Scott Toepfer, a guy I’m humbled to call my friend, came to the Jersey Shore to shoot the second annual The Race of the Gentlemen organized by Mel Stultz (OCC) and put on by the legendary Oiler’s Car Club. It’s an event that can only be adequately described by someone who was actually there in the thick of it– and Toepfer was kind enough to share his personal thoughts with TSY on the sights, sounds, and experiences had by a California boy in Wildwood, Jersey. Great stuff, Scott!
“Like anyone raised in California, my knowledge of New Jersey is unfortunately limited to a few songs from The Boss, Danny Clinch photos, and Clerks. And imagine my surprise, upon arriving at the shore, that it was all true. New Jersey is home to the most charming display of familial dysfunction coupled with earnest value. The food is delicious, your hosts offer you the most comfortable spot that isn’t their own bed, and the hand shakes are served firmly with a look in your eyes. It’s real, it’s handmade, it’s not a cake walk.”
“The Oiler’s Car Club, revived over the past few years by Mel Stultz, Michael Kliman, Tom Larusso and about 6 others, is carrying on a tradition started in Southern California over 65 years ago. One of racing prowess, a desire for speed and common ground amongst friends. They inherited the club from Jim Nelson, founding member and of later Dragmaster fame, with the promise of carrying on a legacy. And in true stride, they’ve devised some way to break out of the usual car show to car show mentality of many modern hot rod clubs…by racing one another. Taking pre-WW2 cars and pitting them against one another on the beaches of South Jersey. Putting their hand built cars on the line through hell, all for a bit of fun, and a chance to test their machines against the best of their peers.”
“In the second year of The Race of Gentlemen cars came from Seattle, Denver, and everywhere else between there and the boardwalk. It’s the perfect time of year: the crowds are gone, the classically-tacky motels are almost completely empty, and the beaches are wide open. The Oiler’s did all but own the roads for the weekend, with free reign over the quiet streets of Wildwood, NJ.”
“Friday morning saw the early arrivals, with folks driving in for registration and a bottle of High Life. From then it became a car show of race cars and historic museum pieces one might not really expect to start up, let alone ‘race’ on wet, salty sand. I swear a 1911 Indian probably doesn’t need to be getting sand in, around, or near its motor, but damn if the owner doesn’t have some serious balls for bringing it out to run. A car/motorcycle show in multiple parking lots and a party on both sides of the block, I couldn’t hope to be anywhere but here on a warm October afternoon.”
“The Saturday morning start was delayed by the slow-falling tide, giving the backhoe time to create a road almost a quarter mile long in deep sand so that the cars could make it through to the course. Drivers were told not to stop, not to get stuck, or follow too closely, for there would be plenty of time to punish each other’s cars at race time.”
“Two lanes, a flag girl in the center, and 1/8th mile of sand to prove you did something right to this car. 1/8th mile to race an Indian Chief against a Harley Knucklehead. 1/8th mile to see if that car you built in just enough time to put it on a cross country trailer from Seattle was going to run. Well, the Indian won more often than not, in bare feet I might add. The youngest kid to race, in a custom built 4-banger that traveled the furthest, he won too. Sand spit in the air, tires slid, bikes crashed, smiles were worn by all. They were there to do what the old timers used to do. In fact, most of those old timers were there too, racing side by side with guys that could be there grandchildren. No stories of “The way we used to do it,” but rather good old fashioned handshakes and”‘let the winner return first” respect. Tips and tricks were traded, compliments were given and rivalries born. The Race of Gentlemen ended its second year with anticipation for a third, and by now there are plenty of guys ready to close their garages for the winter and get cracking on a build.”
“All of this set to a landscape of boardwalks and wooden roller coasters. T-shirt shops and sub spots. I’ll be damned if New Jersey isn’t a sort of home away from home, and The Oiler’s CC the slightly twisted East Coast family of all of our dreams.”