The Race of Gentlemen is quickly becoming one of the most interesting events in the vintage racing and traditional hot rod scene. A hundred or so true believers – with rods built the way their grandfathers would have – race on the beach in the trapped-in-time town of Wildwood, New Jersey. The race is exciting in a true seat-of-your-pants way. The whole event is surreal, with not only period cars but many of the participants in vintage clothes.
Beyond the race, the events in town are a great way to meet some wonderfully passionate and engaging people. Here’s a story about two of them.
One is Brit Jon Suckling, a lawyer by trade, and a speed demon by avocation. He spends several months a year Stateside, racing old hot rods, or as he likes to call them, from his European vantage point: “traditional race cars.” He’s quick to remind us that it was the Brits who, in the early days of the sport, established so many of the land speed records. At Wildwood he had his 1932 Ford with 276 Flathead. But you won’t be taking your mother in law to the Drive-In in the rumble seat of this little beast. Jon regularly races at Bonneville and has topped out at 128.3 miles per hour. In fact he has driven across country several times in the car, give or take an engine swap or two.
The other remarkable individual is Ken Schmidt from Rolling Bones Hot Rod Shop. Ken and the shop are legendary. And despite a seemingly gruff exterior, he’s one of the friendliest folks we’ve had the pleasure to meet. His cars are works of art, you’ll wait years to take delivery, and you’ll pay a lot. But they’re worth every penny. Ken is also a huge booster of the entire sport/hobby, frequently hosting enthusiasts from around the world at his shop in upper New York State.
We talked to both men about The Race of Gentlemen, hot rod history, and how to follow your dreams.