Sunday, March 20, 2011

Racing Back in Time

When I was a youngster I had a subscription to Hot Rod Magazine and every month I went through it like a beaver through a log.  I followed the exploits of hot rod heroes like Gas Ronda, Dyno Don Nicholson, and Wild Bill Elliot.  They blasted through the quarter-mile and around the oval at unbelievable speeds, at least to a kid with a '58 Ford Fairlane.  I loved reading about those guys and most of the kids I hung with were also obsessed with speed.  I grew out of that eventually and most of my friends did, too.  Brent Hajek never did.  Brent owns Hajek Motorsports Museum in Ames, Oklahoma and behind the doors of what was the elementary school in Ames lies every car-buff's dream.  Brent has been collecting hot rods since the 1970's when he started wondering what happened to the cars his  heroes drove.  "Back in the 70’s, after the gas shortage and all that, people were just disregarding these cars", he says.  "And  you could buy them for almost nothing.  We got to looking and said, you know, Dyno Don Nicholson, or Gas Ronda, or whomever, these guys are my heroes, you know.  I said, man, you could go out there and pay a couple of hundred bucks and buy one of Jungle Jim’s old funny cars or Gas Ronda’s Mustang, or something like that.  It was crazy.  It just seemed to me like it was a terrible waste that these cars were just being disregarded and thrown away. You know, I mean it was like walking out to a junk pile and somebody was stirring a trash pile with Mickey Mantle’s bat."
Brent is way too proud of these things to just lock them up and keep them to himself.   He practically invented nostalgia racing.  He took those by-gone glories to tracks all over the country and staged dream races.  After all, he had cars representing more than fifty world championships among them.  He figured other people wanted to see them racing again as much as he did, and he was right.  His biggest thrill might have been at Daytona when they had the 50th anniversary of of the Daytona 500 a few years ago.  He figured out that of only seven surviving Daytona 500 winning cars, he owned three of them.  They got another day in the sun and Brent still gets excited when he talks about it.
"At Daytona, we actually ran the cars around the track.  You know, pre-race ceremony.  That was kind of a cool deal.  And at the same time we had another car, the Gas Ronda Mustang at Pamona at the Winter Nationals.  It was on the west coast at the NHRA Winter Nationals going on at the same time, and we had that car out there doing some exhibition stuff."  You don't have go to Daytona to see these classic cars.  When they are not on loan to other museums or running a nostalgia race somewhere, they're on display at Hajek Motorsports Museum in Ames-a little off the beaten path but definitely worth the trip.  Make an appointment, enjoy some legendary cars and, if you're lucky, meet Brent Hajek, a hot rod freak who grew up, but not out of it.  
Photos by Ron Stahl
Hajek Motorsports Museum link

1 comment:

  1. Brent is a good guy. Watch the Bonneville Mustang Video. Look for the Stroud Parachute. It's a Oklahoma product also. Oklahoma has some deep racing roots.
    The Goforths in Holdenville have a great museum and racing team in the MMPSA and ADRL.

    Mike Edwards, 2009 NHRA Pro Stock Champ

    Another interesting Bonneville car is what could be possibly the worlds fastest Studebaker.

    All Okies!