GLENDORA, Calif. -- Hot rod clubs were developing all across the United States in 1951, most notably in California, Texas, Colorado, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Most clubs were being formed without rules, governing officials or nationwide ...
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Hot rod clubs were developing all across the United States in 1951, most notably in California, Texas, Colorado, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Most clubs were being formed without rules, governing officials or nationwide consistency.
One thing was clear: the growing fraternity of hot rodders across the country needed structure.
To meet this sudden demand, the editors of Los Angeles-based Hot Rod magazine proposed that the thousands of hot rod devotees band together to form a national organization. It was an open letter published in Hot Rod's March 1951 issue that eventually led to the formation of a national hot rodding organization.
Responses from the magazine's large readership were instant, setting the groundwork for a major meeting where the articles of incorporation were designed. It was at this meeting where the decision was made to call the new organization the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).
The initial membership package included a window decal, membership card, rules booklet and promises of bigger and better things to come, including a large national meet.
The NHRA, under the direction of newly elected president Wally Parks, defined its statement of purpose as follows: "To promote safety, sportsmanship and fellowship among hot rod enthusiasts through the organization of clubs and associations, encourage a mutual exchange of beneficial views and sponsor educational and safety programs to the end that the hot rod sport will be better regulated and conducted on higher standards, resulting in more favorable acceptance by the press and public and add greater benefits for its active participants."
The annual membership fee was set at $2 and after visits by NHRA Field Representatives to many of the active hot rod clubs across the nation, the organization's membership started to take form. The first two official members were Ken and Kit Williams of Arcadia, Calif. Membership applications soon hit 1,000 per month.
On another front, Parks was praised by various law enforcement groups for the NHRA's commitment to safety and the organization's proactive approach to promoting safe hot rodding. Acting as an advisor and united representative, NHRA was able to assist many fledgling hot rod clubs in legitimizing the sport of hot rodding. To help forge the sport's identity, NHRA began to encourage the active car clubs to publicize their activities to help gain recognition and acceptance with the public. Most importantly, the car clubs were advised to seek participation from local police and civic groups to help solidify their local events.
With so much unity and direction now afforded a once divided cluster of hot rod enthusiasts, it wasn't long before Detroit's major automakers started to notice the movement. NHRA officials were invited to make presentations to top-level executives at the major auto firms. It was during these key meetings where a new performance market was created and the sport of drag racing was born.
As NHRA celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2001, it has emerged as one of the most popular spectator sports, highlighted by a $50 million, 24-event nationally televised tour. The NHRA has developed into the world's largest mototorsports sanctioning body, with more than 80,000 members nationwide, and more than 140 member tracks.