FOR lovers of vintage cars, beaches, and escaping from modern life, there's only one place to go each year that satisfies all three of those things; the Jersey Shore. And no, this isn't some crazy fake-tanned beach rave, in fact it's far from it.
The Race Of Gentlemen is an annual event, usually held on the first weekend of October, just as the beachside holiday resort town of Wildwoods is about to shut up shop for the cold season. Organised by the Oilers Car Club, the event is a fuel-filled weekend of beach racing, music and general fare, all in a beautiful and relaxed atmosphere
Rules for entrants are quite simple: send in a submission of your pre-1935 car built only with parts manufactured before 1955, or your pre-1947 motorcycle, tank-shifted and stripped of almost everything. The club chooses the entrants and TROG racers travel from not only across all of America, but overseas to partake in the action
Months of preparation lead up to this spectacular event that sees two full days of dawn to dusk racing - governed by the tide of course - and smiles that will carry on well after the tyre marks have been washed away
With an emphasis put on vintage mystique and faithful recreation by the big cheeses Mel Stutz and Bobby Green, the event has a surreal effect of casting your imagination well back into the 40s as the 660ft drag strip down the shoreline is void of all media vests, bloggers, selfie sticks and anything else that could possibly pollute that brief moment of pure nostalgic racing. Nothing but the drop of a flag and some distant markers to test your racing skills
Due to the unique rule set, the beach pit area is awash with all kinds of amazing machinery, everything from 1911 Cadillacs to rickety old Ford gow-jobs and even high-powered land speed screamers
With the disappointment of the initial postponement of the event due to Hurricane Joaquin still lingering in the frosty air, the pit area may not have been as big as initially assumed, but no one really took any notice. Crowds poured in through the front gate and the staging lanes were still rubber-to-rubber with some of the finest vintage machines in the land
Beautiful weather and some lucky timing with the tides meant racing could be held all day and everyone revelled in watching the racers smash their right feet to the floor until the rooster tails kicked up as high as they could go.
Even aside from the racing there was plenty going as the entire beachfront was in a constant commotion. Large crowds, vendors, live bands and a healthily sized bar meant everyone was in a good mood. Bobby Green, in his rare Overland Whippet would be putting around keeping an eye on all the proceedings and having some fun tearing up the sand in between duties.
There were even a few celebrity faces lucky to grace the sands this year including former NASCAR legend and host of the TV show AmeriCARna Ray Evernham with his wife Erin in a track T roadster/sprint car hybrid as well as TV personality Jessi Combs. She was out on the shore racing in the crazy looking Craftsman Twin T speedster, a tribute to Ford's famous 999 land speed car of the early 20th Century. The two Model T 'bangers were assembled by H&H Flatheads in California, and linked by a chain! Mechanical brakes, no suspension and a super-long wheelbase would have made the car an absolute handful but she steered it with all the grace of a seasoned pro
Another celeb to find himself at Wildwoods was Wayne Carini from the hit TV show Chasing Classic Cars. He was invited down by the Oilers to come check the event out and soon found himself strapped into a helmet and gripping the steering wheel of a roadster, facing off against event organiser Mel Stutz. The few bouts between the two were closely contested.
As the day wound down, the festivities didn't stop at the closing of the racetrack. Back at the Starlux hotel a few blocks away, the parking lot across the road was full of cars covered in sand, oil, and all kinds of other automotive fluids after the first day of solid racing
As cans were cracked open and bench racing began, others made their way back down to the beach to enjoy some live bands and a giant bonfire to keep everyone warm in the dropping Autumn temperatures
The next day was just as exciting as the first and with almost every car still working well, the stakes were raised as the brave pushed their vintage mills to breaking point in pursuit of ocean-side racing glory
Elimination bracket racing was set up and managed by the Rolling Bones crew, and this soon turned into a spirited competition amongst the racers as they tried their hardest to break away from their opponents on the shifting, slippery sand
As the sun fell lower, the final few competitions made for some thrilling spectating, probably also fuelled by the countless PBR's and alcoholic Root Beers available for purchase
With the event coming to a close, both spectators and racers left the Wildwood beach with sand in their shoes, smiles on their faces and the excited talk of what they were going to build or improve on for next year
If you find yourself on the East coast of the U.S. in early October, make sure to keep an eye on www.theraceofgentlemen.com for information regarding TROG 2016. Be sure to check yourself in to one of the many beautiful retro motels around the town for the true vintage experience and settle in for a great weekend without any crazy rules, hi-tech gadgetry or mean spirited people. You'll be able to experience, just briefly, a step back in time to when vintage racing like this was at its strongest!
Ken Schmidt of the Rolling Bones hot rod monastery was down in his '33 coupe. By far the most powerful and most aggressive car on the beach, it was a sight to behold struggling for traction on the loose sand, screaming for more throttle!
One drive who has stacked up a lot of miles is Heath Pinter, taking three weeks to travel over from California and make a film about it, including multiple struggles on the journey as well as fun times riding his BMX across the state. Stay tuned for the video to come up on Motornation TV
Away from the beach there were glimpses of vintage life set to beautiful backdrops of mid-century motels such as this group of machines brought down by the boys from Barillaro Speed
Lars Mapstead brought over this track-nosed historic roadster called 'The Bronze Flame'. Built by Ed Danto and the Barris brothers in 1951 it was a show winner back in its heyday. You wouldn't know it was a show car by how hard Lars was driving it though
Mike Barillaro in his belly tanker was a fierce contender for the Flathead V8 Elimination win however fell short after a slippery run. Nothing was cooler than seeing this rocket hurtle down the beach!
Pro Tip: If traditional hot rods really get your engine revving, make sure to stick around for a little while and head to Louisiana mid-October for the Bayou Round Up. A fledgling event jam-packed with vintage hot rods, front engine dragsters and everything in between, it's definitely worth the trip South to one of the most interesting states of the U.S. www.bayouroundup.com will have all the information you'll need.