The only thing better than a story about a classic car being given new life is one that includes an owner who is just as inspiring as the car.
Renee Brinkerhoff is a 61-year-old mother of four, thrill-seeker, and amateur racing driver. Since acquiring a modified VW Beetle at the age of 17, Renee has been a self-prescribed car nut. After dreaming about racing for 35 years, Renee finally bit the bullet at age 55 and decided to get serious about her withheld passion.
First, Renee found the right car: a 1956 Porsche 356A Outlaw (if only we could all be so lucky to find such a perfect mate). To prove to herself and others that she was sincere in her ambitions, Renee signed up to compete in Mexico’s La Carrera Panamericana rally. After training with racing instructors and sharing a car in the 2012 competition, Renee settled on the 2013 rally as her earnest racing “debut.”
To prepare for the race, the 356A was gutted and rebuilt into a competitive racing weapon. On the outside, it was still a classic shape, but beneath the sheetmetal was a 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine, dual weber carborateurs, a limited-slip differential, five-speed manual gearbox, 911-derived rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, roll cage, and 80-liter fuel cell.
Pleased with the build, Renee entered the 2013 La Carrera Panamericana expecting to use the event as her own racing school. To say she learned quickly would be a gross understatement. Supported by a novice race team (Valkyrie Racing) and seasoned navigator, Renee made history as a woman, placing first in her class. The following year, Renee finished second in her class and 14th overall (she was the only woman who competed that year). After intense mechanical and psychological hurdles, Renee achieved another 2nd place class finish in 2015.
The momentum hasn’t slowed: Renee and her race team are hungrier for seat time than ever before. Valkyrie Racing is now embarking on the 356 World Rally Tour, which will see her race the 356A in six rallies on all seven continents. The first race, completed this past October, saw Renee win her class at La Carrera Panamericana. Her next challenge is Australia’s Targa Tasmania this coming April 2018.
From housewife to rallying trailblazer, Renne Brinkerhoff is our kind of hero. You can be sure we’ll be keeping tabs on her transcontinental adventures – you should too.
Images courtesy of Valkyrie Racing.