A mere 73 years ago local legend the late C.J. "Pappy" Hart in Santa Ana, California, created the first drag strip. Yes, there had been other strips here and there before that, but those were temporary, often illegal stretches of empty road that came and went. Santa Ana was permanent, commercial establishment, or as permanent as history and SoCal development allowed. It was built on the periphery of what was then Orange County Airport, and it is now etched in drag racing lore.
Now the land that once was the drag strip is home to the Lyon Air Museum, founded by developer and Air Force veteran the late Gen. William Lyon. The museum houses much of the general’s magnificent airplane collection, including one of the few remaining B-17s in the world, in addition to many other significant aircraft. Among all those planes sit the original drag cars from the glory days of Santa Ana’s founding years, from 1950 to 1959.
Photographer and graphic artist Royce Rumsey shot the cars, many in front of the great airplanes of the museum, and forwarded a nice zip file of them to us. Thank you, Royce.
Tomorrow, Saturday, July 22, will be a gathering called Hot Rods on the Tarmac that will celebrate the great drag and street cars of yesteryear at the museum.
An exhibit of select cars will then run at the museum through Labor Day. The museum is located on the north side of what is now John Wayne Airport, at 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, CA, 92707. Museum hours are 10 am to 4 pm daily.
The original Mooneyes Dragster.
TV Tommy Ivo's dragster, as rebuilt by racer Don Prieto. Note the wind-up key in back.
The Ivo dragster parked in front of a Douglas A-26 Invader.
Romeo Palamides' dragster, built at his shop in Oakland, California. It's parked under the wing of the museum's B-17.
The Antique Doll dragster in front of the A-26.
The Lyon Museum says, "The Bean Bandits was one of the earliest drag racing teams, originally organizing in San Diego in 1949 to pool its member resources in order to afford to go racing. Known for its Mexican membership, the club in reality consisted of multiple ethnic groups. It included, among others, Anglo, African-American, Asian, and Lebanese members, brought together by their common passion for racing. A few months after Santa Ana Drag Strip opened, the Bean Bandit Dragster was built. Within a short period, the dragster was winning races at Santa Ana Drag Strip, as well as all over California. The Bean Bandits went on to win hundreds of races and are still racing on the dry lakes, salt flats, and select drag strips where they continue their tradition of breaking records."
Bobby Green's Vincent drag bike. Green is one of the founders of The Race of Gentlemen, among other accomplishments.
The Chrisman Model A. You may be more familiar with the Chrisman Coupe, but this car had class all its own.
The Creighton Hunter T-Bucket. The roadster was the first to bear the dual eyeballs of Dean Moon's Moon Equipment. Hunter was also a cofounder of the Santa Ana drag strip, the first commercial dragstrip ever.
The Bug was a flathead V8-powered 1927 Model T stripped down to the its frame rails. You could argue that it was the forerunner of all rails and dragsters.
Another side of the Creighton Hunter T-Bucket.
Shirley Muldowney was a pioneer in drag racing. She was the first woman to receive a license from the NHRA to drive in Top Fuel, winning championships in 1977, 1980, and 1982.
The Ohno-Lew and Gonzales dragster.
The Pyle Special Deuce.
One of the cars driven by Tom "Mongoose" McEwen. McEwen may have only won five NHRA national events in his career, but his promotional acumen, particularly in organizing match races with rival Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, was unprecedented. McEwen's first race was at Santa Anita.
2024 Ford Mustang Isn’t Revolutionary, Just Better
1974 Ford LTD Brougham Invites Close Examination
2024 Ford Maverick Towing Capacity Detailed
The 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E Stays Competitive