NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


Wally Parks NHRA Motorsport Museum: History of Hot Rodding series—Part 1

The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsport Museum's History of Hot Rodding series is a fascinating eleven-part journey that takes a look into drag racing history as can only be told by "Fast" Jack Beckman and Greg Sharp.
30 Apr 2021
Posted by NHRA.com staff

Jack Beckman: Welcome to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. I'm Jack Beckman, professional drag racer, and standing next to Museum's curator, Greg Sharp. This building is full of literally thousands of artifacts and items that walk you through the lineage of hot rodding and Greg, when I walk into this lobby, I'm immediately struck by the history of the sport. Where would you start?

Greg Sharp: This is called the Chrisman-Brinker Gallery of Speed. And if visitors come in for the first time, look at the cars, go around the entire room. They'll have a really good, basic understanding of what hot rodding is all about.

Jack Beckman: And Greg, that could mean different things to different people. So let's show them a couple of branches of hot rodding. This ’32 Ford highboy roadster may be the quintessential hot rod of all time. It is a wonderful example of that segment of hot rodders who favored the artistry who drove their cars on the street and put a higher emphasis on show, as opposed to go. And Greg speaking to go, what is this beast? You're standing next to?

A virtual tour of the NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by AAA

Greg Sharp: Great choice of words, Jack. This is Chet Herbert's Beast streamliner from 1952, showing us straightaway land speed racing, which is where hot rodding actually got its start up at the dry lakes in the high-desert of Southern California. In 1949, Wally Parks and Robert E. Petersen got permission for the hot rodders to run at Bonneville in 1949, which was a huge step forward in racing. This particular car was gifted us by Dr. Mark Brinker of Texas. And it's represented with the mannequin of Art Chrisman who drove this car 235 miles an hour in 1952.

Jack Beckman: Now the Southern California hot rodders were fortunate. They had access to the dry lakes and to the salt flats, which really didn't extend to hot rodders and the rest of the country. Fortunately, after World War Two, there were enough surplus airstrips that people that were into hot rodding and into accelerating, could apply their trade in a safe environment. And that's where our display comes full circle. That's where we get into organized drag racing. And this is where our journey is going to start.

Visit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsport Museum

The Museum is open year-round and features thirty-thousand sq. feet of permanent and changing exhibitions. As you explore this site you’ll find more information on a variety of programs and events we present throughout the year, including the Hot Rod Reunions® in Bowing Green, Kentucky and Bakersfield, California.