Research Center Drag Racing Photographs Collection

Biographical / Historical Note

The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was founded in 1951 by Wally Parks, whose aim it was to take drag racing from the streets and into a safer environment. Staging its first official race in 1953, the NHRA later held its first national competition,...

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The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was founded in 1951 by Wally Parks, whose aim it was to take drag racing from the streets and into a safer environment. Staging its first official race in 1953, the NHRA later held its first national competition, known as "the Nationals," in 1955 in Great Bend, Kansas. Over 50 years later, the NHRA has over 35,000 licensed competitors and 140 member tracks around the country.

Hot Rod Magazine was founded in 1948 by Robert E. Petersen, who was integral in establishing the first hot rod show held at the Los Angeles Armory that year. Later, Petersen created dozens of other magazines related to the automotive world. Eric Rickman, one of the photographers Petersen hired for the magazine, documented many of the inaugural events in drag racing, including the 1955 NHRA Nationals and the first Bonneville Speed Week in 1949.

Note content adapted from the following sources:
- “NHRA history: Drag racing’s fast start.” Online article accessed on 25 May 2015 at http://www.nhra.com/nhra101/history.aspx
- “Robert E. Petersen, Founder of Hot Rod, Passes On at 80.” Online article accessed on 25 May 2015 at http://www.hotrod.com/news/hrdp-petersen-passing/
- “Remembering Eric Rickman.” Online article accessed on 25 May 2015 at http://www.hotrod.com/features/history/stories/hrdp-0807-eric-rickman/

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Scope and Content Note

The Research Center Drag Racing Photographs Collection contains 10 black-and-white 8x10 inch photographic prints reprinted from the original negatives, circa 1985. The original photographs were taken by Eric Rickman and Bob D’Olivo for Petersen Publishing...

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The Research Center Drag Racing Photographs Collection contains 10 black-and-white 8x10 inch photographic prints reprinted from the original negatives, circa 1985. The original photographs were taken by Eric Rickman and Bob D’Olivo for Petersen Publishing Company’s Hot Rod Magazine. The prints are organized chronologically by year, and then in alphabetical order by subject.

The collection also contains a small amount of background information on the photographs assembled by Bob Casey, former Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, and Zach Waske an intern at The Henry Ford in 2006 and 2007.

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Collection Details

Object ID: 2006.54.0
Creator: Rickman, Eric 
Inclusive Dates: 1955-1963
Size: 0.2 cubic ft. (1 box)
Language: English

Collection Access & Use

Item Location: Not Currently On Exhibit

Access Restrictions: The collection is open for research.

Credit: From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Digitized Artifacts From This Collection

In many cases, not all artifacts have been digitized.
Contact us for more information about this collection.

A "Bean Bandit" Dragster at the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

  Details

A "Bean Bandit" Dragster at the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

Drag races are run like tournaments. Two cars face off in each race, with the pairings usually based on the cars' qualifying times. The winner advances to the next round while the loser is eliminated. The driver who wins each of her or his races wins the championship trophy and earns the title of Top Eliminator.

Object ID

2006.54.3

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

A "Bean Bandit" Dragster at the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

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Art Arfons and Pit Crew with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

  Details

Art Arfons and Pit Crew with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

Detroit Dragway opened in Brownstone Charter Township, about 20 miles southwest of downtown Detroit, in 1959. The "Dirty D" -- its affectionate nickname -- hosted NHRA's U.S. Nationals in 1959 and 1960. Though it thrived in the 1960s and 1970s, by the 1990s Detroit Dragway suffered from declining crowds and aging facilities. The dragstrip closed after the 1996 season.

Object ID

2006.54.8

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Art Arfons and Pit Crew with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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  Details

Art Arfons and Wally Parks with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

  Details

Art Arfons and Wally Parks with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

Wally Parks (1913-2007) organized some of the first hot rod shows, served as the first editor of Hot Rod magazine, and -- in 1951 -- founded the National Hot Rod Association. Illegal street racers gave hot rodding a bad reputation, but Parks's NHRA legitimized drag racing with competition rules, safety regulations, and off-street dragstrips. Parks turned hot rod races into family entertainment.

Object ID

2006.54.10

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Art Arfons and Wally Parks with the Trophy for Top Speed, NHRA Nationals, Detroit Dragway, 1959

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Cal Rice and Mickey Thompson at the Start of Their Heat, NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

  Details

Cal Rice and Mickey Thompson at the Start of Their Heat, NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

Drag races are run like tournaments. Two cars face off in each race, with the pairings usually based on the cars' qualifying times. The winner advances to the next round while the loser is eliminated. The driver who wins each of her or his races wins the championship trophy and earns the title of Top Eliminator.

Object ID

2006.54.2

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Cal Rice and Mickey Thompson at the Start of Their Heat, NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Calvin Rice at the NHRA Nationals, Kansas City, Missouri, 1956

  Details

Calvin Rice at the NHRA Nationals, Kansas City, Missouri, 1956

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

Drag races are run like tournaments. Two cars face off in each race, with the pairings usually based on the cars' qualifying times. The winner advances to the next round while the loser is eliminated. The driver who wins each of her or his races wins the championship trophy and earns the title of Top Eliminator.

Object ID

2006.54.7

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Calvin Rice at the NHRA Nationals, Kansas City, Missouri, 1956

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Car at the Starting Line of the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

  Details

Car at the Starting Line of the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

Drag races are run like tournaments. Two cars face off in each race, with the pairings usually based on the cars' qualifying times. The winner advances to the next round while the loser is eliminated. The driver who wins each of her or his races wins the championship trophy and earns the title of Top Eliminator.

Object ID

2006.54.4

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Car at the Starting Line of the NHRA Nationals, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Connie Kalitta at the NHRA Nationals, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1963

  Details

Connie Kalitta at the NHRA Nationals, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1963

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

Michigan native Connie Kalitta started drag racing in the 1950s and, within a decade, ranked among the sport's best. He kept a "most wanted" list of drivers he intended to beat, and then crossed off their names when he did so. The habit earned Kalitta the nickname "Bounty Hunter." He won ten NHRA national events between 1967 and 1994.

Object ID

2006.54.9

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Connie Kalitta at the NHRA Nationals, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1963

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Official Start of First NHRA Drag Racing Meet, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

  Details

Official Start of First NHRA Drag Racing Meet, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

This is a scene from the National Hot Rod Association's first national championship drag racing meet in 1955 on the concrete runway of the Great Bend, Kansas Municipal Airport. The official starter leaps high while waving the checkered flag to signal the start of the race. The car to his right is driven by Calvin Rice. To the left, out of the picture, is Rice's opponent. Drag races are run like tournaments: two cars at a time face off; the winner advances to the next round, the loser is eliminated. Rice won all his races at this meet to take home the championship trophy and the title of Top Eliminator. In another decade the leaping starter would be replaced by a safer but less spectacular system of electric lights.

Object ID

2006.54.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Official Start of First NHRA Drag Racing Meet, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Sign for the SRCA Drag Strip, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

  Details

Sign for the SRCA Drag Strip, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1985

Summary

The Sunflower Rod and Custom Association -- named for its home state of Kansas, the Sunflower State -- was formed in 1954 and joined the National Hot Rod Association a year later. The NHRA established competition rules and safety regulations for drag racing. It sanctioned races at its member dragstrips, like the SRCA's facility in Great Bend, Kansas.

Object ID

2006.54.6

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Sign for the SRCA Drag Strip, Great Bend, Kansas, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details