factory but so cool in this form