The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Royalshifter, Dec 12, 2007.
Two of the best Fuel Altered pilots, Willie Borsch and Leon Fitzgerald.
Chuck the first SG strip was directly "north" of the one most of us recall. "North" defined as across the street towards Santa Fe Dam but just several hundred yards away from where the last SG strip was. There never been any photos that I have seen of the "1st strip" or maybe it's that they "all" look the same.
Here's a map I made years ago showing the relationship between San Gabriel Valley Drag Strip and Irwindale Raceway.
Between the two strips is the Santa Fe Dam. The photo that I posted yesterday of the two dragsters blasting off and the flagman shows it as the long light gray line just above the lower window of the timing tower. I just drove by it last week.
I usually use the strips full name, the "San Gabriel Valley Drag Strip", because the strip was no where near the city of San Gabriel which about 10 miles to the west and because it always prompts a challenge from some young know-it-all "Google-Drag Racing Expert" that I can educate.
Th strip was in "the San Gabriel Valley", thus the name.
Tell me, Wild Willy wasn't the coolest.
Mazooma is exactly correct, it was "San Gabriel Valley Drag Strip," as shown in this trophy I won with my Ardun car...(did I beat big-time competition? Well, not usually...if you were the only car in class, a single got you a trophy, as a C/FD my Ardun was no match for the fuel Chevys...but the people who see the trophies in my office don't know that)
In reference to the "first" San Gabriel that Mazooma mentioned, it might be in these pictures from '58 and '59, from Doug Peterson...these are from Don Ewald's site...is this the first track, I don't remember exactly when it closed and the second one opened right near it, as you show on the map...
Archard-Bouch in the pits...power lines in background,
First night drags at San Gabriel, summer of '59, again, power lines in background.
This is the first picture Doug took, in '58...caption says that he was "plinking mud hens with a pellet gun (maybe at Santa Fe Dam?) when he heard the sound of cars racing, rode his bike over and "was never the same since." (mountains and power lines, seem to be north?)
Great! Yes, Doug Peterson is a fellow ex-Arcadia kid.
Both sites shows that the cars ran in the same direction.
The bottom photo is looking towards the mountains (north).
Just over the trunk of that Pontiac would be "The City of Hope" hospital (about three miles up ) that is known worldwide.
At this point MR. Borsch apparently has the cars' handling figured out, note the small red steering wheel.
I don't know the full timeline of Willy's cars/career but he is one of my drag racing heroes from the 60's.
As I remember then Gov. Jerry Brown gave the Irwindale drag strip land to Miller Brewing for one buck, for a 99 year lease and that was the end of a great strip !!!!!
R.I.P. Irwindale & the great Burgers
This is the "Wing II", the Logghe built car that was purchased to complete a summer of match race dates after the original car was wrecked. Mousie told me that Willie never did like that car like the original which he had been driving since it debuted in carburetted form in the late 50's.
Wasn't sure if it was an updated first iteration or a whole new car, did the first car have a steel body.
IIRC the WE2 car had a glass body.
Well, no. Sheesh. Really?
The "state" can't sell privately owned land and this was not a case of "eminent domain" which is used to build schools and freeways.
I worked with the city attorney for the City of Irwindale for many years. He and I had this discussion a LONG time ago.
He told me that it was a clear case of making everyone happy but the race fans.
The neighbors to the north in Bradbury had been griping about the noise. Miller Brewing wanted the site for their new brewery because it was the right size and it had siding for the Santa Fe railroad for their shipping and receiving needs.
The owners of the land wanted to "cash out", the City of Irwindale wanted the hundreds of jobs and taxes from the brewery and Miller was more than happy about the whole deal.
End of story.
That was the word that all the racers were passing around at the time, sorry that it was wrong
We all heard the same story and I, too, would believe anything that involved some backroom bullshit from the State of California much less the City of Irwindale. Irwindale has had some pretty shady deals over the years and some have had them plastered on the front pages of the newspapers.
So, you, like me, all wouldn't put "anything" past the power-brokers at the time.
I started to work with the city attorney for Irwindale in 1996 and we had breakfast every tuesday for eight years together. So......I had to ask 'what really happened"?
He said the whole thing fell together easily with all three parties being happy. The racers were not involved with any of this, of course.
My relationship with this attorney was limited to him also being the city attorney here in Sierra Madre where I live.
But, he laid it out to me as he said it did, and I have no reason to doubt him.
Now if you really want to hear some horror stories, ask him about the "Raiders" football stadium deal with Irwindale.
So, besides Irwindale and Lions properties having a "better" use than for a drag strip (or so they told us), both were weighted with noise complaints from the neighbors.
Irwindale and Lions both had tons of noise complaints and when the power-brokers "found" an excuse to stop the strips and start the business/ports it made it all the easier to just blame it all on "progress".
At the Lions Drag Strip reunion in 2012 this issue was discussed again and they whole knowledge of the noise whiners were exposed.
All of our strips from the 60's have suffered from the noise issues as the urban sprawl encroached the strips.
Pomona is under more and pressure from the homeowners on the hillside to the south.
Thank goodness for Famoso.
D.N.D., we were very lucky to have had the best days ever when we could choose from Lions, Fontana, Pomona, San Fernando and in 1965, Irwindale.
I personally thought it would never end. It never crossed my mind in the 1960's that they'd all but disappear.
The first car was actually a red '29 roadster, first ran a carbureted Chrysler on gas...saw Willy drive it at Santa Ana in August '57...then the '29 got a blower with the carbs on top...then the first T came along, it was 'glass, with a sprint car-like frame...ran without the wing, then added the wing, and lost the QC rear end around the same time...as Roo noted, Willy crashed it on tour, (and a fan made off with the wing), so the Logghe car came along, apparently with some legal tangles...the first T had a Model A steering wheel, but, as noted above, the Logghe car had a more standard wheel....
And here it is--Google is your friend.
The first T also had a Ross steering box mounted down between Willie's feet with a near vertical column. After I built the current frame following the Famoso crash Mousie had me sit in the car for some photos and I decided that Willie had and Mike has waaay more sack than me. With just a main roll hoop behind him and a pretty basic seat Willie hung on to the body to keep himself centered in the car when it did its typical altered tricks. The early version of the T also had a chain driven blower prior to the addition of the wing.
Like it was, well told...San Fernando also fell to noise complaints...the neighbors constantly bitched about it, as they were right next to the track....so competition cars could run only between 12-3....the deacon of the local church was especially irate when the flywheel from the Valley Home Service dragster came through the roof of his church...but also there were probably too many drag strips in SoCal...Fontana, Colton, Riverside, San Fernando, Lions, San Gabriel (and later Irwindale), Palmdale at one point were all running together, along with Carlsbad and Ramona in the San Diego area (Paradise Mesa had closed by '57, I think)...inevitably some would close (the Inland Empire couldn't support three drag strips)...but all but Pomona gone?? We never thought that would happen...Mazooma is right, it was the power brokers like the Los Angeles Harbor Commission that voted to close Lions so they could build a container port area there (though the site sat vacant for years)...and the power of Miller...those were the real reasons why we lost almost all of them....
Thanks Mazooma for the correct Irwindale story, in the 60's when the wind was blowing in the right direction I could hear a fueler making a run at Fernando that was about 5 miles away
And that was with low HP so now days they must be heard for many more miles, I heard today that Lucas is going to run the drag boats at the Long Beach Marine stadium soon
With todays noise's that just might be a one time deal, plus breaking some windows in the condo's right along the spectator side ? Maybe not but rattling a few coffee cups for sure
We could not have lived a better time than the 60's decade for being a race fan with all the different events we could see like I have said in the past those days were ' Priceless '
To improvise the old saying:
"You just don't want to ever know how they make sausage, politics and land deals. It will disgust you and give you nightmares"
If anyone wants proof of the ridiculous world of race track real estate politics, look no further than Ontario Motor Speedway.
It survived for only 11 years and was a state-of-the-art facility that was a replica of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It had drag races, a road course, had concerts and some great oval track racing. But, after 11 years it was closed, then torn down.
THEN.......in the late 1990's later "they" build another oval track just across the freeway to the east.
Just letting you guys know that I (for one) enjoy the discussion among 'those who were there', as well as the excellent pictures. It's like a garage bench session, and hearing it from the horse's mouth. Good stuff guys. Keep the pics & commentary comin'....best thread on the Hamb, & Thank you!
Big time race track operators should do what the smaller (local) track owners use to do....Bribe them.
I bet if the powers within the(Pomona) Motorplex mgmt. gave season passes to all the tracks neighbors on the hill, there would be less whining about the noise.
Stayed at the Lemon Tree next to Denny's a couple of times.
They probably don't like it either.
No clue on this one, anyone??
Lots of great Texas gassers....don't know who owned or drove it...
Just through the lights...Texas, I think, don't know car or place..
August "Hands" Hartkopf in the '56...one of Texas' most famous drag racers...don't know who he is racing
I should know who this is...anyone? I thought it was Bennie Osborne, but the name on the nose doesn't look right...
Ok, this is Bennie, Sand Springs, OK....
Not bad for '58...I think that Gene Brown later moved to California? He was from Corpus Christi and owned some transmissions shops...from TexasHardcore
This Ford usually ran Bonneville, but did a stint at the drags, Bill Burke and Mel Chastain.
Frye Brothers, dual Buick. They usually ran gas but on this day they were running nitro...
Wow, I knew nothing of Willy's early years apparently.
My comment of the cars' first iteration was in regards to the first T bodied car.
I've often thought Willy had to be carry'n some XXL ones down there.
View attachment 3017173
Ok, this is Bennie, Sand Springs, OK....
Bennie Osborn TF dragster couple weeks ago on display at Tulsa 50th Anniversary
That's "Snake" & "Mongoose" in the golf cart. They were on site too!
Here is another set of pictures of the Harrell & Borsch 29, from Drag News, June 15, 1957:
Engine from same roadster...this was the first car I ever saw go down a drag strip, at Santa Anas, needless to say, I was hooked!
(Interesting that Willie and Al "Mousie" Marcellus were childhood friends (Willie moved in with Al's family when his parents died), but Marcellus came into the team only after Harrell left (Harrell was part of a family that built engines since 1930 and at one point made flathead heads, now very rare). Marcellus raced a flathead powered street roadster since the mid-50s...
usted es una fuente de conocimientos
Like Mazooma said....we've all had our share....one of ours was Green Valley....which also had a great road course.......houses now....
Like Riverside out here that was our home track and was a world class road course, and a neat drag strip too and the Bonneville boys had 1/2 mile drags there also
Its Condo city now and what a shame we have had to loose all these great tracks
Love this pic. The calm before the storm.
Separate names with a comma.