It was during World War II’s Post-War boom that organized drag racing got its start in Southern California and there was hardly a suburb or county that didn’t have its own drag strip by the mid-1950s. Los Angeles County is the second largest county in California and had the largest population of hot rodders. It was in 1955 the Lions Associated Drag Strip, named in recognition of its sponsor, the Lions Club International, opened the quarter-mile racetrack in the rural Los Angeles Harbor community of Wilmington, adjacent the city of Long Beach.

This the unfinished 1941 Willys coupe that started Rick Lorenzen’s passion to gather quite possibly the largest Willys collection in the world.

It was the perfect mix of a sea level altitude combined with the dense ocean air that provided what Lions’ drag racers called “rare air”, which delivered optimum engine performance and earned the 1/4-mile track the reputation as being the “World’s Fastest Drag Strip.” Unfortunately by 1972 residential lawns had spread like weeds and the word was that encroaching suburbanites were complaining to the Harbor Commission about the noise.

In 1955, the Harbor Commission had granted Lions a 30-day revokable lease on the vacant land, and in 1972 it was the Harbor Commission that pulled the plug. The damage already done, it was later discovered that the noise-weary suburbanites were not the cause for the closure. The Harbor Commission had simply used “noise” as an excuse to kill Lions and expand the port.

The Stone, Woods and Cook “Swindler II” 1941 Willys in its most recognizable livery. This is the Gasser that made Engle Cams famous.

The closing night for Lions Drag Strip was on December 2, 1972 and what spectators didn’t tear down afterward and snag for a souvenir, the Port bulldozers leveled. Among the many fans of Lions Drag Strip left with an unwavering, infinite love for the fabled venue is Rick Lorenzen. As destiny would have it, the 1941 Willys that Rick bought as a $65 project in 1960 to run at Lions got shelved in 1961 when Rick and his dad took over a trucking business founded in 1931 that left no time for anything else. The decades passed and Rick parlayed Price Transfer into a successful business, to say the least. In 2019 Rick founded the Lions Automobilia Foundation Museum, a non-profit corporation dedicated to preserving California car culture along with supporting youth career path programs.

The Hobby Shop, located within the walls of the Museum, is a perfectly-recreated peek into the past.

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