RUNNING WITH THE PACK
Racing Roadster project finale: Hitting the beach at The Race of Gentlemen.
On an October day five years ago, I was awakened by my buddy Elvis, who was on a mission to get me up and out of the house. In my predawn stupor, I made out the words “hot rods” and “race on the beach” over the phone. I remembered reading about the possibility of an event called The Race of Gentlemen on several Internet message boards, and even heard the rumblings through local friends in the hobby.
So I grabbed my trusty Nikon camera and drove down to the race location, where I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There, on this exclusive, upscale beach, was the beginning of a hot rod happening for the ages. At least a couple dozen pre- and post-war-styled hot rods lined the entrance to the narrow shoreline, with a smattering of cool Harleys and Indians thrown in.
I located Meldon Van Riper Stultz, the originator and organizer of the race, and hit him up for starting line access. I took about 500 pictures that day. A dozen or so made HOT ROD magazine a few months later, with one gracing the cover. The Race of Gentlemen was officially off and running.
I covered the race over the next five years for HRM and HOT ROD Deluxe, keeping our readers abreast of what was going on over here on the “right” coast. It was always a great time when TROG was on the beach, and I was perfectly happy with being behind pen and camera, doing my share to spread the gospel of TROG. But after five years of walking the beach beat, change was in the air.
RACING ROADSTER FINALE: Hitting the Sand at The Race of Gentlemen
In 2015, while looking for my next project, I decided to go outside my comfort zone and build a Model A. I wasn’t building it to race exactly; I just wanted a weekend beach cruiser. I located a chassis and a bunch of body parts, but the project stalled when I ran into other issues, and I decided to put the ’29 roadster up for sale online. That’s when I met TJ O’grady, a pre-war hot rod expert, TROG veteran, and owner of Throttle Jockey Originals out of Bohemia, New York. We decided to build my car for the race. I funneled parts to TJ and he built my Model A into a sight to behold—a process documented on these pages for the past few issues.
It was finished with only a few weeks to go before the race. Luckily, TJ got to break her in at the Jalopy Showdown before bringing the roadster to TROG.
The Amazing Race
When TROG pulls into Wildwood, New Jersey (its new official home base), the whole demeanor of the town changes. It gets louder, it gets faster, and the municipality goes into a time warp of sorts. The period hotels are abuzz with rods and rides. TROG is more than a car show; it’s a hot rod circus and petrol-fueled carnival all rolled into one.
Early Friday morning the streets were already full of hot rods and hot bikes. At TROG headquarters, based in and around the kitschy Star-lux hotel, I meet Corin Stubblefield and wife Michele, two longtime TROG mainstays. They get me through my registration paperwork and on to my safety inspection. The rowdy roadster passes with no problem. We are officially in the race.
Saturday morning I meet TJ at the Star-lux lot. Due to time constraints, I hadn’t even sat behind the wheel of the finished car until that moment. TJ gave me a quick rundown on what to do and not to do on the sand. With that I turned the key, clicked on the fuel pump, and hit the starter. The hopped-up banger popped to life with a throaty rumble that echoed through the body of the minimalist hot rod. I threw it into gear and followed the remaining participants to the race entrance just off of Ocean Avenue.
At the entrance to the beach, it really hits you how big this event is. Even at 8 in the morning, the road is packed with spectators eager to get a glimpse of the drivers and their rides as we funnel into the “gazing tunnel” under the boardwalk and onto the sand. It’s a sight to see, even better from the driver’s point of view!
This is where you get your first feel of driving on sand. It’s an unusual ride in a hot rod with skinny tires. It’s nothing like driving here in a Jeep with the tires aired down. It’s more like driving on 6 inches of heavy snow, with a little more traction. The Model A tracked well, and it was soon easy to feel how the roadster would react to throttle and steering.
Once on the beach, we are corralled into the pit area, where we do last-minute checks, and stage for the slow creep to the starting line. Time to get into driver mode.
The organizers ask that you dress the part of an early hot rodder. I had a HOT ROD Deluxe shirt made by Hometown Jersey, complete with felt lettering. I took along my old Buco helmet, probably late 1950s vintage with leather earflaps. I took along several vintage goggles and glasses I had collected over the years, none of which gave me any vision whatsoever. I ended up using a pair of safety glasses to cover my eyes from the sandblasting I was about to endure.
Mel addressed the drivers in a pre-race meeting, laying the basic ground rules: Have fun, be safe, be aware, and enjoy the day. By this time there was a fever pitch amongst the drivers; we were about to roll.
Luck was with us, as bangers were called up first. I made my way out of the pits towards Joe Oz, the tuxedoed “Master of Ceremonies” at the starting line, ready to set us up. I was paired with another banger-powered Model A, with bolt-ons similar to mine. As we crept to the line, I got a good look at the track, and the hordes of spectators that were growing by the minute. My heart was pounding out of my jersey. Only one thing left: to wait for TROG’S jumpin’ flag girl Sara Francello to let us loose. With the drop we were off and running.
TJ advised me not to punch it too hard out of the gate. Let the tires grip and get through the soft stuff along the start line. Make First gear a quick push and then head right into Second. The peppy four-cylinder responded without a hitch, and we battled from line to line, staying within a car length of each other the whole time. The car slid slightly side-to-side when I hit the throttle, but overall tracked well through the sand.
We finished with our roadster trailing by a fender, which I was fine with. My first run went well, and I was eager to get back to the starting line. Once the “all safe” signal was given, we were led back to the start. I headed straight through the pits and right back in line.
This would be repeated about nine times on Saturday. I wanted to get as much driving in on Saturday as possible. I won as many races as I lost, and even managed to pick off a flathead or two. It was a joy out on the sand, and I was itching to come back the next day.
Bracket racing takes place on Sunday. Hot rods and bikes are put in classes according to engine size. Some came to have fun; some came to win.
We had a strong-running ride and I felt confident coming up to the line, especially since we had taken our opponent the day before. However, we had our first mechanical issue of the weekend. During the heat, the battery box came dislodged, disconnecting our electrical system. On a do-over, I was taken narrowly by the sleek roadster. As a consolation, I found out that particular ride made it to the semi-finals.
We continued to run out the day, making as many passes as possible. The roadster just couldn’t have run any better overall, with just a few minor issues that didn’t keep us from racing. I raced until they closed the track.
Back at the Star-lux lot, many of the racers parked and talked about the weekend. It was a huge success on all accounts, with Mother Nature being our biggest supporter, giving us two glorious June days and good tides for racing. The roadster was our other big winner. It ran with the best of them, and looked just killer out on the sand.
I’d like to thank everyone involved, especially TJ O’grady and Throttle Jockey Originals for putting together this rad traditional hot rod. Also thanks to the suppliers who helped us adorn this beauty with top-notch parts. And finally, a special thanks goes out to TROG co-founder Mel for granting us admission to this incredible event. Bob Bader’s Antique Ford Parts Center; 631-256-0030; bader[email protected]
Brookville Roadster; 937-833-4605; brookvilleroadster.com Coker Tire; 866-516-3125; cokertire.com
Anthony Diliberto; adpinstrip[email protected]; Instagram: @pinstriping_by_ad
Elmer Equipped; elmerequipped.com; Instagram: @elmerequipped; Facebook: facebook.com/elmerequipped
Hometown Jersey; hometownjersey.com
Kohler Kustom; kohlerkustom.com; Instagram: @kohlerkustom; Facebook: facebook.com/kohlerkustom
Powermaster Starters and Alternators; 630-957-4019; powermastermotorsports.com
Throttle Jockey Originals; throttlejockeyoriginals.com; Instagram: @throttlejockeyoriginals; Facebook: facebook.com/throttle-jockey-originals
WAC Customs; 860-459-0399; [email protected]chopit.com
> TJ O’grady’s design for our project roadster helped it stand out from the crowd. With its thinned nose, upswept exhaust, and interesting hue, the hot rod definitely had a look all its own. > The Hot Rod Deluxe project Model A roadster sailed...
> After five years of walking the sand beat at The Race of Gentlemen for HOT ROD and HOT ROD Deluxe magazines, Scotty Lachenauer decided it was time to join the fun. TJ O’grady and Throttle Jockey Originals built a hopped-up ’29 for Scotty to drive at...
> Looking inside the Model A, you can see the sand Scotty brought back as a souvenir of the epic weekend. > TROG race cars and bikes can take a beating during two days of running surfside. The Racing Roadster shows some well-earned signs of TROG...