Auto Club: Salute to Sixties-Era Drag Race Photographers to Open at Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum

faster-burnout
Dragster tire smokes during race start

(POMONA, Aug. 9, 2006) — Before auto-focus lenses and high-speed motor drive cameras simplified taking pictures of speeding objects, photographers, using still-photo cameras, chronicled the gritty origins of the planet’s fastest cars in the 1960s — the powerful dragsters of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). These photographers, shooting for National Dragster

Dragster tire smokes during race start
In the 1960s, top-fuel drivers were enveloped in sheets of smoke from slicks spinning two feet from their heads. Photo from National Dragster/NHRA Archive.
magazine, also battled smoke, flying rubber, loud engines and unpredictable aerodynamics to capture the birth of professional drag racing in Pomona — all while working just feet from the action.

Forty large-scale examples of these photographers’ endurance and creativity will be displayed as a part of “FASTER: 1960s Photographs of Pomona Drag Racing,” an exhibition at the Wally Parks National Hot Rod Association Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, beginning on Aug. 25. On display through Aug. 25, 2007, “FASTER,” is curated by photographer Douglas McCulloh and examines the parallel growth of technologies that shaped the Southern California psyche: cars and cameras. The exhibit was developed by the UCR/California Museum of Photography in cooperation with the NHRA and the Auto Club.

Under McCulloh, who this summer participated in creating possibly the world’s largest photograph at the El Toro Marine Base Hangar, the exhibition looks at drag racing’s infancy. It also explores chance encounters constructed not by the human eye but by the camera itself. Distorted perspectives, off-center angles, random objects and an unfenced track with fans seen atop trees and utility poles straining for a glimpse of the action, make their way into the frame. In their attempt to document the speed of hot-rods at 1/60 th of a second using still-photo cameras, NHRA photographers also recorded the way cameras recorded the world.

“In the 1960s it was very difficult to capture the dynamism of drag racing at 1/60 th of a second,” said Greg Sharp, the Parks museum curator. “Since then, cameras have won. Digital cameras can take 8 to 12 frames a second and freeze the furious action on the track. But it was the improvised images of the ‘60s that spread the sport throughout North America and looking at the pictures today takes us inside drag racing’s formative years," he added.

“As a long-time sponsor of NHRA drag racing and as a 106-year-old chronicler of Southern California cultural history, the Auto Club’s excited to bring “FASTER” to Pomona,” said Matt Roth, Auto Club historian. “This exhibit illustrates drag racing in its infancy and shares how the era’s photographers tried to capture the world’s fastest race cars with basic camera equipment.”

Several 1960s dragsters will be on display, including the Dragmaster Dart Gas Dragster, which was driven to victory in the Top Eliminator class at the 1962 NHRA Winternational race in Pomona. This particular car serves as a reminder that while dragsters were constructed for speed, they exuded a compelling beauty, too.

Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter). The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave. The phone number is (909) 622-2133. For more information, visit http://museum.nhra.com.

Current NHRA members are admitted free. Auto Club members and Auto Club employees with identification $3; seniors $2 and juniors age 6–15 $2. General admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for juniors 6–15. Free for children under age 5. Auto Club members and employees eligible for certain gift shop discounts.

The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest affiliate of the AAA, has been serving members since 1900. Today, the Auto Club’s members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing, and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services, highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club’s Web site at www.aaa.com.

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