I first heard of ELTA (East London Timing Association) while at my first Garage Crawl a few weeks ago. The organizer of the Garage Crawl, Grant "Homer" Kay, made a point of mentioning ELTA's Summer Bash. Grant prefaced this by saying that he doesn't like to "plug" anything. Grant went on to say that ELTA's Summer Bash is the one event that everyone should make it out to.
After this introduction I made sure to connect with this group. I had the good fortune of meeting Mark Rogerson, the ELTA President, who is one of the most friendly and welcoming people I have met so far.
I went to meet Mark at the ELTA shop in London, where he met me with a coffee and donut. Some other ELTA Disciples, Al Cotton and Steve Hamer were there as well. Any thoughts I had of organized notes went out the door as the conversation picked up. The amount of information just coming off the top of their heads was making mine spin.
Sitting down in a shop like theirs is simply inspiring. Even though they are still in "winter mode" and most of the cars are covered up, it's not hard to see the passion and history in this place. If you went around the shop with any of these guys, I'm convinced you could spend days looking at all the images on the walls and hearing the stories behind them.
If I got tired of looking at the walls, there was always the ceiling. The body of a funny car, and the body of a rail are up there, not to mention more t-shirts and jackets, from car clubs and shows, than I cared to count. Mark is known by some for his large collection of jackets, which he refuses to sell. In the shop they become a reference to car shows and clubs all over the continent that ELTA has connected with.
After they pulled the cover off of a car, I quickly pulled out my camera and began snapping photos. Mark suggested I hop in the rail sitting in the back corner, and they would take a photo of me in it.
The rail, it turns out, is a dragster from the 60's called the "Pipe Layer". It's owned by Dan McWhirter, and is powered by a 383 Stroker small block Chevy, putting out around 650 horsepower.
I also found that this car has a very human side. For example, if you want the Pipe Layer to do something like run a quarter mile in the low eight seconds, you have to give it alcohol first, just like your favourite uncle.
I quickly agreed to hop in, and handed over my camera and began what felt like crawling back into the womb. Climbing over the tire and standing on the rear end was very easy. Sliding my feet forward to the pedals, only a foot further ahead, and somehow wedging my six foot something body into a cage meant for a hamster was a completely different story. The steering wheel was put in after my disjointed body contorted into the shape deemed suitable for a racecar driver, and the photos were taken.
Getting out of the Pipe Layer proved to be much easier, probably since all my joints were already out of place. They reminded me that sometimes machines like this one would catch fire at the drag strip, and the difficulty I was facing would also be experienced by someone on fire going a potential 170 mph (approx 270 km/h).
I definitely have a new respect for the danger in this sport, but also a new appreciation for the adrenaline. I can only imagine the feeling of V8 a few feet in front of my face putting out 650 hp, with the sole purpose of getting me 402.3 metres down a straight stretch of track as quickly as it can.
After sitting down and chatting with these three "brothers", I am finding it difficult to sum up ELTA. The ELTA's tagline is "Disciples of Speed", and that tells a lot about their main focus.They are very passionate about speed, and their cars prove that, but they also appreciate other aspects of the automotive industry. Mark will happily pull over and help a Honda that is broken down at the side of the road, or invite the low rider trucks in at their Summer Bash. The "disciples" encourage young people to participate, and are right there to help them in any way they can.
This might make you think that they are all about getting the group to the future, but you would be wrong. Their appreciation for history is also inspiring. From the jackets and shirts on the ceiling, to the books they have, they know all about their past, and the past of nearly everybody in the area.
What I can say about ELTA is that they are very well rounded, and very passionate. Expect to be hearing a lot more about them.