David Arken – Sterling Edwards
Dave Arken began racing in 1970. As he was graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, the University would give money to students to help buy a suit for their first job. Dave applied for the grant, received the money and used it for tuition to race driver’s school at Riverside. A lifetime of SCCA racing involvement had begun.
His first car was an H Production Sprite that he bought with a loan and paid a friend for on installments. Dave won many races and in 1975 was the Northern Pacific Divisional Champion in H Production.
Dave switched to a B Production Corvette, winning more races, while setting lap records. He then built a D Sports Racer in 1991 and continued his racing career straight to the Pacific Coast Road Racing (PCRRC) Championship. Dave also won the Over class in the SFR Enduro three times and the Under class once.
In addition to his driving involvement, Dave began teaching at the San Francisco Region Drivers School in 1973. From 1977 until about 2000, he was the Chief Driving Instructor and is still involved to this day. He was elected to the Racing Drivers Club Board where he was instrumental in kick-starting the Driver Observer Program. Dave is and has been a coach and mentor to many SRF drivers.
Not content with just driving and coaching, he became involved in shaping the region itself. He ran for and was elected to the Region Board of Directors in the mid 1970’s, and has served as the Race Director, the Competition Director and was the first to expand the points system, and qualifying races as well.
Still not content with giving his time to the region in various ways, Dave has served on the Formula/Sports Racing advisory committee at the national level. He currently serves on the Club Racing Board (CRB) which is the group responsible for rules writing for SCCA.
It is an understatement to say that Dave has given a tremendous amount of his time and efforts not just for the enjoyment of driving a race car, but to the sport itself and the San Francisco Region.
(1916 – 1989)
In an automotive sense, Sterling Edwards was a man ahead of the times. He was an ex-World War II fighter test pilot and then an early member of the San Francisco Region. However, unlike many other early road racers, he did not begin his racing in an MG-TD but in a car he helped design and had built – the Edwards Special.
The idea for his own car came to him during a trip to the 1948 Winter Olympics in Switzerland. Outside his hotel he spotted a Cisitalia Mille Miglia roadster which captivated his imagination and a seed was planted in his mind about building his own car. Upon his return to California and a little over one year later the Edwards Special was introduced in the Fall of 1949. The car was featured on the cover of the December 1950 issue of Road and Track magazine with a feature article inside describing the car. This article brought attention to sports car racing and the SF Region. Edwards entered the Special and won the first Palm Springs races in April 1950, the May race at Buchanan Field and a race at Santa Ana in June. These successes established the Edwards Special as very competitive race car.
However it was his off track activities as a race organizer where Edwards made his biggest contributions to the future success of the SF Region. His most important effort began in the summer of 1949 when Edwards began discussions with a friend of his, Jack Morse, President of Del Monte Properties in Monterey. He proposed holding a race on some of the roads on the Morse’s Del Monte property. Morse had a sympathetic ear since two of his Yale classmates had been the Collier Brothers, well known for their racing activities on the East Coast. In February 1950, Edwards wrote a letter to SCCA National announcing an agreement had been reached with Morse to hold the race later in the year on a course to be determined.
In March 1950, Edwards attended the SCCA road race at Palm Beach Shores in Florida to learn all he could about race organization. He supplemented this information with more observations at the April Palms Springs race and the May Buchanan Field race. With his wealth of race organization information Edwards was named General Chairman for the Pebble Beach races and was part of the team of SF Region officials that surveyed the Del Monte Area and established the now famous race course.
Of course the race was a resounding success for several reasons – it was very well organized, the venue ideal, the course well designed and with the excellent surrounding amenities, it became an instant classic. The event also received national media coverage and its popularity grew year by year. With Pebble Beach in the North and the Palm Springs race in the South, these became the two highlights of the California racing season for the first half of the 1950’s.
Besides racing a variety of exotic sports cars over the next six years, Edwards remained an active participant in race planning and organization first as part of the SF Region Executive Committee, through 1951 then as a sought after consultant. The success of Pebble Beach gave a significant boost to sports car racing’s popularity and a corresponding increase in club membership, putting the sport on firm ground in a short period of time.
Without Edwards’s organizational efforts during those first two years which changed the course of racing for the SF Region, specifically at Pebble Beach, it is very unlikely another significant event would not have happened, the purpose built race course at Laguna Seca.