Mention the name Jim Boffo around the western Pennsylvania racing community, and the response is always the same . . . lots of smiles and great stories about the local legend. So it is only appropriate that the PVGP name Jim Boffo this year’s Honorary Starter since he helped many locals get their start in vintage racing.

Jim is no stranger to vintage racing. He has assisted numerous competitors in preparing and maintaining vintage sports cars of all sorts, mostly of the British ilk, including Mini Cooper, Jaguar, MG, TVR, Chevron, and even an AC Ace. He has been a constant presence in the PVGP paddock over the years, helping racers keep their cars on the track and improve their driving performance.

Jim’s 1967 Mini Cooper #1 and his brother Tom’s 1965 Mini Cooper #11 were a dynamic racing duo in the 1970s. Both cars will be racing at the PVGP this year.

 

Jim is the co-owner of legendary Boffo Motors, which began in 1960 as a small family-owned automotive business in New Brighton, PA.  In the early years, Boffo Motors was an independent repair shop servicing mostly domestic cars and a few imports. As time went on, there seemed a need to specialize in import cars – the demand was there, and few other shops were willing to work on “foreign” cars. In 1965, the idea of selling new imports was added to the mix. An MG franchise came first, followed by Austin-Healey, Jaguar and then Fiat dealerships. Boffo Motors continues to service classic British and Italian cars to this day under the leadership of Jim and his brother Gary.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jim had success as a racer. He participated in many events at venues such as Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, Summit Point and Nelson Ledges. Jim won his class in SCCA’s Northeast Division several years and qualified for the SCCA Runoffs at Road Atlanta in 1970 through 1975, finishing second twice. His ride was a bright yellow 1967 Mini Cooper S, number 1. He bought the car as new in 1967 and converted it for racing in 1969.

In those days, a crack driver named Ed Spreen was the guy to beat in C Sedan, which Jim did in 1970 at Lime Rock just two weeks after a memorable outing, which was the last race ever held at the Cumberland Maryland Airport. Due to the unfortunate failure of new brake pads, Jim and the Mini went on a slight excursion, flipping end-over-end and flying over the hill. Luckily, the SCCA had mandated roll cages the prior year. That and many small trees allowed Jim to walk away from the outing, even though it took 150 feet of cable to pull out the battered Mini.

Both Mini Coopers are Being Restored to Race at the PVGP this Year!

PVGP racer Chris Zappa (left) and Dave Ley (right) present the Honorary Starter flag to Jim Boffo at a recent PVGP gathering to honor Jim.

Hearing that the Mini Cooper was named the 2024 PVGP Marque of the Year provided last fall was just the inspiration for Jim and several dedicated helpers to undertake a full restoration in preparation for this year’s event. Jim’s Mini returns to the track in the capable hands of special friend Chris Zappa. Watch for the yellow streak with a British flag on the roof at both Pitt Race July 26-28 and through the streets of Schenley Park August 3-4.

PVGP racer Chris Zappa first met Jim in 1986 and said, “In addition to being one of the kindest people I know, Jim has always been such an impressive mechanic. I can remember him coming to races with me and my father and being able to fix any problem that arose—Jim has the magic touch.”

Jim’s brother, Tom, also raced an SCCA Mini Cooper S. Known as the “Rapid Runt,” the brothers were quite a racing duo. Unfortunately, Tom passed away in 2014. His bright yellow Mini with an American-flagged roof is also being meticulously restored in preparation for this year’s Grand Prix by David Ley of Exoticars in Wexford with the help of a crew of PVGP volunteers. Look for number 1 and 11 on the track and at other PVGP events this summer.

A group of PVGP racers, volunteers and enthusiasts gathered at the home and garage of Dave Ley in April of this year to present the flag to Jim Boffo. Jim inspected the work on his brother’s Mini and narrated a slide show from his glory days when he and his brother Tom raced side by side. Jim in his #1 and Tom in his #11 – their motto was “The Ones to Watch”. We hope everyone will watch on Sunday, August 4, as Jim drops the flag to start the 2024 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park.

Written by Michael Couch, Mars Austin-Healey Club


About the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
Founded in 1983, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Motorsport Festival features two weekends of racing action. The first weekend is the PVGP Historics at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. The second weekend is racing through a 2.33-mile road course set on the streets of Schenley Park. Between our race weekends, we stage car shows, parties, road rallies, a black-tie formal and a new Garden Party at Phipps. The PVGP is driven by 1,200 volunteers dedicated to staging the country’s largest and longest-running vintage race event. It is also a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization with a mission to provide residential care, treatment and support for people with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities – donating $6.7 million.

Contacts
Dan DelBianco 412 559-3500