|Photo by Dana Neibert
Guest blogger Nick Kurczewski's adventure continues. First stop on the Porsche Travel Club's inaugural North American tour: the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills.
By Nick Kurczewski
The sparkling boutiques of Rodeo Drive seem almost within arm’s reach of my room here at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, the first stop for the Porsche Travel Club’s inaugural North American tour. Yet approximately 90 years ago, the view from my room might have looked directly onto the front straightaway of the Beverly Hills Speedway. Long before the glamorous boutiques moved in—and before Julia Roberts’ memorable visit to the Beverly Wilshire in the 1990 film Pretty Woman—a racetrack stood on the site of this luxurious Four Seasons-owned property.
Being hosted by the Porsche Travel Club has its perks, but I never expected the hotels to have a racing history. Opened in 1920, the Beverly Hills Speedway was built with money raised by actors and other well-heeled car enthusiasts in the fledgling movie industry. The track surface was built entirely out of wooden boards. Relatively cheap to build, it was also a much cleaner alternative to dusty dirt tracks. This type of construction earned the Beverly Hills Speedway, and other wood-surfaced circuits, the nickname “toothpick tracks.”
Rising property values soon dropped the checkered flag on the racing action. The speedway closed in 1924, and in its place rose the magnificent Beverly Wilshire. A veritable who’s-who of media moguls and legends of the silver screen have stayed at the hotel since. Added to that list is a certain automotive journalist, one who liberally applied several layers of sunscreen to himself while standing in the hotel driveway.
Our caravan of Porsche sports cars would be broken down into two manageable groups, with me fourth in a line of five cars. Our destination by day’s end: the idyllic town of San Luis Obispo, recently hailed as the “Happiest Place in the USA.” To get there, we’d wind our way along the Pacific, with ample time to savor the sites, sounds and flavors of the California coastline. With the turn of a handle and press of a button, the convertible top of my Porsche Boxster folded neatly away.
It was time to drive.
Part 1: Great Drives, Porsche Travel Club
Part 3: Great Drives, Porsche Travel Club
Part 4: Great Drives, Porsche Travel Club