The Race of the Gentlemen (T.R.O.G.) Flabob Airstrip Drags kicked off on Saturday, April 15, bringing hot rod and racing fans back to the heydays of racing for good old-fashioned fun. The scene resembled a flashback to the ‘50s, with old school traditional rods, vintage motorcycles and a flag person leaping high between staged drag racers to signal each start.
T.R.O.G. is an event that has been celebrating the “run what ya brung” ‘40s and ‘50s hot rod and motorcycle drag racing culture since 2012. The first race, held on the beach in Allenhurst, N.J., was an instant success. Now acclaimed to be “The Greatest Race on Earth,” T.R.O.G. has spread small town excitement through various locations across both coasts, paying homage to the simpler days when at-home mechanics and hot rodders wrenched around the clock.
Much like the ‘50s, T.R.O.G. enforces minimal racing rules. Elapsed times are not tracked and there are no formal racing classes. Vehicle requirements are limited to pre-1935 hot rods and pre-1947 motorcycles with a preference for tank shifters. Four-cylinder, flat-sixes and flathead V-8 engines are eligible to race. Only traditional, American-made parts are allowed, including old carburetors and steel wheels. Roll bars are optional and old-fashioned open-face helmets are acceptable. The above restrictions are what makes this race so unique and a joy to photograph. The spirit of old school racing is still alive through T.R.O.G. Catch some vintage vibes from the photo gallery below.
Jalopy Hillclimb provided an outlet for those dampened by TROG
October 22, 2022, was on everyone’s lips in Wildwood earlier in the month. As The Race of Gentlemen wasn’t unfolding, folks with hopped-up Model As and other sorts of traditional hot rods (that is, the kind that look like they did in the ‘50s and before) were looking for one more place to go fast before weather brought the driving season to a near-complete halt. For those who lived in or near New England, Campton, New Hampshire, was that place.
Held on private land and advertised almost exclusively by word of mouth, the Jalopy Hill Climb started in 2021 more or less on a whim, when Alan Johnston decided to try and get his ’39 Ford pickup to the top of his brother’s mountain/sand-and-gravel pit, which happens to include a steep dirt road and spectacular views of the White Mountains. The flathead-powered ’39 made it and spawned the idea of inviting other cool old (pre-’62) cars to attempt the feat themselves
Latest car at Lucky’s Rod and Kustom 1930 Ford model a coupe. Former Trog race car and rat rod. Film features a flashback sequence highlighting some of my life with old cars, gas pumps and automobilia over the past 20 years
One of the great features of The Race of Gentlemen (TROG) is the variety of engines that you can spy in the hot rods on the beach. Though Ford ’banger and flathead V8s are the most popular, over the years more of the less-common traditional powertrains have shown up on race weekend, giving the field the variety that helps make the experience well-rounded.
The traditional Ford mills often come with some of the rare speed parts that make hot rodders turn sea-foam green with envy. You’ll see Blue Oval four-cylinder machines built with high compression heads, and some even with prized OHV conversions from makers such as Riley and Cragar. Flathead V8s built with rare heads and hard-to-find intakes also get the senses going.
Back in 2012, a small drag-oriented event held on the East Coast called the Race of Gentlemen (TROG) shook the hot rod scene. Although it gathered only 15 hot rods and 15 motorcycles, it still captured the imagination of gearheads the world over. It was organized on the beach and featured aesthetics reminiscent of faded pictures glued in a 1950s photo album.
Over the years, other TROGs have come and gone, including one in 2016 that tread the sand of Pismo Beach, California (unfortunately plagued by stormy weather). Promoter Mel Stultz and his crew traveled back home afterwards, thinking another race was unlikely to take place on the West Coast. Yet, surprisingly, officials from the scenic city of Santa Barbara contacted Stultz in 2018 and asked him to have an event in town! They made it clear racing on the sand would not be an option, but how about using a street along the beach?
Episode 41 of Tom Cotter’s excellent YouTube series Barn Find Hunter finds Tom visiting Randy Carlson and his eclectic car collection. The car that interested me the most was the Model A Hot Rod at 16:20 of the video. This car has a great history that Randy has researched with the owners family.
Randy’s 1932 Packard that he raced at The Race of Gentlemen is also featured in the video
Randy also has another Packard which he bought as yard art along with a couple of really nice Model Ts that he has saved and are in remarkable condition. You can see the yard art Packard here
When Bob Beenenga of rural Tonica pulls his 1932 Ford Model 18 Roadster up to the beachfront starting line at The Race of Gentlemen this June, he’ll be crossing something off his bucket list, and honoring the racing legacy of an original hot rod.
The Race of Gentlemen, or TROG, is a multi-day throwback to the origins of auto racing. The event’s exclusive 1/8 mile drag races, held on a beach in Wildwood, N.J., only allow cars built before 1934 — with no parts newer than 1953.