Friday, November 20, 2015


Shinya Kimura with the 'Spike', his much-modified Harley-Davidson '47 EL Knucklhead
The romance of the place is captured in the name, redolent of the invisible goals of speed.  El Mirage is nominally a town in the SoCal desert, nearest Palmdale, which is itself nearly nowhere, even though inhabited by many thousands.  Its raison d'etre is a dry lake bed, now bounded by the El Mirage Off-Highway-Vehicle Recreation Area, under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management.
Willy with a breed unique to the SCTA - the Belly Tank Lakester.  Built from a discarded aircraft fuel tank, this is a genre unique to dry lakes racing in SoCal.  This one used a Ford flathead V8 motor, and sounded amazing.
The lake bed is very nearly flat, with a cracked mud surface occasionally pockmarked by potholes, but with nothing of the inches-tall cracqueleure of Bonneville, nor its corrosive salt crust.  El Mirage lacks Bonneville's pristinely bizarre beauty, and its relative cleanliness - as vehicles pound the miles of dried dirt to reach the SCTA timing camp, clouds of sepia dust trail them, as it does the high speed vehicles racing across its surface.   The effect is dramatic and beautiful, but layers everything and everyone nearby with an ultrafine grit.  While some vehicles used air cleaners while racing, others take their chances gulping in the powder, and never need worry about bedding in their piston rings.
Alp Sungurtekin, who exceeded 175mph on his home-built pre-unit Triumph, featured previously on TheVintagent.
November 13th, 2015, became an infamous day for more nefarious reasons, but it was my first visit to the place, and I reveled in its spare beauty, and the fantastic characters who temporarily populate its puzzle-cracked earth. The goal was to explore, and take a few wet plate photos, which was accomplished.  As the racing is over a weekend, not a week as in Bonneville, there's no 'village' feeling, and the layout of disparate camps is chaotic, making introductions difficult.  Everyone is busy racing, and while very friendly, its hardly a relaxed place to take photos.  Thanks to the several people who took time for my work, I hope you enjoy the results. See more at
The full view of Willy's Lakester - a vision of a past Future, painted an unusual shade of mauve, supposedly a works Bugatti racing color
George Callaway, the 'Mayor of El Mirage', at his fantastic junkyard beside the dry lake.
Coming soon to Intersection magazine; a few shots of the Vintagent at work at El Mirage, thanks to photographer Gilles, captured here at George's junkyard, beside a familiar Renault
Alp's crew chief, Jalika, who betrays her former career as a fashion model
Shinya Kimura's Spike entier
Woody and his Aermacchi racer, emerging from chemical shadows... the Wet Plate process is unpredictable!

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GuitarSlinger said...

Great photos . Now there's three ( 8x10 ) I'm wanting to purchase if anyone would finally return my emails

The sad thing about this post though is the fact that Bonneville may be done and gone for good [ due more to corporate mining excesses/ environmental abuses than the weather ] and the likes of El Mirage may wind up being the last bastion of LSR competition . A bit ironic considering it was also one of the first

But again ... the whole Wet Plate thing has evolved beautifully .... my thinking perhaps a Fine Art designation may be in order . So do get back to me good sir before the prices find their way to the moon . Not that you don't deserve them to do so mind you ... but rather that those moonshot prices may exceed my budget ;-)

matt machine said...

beautiful photos paul