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HomeEventsInherited trunk leads to fascination with early history of auto racing

Inherited trunk leads to fascination with early history of auto racing

Ragtime Racers showcasing their vintage racers at Monterey

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In the 1970s, a friend of Brian Blain’s family died, Harry Sprague, who Brian’s family had sort of adopted as a grandfather figure. And when he died, Sprague left Blain an old trunk filled with things from his earlier life.

One of those things was a jersey bearing the word “National.” Blain wondered if it might have been a stick-and-ball sports team for which Sprague had played. But after doing some research, he discovered National was an automaker and that Sprague had raced cars back in the days when as many as 40,000 people would show up for the auto races in Visalia, California, Blain’s hometown. 

Blain was fascinated by his friend’s history and then by the early history of American auto racing, fascinated to the point that he started searching for and collecting and restoring those early racing cars. That led to the Blain Motorsports Foundation and, in 2018, to a group called the Ragtime Racers: Exhibitions of Speed. The group is participating this weekend in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Not only do the Ragtime Racers have their own area in the Laguna Seca paddock, where they have a couple dozen cars that first raced in the first two decades of the 20th Century, but they also have a garage-like structure that looks like it, too, dates back more than 100 years. They even dress in white coveralls that look like those racers wore in the early years of the previous century.

“Our desire is to educate spectators about the rich motorsports history of this time period,” the group says on its website. “Our goal is to spread our knowledge about these race cars simply to keep them alive.

“As long as we are around these cars will be in motion, not sitting idle in a museum.”

1912 Franklin
This 1912 Franklin Desert Racer has been detailed to match the #9 car that Ralph Hamlin drove to victory in the Los Angeles to Phoenix race across the desert in 1912. Hamin’s car was destroyed in a fire in 1930 but Dick DeLuna has shown this car at Pebble Beach and at the Essen Motor Show in Germany, and in 2000 drove it on the Pan-Pacific Road Race from LA to Visalia, California
ragtime, Inherited trunk leads to fascination with early history of auto racing, ClassicCars.com Journal
Hall-Scott was an aircraft engine builder, supplying WWI Army Air Corps bi-planes, but Colonel Hall also designed an aluminum-bodied race car for the 1917 Vanderbilt Cup race. While he designed the car, it was never actually built, until many years later, and then with authentic 1917-era parts
ragtime, Inherited trunk leads to fascination with early history of auto racing, ClassicCars.com Journal
This 1911 Franklin Special was driven in the 1910 Cactus Derby (Los Angles to Phoenix) by Ralph Hamlin, who was well ahead until he got lost, eventually finishing second. In 1913 Hamlin sold the car to Howard Bonebrake of El Reno, Oklahoma, who raced it until storing it upstairs in his hardware and implement company, where Don Boulton found it in 1960. Boulton sold the car to fellow collector Ted Davis and it remains in original Cactus Derby condition
ragtime, Inherited trunk leads to fascination with early history of auto racing, ClassicCars.com Journal
Among so many cars from the double-oughts and teens, this 1920 Ford Model T racer is a relatively late-model car
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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