A visit to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum

Here’s Rick Voegelin with a guided tour of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California. 

 

If an editor could choose any reporter in the biz to do a story on NHRA’s fabulous drag racing museum, Rick Voegelin would be right at the top of the list. A veteran journalist and drag racer, Rick was Editor of Car Craft  in its glory years and an original campaigner in NHRA Pro Modified/Super Modified—a category he largely invented. To learn more about Rick, check out his bio in the Contributors section. Now here’s Rick. 

 

Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum

by Rick Voegelin

Southern California is the birthplace and deathbed of drag racing. Once upon a time, ten drag strips regularly hosted shows in SoCal; today Pomona Raceway remains as the only quarter-mile track operating in metropolitan Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

The ground still shakes in Pomona when the season-opening NHRA Winternationals and the season-ending NHRA Finals shatter the shroud of silence that has descended on big-time drag racing in Southern California. Not far from Pomona Raceway’s finish line stands a silent guardian of drag racing’s supercharged past: The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.

Drag racing history is now preserved and protected in a concrete edifice constructed by the WPA in the ’30s. The museum is as no-frills as the sport it celebrates. If you want interactive displays, animated videos, and android interpreters, go elsewhere. If you want to see dragsters, hot rods, land speed record holders, and belly tanks that made motorsports history, then go to the NHRA Museum.

 

 

NHRA founder Wally Parks once famously said, “The cars are the stars.” While that philosophy is at odds with today’s “drivers as heroes” marketing plans, it is the museum’s rock-solid foundation. It’s all about the hardware here. The cars are parked wheel-to-wheel, and the display cases are packed with memorabilia, trophies, and model cars.

Special exhibitions spotlight the trends and genres that made their marks in motorsports. Recent displays have featured Bonneville streamliners, screaming yellow Mooneyes machines, speedway motorcycles, and Carroll Shelby’s all-conquering Cobra – a creation, need we remind you, of a bunch of misfit California hot rodders.

The NHRA Museum also hosts events such as the Lions Drag Strip Reunion, monthly Twilight Cruises, and celebrity roasts. It pays the rent by organizing a successful series of nostalgia-fueled Hot Rod Reunions in Bakersfield, California., Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Epping, New Hampshire

The museum is located at 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona CA, 91768, and is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free for NHRA members, $8 for adults, and free for children under the age of 5. For more information, surf over to http://www.museum.nhra.com.

Take your kids and show them what real drag racing was all about. Be there!

Slide show gallery below:

Mooneyes Moonliner
Lions Reunion 1
Mickey Thompson Challenger I
ChiTown Hustler
NHRA Safety Safari Plymouth Station Wagon
Memorabilia - Lions photos
Herbert Streamliner
Greg Sharp (left) and Dave McClelland
Mike Mitchell Revolution Corvette funny car
Vel's Parnelli Jones Danny Ongais Mustang funny car
Warren Coburn Miller AAFD early hemi
Hurst Hemi Under Glass wheelstander
SoCal Speed Shop drop tank lakester
Dave Strickler Old Reliable funny car model
Sox & Martin 68 Hemi Barracuda BO29
Tom Jacobson 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 409
Mickey Thompson Attempt I
Pure Heaven Bantam Fuel Altered
Prudhomme SOHC Ford AAFD
Stone Woods Cook Willys gasser
Memorabilia - vintage wooden dragster
Mooneyes cars

Mooneyes Moonliner

Lions Reunion 1

Mickey Thompson Challenger I

ChiTown Hustler

NHRA Safety Safari Plymouth Station Wagon

Memorabilia - Lions photos

Herbert Streamliner

Greg Sharp (left) and Dave McClelland

Mike Mitchell Revolution Corvette funny car

Vel's Parnelli Jones Danny Ongais Mustang funny car

Warren Coburn Miller AAFD early hemi

Hurst Hemi Under Glass wheelstander

SoCal Speed Shop drop tank lakester

Dave Strickler Old Reliable funny car model

Sox & Martin 68 Hemi Barracuda BO29

Tom Jacobson 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 409

Mickey Thompson Attempt I

Pure Heaven Bantam Fuel Altered

Prudhomme SOHC Ford AAFD

Stone Woods Cook Willys gasser

Memorabilia - vintage wooden dragster

Mooneyes cars

6 thoughts on “A visit to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum

  1. Slide #13 shows a model of the Dave Strickler stretched Corvette funny car witha backdrop of the Gerard Forler cutaway illustration of the car on the cover of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated Magazine. That’s the first feature story and the first cover story I ever wrote for SS&DI, and it was my tryout for a full-time job. I got the job and stayed there for seven wonderful years. Thanks, Bill and Rick, for the memories.

    • I must have felt the vibes, Jim! Out of dozens of photos I shot of model cars at the Museum, that was the one I chose for McG’s tour. Now I’m going to have to go back and read your article in the RV SS&DI Archive.

      Thanks!
      Rick V.

  2. What I realy need to get my blood flowing is Bill Doner KHJ radio blaring about “…that Snake-Mongoose match heatin’ up at the Big OCIR at the Sand Canyon exit…” Or maybe “…dragsters versus funny cars and the dragsters have threatened to blow the funny cars right off the track…” Lastly, how about a “… foxhunt with every girl from Bakersfield to San Diego…”

    • Vince,

      The late, great announcer/track operator Steve Evans (RIP) assembled a CD of classic drag racing radio commercials titled “Be There!!” It has many of the over-the-top Bill Doner ads, along with the “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday” screamers and some classic Shirley Muldowney vs. Jungle Jim Liberman trash talking from Englishtown.

      It’s the soundtrack of my life. You can still get a copy from the John Force website: http://www.johnforceracestation.com/product/6417/Steve-Evans–Be-There–CD/

      Be There!
      Rick V.

  3. Drag racing has never been my first love but this museum is a must-see for any true car enthusiast. Amazing history displayed in a very user-friendly and low-key environment. Chet Herbert’s Beast III streamliner looks absolutely amazing “on the salt”!

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