TROG At Flabob

Trog Black Flathead

Royce Rumsey reflects on simpler times and gives us a look at the way drag racing used to be… and probably should be again.

“For one weekend me and my friends get to pretend we are 16 again. We go down for the whole weekend every year and we act like a 1940s Southern California race team. There is nothing else like it in the world.”—The Race of Gentlemen (T.R.O.G) participant.

As an homage to the nascent days of speed trials the original T.R.O.G. events took place on the beaches of Wildwood, New Jersey and Pismo, California. Then in late 2022 T.R.O.G. followed the formal history of drag racing’s official birth on June 19, 1950, at the Santa Ana Airport by holding their annual event nearby (about 50 miles away) at the historic Flabob Airport adjacent to Riverside, California.

Like the historic hot-rod and belly-tanker reunion at Lyon Air Museum in the summer of 2022, the T.R.O.G. event at Flabob was enthusiastically received and attended by appreciative hot-rodding fans that spanned the globe. As with all T.R.O.G. events, the Flabob race was a full cultural immersion and time-travel experience—replete with all the period-correct trappings and effects present in both racing participants and attending fans. The inaugural T.R.O.G at Flabob was such a success that it was reprised just a few months later! This is true renascent racing at Riverside!

Drag Racing, like every other form of racing, has evolved from its nascent visceral appeal of basic head-to-head competition into a ultra-high tech and big-buck extravaganza of chemistry, metallurgy, computer programming and telemetry–managing 12,000+hp engines, programmed multi-plate clutches achieving 0-330+MPH in 1000’ with its retina-separating g-force all electronically documented in milliseconds and angstrom units.  

T.R.O.G. creator Mel Schultz and his dedicated team of traditionalists eschew all of the aforementioned technological trappings. At their now decade-long hot-rodding ‘revival meetings’ they evangelize the original spirit of drag racing. There are no multi-million-dollar transporters, no score of team support members, no endless varieties of classes, no burn-out staging area, no ‘Christmas tree’ and no large time display at the finish line.  This is drag racing the way it started—on an old air strip with a just an exuberant flagman and equally exuberant drivers taking each other on to see who has the fastest iron.

The competing “iron” at Flabob pre-dated the early 50s with most “shorts” being of the 20s and 30s variety. The predominant power was from in-line 4-bangers and the ubiquitous flatheads. The engineering and “builds” were strictly “backyard”—yielding a delightful array of ingenuity. Power was transmitted via original stamped steel and wire rims and some conspicuously narrow street tires (with an occasional M&H Racemaster ‘cheater slick’). T.R.O.G is decidedly a “run what ya’ brung” competition.

This is a time-travel event that’s not to be missed! The only two classes were cars and motorcycles—with many of the pairings being of an ad-hoc nature. Cars lined up, the period-correct flagman confirmed driver’s readiness and then waved the start with the traditional jump and flag flourish. 1/8th of a mile away, result was simple observation. And there are no trophies nor prize money. None are needed among the truly dedicated.

Walking up to a very period-correct chopped, channeled and lowered 110 “A-bone” mill powered 3-window coupe and asking the driver who he was racing next, he laughed and said, “whoever wants to race me”. Ahh…racing the way it was meant to be.

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