The Drag Safari
In 1954, Wally Parks sent Rick Rickman, Chic Cannon and Bud Coons on the road… Their mission? To train the nation on how to hold and contest a proper 1/4-mile drag race. They all piled into a 1954 Dodge wagon hitched to a travel trailer full of everything they needed to host a drag race – timing equipment, banners, merch, P.A. system, etc… Then, the Safari would just roll into some unsuspecting town, meet with the local brass to talk about safety and street racing, and then coordinate with the local hot rod clubs in an effort the stage a race for the following weekend.
These races were typically two day events and once done, they would pack up the race course and then head to the local watering hole where the crew would debrief. Given that these fellas were basically inventing organized drag racing on the fly, there were always problems and opportunities to discuss. And this is where it gets interesting…
Wally Parks couldn’t be on the front lines of these events (He was busy with the day-to-day of Hot Rod Magazine), but he still wanted to know every little detail about how his new racing series was shaping out. So in order to stay in tune, Mr. Parks had the Safari record these casual debriefings and then had them ship the tapes back to the NHRA headquarters where Wally would listen to each one – looking for ideas to make improvements.
Can you imagine listening to those recordings now? A few years before he passed, I asked Wally over email about the recordings and if he had any idea where they might be now. He was non-committal and said something along the lines of, “They could be around somewhere, but I wouldn’t know where to look.”
Damn fellas… I’m pretty sure those recordings are my own personal holy grail. What I wouldn’t give…
In any case, this subject actually came to mind last night because I’m looking for a father/son project. My son, Miller, isn’t all that interested in hot rods yet but he does love working out in the wood shop with me. And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about investing in a trailer to haul our merch and what not to different events. So that all got me thinking – Why don’t I find a vintage travel trailer in decent shape that Miller and I can convert into a mobile pop-up store?
An idea was born and inspiration was needed. Thankfully, I had a directory in the archives full of historic shots of the Drag Safari trailer. I’ve had a ball studying them and thought you guys might as well. I think one or two of these might even be previously unpublished. So, enjoy: