*Please note: This story was written shortly after the 2021 event. Had it been written this year, there would have been a slightly different tone to it.. There is no mention of the loss of Pat Ganahl in this article, but I may touch on it in the future. For now, let me just say that I and the rest of The Estranged Car Club are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of a true icon to the hot rod community, and our thoughts are with the Ganahl family. Rest in peace, Pat. You are sorely missed.
*All photos are Roger Pedersen / RPM Photography and are a mixture of 2021 and 2022*
It's a question as old as humanity itself. One that's been asked countless times since the dawn of time. Arguably the greatest mystery of human existence that has befuddled and confounded man for all of documented history. Some of the greatest scientific minds have argued about it for hundreds of years: Is time linear? Simply put, is time travel real? Is it possible? Can we somehow travel backward to a bygone era already lived and long since forgotten, save for a few hopeless fools left longing for “the good ol days” ? Can we really go back? The short answer seems to be, yes. That is, if your idea of the good ol days happens to be the golden era of mid-1960's drag racing,. And you don't need Doc Brown or a flux capacitor to relive your glory days. All you need is a trip to the Pacific Northwest in late August to spend a long weekend with the Estranged Car Club, from Portland, Oregon.
The setting is idyllic and the rules are simple: For three days, approximately 130 hand-chosen pre-1964 race cars and hot rods are allowed to pound the 1/8 mile stretch of asphalt that makes up what for drag racers, is the Pacific North West's best kept secret: Riverdale Raceway. It's just twelve meandering miles off of Interstate 5 in Toutle, Washington, but it feels like stepping into another world. There, in the middle of a tree-lined valley, like a mirage, out of nowhere, is a chunk of flat blacktop that beckons, almost dares you to make a mockery of the serenity that surrounds you. There you are listening to the river that borders one side of the property fight a losing battle against the open headers and squealing burnouts just a few hundred feet away. The juxtaposition isn't lost on anyone there. It almost feels illegal.
If there's one thing to know about the host-club, The Estranged CC, it's that they are dyed-in-the-wool hot rodders with a nasty drag racing habit and a penchant for traditionally built and styled cars. When the decision was made that they would put on an event of their own, it was made clear early on that there would be no compromising when it came to the types of cars that would be allowed to race. The guidelines were open to interpretation: Pre-1964, traditional, hot rod or race car. The catch? Send a photo and description of your car for approval. The name of the game was the capture the right “feel” for the event, and without a doubt, this mission was accomplished. The only exceptions made were for a select group of insanely fast exhibition cars, which ran several times daily, to the delight of the hundreds of spectators and fellow-racers alike.
If there's anything about this event that is more striking than the setting itself, it is the caliber of cars. I'm not sure where else you will find the Navarro Roadster waiting in the staging lanes beside The Orange Crate, then look up to see Rocky Phillips' Evil Twin dragster doing a violent 1/8 miles burnout, followed by two four-speed Willys lining up for the final run of their best of three match. Everywhere you looked, top notch cars. Chopped Hemi-powered 3 window 32's, blown/injected Big Blocks, Altered cars, Super Stock Mopars, Gassers galore, Willys, Tri-Five Chevys, the works. Bring your black and white camera and step back in time, this is that type of event.
In addition to the racing itself, participants and spectators alike were invited to camp, as well as take part in the swap meet and car show happening at the same time. Vendors served up great food and the mood was electric, even despite some light morning drizzle that seemed to pass through each day. But hey, welcome to the Pacific Northwest! You can travel back in time, but you can't escape mother nature.. See you all next year..