Rallying was slow to get under way after a major war, but the 1950s were the Golden Age of the long-distance road rally. In Europe, the Monte Carlo Rally, the French and Austrian Alpines, and the Liège were joined by a host of new events that quickly established themselves as classics. The RAC Rally gained International status on its return in 1951, but for 10 years its emphasis on map-reading navigation and short maneuverability tests made it unpopular in comparison to these other events.
The Automobile Club de Marseille et Provence laid on a long tough route over a succession of rugged passes and stated that cars would have to be driven flat out from start to finish The Monte, because of its glamour and in the snowy conditions got a lot of media coverage and the biggest entries, while the Acropolis took advantage of Greece's appalling roads to become a truly tough event - and so the roots of the Highland Car and Motorcycle Club Snowman Rally were founded, and a link to the ‘Monte’ was formed.
Rallying became very popular in Sweden and Finland in the 1950s, thanks in part to the invention of the specialsträcka (Swedish) or erikoiskoe (Finnish), or special stage: shorter sections of route, usually on minor or private roads—predominantly gravel in these countries—away from habitation and traffic, which were separately timed. These at long last provided the solution to the conflict inherent in the notion of driving as fast as possible on ordinary roads. The idea spread to other countries, albeit more slowly to the most demanding events, but would in turn come to the Snowman.
The First Snowman was organised in February 1955 as a closed to club event using tarmac roads and covering over 350 miles, the inaugural event was run overnight with high tea available before the start at 10pm.
Back in those days the Highland Car Club was named the Highland Car and Motorcycle Club – the event was known then as it is now as the ‘Snowman’ Rally. It was quite something for such an event to be organised.
The glamour of the leading rally the ‘Monte Carlo’ Rally at that time must have had a profound affect on the organisers of the first Snowman Rally, On offer for the outright winners of such events was a paid entry into the following years Monte Carlo Rally.
Finishers could enjoy the luxury of a cooked breakfast for 7/6 (37p). Of course, there were no Nomex racewear in those days. Instead, the fashionable gear was Norwegian sweaters, with matching "bunnets". Interestingly, bunnets have again become a regular feature of the event since 1999 as a thank you to our volunteer marshals.
Many of the trophies from that era are still part of the Snowman prize list. The organisers promised "a route of over 250 miles of typically highland terrain, but we have striven to eliminate untarred tracks, impossible time schedules, steep hills, and regularity sections
By 1959 the rally had two start points, Monte Carlo style, at Inverness and Elgin and such was the growing success of the Snowman that it had become known favourably as "the poor man's Monte Carlo".
The first winner of the Snowman Rally in 1955 was local driver – George MacPherson.
George was an accomplished rally driver and followed up his Snowman Rally victory with another victory in the ‘June’ Rally which later became the Scottish Rally.
George won the entry to the Monte Carlo Rally, however failed to join the 350 entrants.
The '56 Monte had 73 British crews and a starting point in Glasgow and a 2500-mile route!
At least victory that year went to a fellow reputed Snowman competitor Ronnie Adams who went on to win the Monte in 56 in a Jaguar and a career as a successful works driver.