The Strokers of Saginaw Photo Collection

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A Strokers club shot taken at an indoor car show. When Al and his buddies formed the Strokers in March of 1955, everyone wanted to be in a car club, so the little club grew quickly, having new members join them on a weekly basis. Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
An early iteration of Ed Kartz's 1951 Ford custom. This car would later be turned into The Kartz’s Khrome Kart. Photo courtesy of Ed Kartz, provided by Jonathan Russell.
This channeled 1934 Ford Tudor Sedan belonged to Dave Alcorn. Dave was a Strokers until he passed away in 2015. Photo courtesy of Ed Kartz, provided by Jonathan Russell.
According to Al Benaway, it wasn't much going on in Michigan back in the mid-1950s. Al was a single car fanatic that was just out of high school. Back then, you would usually find him in his garage, working on his car until three or four in the morning. He went to the Detroit Dragway once, but he recalled it wasn't much of a dragstrip. Photo courtesy of Ed Kartz, provided by Jonathan Russell.
Part of a national movement, the Strokers was one of the original NHRA charter clubs. There were no drag strips in the area when Al and his buddies formed the club. "Nobody even knew what we were talking about," Al told Kustomrama. Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
The Strokers decided to form the Saginaw Valley Timing Association to join forces with the other clubs in the area. Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
Bob George was a local auto racing promoter that the Strokers knew. Bob got hold of a fellow up in Edmore, Michigan that owned the Central Michigan Airport. "He let us use his airport, and that's when we started drag racing," Al Benaway told Kustomrama. The year was 1957, and Al recalled that the airport consisted of sand and grass. "The first time I drag raced up there, I had the Model A Coupe with the flathead in it. I was drag racing in the dirt," he chuckled. Sunday, July 7, 1957, 2,117 spectators came to watch the first supervised Drag Strip race in Central Michigan make it into the history books. Al became the area’s top winner in Class C. Later on, he also raced a channeled '34 two-door sedan that he lost the grille on while racing, as the pointed 34 grille kept digging down into the sand. Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
Members of the Strokers having a meeting about the construction of a drag strip in July of 1957. Local auto racing promoter Bob George told the newspaper that if there was enough interest shown in their second race, held July 28, 1957, the airstrip track would be paved. Bob estimated that it would cost $36,000 to pave the Edmore track. Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
Competiton Coupe. A grey primered iteration of Al Benaway's 1930 Ford Model A Coupe displayed at an indoor car show. Al bought the Coupe around 1956-57, and he would change it three times on his quest for higher speeds. "That car was originally chopped and channeled with a '32 frame and a Flathead," Al told Kustomrama, "that's how it started out." As the drag race fever swept over the state, Al decided to take his coupe apart and turn it into a drag car. A competition coupe. Off went the body, and out went the old Flathead engine. The body was then unchanneled before Al installed a 283 cubic inch Chevy engine between the deuce rails. The engine had been stroked to 301 cubic inches, and it ran a 1939 Ford transmission and rear end. Fed by six Stromberg carburetors, the engine was set back for better weight distribution. Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
Another photo of Al's Coupe from the same indoor car show. Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
After racing and showing the coupe in a grey primer, Jay Miller, who had helped Al chop the top, gave the car a beautiful paint job. According to Al, everybody in the area knew Jay. "It was a really good body shop, he did some beautiful paint jobs, and when the car was painted up it looked like a mirror." Al decided to display the car in some shows, and in 1958 it won best paint at the Detroit Autorama. Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.
Photo courtesy of the Strokers of Saginaw, provided by Jonathan Russell.

Saginaw is a Mid-Michigan town located 2,400 miles north-east of California, the hot rod capital of the world. In the 1950s, Michiganders saw what their California brothers were up to, and they started copying some of the West Coast hot rod styles and trends while pioneering their own distinctive look. More than fifty hot rod and custom car clubs popped up in Detroit and surrounding areas in the early 1950s. Detroit hot rodders wanted to drag race, but they didn't have the luxury of abandoned airfields that the west coast had, so they decided to form the Michigan Hot Rod Association in 1951 and host an indoor car show to finance the build of a drag strip. That show became the Detroit Autorama, one of the longest-running hot rod and custom car shows in the world.


According to Al Benaway, it wasn't much going on in Michigan back in the mid-1950s. Al was a single car fanatic that was just out of high school. Back then, you would usually find him in his garage, working on his car until three or four in the morning. He went to the Detroit Dragway once, but he recalled it wasn't much of a dragstrip.[1]


Saginaw is located 100 miles north of Detroit, and early in 2021 Al told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that in 1955 when he started out, you couldn't say the word, Hot Rod, out loud in the public. "Hot Rod was a bad word to say. A mortal sin. That was like you were a mugger. You were a bad guy. Bound for jail." There were about 10 or 12 small clubs in the area when Al and his high school buddies formed the Stokers car club in March of 1955. "They didn't last long," he recalled, "but they were there." Al and his buddies were in the senior civics class when they started the club. The Stokers grew to become a large club, and for a while, they had new guys joining on a weekly basis. "When you come to start high school, everybody wants to be in your club. Everybody had a car club, and we had about eight or nine clubs in high school." The Strokers had meetings in a chicken coop. "That was a little rough, but that's what we had. We had a two-car garage with a chicken coop on the back of it."[1]


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