Author Archives: Mattijs


130519-USA-El Mirage-Ford V8-01

At the edge of the gathering the speedster is parked in between some RV's. Red and white with a classic stance. The sheet metal bonnet is popped up, hard shadows accentuate the cars footprint. What might become the picture of the day will turn to an everlasting experience. "Hi there, should I close the bonnet, so you can take better pictures?" "I can park it out there in the open space if you want."

The conversations unfolds as we get into detail. 300 something BHP. "Jump inside I you need to take close up shots. The sound is great, wait a minute, I'll rev her up". Larry is one of these driven and passionate owners who likes to share. He takes it very literally today. "You wanna join me for a ride, I'll show you around." Wind and whirring cogs, click clack, second gear. In between I hear something about ditching windscreens, dust, visibility and Bonneville. Click clack.

As we return at our starting point Larry unlocks the big round steering wheel to get our of the car and hands it over to me. "Slide over to this side, now that you know how it works, it's up to the two of you!" " I am damn serious buddy!"

An endless drive in open space. Hours later we get stuck into down town traffic as we hit Los Angeles. I still have the image of that smiling guy in his white Nascar sweater giving us signs every time we want to return him his V8 speedster. "Come on, go for another round!"


130519-USA-El Mirage-Ford V8-02


130519-USA-El Mirage-Gene Winfield-01

Hey dude, where are you from? You look like you're new here. Germany. You know, I have been hanging around at the lake here for the past twenty years, but you Mr Germany, this is your day. Just walk past those officials and take that picture you need, right there at the starting line! Just do it!

A couple of minutes later I find myself in the middle of the action, a few meters away from the starting line. A motorcycle trails of and vanishes in a cloud of dust. As I turn around to see who is next, I realize I stand face to face with a legendary car. Low, rough, raw, a deep purple bastard. The crew gathers around its driver, providing some shadow.

After the race, when everything has cooled down, I walk up to purple car. This is my personal icing on an already fantastic cake. Shake hands with Mr. WInfield. Eighty-six years old and still full of energy, driving cars like he stole them. Gene is not only one of the scenes last legends, gene is part of hot rod's DNA. I help his crew to push the 501 gently into the trailer. El Mirage, California, it doesn't get any better than this.


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130519-USA-El Mirage-Dead End Hot Rod

Keep modifying, keep testing, keep racing. 

This sunday at El Mirage is a perfect opportunity to get an overview of Hot Rod history. Different stages of evolution are parked side by side, here and there with some strange mutations. Dead ends? No, these contraptions spice up the experience. Top chopped, channeled, shaved. Modified, Specials. From post war Belly Tank racers to mind blowing airplanes without wings.

130519-USA-El Mirage-Special-02

It is  worth to take a peak inside the cars and imagine what it must feel like to sit in a cramped cage at such high speeds. Sometimes all you need in a cockpit is a rev counter and a bit of faith, hence the little religious figurine. Sometimes all you need in a cockpit is a rev counter and a bit of faith, hence the little religious figurine.


130519-USA-El Mirage-Special-01


130519-USA-El Mirage-Chevy Bel Air 57 Station

Slick versus rough, mean versus friendly. Two cars, one model, opposite characters. One to push, one to pull off. Both of them with an eye for detail. Pragmatic use of wood here for low speeds, slick aero solutions there to reduce drag or simply to get a grip on vibrations. 


130519-USA-El Mirage-Chevy Bel Air 57


130519-USA-El Mirage-SCTA

No one comes to El Mirage with something from the shelve to beat the timing machines. Everything you see here has a personal approach, is handcrafted and purpose built. It is a race against the clock, trying to improve that "personal best" rather than win the race.

Duck down to go faster. I love the details; steering, saddle, gears on this motorcycle. All adapted for high speeds.


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130519-USA-El Mirage-06

The world's fastest Indian. I have to think about Burt Munro a couple of times this day. A stranger on a journey, a man on a mission. We have come here to El Mirage to visit the SCTA start of the season. Racers, Lakers, Petrol Heads, Car Nuts. It's a heavy local gathering and at the same time this place is so welcoming to first timers. "Is this your first time at the Lake,where are you from?"


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130519-USA-El Mirage-Special-03

Movement at the horizon. This is just the beginning. Where to look. I can't wait to jump out of the car. With low speed we roll on the sun dried lake bed.  A deep vrooooooooooaaaaaarr in the far distance.Trails of dust cut through the vibrating air where the ground reflects the sky. El Mirage truly is heaven on earth.


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130519-USA-El Mirage-01

We leave the gravel road and the horizon widens. Hot dry air slips through the opened windows as the sound of the tires disappears. No tickling stones. We enter historic soil.  I have been here before, many times in many years. Be it in childhood magazines, car books or eighties television series. Where beige tones blur into blue hues the air burns. I wait for that black Pontiac to roll into our scenery. Finally, El Mirage!


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