August Uihlein Pabst, Jr, born on November 25, 1933, is the great-grandson of Pabst Brewing Company founder Captain Frederick Pabst, as well as a former vice president of that brewery. But in the late 1950s, Augie left the company to go racing, and would soon pilot several legendary Ferraris: the Testa Rossa, 250 GT SWB and 250 GTO.
Pabst drove for some of the era’s best-known car owners, such as Luigi Chinetti and Briggs Cunningham, and partnered with some of its best drivers, including Walt Hansgen and Roger Penske. But while he had a famous name and excellent connections, Pabst was no dilettante: He won the USAC Road Racing Championship in 1959 and, in 1960, the SCCA B Modified Championship. In 2011, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Today, Pabst remains very enthusiastic about his racing career, and talking with him about it really does take you back to a golden age of sports-car competition. He’s also very candid, talking freely about both his triumphs and embarrassments. FORZA spoke with Pabst on the phone from his office at Pabst Farms.
Where did your interest in sports cars come from?
Back in the ’50s, the first race I went to was in Janesville, Wisconsin. Jim Kimberly had a Ferrari and a man named Fred Wacker had a Cad-Allard. They were racing at the airport there. The two of them were racing very close and their cars made the most wonderful sounds. I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to do that someday.’
Well, I wasn’t old enough because, back in those days, you had to be 21 to race. I kept saying to my friends, ‘Someday, I’m going to be driving a race car.’ Then I turned 21 and I thought I’d better put up or shut up, so I bought a Triumph TR3. My first race as a driver was at the Milwaukee State Fair on the Milwaukee Mile. They used three quarters of the oval and then had a road course through the middle, kind of like how Indianapolis is set up today. I’d drive the Triumph to the races, get out, take the muffler off so it sounded like a race car, race the car, put it back together and drive it back home. Things just went from there.
Was your family supportive of you racing?
They didn’t pay for it, no. My father had been killed just before my first birthday. He was in the Air Naval Reserve and was killed in a plane crash. My mother didn’t stop me, but she didn’t encourage me, either.