The Race of Gentlemen

Started in the late 1940’s, the Oilers Car Club began in Southern California in the early days of drag racing. The club was revived in 2008 by a group of traditional hot rod enthusiasts who tracked down the original Oilers founder, Jim Nelson, and, with his blessing, formed chapters across the country to carry on the sport of racing pre-war cars and motorcycles. In 2012, the first Race of Gentlemen was held on the beach in Allenhurst, New Jersey. From there, the event has grown bigger and bigger each year.

My family has always adored history, especially automotive and motorcycle history. My great-grandfather owned a motorcycle repair shop in the 1920’s in rural Central Virginia, and my uncle has an obsession with vintage cars and trucks, having built the Kline car currently on view at the Virginia Historical Society. He’s currently working on projects from a 1920’s fire truck to 1910’s and 1920’s race cars (which I’m trying to convince him to build for a future TROG), and I love hearing about his latest builds. My husband’s a gearhead too, and we’ve always enjoyed vintage car shows and all manner of racing, so The Race of Gentlemen was a car lover’s dream trip.

The organizers, Mel Stultz and Bobby Green, couldn’t have chosen a better venue for this throwback event. Wildwood, New Jersey is a perfectly-preserved old beach town. With a two-mile long boardwalk and plenty of wide, sandy beaches, there was ample space for the drag races. The town itself is filled with 50’s diners and doo-wop/mid-century hotels and motels, adding to the nostalgic atmosphere. We had breakfast on Saturday at the Pink Cadillac diner, which billed itself as a “50’s diner,” and we stayed at the Monaco Motel, a classic with mid-century design.

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But of course, the main attraction was the racing, and the chance to see these vintage cars and motorcycles in action didn’t disappoint. The weekend kicked off Friday night with a chopper show at a local motel, then the action began bright and early on Saturday. As soon as the tide went out, the cars and bikes took the beach to battle it out.

The racing lasted all day, giving spectators the rare opportunity to see vehicles from the early days of racing history in one-on-one drag races and, occasionally, a four-wide motorcycle race. Special kudos go to the most talented flag girl I’ve ever seen, who must have jumped into the air hundreds of times the whole weekend and made it look perfect every time.

Besides the racing, the event had a classic car show, merch and various vendors, as well as live music. Saturday night there was a bonfire on the beach, then more racing on Sunday. The second day of racing also saw an announcement from organizer Mel that the “sandrail” class, essentially a frame and engine, would be bigger next year, as it’s a relatively cheap and quick way to break into racing in an event that requires historical vehicles and an application and approval process.

Unfortunately, we had to leave around noon to make it home on Sunday, so we didn’t get to see the end of the racing and the awards. All in all, this was an amazing event. We’ll definitely be back next year!

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