Muroc Dry Lake
The Early Days of Muroc Dry Lakes Racing
Muroc Dry Lake was the site of American Automobile Asscociation sanctioned speed events in the 1920s. When lakes racing became popular in the 1920s, the Model T was the preferred car because of its low cost and available speed equipment. Roadsters were favred amongst the racers, but touring cars were also raced. In May 1923, Joe Nikrent set a record of 108.24 miles per hour in a stripped down Buick. In 1924, Tommy Milton ran 151.26 mph in a Miller powered race car. In 1927, Frank Lockhart ran 171 miles per hour.
October 9, 1927, the Southern California Champion Sweepstakes were held on Muroc dry lake. Earl Mansell of Pasadena, California organized the event. The entry blank listed five events, and the cost of entry was $3 per event. The first class, and event was for Ford roadsters. It was open for any Ford roadster, and the owner could run with or without fenders or windshield. Entries in the Ford roadster event required a hood and turtle deck. The second event was for Ford coupes. Cars for this event were required to have fenders, hood, windshield, and doors. Ford touring cars were scheduled for the third event, fenders and windshield were optional. The fourth event was called the Special Flathead Race, and was open to any body style and type of car as long as it had a flathead engine. Any winner of the three previous events would have their entry fees refunded for the Flathead race. The final race was the Championship Sweepstakes. The Championship Sweepstakes was open for any roadster, coupe, or touring car, and the competitors could run without windshield or fenders.
In 1931 one of the first known organized amateur speed trials was held at Muroc. It was sponsored by Gilmore Oil Company of Los Angeles. The driving force behind the event was George Wight, the owner of Bell Auto Parts. George realized that something had to be done to coordinate the haphazard dry lakes meets. He got Gilmore Oil Company to sponsor the speed trials if the hot rodders could come to an agreement regarding rules and regulations. Early in 1931 Wight sent letters to rodders in the area inviting them to an organizational meeting to be held in East Los Angeles. The rules that were made were fairly simple in the beginning. In the interest of fairness, classes were established according to engine type: Model T flatheads, Model T Rajos, Model T Frontenacs and Chevrolets, Model A flatheads, and Model A overhead valve conversions. Supercharged cars were not allowed to compete. The first organized meet was held March 25, and the second was held April 19, 1931. The speed trials were open to all cars within the designated class. A pace car would start up a dozen racers at a time. At around 50 mph the pace car would drop back and the racers would continue to accelerate to the finish line. No "wildcat warmups" were allowed, and any car that jumped the start would be given a penalty of a hundred foot handicap when the race was restarted. The need for safety was recognized, and cars returning from a speed run were limited to 40 mph. The cars ran as a group, and the two fastest cars from each class were eligible to run in the open competition from which a single winner would emerge. No records exist of the two Gilmore sponsored runs held in 1931, but it has been documented that Ike Trone won the Gilmore trophy for first place in the Main Event at the second met on April 19th. Ike ran a fenderless, stock bodies 1929 Ford Model A roadster with a Riley head.
Before the 1931 season ended, the Muroc Racing Association had been formed, complete with officers and a race program. It collected a one dollar entry fee which was used to meet the expenses. The same year the Purdy Brothers developed an electrical timer to clock the cars speeds. These two helped formalize the meets radically.
The trials continued to be conducted by Muroc Racing Association in 1932, and the 1931 rules continued to apply. A major change in classifying cars was to put them in one of two categories: stock-bodied and modified. A stock-bodies car could have the fenders, top, windshield, lights and bumpers removed. A modified car was one that had been shortened, narrowed or otherwise greatly altered. Between 1932 and 1933 seasons a major rule change was made affecting classes. Moving away from engine/head types, the new classes were established by speed and body type. They were an attempt to keep things equal given the car's potential top speed. The new classes were 70-80 mph, 80-90 mph, 90-100 mph, stock bodied over 100 mph, modifieds over 100 mph and a class for six and eight cylinder engines. A separate class was for coupes and sedans. Cars that were timed were put in the appropriate class for the races. To help keep things honest, speedometers were painted with white shoe polish so a driver couldn't tell how fast he was going.
Muroc Meets of 1927
Muroc Meets of 1931
Muroc Meets of 1933
Muroc Meets of 1938
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