The Jalopy Journal Covers the Meltdown Drags

The Jalopy Journal Covers the Meltdown Drags

The fourth-annual Meltdown Drags simply glowed. It wasn’t due to radioactive fallout from a Chernobyl-esque reactor malfunction at the end of the drag strip, but rather from the overwhelming abundance of dedicated people and their period-perfect machines.

On the weekend of July 19-22 more than 400 pre-1966 style super stockers, gassers, altereds and dragsters made their way through the gates of Byron Dragway. Although the 1964-built track hasn’t changed much over the years, the event itself has.

“Our first year we had 30 cars show up,? Meltdown Drags Association Member AJ Zangerle said. “We had an idea, and it took us a couple of year to make that idea happen.?

The idea of the Meltdown Drags is simple and consists of three critical rules that are enforced by the MDA—be safe, have fun and no whining. According to Zangerle there are no trophies and no prize money, just racing. All the proceeds from spectator and racer admission go directly back to Byron Dragway, and the money from MDA memorabilia sales is saved for future events.

“We are not doing this for recognition,? Zangerle says. “We are doing this because we want to see this old iron out underneath the daylight. This stuff is all obsolete. This is stuff that a lot of tracks don’t even want to have. We’re not trying to ride a nostalgia wagon, we’re trying to recreate the good old days.?

And that is exactly what they did. From the moment the noise ordinance was lifted until the last embers of daylight disappeared over the horizon, Byron Dragway was invaded by a diverse collection of cars. From freshly constructed gas class racers to survivor slingshots, there were more than enough machines to keep the masses entertained throughout the course of the weekend.

What makes the Meltdown Drags unique is their zero tolerance policy for modern-style wheels and graphics. If these conditions aren’t met, the car will not be allowed to participate.

“By having strict rules, just like the H.A.M.B., it allows you to keep the wrong people out,? Zangerle says. “When we have somebody who really tries to defy the rules, to buck the system, to not comply and they start to show their ugly side, that tells us that those are the people we don’t want in.?

This strict criterion was drafted by the MDA in 2007. Since then, the association has grown to a hierarchy with six members holding the top positions and more than 100 helpers. Current president Eric Koopmeiners and the MDA showed their manpower and sharp dressing skills as they dispersed around the track in their asymmetrically striped shirts, assisting spectators and racers with parking, hydrating and directing traffic. Even when chaos erupted on the drag strip, the MDA members worked alongside track officials to keep everyone at the event safe.

With the 2013 Meltdown Drags successfully in the books, the MDA is already whispering about plans for future events.

“We’ve got some stuff in the works for next year, if it happens, it’s going to blow this away,? Zangerle says.

On a more personal note: The hospitality and respect put forth by the members of the MDA and Byron Dragway was truly heartwarming. These guys are really a class act, and they understand that we’re all in this hobby together. I’m excited that my friends and I finally made it out to the event this year (we were the ones in Sombreros with cameras…you can follow our journey and live coverage here), and it was great finally putting faces to names. I know I’m not the first to say it, and I’m sure I won’t be the last, but there are two ‘must attend’ events for the vintage drag enthusiast—The H.A.M.B. Drag Nationals and the Meltdown Drags. Without further delay…here is a gallery of the weekend’s highlights. 

-Joey Ukrop




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