Port Jefferson Hill Climb returns on Aug. 14

Port Jefferson Hill Climb returns on Aug. 14

The Port Jeff Hill Climb has been postponed to Sept. 30. Photo by Bob Savage

By Tara Mae

What’s old is new again as Port Jefferson’s Hill Climb returns on Saturday, August 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Continuing in the tradition of the 1910, 1911, and 1925 Port Jefferson hill climbs, this event is an historic tribute that features an antique car parade with about 50 automobiles and a photo exhibit at the Port Jefferson Village Center. 

File photo

“This is a celebration of the history of the hill climbs,” said Bob Laravie, a Port Jefferson Conservancy board member. “The parade starts at the Port Jefferson Village Center, goes up East Broadway hill and hits Belle Terre Road, turns onto North Country Road, and heads back to Main Street, and East Main Street.” 

The parade concludes when they circle back to the Village Center where visitors can view prints of historic photographs by Spooner and Wells. Primarily images of the 1910 Port Jefferson Hill Climb, they are shown courtesy of the Detroit Public Library which now houses them in its collection. 

Hill climbing is one of the oldest forms of motorsports, with the first one taking place in France in 1897. Generally, rather than race each other, cars race the clock as they ascend a peak. Port Jefferson’s version is arguably more a combination of parade and car show rather than a traditional hill climb. 

As each vehicle joins the parade route, the announcer will provide insight and details about the car, its history, and its owner. The cars are driven to a height of about 2,000 feet before beginning their descents.

Participants were recruited from car clubs and car shows, according to Laravie, who is showing the electric car replica he constructed, a Baker Torpedo Kid. The primary requirement for the entries is that they are at least 74 years old, although there are some exceptions. 

“My car is modified for actual hill climbing,” explained Laravie. “I built a replica/tribute to a 1903 electric racecar and they let me in the event …”

In 1910, the Port Jefferson Automobile Club sponsored the first Port Jefferson Hill Climb to promote its cars. “Port Jefferson was a good location for a hill climb; you didn’t need a track or tremendous spectator control. There was a very good turnout the first two years,” Laravie said. A commemorative hill climb was held in 1925. The modern incarnation has been held periodically for the past 50 years and run every 5 years since 2000. Scheduled for 2020, the event was postponed due to the pandemic.

“It is a great piece of Long Island automotive history,” said Howard Kroplick, of East Hills, who is returning for his third Port Jefferson hill climb, having participated in 2010 and 2015. This year, Kroplick will be driving the “Black Beast,” a restored racecar that won the 1909 and 1910 Vanderbilt Cup races and was in the first Indy 500.

“The hill climb has a kind of a legacy about the beginnings of automotive history, not only on Long Island but throughout the United States. We respect history by participating in this event. Also, it’s a lot of fun. It gives [drivers and spectators] the opportunity to utilize these cars and see them in action; most car shows are really stationary,” added Kroplick. 

Sponsored by the Port Jefferson Conservancy, East End Shirt Company, Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry, Blacktop Yacht Club and the Village of Port Jefferson, the Port Jefferson Hill Climb is free to the public with a rain date of Aug. 21. For more information, please call 631-965-0797.

Please note: Parking at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101-A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson is reserved for the hill climb’s participants; other public lots are available to spectators.