Morgan Gales

The Race Of Gentlemen Invades Santa Barbara, California

18 photos of classic cars and motorcycles drag racing through city streets for TROG West 2019

Any other weekend in Santa Barbara and you'd never guess that Steve McQueen and James Dean used to race on these streets. The high-end Southern California beach town is no longer known for its adrenaline-inducing roadraces, but rather its beautiful views and expensive real estate—but that didn't stop TROG. The Race of Gentlemen has managed to shake up the surfside community, bringing classic cars and motorcycles to race side by side through the city streets once more.

Nick Toscano on his dual-carbed 1950 EL Panhead was one of the fastest riders of the day.Morgan Gales

Cabrillo Boulevard runs parallel to one of Santa Barbara’s most prominent beaches—a long, straight(ish) road perfect for converting into a makeshift dragstrip. This was to be the one-day home of The Race of Gentlemen, an event series started on the East Coast to celebrate old-timey racing, race vehicles, and the culture that surrounds them. Motorcycles have to be made before 1947 and all cars are required to be manufactured prior to 1953. The rules are a bit exhausting, limiting any and all non-period correct modifications, but, hey, that’s how they keep it tight. Drivers and riders dress in 1930s–’50s attire as if to make it seem like you’ve just stepped out of a time machine, something that works a little better when you’re on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey, like the original event, as opposed to outside of a Hilton Hotel like this one.

Over the course of the day, cars and bikes ran down the strip in different pairings. Some spitting rubber, burning out, and tearing down the road, others slowly sputtering to life as riders push off with their feet to get going. The selection of vehicles wasn’t massive, numbering somewhere close to 40 in all, and when each race takes less than 30 seconds and the event runs all day—that’s a whole lot of runs for the same cars and bikes. We were lucky enough to not witness any crashes, though we did see a couple of participants break their cars at the starting line and have to be pushed off.

They haven’t announced plans to come back to Santa Barbara next year, but we’re hoping to see TROG back on the West Coast again. While it was great to see racing back in Santa Barbara, we have our fingers crossed for another event on the beach.

Atsushi Yasui with the thousand-yard stare as he gets pushed up to the starting line.Morgan Gales
Dressed in period-correct clothing or not, everyone was out there to go fast and have a good time.Morgan Gales
Grant Peterson of the Born-Free Show loses the launch.Morgan Gales
Harley-Davidson was the main sponsor of this year's event.Morgan Gales
Go Takamine taking another win on the 1937 Indian Sport Scout.Morgan Gales
Josh Kohn getting in the zone before throwing his Flathead down the strip.Morgan Gales
One of the rules is "no hydraulic forks"—springers, girders, and leaf springs only.Morgan Gales
The backdrop of fences and gates isn't as visually pleasing as the beach in New Jersey, but racing on the streets of Santa Barbara is worth it.Morgan Gales
The cars may be pre-1953 but they can still burn some rubber.Morgan Gales
Racing a bike built with help from his recently deceased teacher and mentor, Smoky, Go Takamine took win after win.Morgan Gales
The DJ and announcers' booth sat on an old custom van near the starting line.Morgan Gales
Tom Branch about to race his Roadster down the strip.Morgan Gales
While we did miss the flag girl, this guy's enthusiasm more than made up for it.Morgan Gales
See you next year!Morgan Gales