Story and photos by Marc Gewertz
After four successful events on the Jersey Shore, the men behind The Race of Gentlemen had big dreams of bringing the wildly popular event to the West Coast. With racing on the beach, a vintage trailer show, and the popular Customs by the Sea car show, there was surely going to be something for everyone. After more than a year of planning, everything had finally fallen into place and The Race of Gentlemen West was scheduled to take place in Pismo Beach, California, October 15-16, but no one told that to Mother Nature.
Despite the bad weather, there was still an aura of excitement in the air
A strong storm from the Pacific Northwest was heading south, pounding Northern California with heavy rain and high surf. The storm continued to move south to Pismo Beach, bringing with it a huge swell that flooded the racecourse, pits and vendors’ area the day before the race.
Saturday morning brought more rain, and the waves kept rolling in. The designated course was still several feet underwater and things did not look good. But one by one the participants began to arrive, some coming from as far away as Washington, Colorado, New Jersey and Michigan to be a part of this historic event. Eventually, more than 100 period-correct pre-1934 American-made automobiles and vintage motorcycles 1947 and older had gathered in a makeshift pit area located in a dirt lot above the beach.
TROG is a celebration of the past, where everything is period correct: the cars, the parts, open faced helmets, vintage goggles, a flag starter, the signage and even the displays are designed to take you back to the 1920s and ‘30s. Despite the bad weather, there was still an aura of excitement in the air. Slowly, the spectators began to arrive. They walked around the vintage vehicles, striking up conversations with the owners, asking questions about everything from rare engine combinations and vintage speed parts to the custom modifications that had been done back in the early 1930s.
The rain continued to fall and most people were convinced this was as good as it was going to get: seeing this historic gathering of cars up close, hearing the engines come to life and reminiscing about the early days of hot rodding with many of those who were actually there… and that would have been okay. Most event organizers would have thrown in the towel, but not Mel Stultz, The Race of Gentlemen creator, his partner, Bobby Green, and the Oilers CC/MC. After everything they had gone through, they were going to race on the California coast come hell or high water.
Later that morning, Green addressed the racers over a vintage microphone, “You guys are hardcore and we will race today. Thanks for being patient.”
About an hour later the water had receded, Green asked all participants to line up so they could make their way onto the sand. A huge round of applause followed from the racers and spectators alike.
Once all of the participants were on the sand and the first pair of motorcycles popped the clutch, there was no turning back. The sand started flying and it never stopped. Motorcycles came to the line two at a time, a 1934 Ford raced against a vintage Indy Car, a rare sprint car matched up with a belly tanker, and eventually four vintage bikes were dueling four at a time. You never knew what would pull up to the starting line next, but you sure as hell didn’t want to miss it.
Light rain fell all day, but the fans stuck around and were not disappointed, rooting for their favorites in a party-like atmosphere. By the end of the day, an estimated 10,000 people had stood in the fog and rain to catch the first running of The Race of Gentlemen West.
With the swell expected to be even higher on Sunday, event officials were forced to cancel Sunday’s racing activity, but history had been made. Thanks to The Race of Gentlemen, racing on the beach returned to California for the first time in more than 50 years, even if it was only for one day.
You never knew what would pull up to the starting line next, but you sure as hell didn’t want to miss it.
Event promoter, Bobby Green, gave a "thumbs up" to the racers at the end of the day, showing his heart-felt thanks to everyone in attendance, which included participants and spectators alike.
As the late Gary Meadors used to say, “You gotta drive em’,” and that they did, on the sand and in the rain.
Skateboarding legend, Steve Caballero, has owned his fair share of hot rods over the years, but he brought his 1944 Harley Davidson (near) to TROG, where he had a great time shredding up the sand.
Pat Lash, from San Jose, Calif., sits on the tire of his 1929 Ford A roadster in the pit area above the beach, waiting for the tide to go out before the cars were allowed to enter the sand.
Brian Bass kicks up some sand in his candy-red 1932 Ford roadster as he leaves the starting line. That name may sound familiar, as Bass owns Bass Kustoms, in Dallas, Texas.
A pair of old Fords are flag-started in Pismo Beach during the inaugural running of The Race of Gentlemen West.
Although he didn’t race on the beach, Paul Gommi’s entry drew quite a crowd in the campground. The aluminum and steel body combination was fitted on a 1928 Oldsmobile frame and powered by a flathead V8.
TROG is all about being period-correct and Pat Lash and his pit crew fit the part perfectly, dressing up in white overalls and pushing Lash’s 1929 Ford roadster up to the starting line, just like you would have seen back in the 1930s.
Dick Deluna drove his 1934 Ford five-window coupe with a flathead V8 south from his Woodside, CA, home to participate in TROG West. Deluna is one of a select few who have raced in both the Pismo Beach and Wildwood, NJ, events.
This 1931 Ford Model A roadster has tons of history. The Morris Brothers SoCal Speed Shop roadster is owned by Lars Mapstead and has been running on dragstrips and the dry lakebeds since 1949.
Period-correct hot rods, 1934 and older, wait in the staging lanes for their shot at the racetrack during the inaugural running of The Race of Gentlemen West in Pismo Beach, CA.
Knoxville, Tennessee’s, Mike Barillaro was the only participant to compete in a bellytanker. The tank was built on top of a 1927 Ford frame and powered by a flathead V8.
The Edelbrock Special 1932 Ford roadster made a few passes down the eigth-mile racecourse with Galpin Auto Sports, Dave Shuten behind the wheel.
Vintage cars from across the United States came to Pismo Beach to be a part of the inaugural running of The Race of Gentlemen West. After racing concluded, several cars lined up for photos to remember this historic day.
Jim Lattin brought out the historic Burd Piston King Special from Encinitas, CA. The 1930s Indy Car still has the original orange and yellow paint that was applied nearly 80 years ago.
Bobby Green addressed the racers via a vintage microphone, keeping them informed on what the plans would be once the water receded and it was safe to enter the beach.
The historic SoCal Speed Shop 1931 Model A roadster belonging to Lars Mapstead pulls ahead of Dick Deluna’s 1934 Ford five-window coupe.
Motorcycles are a huge part of TROG. All entries must be American-made, period-correct and be 1948 and earlier.
These two Fords don’t have much in common, but that’s what makes TROG so great. The Burbank Choppers Verne Hammond (near) raced his heavily chopped 1934 Ford with a 235c.i. V8 blown flathead against Will Snyder’s more traditional 1932 Ford coupe from Derby, CO.
Ed Corvello from Oakland, CA., races his 1929 Ford A Phaeton (near) against Clayton Paddison, who brought his 1927 Ford T Roadster 4-banger from Vancouver, WA.
Vintage cars were paired up against each other all day long, you never knew what was going to come up next.
Once all the cars were on the sand, they left the pits and lined up in the staging lanes.
Mike Hamel’s 1933 Ford three-window coupe with a 239c.i. V8 flathead had no problem traversing the soft sand and made it to the pits with ease.
Getting all the cars onto the sand was a feat unto itself and the massive crowd that had gathered on the hillside showed their appreciation and cheered for each and every one.
Ed Corvello and his 1929 Ford A Phaeton made it through the soft sand without a hitch but a few others got stuck and needed to be pushed out.
Despite a steady rain and high surf the fans kept coming, optimistic they would eventually get to see cars racing on the beach.
Early Saturday morning things did not look good for the inaugural running of The Race of Gentlemen West in Pismo Beach. The racecourse, pits and vendors area were still under water. Event organizers were forced to wait for the water to recede and it was deemed safe before any vehicles were allowed to enter the sand.
Cole Foster’s black 1936 Ford was just one of the amazing customs that was selected to be a part of the Customs by the Sea car show in Pismo Beach. The Customs by the Sea show is limited to pre-1952 customs.
Several pre-1952 custom cars were part of the Customs by the Sea car show, a tradition at The Race of Gentlemen.
Rod Miller’s 1932 sprint car (near) and Keith Tucker’s 1934 dirt track racer sit in the rain in a make-shift pit area above the beach.
Nevada’s Mike Hamel arrived at the beach early Saturday morning in this chopped 1933 Ford three-window coupe.
The campground was the place to be on Friday night. Race cars and hot rods were everywhere and people stayed late into the night, walking around with flashlights to get an up-close look at some amazing vintage vehicles.
There were several vintage trailers on display in the North Beach Campground, like this Airstream hooked up to an old Ford.
Bruce Woodward from Sacramento, CA, had his 1932 Ford roadster on display in the campground on Friday night - complete with vintage props reminiscent of an old garage scene.
Well-known artist, Robert Williams, stopped by the car show on Friday afternoon. Williams, a hot rod aficionado, started Juxtapoz Magazine and got his first car, a 1934 Ford five-window coupe when he was just 12 years old.
Hot rods gathered in a lot near the beach on Friday afternoon, which turned into an impromptu car show that included customs and vintage hot rods alike.
All eyes were focused on the Mooneyes Streamliner as it made its way up Grand Avenue and parked in a lot near the beach on Friday afternoon.
The North Beach Campground in Pismo Beach was TROG headquarters where participants arrived to pick up their registration packets and pass through tech inspection.
The Race of Gentlemen added a vintage trailer show to the Pismo Beach event, which brought out several cool trailers, like this 1936 Brooks Stevens Art Deco Streamline House Car.
A vintage speedster sits in the picturesque campground on Friday afternoon, waiting to go through tech inspection.