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History Santa Ana Drag Strip From Above

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Ryan, Sep 10, 2018.

  1. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 18,288

    Ryan
    ADMINISTRATOR
    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

    Ryan submitted a new blog post:

    Santa Ana Drag Strip From Above

    [​IMG]

    Continue reading the Original Blog Post
     
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  2. Very cool! Is the Orange County Airport still in existence? And if so, is the auxiliary runway still around?
     
  3. 2935ford
    Joined: Jan 6, 2006
    Posts: 2,782

    2935ford
    Member

    Slipper hands have ruined a lot of things!
     
  4. What I noticed, for those not from this area, there wernt nobody, no business, no stores no nothing around that airport. I don't know of any airport left in So Cal without a major encroachment banging on their door-runways. Even in the small towns of Redlands/Mentone where I live, have housing tracts popping up all around them.
     
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  5. birdman1
    Joined: Dec 6, 2012
    Posts: 511

    birdman1
    Member
    from USA

    We also had a famous drag strip in the early 50's. It was a 1/4 mile stretch of Highway 59, right on the south end of Harlan, Iowa. I saw my first drag race there when I was 9 years old. a 1930 Model a coupe with a 3/4 race merc beat a brand new 1955 chevy! I still use it today, to "test" , but there is no one that wants to race around here anymore.
     
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  6. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 18,288

    Ryan
    ADMINISTRATOR
    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

    A lot of this is due to the steady and slow progress of airplanes and the amount of noise the produce. I listened to a podcast about this recently... A passenger jet in the 1980's was almost twice as loud as a passenger jet in the air today. In fact, aside from takeoff where power is needed to climb, most of the noise you hear from a modern passenger jet when landing is the sound of air on the land gear and flaps... Crazy to me for some reason.
     
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  7. Orange County Airport is now John Wayne International airport.
     
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  8. toml24
    Joined: Sep 23, 2009
    Posts: 1,278

    toml24
    Member

    Well. well, well, once upon a time in the mid-1960's our family lived on that small map, precisely where it says "Costa Mesa Union High School". The whole acreage was the former USAAF base during the war. In about 1962 the land was developed into a nice housing track known as Mesa Del Mar. We lived on San Juan Lane. My older brother would bicycle to the airport almost every day because he wanted to be around airplanes. Once, there was a SCCA sports car race in the parking lot of the fairgrounds. Those were good times, the mid-1960's.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
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  9. Special Ed
    Joined: Nov 1, 2007
    Posts: 6,493

    Special Ed
    Member

    Thanks Ryan. For some reason, I always thought that old dragstrip was just a couple of miles south of there, where the old airship hangars are located. But now I know better ... :cool:
     
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  10. NoSurf
    Joined: Jul 26, 2002
    Posts: 4,059

    NoSurf
    Member

  11. Blues4U
    Joined: Oct 1, 2015
    Posts: 2,563

    Blues4U
    Member
    from So Cal

    Yep, and as Dean Lowe said, it's now named John Wayne Airport. It's my closest airport and the one I prefer to use if I can find the right flight. Fortunately we have several more airports all within reasonable driving distance that I can choose from. But OC is my favorite. I can recall when the terminal was just a little building, the passengers would cross the tarmac and walk up rolling steps to get into and out of the planes. The baggage was unloaded outside on the asphalt. It's a pretty nice modern airport today, constantly undergoing expansion to keep up with the demands.

    I love flying out of there, it's way different than any other airport. In order to minimize noise for the housing tracts under the air traffic the planes have to climb as high and as quickly as they can, then once they reach altitude they throttle way back and coast out over the homes until they get over the ocean, then they open the throttles back up and take off again. It's a thrill! On take off the pilot holds the jet against the brakes and throttles up the engine until he gets the engines in the right condition, You can feel the plane straining against the brakes, little shakes and shudders and occasional slips, then he releases the brakes and off you go, like you're being shot out of a slingshot, and up you go, way up, fast! Then nothing......... the plane levels off and the engines go quiet and you just coast, then a few minutes later you hear the engines rev back up as you get pushed back in your seat again, and off you go! It's a thrill for the first hundred times or so. Now I sleep through it. I try to get my zzzz's in in the first 20 minutes or so, then I wake up and can't get back to sleep again.
     
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  12. toml24
    Joined: Sep 23, 2009
    Posts: 1,278

    toml24
    Member

    Photo from about 1963 of Ryan's map. The airport would be at the upper right.
    1963-Mesa Del Mar from above-LARGE-2.jpg
     
  13. flamingokid
    Joined: Jan 5, 2005
    Posts: 2,139

    flamingokid
    Member

    In every thing I've ever done from cars to politics, there's always some evil bastard whose sole purpose is to monetize the deal for personal gain, above and beyond the movement.
     
  14. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 19,857

    Jalopy Joker
    Member

    from the birth of organized drag racing to upgrading the operation At Lions Drag Strip to being part of the Safety Safari Pappy Hart certainly changed a big part of the automotive world - a true high flyer
     
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  15. Ed -

    That is a very common misconception (even by you SoCal folks) ... but very understandable since those "old airship hangars" were located at what was known as NAS (Naval Air Station) - Santa Ana (from 1942-1949) ... used as a civilian airfiled, air museum, and blimp storage (from 1949 -1951) ... re-commissioned as MCAF (Marine Corps Air Facility) - Santa Ana in 1951 ... and the base was annexed by the City of Tustin in 1976.

    For more pics & info see my 1950 Drag Race at MCAF - Santa Ana (Tustin) ... PICS!!! thread.
     
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  16. Here's a early '50s photograph of Don Tuttle's wife, "Punky" (l) and Pappy Hart's daughter, Jonie (r), at a Santa Ana Drags hot dog stand:

    Punky Tuttle (l) & Pappy Hart's daughter, Jonie (r) at a Santa Ana Drags hot dog stand.jpg
     
  17. Here's some of the (circa 1957) color photos that Ralph Crane shot at Santa Ana for LIFE Magazine:

    NHRA Drag Racing Meet Held in Santa Ana - Ralph Crane for LIFE (1).jpg
    NHRA Drag Racing Meet Held in Santa Ana - Ralph Crane for LIFE (2).jpg
    NHRA Drag Racing Meet Held in Santa Ana - Ralph Crane for LIFE (3).jpg
    NHRA Drag Racing Meet Held in Santa Ana - Ralph Crane for LIFE (4).jpg
    NHRA Drag Racing Meet Held in Santa Ana - Ralph Crane for LIFE (5).jpg
    NHRA Drag Racing Meet Held in Santa Ana - Ralph Crane for LIFE (6).jpg
    NHRA Drag Racing Meet Held in Santa Ana - Ralph Crane for LIFE (7).jpg
     
  18. toml24
    Joined: Sep 23, 2009
    Posts: 1,278

    toml24
    Member

    One more memory thought about the map and the Orange County Fairgrounds. In the mid 1960's the Fairgrounds hosted a yearly "Fireman's Jamboree" that brought in firetrucks from all over Southern California that were always all spit polished shiny and clean. The highlight of the show was the exhibition of the El Toro Marine base Crash Crews in which some jet fuel was lighted on fire and the El Toro crew in their silver suites would casually wade into the flames and get a huge reaction from the spectators in the stands. That was so cool!!! Yes, they also put the fire out.
     
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  19. flathead60
    Joined: Sep 10, 2018
    Posts: 4

    flathead60
    Member
    from NH

    My dad raced at Santa Ana in '50-'51. He was there on opening day July 2,1951. Here is a pic of his chopped, channeled, and supercharged '36 making a pass at Santa Ana.
    dad's race car-5.jpg

    In the late 1990's and early 2000's, I had the privilege of eating lunch at Santa Ana Elks Club along with a number of other hotrodders several times as a guest of Creighton Hunter. Creighton was very friendly, unassuming and humble, a real gentleman. A couple times C.J. made the trip in from Elsinore too. C.J. had to be in his 90's, and still sharp as a tack.
     
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  20. flathead60
    Joined: Sep 10, 2018
    Posts: 4

    flathead60
    Member
    from NH

    oops! I meant "opening day July 2, 1950."
     
  21. lake_harley
    Joined: Jun 4, 2017
    Posts: 231

    lake_harley
    Member

    In post #17, 5th photo from top, is that Tommy Ivo and the Kookie car? In fact, it looks like Ivo's car in the 4th and 6th photos as well.

    Side, off topic, question. I've always heard "TV Tommy Ivo". What TV show(s) or movie(s) was he ever in? I was born in '52, but I never heard of him as an actor, although I'm certainly not doubting he was.

    Lynn
     
  22. 41rodderz
    Joined: Sep 27, 2010
    Posts: 633

    41rodderz
    Member
    from Oregon

    Thanks Ryan and all you guys for posting the history and pics. I enjoy learning and seeing from way back in day.
     
  23. That was in Tustin, called LTA (Lighter Than Air)
     
  24. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 2,549

    jnaki





    Hey Guys,

    Potatoes, potahtos...both you guys have the facts correct. Someone is looking over all of us to be right on the money with those persistent facts. But the facts are...they are close by each other since the early years of barren Orange County. Wide open spaces, with no homes or at least only a few homes were around during this time.

    Most of the area was set aside for farmers and ranchers. My dad took us to several of his friends that were located right in the general vicinity when we were little kids. Compared to today’s density, what a world we live in today ! But, it is So Cal…

    When the freeway was put in years later, that did open up development all over the county. Some say good, some say bad. It is still a nice area, but near the current airport is very hectic, despite the great looking airport and the Disneyland E ticket take offs by all jet planes.


    As early drag racers, where the Santa Ana Drags were located was just too far for us, all the way over in the Westside of Long Beach. (near Lions) By today’s standards, it is/was at least a 45 minute drive and the same coming back to the Westside. It was just too far when Lions was very close by, a 1.5 mile hop or 10 minute drive to the gate from our driveway. I guess we were spoiled.

    History was important as the Santa Ana Drags location was the first for the early drag racers in the area. But, back then, the same competitive, top drag racers at Santa Ana, came to Lions to race. Later on, when the reports came out weekly in the Drag News, it made us want to go there, but by 1959, we were locked in to Lions and Santa Ana was going down hill.

    One other thing, we did not drive until 1956 for my brother and 1959 for me. That was also the deciding factor. By 1959, we racing in the A/stock class with the Impala at Lions and by late 59, started the 40 Willys gas coupe build.

    Jnaki

    These days, my wife and I drive by the Santa Ana Dragstrip area at least once a week when we are coming back from downtown Santa Ana. The city center, Central Sheriff Offices and the huge courthouse is just north, up Main Street. The reason we are on Main Street is that the I-5 freeway south is bumper to bumper between 3pm and 6pm. So, we take it easy and move along the Main Street from downtown Santa Ana past the airport/Dragstrip location and on to MacArthur for a carefree traffic flowing road back to South Orange County.

    Thanks, Ryan for bring up an important historic fact, not only for us So Cal hot rod people, but for everyone. Great Life Magazine photos, Hemi32...

    Note:
    upload_2018-9-12_4-5-13.png Once called Orange County Airport, then Santa Ana Airport, now called John Wayne Airport since 1979. Even for local OC residents, the name of the airport is still confusing…the OC airport, John Wayne or Santa Ana. The luggage tags show SNA with miniscule letters signifying John Wayne.
    upload_2018-9-12_4-6-54.png
    Photo of Nick Macaluso’s 1940 Ford Sedan Delivery taken very close to the original Santa Ana Drag Strip location.
    "I wanted an interesting background to suit the style and period of the sedan delivery. We started in the morning at a 40’s aero-theme restaurant located in the same vicinity of the old Santa Ana Drag Strip near Redhill Ave, next to the John Wayne/Santa Ana Airport."
    upload_2018-9-12_4-8-3.png (elsewhere, yes…but, the restaurant is no longer in the OC.)
     
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  25. corncobcoupe
    Joined: May 26, 2001
    Posts: 4,197

    corncobcoupe
    SUPER MODERATOR
    Staff Member

    The cars are bitchin'

    Side note.....
    The most noticeable thing to me in the pictures are the track / pit crews and spectators...….
    Look how thin all of them are compared to today.
    Not a ounce of fat on them... again … compared to today - Jeesh !
    More labor work back then.
    Yearly consumption of fried fast food / more sugar in everything with less manual labor are a huge reason for heavier people today.
    Anyway - back to cars.
     
  26. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 9,503

    Hnstray
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from Quincy, IL

    An even larger reason is widespread lack of self discipline........in a lot of ways, but in particular, food consumption.
     
  27. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 9,503

    Hnstray
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from Quincy, IL

    That theory is a chicken/egg proposition. In my youth I grew up about three miles from Lambert St.Louis Airport, the area's major air terminal., which at that time also was home to a Naval Reserve Air Base. But, like most airports built in the earlier part of the 20th Century, the airport was there first....surrounded by rural/low population communities. The post WWII housing boom, fueled by returning Servicemen and an aging housing stock that suffered from the Depression and the War, began gobbling up any land suitable for building subdivisions.

    I witnessed firsthand this enormous growth in the housing development as the rural nature of where we lived transformed rapidly....very rapidly. Commercial development follows housing growth and the airports of the day were no real barrier to developments. But after they arrived, newer residents of the area began the incessant bitching about airplane noise....totally ignoring the fact the airports were there first.

    Aircraft did get somewhat quieter over time, as you noted, but that was for more reasons than noise abatement, though that no doubt was a consideration. Mostly though, jet engines replaced the big old Radial engines and jet engine development was underway. The early jets were relative crude and inefficient by comparison to their successors. Fan Jets and High-Bypass designs provide more power, improved fuel consumption and lower noise. Coupled with standardized arrival and departure procedures (as were described by Blues4U) that were more efficient in maximizing quantity of plane movements also included a focus on noise abatement.

    Ray
     
  28. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 2,941

    jimmy six
    Member

    I live near SNA and used it many times but prefer Long Beach... It still has a little of the 40-50's feel of flying.
     
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  29. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 2,549

    jnaki




    Hey J,
    Yes, the Long Beach Airport is a fun place, not too big and not too small. It has looked almost the same since the 60s. But, it is scheduled to get a $60 MILLION+ renovation very soon. It is not a small town place anymore. The only thing that place has going at the time is that West of the airport is the famous Cherry Ave Drags area and the old Reath Automotive shop. Well, besides the easy and convenient, short pick up and drop off area on one level.

    The old Santa Ana Airport Dragstrip location can be seen from the right side of the takeoff and landing airplanes on normal wind days. If it is blowing the offshore or Santana winds from inland, then the left side passengers have the ringside view of the old Santa Ana Dragstrip... a true view from above...

    Jnaki
    On our few flights out of and into OC, the views take on a new meaning going up. But, coming back, normally, the planes come very close to the Fountain Valley/Huntington Beach border along the Santa Ana River mouth for an up close and personal view of the local area... The Long Beach Airport landing is brightened by the giant, Black Pyramid at Long Beach State College on the left side windows.
     
  30. flathead60
    Joined: Sep 10, 2018
    Posts: 4

    flathead60
    Member
    from NH

    Everybody’s right about all the urban encroachment around the airports all over the country, almost all of which started out in the middle of nowhere. However, all the others around the country are surrounded by lower rent housing. Departures from John Wayne go over the big-buck places in Newport Beach. That’s the reason for the noise-abatement climb outs. They don’t have departure procedures like that at any other airport in the country. When the Santa Ana winds are blowing, and departures are to the north (not very often), there are no noise abatement procedures. That’s because the area north of the airport is lower rent. Money talks, especially in politics.

    The steep climb out with a big power reduction is not really safe. If an engine failed when power is being pulled back, it’s a setup: high angle of attack/low airspeed/low power. When the pilot cobs the power to the good engine, it would be a handful for a good pilot. Don’t want to think about what would happen to a below-average pilot. Fortunately that’s never happened, and hopefully it never will. But that’s a testament to the reliability of modern jet engines. Nevertheless they still do fail. Let’s hope it’s never on early climb out of SNA.
     

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