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In Pictures: 1950s and 60s exotic cars show off during speed week

The opportunity to rub fenders, even if only figuratively, with the likes of racing legend Sir Stirling Moss and Walmart's Rob Walton drew enthusiasts to this sunny island in early December to take part in the Bahamas Speed Week Revival. The event - which is planned to be staged annually - is an attempt to re-capture the excitement and magic Nassau Speed Week generated between 1954 and 1966, when European and American drivers competed on an airfield circuit for silver cups and cash in between chasing "pit popsies" at cocktail parties. The revival drew entries ranging from exotic purpose-built sports racers of the type that once ran here to sports cars of the 50s and 60s, with the field rounded out with some moderns. They took part, in-between a succession of social events, in a concours d'elegance, a hillclimb and a sprint race on a sandy shoreline highway course.

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Typical of the cars that raced in Nassau Speed Week’s early years is this 1955 Lister Bristol, a “special” built in Britain by Brian Lister, powered by a 2.0 litre Bristol engine and successfully raced by Archie Scott-Brown. It’s currently worth about $750,000.

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Sir Stirling and Lady Moss navigate a tight right-hander on the hillclimb course in their beautifully restored 1.5 litre, OSCA sports car. Moss won the 12 hours of Sebring in a similar car in 1954.

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The most exotic period racer to take part in the Speed Week revival was this 3.0 litre V-12 engined, 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa that’s worth likely $10-million plus. Cars like it were driven on the island by Phil Hill and Pedro Rodriguez back in the day.

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Providing competition for the foreign exotics that raced in the old Nassau Speed Week were home-brewed American specials such as this Corvette engined, 1959 Bocar XP5 raced by Augie Pabst on the island in 1960.

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One of the most stylish cars taking part in Speed Week was this Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster, the open topped version of the famous Gullwing that was a dominant long-distance racer in its day.

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This 1957 Maserati 450S that was raced in the original Speed Week and reputed to be currently worth about $7 million was brought to the island by racer and vintage car collector Samuel “Rob” Walton chairman of Wal-Mart.

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This pretty 2.5 litre, six-cylinder engined OSCA 2000S is one of a series of racers built by the Maserati brothers in the 1950s. American “lady” racer Denise McCluggage competed in OSCAs in Nassau Speed Weeks.

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This classy Jaguar XK140, being driven vigorously out of a hillclimb corner, was the follow-on model to the XK120 and powered by the company’s classis dual-overhead cam inline six.

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Chevrolet entered factory-backed Corvettes in Speed Week during the 1950s, but this later version running in the revival came to grief against a circuit wall after the racing style steering wheel came off in the driver’s hands.

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Anatoly Arutonoff, who came to Nassau as a pit crew member in 1962 and later raced his own Lancias there, powers his Zagato Bristol up the hill.

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Mid-70s McLaren Formula One team boss Alastair Caldwell put in some enthusiastic runs in his Mercedes-Benz 280SL

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This Austin-Healey Sprite shows that not all the cars entered in the revival were high-priced exotics. The original event included races catering to a wide-cross section of cars as well.

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British Lotus enthusiast Malcolm Ricketts brought over his mid-50s Lotus 9 developed by Colin Chapman whose aerodynamic and lightweight designs had a profound impact on sports car design.

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Another classic British sports car from the 50s and 60s that saw action during the week was this Austin-Healey 3000. These big powerful cars were stalwarts of the racing and rallying scene during their heyday.

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Adrian van der Kroft of Holland put in some quick drives in his Morgan +4. Built in 1959 it has been raced and rallied ever since adding Nassau to a race roster that includes Goodwood, Bahrain and five LeMans Classics.

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Typical of the lightweight specials produced by innovative Brit racing car builders in the 1950 was the Elva Mk 2 driven by Tom Jones. The Mk2 was first seen in 1957, powered by a 1,100cc Coventry-Climax engine.

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The cockpit of a Morgan isn’t the most comfortable place to relax before the start of an event but Adrian and Johanna van der Kroft make the most of it.

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There are ladies who lunch, but in the vintage car world they’re more often ladies who polish. These stylishly turned out co-drivers are putting a final shine on their rides before heading to the concours d’elegance event.

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Fettling temperamental racing engines requires a fine ear and a delicate touch and getting this OSCA’s Weber carbs working in harmony so the engine would be “on song” required both, plus a wealth of experience.

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The pavilion at the very exclusive Lyford Cay Golf Club was the setting for Speed Week’s concours d’elegance and local resident actor Sean Connery turned up for a look at the cars lined up in the drive for judging.

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With the cars parked in the Bahamas sun at Lyford Cay there was plenty of opportunity to study the cockpit layout of legendary racers such as the Ferrari Testa Rossa. Note the classic gated shifter and imagine the sound of its V-12 at the 7,000 rpm-plus redline.

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Big V-8 engines are usually associated with American racers, but the Italians weren’t averse to making use of cubic inches on occasion as the Maserati 450S proves with its 4.5 litre, twin-cam, four-carb, 400 hp at 7,200 rpm powerplant. American racer Carroll Shelby drove one in 1957.

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One of the best looking and rarest British sports cars of the 50s on display at the Speed Week concours was this AC Bristol, powered by a six-cylinder engine with pre-war BMW roots.

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