NEWPORT — Competition rule changes will allow more antique motorcycles to compete in the 48th Annual Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb. The historic event, scheduled for Oct. 2, 3 and 4, will also hosting Dennis Gage and the film crew of cable television’s “My Classic Car” for a weekend of shooting material for upcoming episodes.
The Newport Lions Club is preparing for the annual gathering of antique auto enthusiasts, hoping to stage another record-setting festival around the famous 1,800-foot-long, 140-foot-high Newport Hill, a proving ground for early automobile designs.
The change in motorcycle class rules will now allow discontinued make, side-valve engine bikes up to 1953 to compete, opening the door to all original Indian models and some other post-war makes. No overhead valve engines are eligible, just side-valve, flat head, L-head or intake-over-exhaust valve arrangements.
More than 330 cars will compete in 31 classes in timed runs over the hill, while some 500 show cars, street rods and street machines were judged alongside classic antique vehicles in 12 classes for trophies.
The festival weekend begins Friday evening, Oct. 2 with the annual Dog Show and a Gospel Music Jamboree at the Newport Methodist Church, featuring The Lesters.
The festival will conclude with a giant prize drawing Sunday afternoon, featuring the Lions Club’s 1954 Nash Airflyte Statesman. Copies of the three history books on the Hill Climb, covering the first Newport Hill Climb in 1909 until today, will be on sale throughout the weekend.
The Newport Hill Climb likely began as an “innocent” challenge between two owners of those new-fangled automobiles. While early autos had trouble making it up the crest of the hill, soon topping the 140-foot plus hilltop became common, but still a great struggle on the early gasoline engines. Then it wasn’t just enough to top the hill; you had to be the fastest to climb it.
The first Hill Climb was held in 1909 and organized by the businessmen of Newport as a way to capitalize on the interest in climbing the hill. Hill Climbing contests were becoming more common place, and by 1915 the “newness” has worn off, and board-track and other circular racing forms were becoming more popular. The financial returns to the businessmen shrank, as did the interest in holding the event, and the 1916 event never materialized.
More information on the Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb is available from the Newport Lions Club, Box 398, Newport, IN, 47966, or by calling (765) 492-4220. Information is also available on the internet at www.newporthillclimb.com.