When there were far fewer people around, far fewer laws and regulations, when the legal speed limit was 75 mph, when gas was cheap, when driving was a pleasure, if you owned a hot machine you could point the grill down an empty road and go!

Christmas at Ed's Richfield & Other Holiday Stories for Guys

Do you know an old hot rodder? Are you wondering what to give him for the holidays? May we suggest: Christmas at Ed's Richfield & Other Holiday Stories for Guys, a collection of stories by Albert Drake.

From memories of childhood Christmases during World War II, to the teen years in the 50's, to holidays with children and grandchildren, Drake brings a personal touch to the wintry roads we all travel. Sometimes we have to endure floods, cold days and long nights. Other times it's the tantalizing anticipation of seeing family or hoping to get those 1939 aluminum heads for your '29 ford roadster.

If you remember the taste of striped hard candy, when tinsel was called "rain," the excitement of getting a new cap gun for Christmas, then you'll enjoy Christmas at Ed's Richfield. Available exclusively through Flat Out Press.

Christmas at Ed's Richfield & Other Holiday Stories for Guys
60 pages, perfect-bound (November 2009)
Flat Out Press; ISBN: 0-936892-23-4; Signed copy...$10.95 + shipping.

An excerpt from Christmas at Ed's Richfield:
I got to Ed’s Richfield shortly after dinner, and I was surprised none of the guys were around. It was already dark, and I was thinking about the impossibility of snow at Christmas, just two days away. It never snowed in Portland at Christmas, but my mother, who was from North Dakota, yearned for snow. It was just not Christmas without snow, she always said. She had a small glass globe with a farm scene, and when she shook it white flakes appeared in the solution to remind her of what she had left behind. Now, as I got out of my car, I noticed that the air had a metallic sharpness, but it was too warm for snow, almost as if the weather hovered between seasons.

I had expected some of the guys to be at the station as well as a bunch of customers, people out Christmas shopping, but the place was empty. From the office Ed saw me pull up and he waddled out the door to his car, calling over his shoulder, “Guide me on the rack.” Less than a month earlier he had traded his pristine ’53 Mercury in on a new ’55 Mercury Monterey hardtop, charcoal and salmon. As Ed backed the car up and maneuvered it into the building, the salmon paint glowed pink under the station’s fluorescent lights. I gestured him forward, guiding him onto the lube rack, although I wasn’t sure he needed help. It was typical of Ed, giving me something to do. I worked in a garage all day, but had to take a second job nights and weekends and Ed was good enough to let me work about 20 hours a week. I hoped that, with the extra money, I could buy some Christmas presents for my mother and sister.

Flat Out is a "favourite book"

We're happy to learn that Flat Out has been named a "favourite book" by Peter Stevens of the British magazine Classic & Sports Cars.

In the May 2009 issue Stevens says:
As an avid collector and reader of books I have loads of favourites, but this is a standout...this paperback captures the feel of early hot-rodding like no other book. To me, the whole essence of a hot rod is that it represents one enthusiast's idea of how a 'faster than stock' car should be, and Flat Out is packed with images the represent that philosophy.
You can buy this book on early California Dry Lake Trials 1930-1950 and the cars and people who drove them here on the Flat Out Press website.  Check out the Flat Out Press catalog to see all of our merchandise.

The Dukes Club

The Dukes club of Portland wins the prize for the most beautiful plaque. It is a reproduction of a Ford flathead cylinder head, scaled down to about a quarter as large as the actual head. Like a racing head it's finned. It's also more substantial than most plaques, being over 1" thick (and 10 1/4" wide and 5 1/2" high).

The design of the head led to some problems. A member tapped and threaded the area for spark plugs, and added actual spark plugs. A couple other members followed suit. Then one guy added red wires to his spark plugs.

The club, like all clubs, wanted the plaques to be uniform, but at first changes were accepted, even encouraged. I have a copy of the club minutes of April 14, 1954, when "Freddie Krecklow moved that it does not make any difference whether the sparkplug holes are tapped or not. Motion carried." But when members began adding plug wires the club tried to get the plaques back to their original condition.
The Dukes did not evolve from the Mobileers, but it got some of the earlier club's members. Don Krueger had been a Mobileer, and he became a leading member of the Dukes. Krueger told me: "We met in the meeting room at the north end of Montavilla Park, which was convenient because most of the members were from the Montavilla area. The meeting room had cooking utensils, silverware, dishes, every-thing. We didn't eat there but we could.

"I think we met there once a month, but if something was coming up, like the Portland Roadster Show we might have another meeting, twice a month. Sometimes we met at different members' homes. Lots of times. We met at Steve Weber's house, at 128th and East Burnside. And at Jimmy Davis' house at 150th and Prescott--that's when he had that 1956 corvette.

"We had our club banquets in different places. One year we had it at Top O Scott golf course. We had music and all that. We also had them at Amato's Supper Club on Broadway, and one year in the banquet room at East Side Bowling."
Excerpted from Jacket & Plaque: Portland Rod & Custom Clubs of the 'Fifties
Copyright 2008, Albert Drake and Flat Out Press.

Jacket & Plaque: Portland Rod & Custom Clubs of the 'Fifties

Jacket & Plaque: Portland Rod & Custom Clubs of the 'Fifties is now available!

Car clubs were a phenomenon of the 1950s. They were rare in the 40s, and had mostly disappeared by the 60s, but during the 50s car clubs were a source of inspiration, camaraderie, and participation in the emerging hot rod culture. When Drake began to track down the clubs he remembered only a handful from Portland in the 50s. To date he has located over 150 clubs around Oregon, all from the Fifties, and assuming very club had at least 10 members, that means there were perhaps 1300 active hot rodders on the streets.

Jacket & Plaque is an extensive survey of the clubs in the Northwest. From the early stirrings of the pre-War Oregon Roadster Club, to the Asphalt Monsters, Mobileers and Leadfoots of the late 40s, to the explosion of hot rod clubs in the 50s, this book gives a good idea of what hot rodding was like during the "good old days."

In addition to the clubs, the book has chapters on the birth of the Northwest Timing Association, Multnomah Hot Rod Council, and other interesting trivia about the burgeoning hot rod culture.

With over 350 illustrations and black and white photos of dash plaques, jacket patches, hot rodders and memorabilia this book represents a lifetime of research.

Read an excerpt from Jacket & Plaque.
272 pages, perfect-bound (December 2008)
Throttlers Press; ISBN: 0-936892-22-6; Signed copy...$24.95 $19.95!

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Albert Drake at the 53rd Annual Portland Roadster Show

Albert Drake will be selling and signing books at the 53rd Annual Portland Roadster Show at the Oregon Convention Center. March 6, 2009 - March 8, 2009.

Drop by and say hello!


When I began reading Hot Rod Magazine in 1950 I wanted to know more about the history of the cars. Those pieces consisted of photos, captions and maybe a couple paragraphs of text. The magazine treated every car as if it were new, and while most were; now and then a rod would appear that seemed to have a history. Almost from the beginning I became obsessed with knowing whatever could be known about a rod or custom. To do any kind of research takes time, which is why even today one reads vague histories. A writer or editor declares that a particular car dates from, say the ‘Fifties, but offers not a shred of documentation.

Sometimes we can’t know. This 1946 Ford coupe was customized shortly after it came from the factory. It has had extensive bodywork, the side and fender trim has been blanked out, it’s been nosed and decked, the taillights have been removed, the holes filled and the lens and bezel mounted low on the trunk lid. The front end has been modified to accommodate the 1946 Chevrolet grill; this was a favorite grill swap just after the war. The car has a beautiful paint job, probably light blue or green, with white sidewalls and stock hubcaps.

It’s an outstanding car, and appeared at a time when such cars were still rare. Anyone who saw it should remember it. The car ran a Road Angels plaque, a club that started in 1950. I joined the Road Angels in July, 1951. I never saw this car. I have shown this photo to most of the older guys in the club and no one remember the car. I showed it to Bill Cahill; the photo was taken in his parents’ driveway – his dad owned the sedan delivery at right – and he could not identify the car.
Copyright 2008, Albert Drake and Flat Out Press.

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Ray Van Dorn’s Dragster

Drag racing got started in Oregon in Eugene in 1949 and at the Scappoose strip in 1952; the cars ranged from hot coupes and roadsters to late model stockers. There were no dragsters until 1953, when several guys showed up with stripped-down cars with big engines built solely for covering the quarter-mile as quickly as possible.

Ray Van Dorn of Portland had been racing his 1950 Ford coupe with a 276 flathead. He decided he wanted to go faster and knew he could get the fastest speed out of a car like the one the Bean Bandits were running in So-Cal. Don “Duck” Collins was a race car builder in Portland and he built a chassis using Shelby tubing, Ford front and rear end, center steering and the engine moved back several inches. Van Dorn put his 276 Merc in the dragster and race the car at the Scappoose quarter-mile drags and the Madras half-mile runs; he said it went straight as an arrow.

In 1954 Van Dorn had Bill Peterson build a light, streamlined body for the car. Peterson adapted the front part of a surplus drop tank for the nose. The dragster was painted orange with white trim; it was the first dragster to have a sponsor. It ran 128 mph at Scappoose and 138 mph at Madras. In 1955 Van Dorn borrowed Don Ellis’ supercharged Studebaker V-8 engine. When the Drag Safari came to Oregon Van Dorn won his class, turning 127 mph on gas.
Copyright 2008, Albert Drake and Flat Out Press.
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