I like taking pictures. A lot.
Ever since getting Bondorella back on the road last September, I’d wanted to drive out to the dry lake and photograph her on the cracked dirt, but didn’t have all the bugs worked out by the end of the racing season and had to wait for spring to roll around. The day finally came.
Four-thirty Sunday morning, with my ’76 TL125 riding in the back like a dog in the wind, I headed out for the season opener of the SCTA racing at El Mirage, following behind fellow Gasoline Girl Kristin in her ’55 Studebaker Champion.
We hit a bit of rain en route, but fortunately it wasn’t enough to hurt the lake surface, and racing went on. Although cold and windy, my swell Schott One Star jacket and vintage Bates leathers kept me mighty warm.
In case you don’t know, El Mirage is the birthplace of hot rodding in Southern California, a magical spot for anyone who loves automotive history. Over the last fifty years, the legends of land speed racing have spent time on this dirt, trying to break records. For camera freaks like me, the textures and colors of the dry lake make for a magnificent backdrop to photograph the odd, the unusual, the speedy, the not-so-speedy. A little of everything can make a run under the wide cerulean skies of El Mirage: belly tankers, motorcycles, streamliners, sidecars, roadsters. You name it, they’ve got a class for it, and plenty of people who want to give it a try.
Like fellow Gear Grinder Cathy Butler. She ran her fastest time to date, going 196.19 on her 1000cc motorcycle—this from a girl who started on a 50cc bike just a few years ago (breaking several records along the way!). What an inspiration!
One of the cool things about El Mirage is the chance to get up close and personal with some of the local legends, like George Callaway and Gene Winfield. Gene has been a great friend to the Gasoline Girls, so we spent a good portion of the day hanging with him as he prepped his Thing to run. Saturday the flathead powered car ran 135.117, a very good time, but he wanted to hit 141 on Sunday. Sunday, though, didn’t start off so hot. The battery hadn’t charged due to an alternator issue, so Kristin came to the rescue, offering up Studie’s Optima battery. Sadly, it didn’t solve the problem and he didn’t meet his goal, but as always, Gene remained smiling.
I also had the opportunity to drive a very cool dirt track roadster built by 70-year-old Larry, who really wanted to see a “purty girl” drive his car. How cool is that? It handled like a dream, and now I seriously have the itch to build a 66 Motor Palace dirt tracker.
So not only did I get great shots of Bondorella on the dirt, I had a heck of a great time watching all of the amazing cars trying to make history, and talking to the people who make it happen. Sure enough, I’ll be driving Bondorella out there again, next time for a great camping adventure!