COVER STORY: EL MIRAGE SCRAPBOOK
Lakes racing as it looked in 1948.
If hot rod culture was born in Southern California, then it developed out in the desert wastes about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. El Mirage was one of several dry lakebeds in the vast Mojave Desert that had served as venues for the prewar timing meets held by the SCTA and the Russetta Timing Association. Starting in 1947, all meets were held there, and the dry lake became a magnet for hot rodders and car clubs from all over the west. Kind of like a hot rodder’s Burning Man festival, this large group of people would show up in the middle of nowhere and bring with them their creations. Much smoke, dust, and loud noise would ensue. Many who were present were famous or would become famous names in motorsports and the world of aftermarket speed equipment.
The following images were taken by Lee Hammock. He is a wellknown and respected member of the Central Coast racing community who was there in the early days of hot rodding. A member of the Santa Barbara Acceleration Association, Hammock raced on the first dragstrips in the country, and had a long career building and racing all kinds of cars on all kinds of tracks, including quite a few Bonneville Speed Weeks. One weekend in April 1948, Hammock and three or four friends piled into his 1937 Chevrolet coupe to witness the SCTA meet at El Mirage. Fortunately for us, he took his camera with him.
Our thanks to Hammock for his generously providing the images used in this article.
> Lee Hammock’s images from El Mirage on an April weekend in 1948 are a true Wayback Machine, transporting us to the immediate postwar era of hot rodding and dry lakes racing.