Archive of material relating to drag racing events in Southern California, 1951-1964

San Diego: San Diego Timing Association, 1951-1964. Archive of vintage programs, bulletins, flyers, and newspaper clippings published by and relating to the San Diego Timing Association, a foundational sanctioning organization in US drag racing.

In postwar America, the return of risk-loving, unmarried ex-GIs with advanced mechanical skills and extra money to spend led to the rise in popularity of illegal street racing. Southern California racers took advantage of the growing number of abandoned military strips in the state, colloquially known as "drags," such as the Santa Ana Drags and Sweetwater Dam Navy Outlying Field. Local car clubs pressured law enforcement to allow racing on the strips, efforts which would precipitate the formation of the San Diego Timing Association.

The SDTA held their first sanctioned meet at the Sweetwater Dam drag, which the members renamed Paradise Mesa, on March 11, 1951. The events drew spectators and racers from across Southern California, catching the attention of the newly formed National Hot Rod Association, which became a co-sanctioning body for the Paradise Mesa meets in 1953. Importantly, the Paradise Mesa races were the first to present drag races in their now standard modern form, two cars competing on a quarter-mile, closed strip.

Paradise Mesa faced local backlash after a gory racing accident in June 1956 which injured 12 spectators, leading to the prompt closure of the facility for racing purposes. Tensions between police and racers heightened in the ensuing years, culminating in a two-day clash in August of 1960 after racers shut down three blocks off El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego to stage their own unauthorized drags. The El Cajon Boulevard Riot is now considered one of the first of the youth riots which would come to characterize the 1960s.

The materials contained in the archive provide an extensive register of the early years of the Paradise Mesa races, compiled by foundational SDTA member Andrew Smith, including 16 original programs for events at the strip and 9 mimeographed broadsheet flyers advertising races. The archive also includes several documents authored by members of the SDTA, such as a constitution document signed by the members of a car club called The Kingpins and a typescript press release statement created in response to the El Cajon Boulevard riots.

Of particular note is a nine-page, circa-1952, mimeographically duplicated issue of the SDTA News subtitled "Competition Rules," which contains the first known use in print of the word "dragster," defining the word as a class of race car formerly known as a "lakester."

A vibrant, fascinating collection, allowing a rare glimpse into a seminal period in the histories of both auto racing and youth culture, sparsely documented up to this point as a result of the scarcity of available information and surviving material.

Contents Near Fine overall.

[Book #151477]