Since the first Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1916, racers and teams have charged up the craggy Colorado mountainside, through switchbacks and undulating sweepers, on everything from motorcycles to semis. Prior to the paved road, gentlemen drivers, and electrified record breakers we know today, Pikes Peak Hill Climb was a dirt and gravel gauntlet that only the most-hardened racers dare to conquer.
Don’t get it twisted, the 12-mile, 156-turn climb is still plenty dangerous in the present day, with steep cliffs and a 4700-foot elevation gain from start to finish. Back in the day, though, the race possessed a certain level of grit and innovation unseen in today’s contest. The intersection of these values is highly prevalent in monochrome photos captured in the 1960s. America’s open-wheel and road-racing champs pitched sedans, sprint cars, and sports cars up the winding dirt road with reckless abandon.
Of the thousands of entrants over the years, this Jaguar D-Type (shown above) driven by Billy Krause has to be one of the coolest.
Krause was one such old-school renegade racers. He could also be considered the Forrest Gump of motorsports, rubbing shoulders with auto racing’s giants throughout the 1950s and ’60s. Yet he is relatively unknown as a. racer compared to contemporaries like Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney, and Mickey Thompson.
Legend has it that his family thought open-wheel dirt track racing was too dangerous. Despite winning a midget championship in 1955, Krause made the transition to professional road racing when his father bought him a $10,000 3.4-liter Jaguar D-Type—the rig supposedly once ran at Le Mans.
A native of California, and nicknamed the Compton Comet, Krause campaigned his D-Type throughout the Golden State. In 1958, he finished third in the Riverside Times Grand Prix, behind Chuck Daigh’s Scarab and Gurney’s Ferrari. At Laguna Seca, he shared a grid with Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, and Jim Hall.
Over the next few years, he became a known commodity in the professional sports car ranks, earning rides in a Maserati Birdcage, a Lotus 19, and Max Balchowsky’s “Old Yeller.” Krause was one of the first Shelby Cobra racers before defecting to the Bowtie to drive a Corvette for Chevrolet at Daytona.
Meanwhile, a 327-cubic-inch small-block Chevy found its way into the Jaguar’s engine bay. With the Corvette power, Krause raced the D-Type up Pikes Peak in 1960 and 1961, earning a personal best of 14 minutes and 49 seconds (and a second in class, in both outings).
After driving a few other famous cars, such as a Lotus 30 and a Lola T70, Krause retired from racing to maintain a Honda dealership. Still, his legacy lives on in the record books and in this black-and-white photo of the dirt-tracker turner road-racer willing his Chevy-powered Jag up Pikes Peak.