I’m told The Miss-Fires are into cars, and not just bikes. But I don’t own a car and don’t know squat about them. Corinna, however, owns a beautiful blue ’62 Ford Ranchero, and when she offered to drive me down to The Race of Gentlemen, I couldn’t think of a decent reason not to join her.
In The Race of Gentlemen, hot rods race along the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey, just after the tide goes out, while the sand is still compact. I took a bunch of photos, and to figure out what I was looking at I called a friend of mine who edits the hot rod magazine Mag-neto, Tony Dowers. He designed the posters and pamphlets for the race, and everything he’s told me is in italics below.
Sketch is the guy who owns this ‘33 or ’34 Ford with a flathead V8 engine. It’s a really old racing car that’s been in this condition for a long time.
I have no idea why the guy lining up the cars is wearing a tuxedo. The Race of Gentlemen is kind of like an old-timey circus. When Mel [the event organizer] asked me to do the graphics, he sent me circus posters for inspiration. He tends to surround himself with characters.
“81” has some beautiful design features, like that little lip in the frame, stretching from under the “8” up towards the exhaust pipe. The car is a 1930 Ford Model A roadster on a deuce frame, which they made for just one year in 1932. In the late 1940s, this combination of a Model A body with a flathead V8 engine—an AV8—was really popular. That’s the time period when hot rods started getting really fast. People had been hot rodding as soon as cars were invented—they were hopping up their Model T’s as early as 1918—but their cars were still pretty slow until the late 40s.
“Rolling Bones” is a hot rod group from upstate New York. Every year, they drive their cars to the Bonneville salt-flats in Utah. For some reason they named this car Scratchy. It’s is a 1932 Ford Tree Window Coupe, with an Italian flathead SCOT Blower engine. Basically, the carburetors sit on blowers, and the blowers spin around and force the gas and air into the engine at a much higher velocity than regular carburetors on their own.
He’s chopped the roof down to make the car more aerodynamic and to make it look more racy. Ford built these super tall roofs so that men could wear their tall hats while driving. No one wears hats like that anymore.
This guy’s such a bad ass. He usually drove around with a cigar hanging out of his mouth. And that number, “667,” is great. He’s got one up on the devil. He’s driving a 1930 Model A roadster with a flathead V8 engine. Henry Ford came out with that engine in 1932, and it was so versatile that everyone started modifying it to go faster. This driver added extra carburetors, to allow more fuel and air mixture into the engine. And then he had to modify the engine to use up all that extra mixture, like put straight pipes on it—which is why it’s super loud.
That’s Corinna, she’s the Miss-Fire that convinced us to all come down to the race.
She’s watching a speedster race by. “Speedster” is just old-fashioned carnie slang. Or you call this car a gow job—an early term for hot rod. There are different theories on what that means, I like to think it means Go! Get Up and Go! This gow job looks like it’s from the 1920s.
I love this car. It’s one of my favorites. It’s a 1927 Model T with a 1951 flathead V8 engine. I like it because it’s the epitome of a 1950s racecar with punky black and white flames it. Flames were like this back then, before airbrushing allowed you to get so detailed and colorful. Once airbrushes hit the scene in the 60s, everything got candy colored. If this photo were in black and white, you’d have no idea you took it last week.
I couldn’t resist.
“117” is a crazy modified 1927 Model T with an aerodynamic nose on the front. The driver looks so goofy way up in front because the engine is behind him. But it makes sense to put the engine in the rear because you can get more traction that way—since these are all rear-wheel drive cars. I’m not sure why more cars aren’t built with engines in the back. Chevy tried it in the 60s and it just flopped. Maybe Americans just like sticking with what they know.
This is Amanda Haase at the starting line of the race. Anything to see here?
Check out that ’32 Sedan with the white and black combination. Those were considered family cars back in the day.
Last year this speedster with a banger engine won the overall race. The driver comes all the way out from Washington state. He just nailed it last year, but this year I heard he had car problems. He had the engine splayed apart in the hotel parking lot Friday night.
Here are my girls, watching the races. We had a pretty memorable night. It involved moonshine, sand storms, the Ranchero, the Ranchero, the Ranchero, small-town cops, some dude with a cane. I woke up with sand in my ears and Twizzlers in my purse.
Why aren’t you all racing? Your club needs to get an early motorcycle and race it. 1948 is the cut off. I’ll put you in touch with the right people.
Never truer words. Miss-Fires + TROG combo does not disappoint.
— Amy Maxmen (posting through Val’s account. Thanks, Val!)