By the late 50's drag racing was already happening at St. Thomas, but that's before the track was ever built. The Gear Jammers, a car club, managed to organize drag racing at the St. Thomas airport. It's really quite amazing that this ever happened. Most dragstrips started on airstrips, but to my knowledge, none were still in use, like St. Thomas was. This worked because there were no permanent structures, and the anything that was built could simply be slid to the side during the week, and pulled back out for racing. This was a great partnership, until a forgotten timing tower was left on the track, and a government official tried landing an airplane. Short and sweet, and a tale for the ages. Without this endeavor I'm not sure that the St. Thomas Raceway as we know it would exist.
After my first year attending the Mapleton Custom Rodders show in Moorefield on a Friday night I'm always excited to go back. Not only is it local to me, it also has a really interesting selection of cars. Every year I find something totally unexpected, and I find myself guilty of thinking that all the cool stuff has to be at least a road trip away. This show of, what I believe is, less than 300 cars, never fails to surprise me.
Then we were lead to a steep laneway that took us under the IX Center. As the large power door opened, a wall lite , 3 car wide tunnel appear before us all. Our motors echoed off the walls as we all drove in. It actually looked like a under ground drag strip...lol. This image wasn't lost on us, Jim Heron broke our single file formation by pulling into the lane next to us all with his blown 632 big block powered pro street 1969 Chevelle and began blowing the dust off his huge 21 inch buns as he sped by all of us. Before you knew it everyone was bringing up their rev's and peeling rubber as we shot towards the end of the tunnel where the glow of our brake lights at the end bounced off the brilliant red paint of Eric Hills 32 Ford pic up which was sitting patiently for all of us at the entrance to the lower half of the Autorama Show. Eric's big smile was definitely giving us the stamp of approval on our loud rev pitched entrance into the basement.
The more I hear about "the good old days", the more I wish I had lived through them. The days of Connie Kalitta, Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, and all the rest. I'd have had a chance to watch Scott Wilson break records in the Time Machine, and Bill Kydd do the same with his car. But as I start looking at what they did, I see what people are doing right now, and that the passion of the days gone by hasn't ended. We have our own hard-working racers still doing what they used to. Sure, times have changed, but at the core of it the people and the passion is the very same as "the good old days."
“Mechanical engineering and mechanics saved my life. If it weren’t for those two things I would either be dead or in jail.”
Walking into Detroit Autorama this year was almost an adrenaline rush this year. I had been away from cars for a month, and was in serious withdrawl. Admittedly, I was like an drug addict getting high for the first time in a month.
I can hardly believe how many people I met in 2016. So many new friends, and so many people I didn't have time to follow up with (sorry about that). With all the excitement of 2017 I'm hoping to spend more time at the track, in garages, and hopefully on some road trips. I'm excited to meet more passionate people who are building, racing, and driving interesting cars.
After the surprise of Cobble Beach last year I couldn't wait to go back this year, with the bar set high. I have to say, this year definitely did not disappoint.
I have become quite passionate about my local car history. The cars themselves, the organizations, the culture, and the people. I still have a lot to learn, but after the past weekend, I feel as though I have experienced more of it.
Somewhere in the back of my head I wanted to see a place where all automotive enthusiasts come together and appreciate each other's work, even when it's a totally different style. After attending the Northern Showdown last year, I realized that I had found that place!