Motor sport, by its very nature, attracts men of passion, commitment and drive. Drag racing is no different. As the founding editor of Hot Rod magazine, Wally Parks, alongside publishers Bob Petersen and Bob Lindsay, helped create one of the world’s best-selling car magazines.
Then, in 1951, Parks went on to establish the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Parks’ passion was to create a body that would organise hot rodders, and it worked. The NHRA initially set up speed trials on dry lake beds, but it also began getting illegal street racers to abandon the two-lane blacktop and move their racing onto drag strips: the NHRA’s first major drag race was held in April 1953 in the car park of the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds, Pomona, California.
Fast-forward 45 years to April 4, 1998, and the opening of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Fittingly, it too was built at the Pomona Fairgrounds. Housed in an impressive 28,500 square foot building, the new facility set out to celebrate hot rods, customs, racing cars and speed records. If you want to learn about the role that West Coast America played in motor sport and car culture (or how car culture shaped West Coast America!), then this museum is the place to visit.
At its core are the cars themselves: an impressive array of vintage and historic racing machinery rolling out into every corner of the single-storey exhibition space. Special feature displays mean fresh metal is regularly put on show. Period photographs, trophies, helmets, racing overalls, artefacts, paintings and memorabilia complement the vehicles. Pomona is a fitting location for a museum that bears the name of Wally Parks, and the museum itself is a fabulous reflection of the man and his work.