1950 – 1959 THE SANTA ANA DRAG STRIP DAYS | THEY DID IT FOR LOVE

Santa Ana Drag Strip

Just business as usual at the Santa Ana Drag Strip. Hambone waves the flag and the drag racers who usually had a rolling start to save their rear-ends from tearing apart would start screaming down the track. C.J. “Pappy” Hart’s perch is visible on about midway down on the right– below that was an old hearse that the track management used to store equipment and supplies. The cost for a run at the strip– 50 cents. The experience– priceless.

Give credit to the legendary C.J. “Pappy” Hart for organizing the world’s first commercial drag strip at what is now the John Wayne Airport– The Santa Ana Drags.  He did out of love for the sport and to give his fellow enthusiasts a safe, fun and legal place to enjoy their sport. From We Did it For Love–

“C.J. Hart, who along with Creighton Hunter established the Santa Ana Drag Strip on an unused runway at the Orange County Airport, and held races Sundays from 1950 to 1959, was known to legions of drag racing fans as the one of the grand old men of the sport. In his later years, Hart was a member of the NHRA Safety Safari, traveling the country and greeting well wishers at every stop.  Hunter sold his interest in the strip to Hart in the first month of operation, and Hart, who owned a gas station in Santa Ana at the time, went on to run the strip with his wife, Peggy, who competed – and won – regularly at the track in her ’33 Willy’s coupe. Peggy Hart died in 1980.”

CJ PAPPY HART ORANGE COUNTY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY

There’s been drag racing since cars were invented,” Hart said in a 2001 interview in National DRAGSTER, “but I guess they say I invented drag racing because I was the first one to have a commercial strip. There was one in [Goleta, Calif.], but they charged no fee at the time. I saw a need to get people to stop racing on the streets; that was dangerous.

The fee to race or watch was 50 cents, and Hart decided on a quarter-mile length adapted from thoroughbred racing. In addition to installing an electronic timing system (cobbled together from an old Victrola), Hart’s track also created some of the sport’s earliest rules, regulating axle ratios as well as year, make, and displacements of engines, and safety regulations such as roll bars.”

-

The NHRA Drag Racing Meet at Santa Ana, California.

The NHRA Drag Racing Meet at Santa Ana, California, ca. 1950s.

.

What a great, visually graphic shot take at Santa Ana Drags-- late 50s.

What a great, visually graphic shot of the “Sounds by Rocket” car & crew at Santa Ana Drags– late 1950s.

.

"Sounds by Rocket' crew at work at the Santa Ana Drag Strip.

What a great, visually graphic shot of the “Sounds by Rocket” car & crew at Santa Ana Drags– late 1950s.

.

The same car & crew as above at the Santa Ana Drags-- late 50s.

The “Sounds by Rocket” car & crew member at the Santa Ana Drags– late 1950s.

.

"Friction Master" at the Santa Ana Drags-- late 50s.

“Friction Master” at the Santa Ana Drags– late 1950s.

.

Sorry, but "Oceanside Sea Horses" doesn't sound very badass-- Santa Ana Drag StripE, late 50s.

Sorry, but “Oceanside Sea Horses” doesn’t sound very badass, but I’ll give him credit for the buckle-back whites– Santa Ana Drag Strip, late 1950s.

.

"Outlaws", there's a good, solid name-- Santa Ana Drag strip, late 50s.

“Outlaws” at the Santa Ana Drag strip, late 1950s.

.

"Road Runners" at the Santa Ana Drag Strip-- late 50s.

“Road Runners” at the Santa Ana Drag Strip– late 1950s.

.

The precarious perch at Santa Ana Drags, w/supply Hearse below-- late 50s.

The precarious perch at Santa Ana Drags, w/supply Hearse below– late 1950s.

.

If it had an engine and wheels they'd find a class for you to run in at the Santa Ana Drags.

If it had an engine and wheels they’d find a class for you to run in at the Santa Ana Drags.

.

A most excellent father & son day at the Santa Ana Drag Strip-- late 50s.

A most excellent father & son day at the Santa Ana Drag Strip– late 1950s.

.

Santa Ana Drag Strip-- where you're sure to find lots of body filler and punched venting louvers.

Santa Ana Drag Strip, ca. 1950s– where you’re sure to find lots of body filler and punched venting louvers.

.

"Look Ma', I won!'  --Santa Ana Drag Strip, 1950s.

“Look Ma’, I won!’ –Santa Ana Drag Strip, 1950s.

LIFE Images by Ralph Crane

18 thoughts on “1950 – 1959 THE SANTA ANA DRAG STRIP DAYS | THEY DID IT FOR LOVE

  1. And by coincidence, Don Draper was walking down an alley in Southern California last night, carrying groceries, when he happened upon a group of fellows just like these, working on their cars for an upcoming race.

    • Love that show– I remember last season’s finale made it seem like he’d stay in Cali. Has season 3 started?

  2. i swear to you, JP, i’m right there with you. i’m restoring a musclecar right now and your old footage and photos get me all hyped up. right now, your blog and acontinuouslean.com are at the top of my daily must-reads.

    • Thanks Derrick, I appreciate that. What are you restoring? My first car was a ’66 Dodge Charger– can’t believe I got rid of it. I could just shoot myself.

  3. 66 charger? what did it have in it? a 383 or 440? i’m assuming you would have committed suidicide already if it had a hemi in it, lol.

    i’m restoring a 1970 mercury cougar xr7. it’s got a strong 351 cleveland that’s bored 30 over. i’ve had several musclecars(including a 73 roadrunner and 68 skylar) but this is the first one i really have the money and will to properly restore. i’m having a ball doing it.

    • 383– A Hemi never would have left my side. 351 Cleveland, nice. Have fun with that, would love to see it when you’re done.

      Cheers.

  4. Pingback: Flat Out on the Salt Flats | The 1954 Bonneville Hot Rod Meet « The Selvedge Yard

  5. GREAT PHOTOS! AND GREAT MEMORIES!
    REMINDS ME OF THE DAYS AT HALF MOON BAY STRIP. HELPING JIM MCLENON AND OTHERS ON THE TIMEING SETUP AND OTHER DUTIES. I WAS 16.
    LOVE IT!
    SCOT

  6. thanks so much for this post!
    i shared it with my father back home who sent me this as a reply:

    WE loved the drags. Belonged to a car club called the Hangers. Mostly anaheim high students. One of us was usually racing something if not working at the Show.
    Good Times…..Thanks.

  7. Pingback: RELIVE DRAG RACING’S TOP RIVALRY 11/10 ~ THE SNAKE VS. THE MONGOOSE « The Selvedge Yard

  8. Pingback: The Great 1950′s T-Bucket Hot Rod Rivalry | Kookie Kar vs. The “Outhouse on Wheels” « The Selvedge Yard

  9. Pingback: EVEN COWBOYS GET THE BLUES | VINTAGE PHOTOS OF DUDES IN DENIM « The Selvedge Yard

Comments are closed.