By on January 12, 2011

Imagine California’s Central Valley with no personal-injury attorneys and a glut of sub-50-buck Model Ts, Essexes, and Oaklands. Those are the conditions that led to the incredible Old Hack Race. Hollywood celebrities, drunken college students, rampant gambling, and seatbelt-less clunkers combined to make this event a huge draw during the 1930s. Sadly, the madness got out of hand, even by the lax standards of the era, and the Old Hack Race was canceled after 1939. According to the Fresno State president at the time: “The event, started as a spontaneous expression of college fun, became such a big and complicated affair as to be dangerous both to participants and spectators. It always had its share of thrills, and at first the competition and conditions made these fairly free from any great personal danger. Now, with so many risks involved and no way of providing adequate protection, the hazards have become so great as to make its continuance unwise.”

Or, as the Beastie Boys say:
Got busy in Frisco, fooled around in Fresno
Got over on your girlie cause you know she never says no

Fresno Bee, thanks to Team BMW Douchebag Factory Drivers for the tip!

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9 Comments on “Fresno, 1938: Irrigation-Ditch-Jumpin’ Hupmobiles Compete In Old Hack Race...”

  • avatar

    “no personal-injury attorneys” That made me shed a tear or two…

  • avatar

    I’d say that saner minds prevailed in this case, although I can’t say that I wouldn’t really enjoy hopping in the Mr. Fusion-equipped Delorean to catch a race or two.  The unsanctioned Race to Inebriation, however, continued unabated for decades after . . .

    And no doubt, a lot of that early iron got turned into tanks and jeeps during the scrap metal drives of WWII (tears shed).

  • avatar

    Now that California Bee newspapers are being discussed, any thoughts on those old-car features that ran every week with advertisement style-blurbs and illustrations of pre-war cars on sale? From what I remember hanging around some seasoned types at the California Auto Museum in Sac, the whole thing was run by one very enterprising fellow. I’ve seen a couple binders containing, I believe, clippings of all the features and it was quite a volume. Anybody know what I’m talking about, or have any thoughts on the mini-articles?

    • 0 avatar

      I think you’re talking about Tad Burness’ “Auto Album” series. I collected a bunch of those drawings when I was a kid (I still have them), and I bought a couple of his books (I still have those, too). I got so enamored with it I started corresponding with him through the SJ Mercury News. He asked what cars our family had owned, and he sent me magazine ads for those models. He owned a collection of cars he kept in an old tire shop in downtown San Jose. I never mustered up the courage to make arrangements with Tad to have my dad take me to see them.

      Nowadays, parents would figure he was some kind of creep. Sad.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Would this be the long lost father of Le Mons racing?

  • avatar

    Post WW2 several airbases used for training purposes and present, if needed, to assist in fending off a Japanese invasion that WAS a true fear “in the day” were abandoned (not all… the Crows Landing base was used until the 80s or 90s or so as an emergency landing strip and by the Navy for carrier pilots to practice touch-and-go landings (turned myself in for AWOL/UA there; a nice bunch there).
    Anywho, the abandoned bases scattered here and there throughout California’s central valleys had lengthy, flat, concrete landing strips so convenient for 1/4-mile racing.
    A local amateur racer with is “Hemi Countdown” set an unofficial NHRA record for his car’s class (can’t recall the exact class) while running at the local abandoned airstrip for a TV camera and reporter crew from a Sacramento TV station.
    An interesting local story at the time.
    Up and down the central valleys are barns here and there and a peak under the tarp in the back of the barn can reveal the car(s) built and run in the 50s and 60s (and earlier).
    A local farmer I did some work for during high school had a “2 tarp barn.”
    Hot rods with ‘souped-up’ engines. One was street legal for its time and was used for street racing in nearby Modesto (the “where were you in ’62” days [and earlier] as portrayed in the movie American Graffiti).
    Memory fades but I was most impressed with the Anglia-bodied hot rod with self-fabricated plastic body panels and a chassis made partially of steel tubing. It was a track only car.
    The farmer stated the engine’s compression was so high it took two large tractor batteries to provide enough ooomph to turn the engine over.
    That farmer sure made me work hard at minimum wage but it provided money and there was no work in town since those jobs were reserved for locals with connections, not an outsider recently arrived.
    That was before the immense horde of “immigrants.”
    I wonder if local youth can still earn a few bucks what with the intense competition from the MILLIONS of “immigrants” in California?
    I wonder if the “tales of old” are still passed on to a younger generation of USA citizens…. or maybe today’s younguns wouldn’t even care.
    Oh well.

    • 0 avatar

      “I wonder if the “tales of old” are still passed on to a younger generation of USA citizens”
      Obbop: Right here on TTAC, my friend, right here. You sparked some amazing memories, as I was out there at the time (69-73), up at Beale AFB, 40 miles n. of Sacramento. You are so correct on all the barns. The immediate territiory between Beale and Sac back then was horse country, and I would have loved to peek around the countryside in those old barns. As it was, I drove the living daylights out of my avatar and lived the “American Grafitti” life.

  • avatar
    M 1

    Under $50? Try under $20, Mr. Rockefeller. My friend recently inherited a great deal of his grandfather’s Model A and Model T vehicles, parts, tools, models, and photos and most of the photos have various details on the back — like the fact that he paid $17 for one of his ’26s.

  • avatar
    Mike C.

    I also used to correspond with Tad Burness and still have two albums full of ‘Auto Album’ comics/articles.  He was a great guy and a real enthusiast.  I wonder if he’s still around?

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