1957 NHRA Nationals

Since it seems that most visitors to this site appreciate the roots of hot rodding and drag racing, I felt I should share these rare gems from 1957 with you.

So recently, I found myself lost as to where I could find a photo of the early drag races held at Caddo Mills TX to include in the presentation for this year's reunion. Why Caddo Mills? Well, it's where honoree Bill Taylor witnessed his first drag race, and he specifically mentioned the Texas airstrip during his interview. Enter the magic of the Google search engine. In less time than it took for these old race cars to hustle down the 1/4 mile, I had a link to the personal website of Howard DeShazo. It seems that Howard was around in the early days helping the NHRA in the role of regional advisor throughout much of Texas. So I shot Howard an e-mail looking for the low down on some good Texas drag racing history.

Although Howard didn't have any still photos of Caddo Mills, he did have something even more unusual. Howard has a profoundly rare glimpse of drag racing's formative years on 16mm film. He has also purposed much of the vintage motion picture into a web movie for all to enjoy. It features many of the stops made along the NHRA Safety Safari tour of 1954. So head to this page on Howard's web site, scroll to the bottom of the page, and enjoy a rare look at how this thing called drag racing got it's start.

You may also note that Howard has a significant collection of photos from the 1957 NHRA Nationals held in Oklahoma City OK, as well as photos of a strip in Big Springs TX that he helped to organize. Howard worked the 57 Nationals in nearby Oklahoma City and his website provides his own recollections of the larger than expected turnout of race cars, and spectators that attended each day of the 1957 National Championship Drag Races.

Howard stayed involved with drag racing as an NHRA advisor through 1957, then walked away cold turkey. Seems he didn't much take a shine to nitromethane, and the specter of CH3NO2 was just around the corner. Although NHRA continued to resist with their infamous nitro ban until 1964, the hand writing was on the wall if you wanted to go real fast, and Howard felt that nitro was not in keeping with the amateur status that drag racing held in the 50's. Kind of prophetic when one considers the technological growth of drag racing since those days, and the associated costs of staying competitive.

Still, nitro or not, Howard has fond memories of his involvement with drag racing. He kindly allowed use of his film in our presentation (we used a clip from Caddo Mills) and has also allowed me to share some of his stills of the 57 Nationals with you on the Memphis Rodders site. Notice the diverse range of hot rods on hand from a time when the rule book was pretty thin indeed. Ingenuity reigned supreme, even if the go fast technology was appropriated from the local salvage yard. Not surprisingly, many Memphis Rodders were participants in Oklahoma City, and would likely recognize some of the competitors on hand for the big race. Among the Memphis Rodders leaving an impression upon the nations best drag racers were James "Red" Dyer in Raymond Godman's "Tennessee Bo-Weevil" A/MR '25 Ford T pickup, when the "Bo-Weevil" came home to Memphis with a new national record.

Ultimately, after the many rounds of competition, Buddy Sampson of Phoenix Arizona was declared the Top Eliminator at the 1957 edition of the NHRA Nationals. This was only the third time NHRA had contested a National Championship, and Oklahoma City was the third location in as many years. Yet the facility was a vast improvement over previous venues, and the participation exceeded expectations to such a degree that NHRA had to impose a limit on entries for the first time ever.

Those of you that didn't just fall of the turnip truck might remember this deuce roadster. It's the same #123 that won the A/Roadster class at the 1959 Tennessee State Championship in Halls TN. This race was an event that the was on the home turf of the Memphis Rodders. I don't know whose car this is, but it's a car that apparently made the rounds at NHRA races during the later part of the 1950's, and was a tough customer on the track. Maybe someone out there can shed some light?

Also pay attention to what was found in the parking lot at the NHRA Nationals circa 1957. I recognized this customized truck from several magazines of the day. I'm pretty sure it's still around and has been recently restored. I'll see if I can find some more info on it, but for now just admire it for it's sophisticated restyling. UPDATE: I found out the status of this one... It's Chuck Porter's customized 49 Ford pick-up, which has had a series of owners through the years, but is now back in the family receiving a thorough restoration from Chuck's daughter Debby.

Here's another interesting artifact. Nobody much does this anymore to now desirable 55-57 Chevys, but once upon a time it was pretty commonplace. This one is plenty slick, maybe I should break out the torch and the lead paddle and see what I can come up with?

So check out Howard's collection of Texas hot rod history, and see if it brings back any memories, or inspires the imagination. Did for me.