Last weekend and for the second year in a row, the Oilers Car Club put on its “Race Of Gentlemen” on the off-white sand of the Jersey Shore. And we haven’t seen a car show get this much attention since the heady days of Paso – Lord knows, we needed something like this in underground car culture.
Old cohort and schemer, Meldon Stultz, along with paint guru, Travis Hess and the rest of the Oilers have done a great job of pulling the attention away from the West Coast for a few days when they set up the old-tymey starter pylons – this year, on the beach of Wildwood, NJ – and go racin’ like it’s 1929. Taking advantage of the relaxed attitudes of Jersey Shore beach towns, the club has really turned the attention toward the Race because of the natural obsession that most of our own generation harbors: that custom car and hot rod culture is as much a visual experience as anything else and certain things should just be paid attention to, for chrissakes.
The cars look right, the race venue is set up to be visually spot-on and the folks who’ve fleshed-out the race for the second year in a row come era-correct, too. No cupholder lawn chairs, no bullet hole decals, no EZ-Ups crammed full of bright pink zip-ties, no true-flame demonstration tents…no shit. Just a great collection of old hot rods, spanning the earliest years of hopped-up four-bangers to pre-war hot rods and some vintage bikes thrown in for good measure.
One of our favorite aspects of the Race of Gentlemen is that it is truly a unique East Coast trip. Racing on the beach has long been owned by the Right Coast gearheads, but it’s changed over the decades into something, well, devoid of any good taste and style. But them Oiler boys have studied the old photos and books and magazines and just inherently know what hop-ups from the Twenties up through the early Forties should look like, sound like…feel like.
And let’s address the vintage stuffed 900lb gorilla in the room, too: shows like “Boardwalk Empire,” street culture that has grown up and embraced early Machine Age fashion, the growing Brass Era collection of thought leaders like Robert and Suzanne Williams and the growing interest in early American motorcycles – these cultural movements have all helped to make the Race of Gentlemen a living, breathing testament to underground car culture’s fucking heavy influence on the rest of the world.
Now, one last thing: Mel’s been talking about taking the Race on the road. We’d hate to see that, actually. The Race of Gentlemen should remain something that has to be journeyed to experience. Everyone should get some Jersey Shore in their lives, if they weren’t lucky enough to grow up with it (and yeah, we’re that lucky) and just like getting to Bonneville or El Mirage or Sturgis or Pebble Beach or Hershey or – once upone a glorious time – Paso, cars and drivers and spectators should have to make the pilgrimage to a place like Wildwood and be more valuable on their deathbeds for having done it.