Thunderbolts Capitol Auto Club of Sacramento
The Thunderbolts Auto Club of Sacramento, California was formed by Harry Westergard, Norm Milne and Dick Bertolucci in 1945. The club was first called the Capitol Auto Club, and their first meeting was held in September of 1945, in Harry Westergard's chicken coup shop on Fullton Avenue. The guys in the club used to hang out at Jack Stack's Flying A Gas station at 18th & L in Sacramento.
Norm Milne was the club's first president. Norm, Dick, and Harry also decided that a club would be the best way to find a place to race off of the city streets, and organize that racing. Norm had been to the dry lakes of Southern California, and was familiar with the clubs there and the SCTA, the Southern California Timing Association. Being a military flier, he also knew of several large military airstrips in the area, some of which had been abandoned after the war. The Davis-Winters Field west of Sacramento was available and, though they never got official permission to use it, this became the site of regular weekly drag races as early as 1946. Most of the time, 20 to 30 cars and motorcycles would show up. The racing was not timed, and there was no set distance; the two vehicles would simply race until there was a clear winner. Although it was not officially organized or sanctioned, these races clearly predate the "first" drags at Goleta or Santa Ana.
The first members in the club in addition to Harry, Norm and Dick were Don Wallace, Gene Garrett, Spud Metha, Al Garcia, Ed "Buddy" Ohanesian, Leroy Semas, Buck Davis, Dick Orteiz, Jack Odberg, Harold "Baggy" Bagdasarian, Ray Falconer, Mel Falconer, Ed Shaw, Bob Fallon and Wayne Selser.
The club became active in roadster track racing around 1948 at the Lazy J Ranch, which was a former horse track, on Saturday nights. Harry Westergard turned out some beautiful machines, which Butler Rugard drove. Wayne Selser built and drove his own cars with engines he bought from Andy Granatelli in Chicago. Several members of the Thunderboltss participated in dry lakes events through the Valley Timing Association.
The first Sacramento Autorama in 1950 was organized by members of the Thunderbolts. Three of the founding members, Norm Milne, Buck Davis, and Lawrence Brochini, were all arguing one night about who had the nicest roadster. Fellow club member Harold Bagdasarian suggested they stage a little car show to let the public decide whose roadster was the coolest. That show was held in the service area of new car dealer Capitol Chevrolet on November 4-5, 1950. Twenty-two cars showed up for the show. In 1951 they show moved to Cope Buick, which had a larger showroom space.
In 1978 the Thunderbolts were the first hot rod car club to join the Association of California Car Clubs, a grassroots lobbying organization dedicated to maintaining and preserving the old car hobby in California.
In 2005 the club celebrated their 60th reunion at the Sacramento Autorama. The club did then count 24 active members. The club is still active today, and has meeting every second week in an old construction site trailer parked at the Elk Grove Regional Airport. The club is going strong, and has never missed holding their every two week meeting for the last 65 years. July 17th, 2010 the remaining members of the Thunderbolts will host their 65 year reunion.
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