THE GOOD OLD DAYS
I have often heard older generations talking about the “good old days”. The early 1900's had its share of issues and painful memories if you really work to dig into that history, but it also was a time of innovation and growth populated with many people who worked hard, played harder and celebrated the life that they worked for with the joys of speed and racing. These are the days that inspired Meldon Van Riper Stultz III, known as Mel to friends and family, and The Oilers CC/MC to bring back beach racing just like it was in the 1920's and 1930's. Much like an earlier era this event was built on the love of speed, yes, but it also rests firmly in the ideal of respect, handshake deals, easy laughter and a love of good times with close friends. It's a seriously unserious event. It's a well organized event with rules and guidelines but it's just as much about good times as it is racing.
You might imagine what this would have been like based on old photographs that you may have seen but that is only such a small taste of what it must have been like–it’s so much more than that. It’s the sounds, the smells, the energy and the adrenaline that you feel just being around it all. My challenge was to explore ways to capture parts of the event in ways that I hope might give viewers a taste of what it felt like to be there.
It is likely that you have heard quite a bit The Race of Gentlemen (TROG) by now. To be a part of this race your car must be 1934 or older and your motorcycle 1947 or older – and American made of course. I was lucky enough to attend the TROG race at Pismo Beach in California in October of 2016 (you can see that story and photos here) and all of the amazing things that I had heard about the event were true–and so much more. As much as this event is about racing, super cool cars and motorcycles, it is also about the people. The passion of the founder, Mel, and the team that works so hard to make this event happen as well as the crazy zealots of speed that build, drive and race these amazing historic beasts is infectious.
The week before TROG ’17 I began my journey spending time with the master builders known as the Rolling Bones (full feature here) before riding down with them to the main event. My only experience with TROG had been the event in California so I was super excited to experience it at its home base in Wildwood, New Jersey. I’m not going to write a ton about it, I’m a photographer after all, but I wanted to give enough context so that you might be able to experience just a small taste of what it was like to be there.
BEFORE THE RACE BEGINS
Let's back up a bit. As much as The Race of Gentlemen is a race, it is also a huge gathering of friends. If you weren't friends before TROG you likely are after TROG. People who come to this event LOVE their cars and motorcycle like they were their children, maybe more. It's not something you can explain, you either get it or you don't. But if you do get it and share a love of history, Americana and vintage machines that go fast you'll find there are a lot of people that share that obsession here. Time not racing is spent catching up with friends–old and new–sh!t talking, part hunting and story telling. While this isn't what you hear the most about it is certainly one of the magic ingredients of this step back in time.
Days often start and end in the parking lot. Cars, trucks and motorcycles driven and ridden that you only get to see on the covers of magazines and in stories are in every conceivable spot available. People are working on their almost-race-ready vintage wheels as race day approaches. Lots of BS, laughter and good natured ribbing abound but every racer offers to others what they can, opponent or not, as the excitiment builds for the big race days.
The morning of day one of racing begins early. You can hear the line of racers anxious to begin–and it looks like heaven to me. I will gladly admit that I completely neglected to capture the line-up and the grand entrance on to the beach on this glorious morning. I decided instead to spend the morning walking around and seeing all of the beautiful fire-breathing beasts up close and personal and if I had a camera in front of my face I would have missed a lot. It was entirely worth it as those sights and memories are seared in my memory for all time.
When you do get to the beach it is a bit surreal. There are cars, motorcycle and people everywhere and the energy is vibrating in tune with the flatheads, v-twins and V8's as the parade of people and vintage iron prepare for the day ahead.
There is a large mound of sand that runs all the way along side the track. Spectators line the sand banks with cameras, lounge chairs and friends and family.
The pit area is a wonderful way to see the cars and racers up close as they prepare to head out to the staging area. If you are familiar with racing you know that you often spend a lot of time waiting for your turn to make your run. At TROG there are so many interesting people, sights and sounds that spending that time wandering and experiencing the moments in-between races creates a lot of great memories and photo-ops as well.
Just on the other side of the fence is where the real anticipation begins. On this short stretch of sand the racers line up ready and anxious to do what everyone is here for. You can see in their faces the excitement, the anticipation, focus and nervous energy buzzing as they visualize their run down the sand.
Speed. The calling card of The Race of Gentlemen. It's why we're here and what makes all of the effort, expense and late nights in the garage worth it. There's no gun or lights to start the race, instead a flag is dropped by Ms. Sara Francello. It's almost iconic now the picture of the moment that the flag drops so I won't disappoint those of you that haven't seen it.
The race is fantastic. From the moment the flag drops the engines roar and the sand flies as these machines of steel fight for traction to get to the finish line first. Racers faces alternate between focus, determination and smiles as they fly down the track, and win or lose the immediate desire to turn around and do it again even faster prevails.
While this is a bit of a long feature it doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the experience. You definitely need to be there to really understand the fun, the enthusiasm and the genuine good nature of the entire event. Sure, there are awards, losers and winners, but if you're there there is no losing. You'll leave with memories for a lifetime and a very strong desire for it not to end. If you go once you'll want to go back. I promise.
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LONG TERM PROJECT HELP
I am working on a long term project entitled PASSING. This is a look at people, places and things that have influenced us all today but are slowly passing from the collective awareness. I hope to eventually put together a book of these people, places and things with photographs and short stories about them, where and what they are now and what they mean to us all. If you have ideas or connections that might help continue this project please tap the CONTACT button above and send me a note. Thank you.
ALL IMAGES AND CONTENT ©2018 Scott Photo Co. – Photography by Tim Scott