“I often say that drag racing started when the guy with the second Model T in town pulled up to the guy with the first Model T in town,” Greg Sharp told us the day Ford Social visited the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Southern California for a private tour of its vast collection of historical Ford vehicles. Greg is curator of the museum, so he has the envious job of overseeing the more than 50 historic cars, one-of-a-kind memorabilia and other significant pieces of automotive history housed within the walls of the boutique museum located at the Los Angeles County Fairplex.
Also on this ground is the legendary Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, a historical dragstrip that has seen all the greats in the drag racing and hot rodding world and was the site of the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) first race in 1953.
But the museum is not just about drag racing—there are historic Indy cars, street cars, customs, artifacts, photographs, driving uniforms, helmets…a little bit of everything, no matter what fuels your passion for cars and motorsports.
Walking the rows is like taking a time machine back to the early days of racing and automotive personalization. Any person interested in cars but who might not know a lot about the history of racing and its influence on what we drive today will be amazed at the collection of goodies in this place. And even if you know your drag racing stats and milestones fairly fluently, you’re still sure to learn something new at the museum. If you can’t make it there in person, don’t fret—we followed Greg around with a camera as he told us story after story behind the many Ford vehicles on display, offering you a behind-the-scenes tour as well!
The museum rotates cars and exhibits often, so on each visit you’re bound to see something new. On our visit, we spotted really cool cars like a 1963 Shelby Cobra, Ford Highboy Roadsters, Model T Roadsters, a 1949 Ford pickup (which you might not recognize at first as being a Ford!) and a slick three-window coupe. A true gem was Ed Iskenderian’s 1923 Ford street and competition roadster—you can’t find many cars these days in the same condition as Ed’s. Greg joked it even had some of the original air in the tires! Originals like that almost made it impossible to tear us away from Ford Row.
Don’t know much about the history of the NHRA? It was an org created to legitimize hot-rodders and to change their reputation from hooligans and criminals into legitimate, productive members of society with a passion for speed and competition, a common thread among most young, red-blooded Americans even today. The NHRA was the brainchild of Wally Parks, who began racing and organizing land speed contests at the Southern California dry lake beds.
For more information about the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, visit www.museum.nhra.com.