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A Wide Variety of Racing Cars at the West Texas Fair at Abilene

Today we travel back in time to 1921 and the West Texas Fair in Abilene, Texas, where auto races were run on a one-mile horse racing track. The great majority of the cars there are: Ford, Dodge, Essex and other lower-priced cars of the period converted into racing cars.

Two of the cars are specially built thoroughbred racing cars that may have traveled the county fair racing circuit across the country, and stopped at Abilene in the hope of easy pickings or were paid by the promoter to attend. The enlargeable photo above shows the number seven Miller in the pole position, and the car to its left may also be one Harry Miller’s earlier creations?

The two cars on the end of the front row are Model “T” Ford-based racing cars, the one on the far-left appears to have been constructed using early Frontenac Ford racing parts or is one of the “Fronty” Fords cars offered by the Chevrolet brothers.

The second row contains four more cars with one being Ford-based and the balance appearing to be converted four-cylinder Dodges.

Phil “Red” Shafer, who later went on to race in the Indianapolis 500 seven times can be seen posing above at Abilene in a lightweight special powered by a Duesenburg engine. Based on the length of the bottom of the engine visible in the photo it appears to be fitted with an earlier four-cylinder Duesenberg “Walking Beam” engine or one of the later Rochester Duesenberg production engines.

We will return again in the future with more photographs from the West Texas Fair races via of The Portal of Texas History.


19 responses to “A Wide Variety of Racing Cars at the West Texas Fair at Abilene

  1. Good grief , what in the world is the guy in back of the Duesie dressed for ?
    He scared me,and I ain’t ascared o’ nuthin !!!

    { I stole that from Buck Trent !!]

  2. Those race cars were death traps. Open cockpits. No rollbars. No set belts. Sitting on gas tanks. Only the brave and foolish raced then.I recall reading of one race where after three drivers died, they shut down the track for the day. How thoughtful

    • The working theory in those days was it was better to be thrown from the car than remain in it while the fire raged.

  3. I had 2 uncles that were involved in the shriners , but I never saw any dressed like that !!
    All they wore were those round hats with the tassel on top .

  4. The car on the left bears the number 7-11. This is not an early example of racing car sponsorship as the convenience store chain did not receive that name until 1946. So what does it mean?

    • Reference to the dice gambling game craps possibly?
      A certain well known online encyclopedia beginning with wiki has the following:

      “A natural is a term in several gambling games; in each case it refers to one or two specific good outcomes, usually for the player, and often involves achieving a particular score in the shortest and fastest manner possible.[1]

      At craps, a natural is a roll of two dice with a score of 7 or 11 on the come out roll. This will lead to a win for the players who wagered money on the Pass or Come bet, but a loss for players betting Don’t Pass or Don’t Come.[5]”

  5. A little more searching leads to possible additional info on a 7-11 Frontenac (which may or may not be the one in this picture):

    Automobile Races

    On the Historic Half-mile Racetrack at the

    Kansas State Fairgrounds

    Hutchinson, Kansas

    Monday, September 19, 1927

    “Jim “Mack” McFadden Penalosa, Kansas 7-11 Frontenac*

    * The #7-11 Frontenac driven by Jim “Mack” McFadden was owned by Roy Luther O’Laughlin (1896-1930) of Hutchinson, Kansas who just nineteen days earlier (September 1, 1927) was seriously injured when he was struck by a racing car while standing near the racetrack at Belleville, Kansas. As a result of his injuries, O’Laughlin’s left leg had to be amputated.”

    Source of above quotes: the Kansas Racing History website.

  6. how rich the auto racing history of USA is, all my admiration to the people who built and raced these cars, thanks David for reminding of these milestones,

  7. Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, as the Shriners were known until 2010 had many different divisions within each local Shrine. The man shown is probably part of the local Arab unit, but there were the Clown unit, Mobile or vehicle unit, Band unit, Scottish unit, etc. depending on local interests and traditions. Most units had an elaborate uniform for parade and special events.

  8. Notice that: These cars are after the days of Driver with Mechanic/Spotter aboard. The “rear view mirror” ((Racing technology) eliminated the need for a Spotter! Later fuel pump engines eliminated the need for the Mechanic to maintain fuel pressure by manually pressurizing the gas tank. In later mid Thirties — the very light 1937 & ’38 Ford V-8 Sixty—(with V-8 85 Plus H.P. replacement engines). These Business Coupes dominated Dirt track racing, up to WW-2 !!! Earlier Ford designs did not have the Aerodynamics & lightness of the ’37/ ’38 models . “Joe Public” could “go racing “for cheap! (But let’s not for get The Hudson s!!!) Edwin W.

  9. Dave, thanks so much for putting up this great picture of Phil “Red” Shafer, who made A.A.A.big time board track racing based on numerous victories on the dirt circuit all round the country in this “Duesenberg” special. Interesting to note the truss rods under the frame, indicating the weight of the engine put significant strain on the rather light chassis. However the car is low and presumably had a lot of torque, a good combination to beat a lot of locals in their Ford-based hot rods. (PS Hasn’t anyone been to the Indy 500 parade, with lots of shriners around?)

  10. The racer that I have rebuilt -Whistling Billy, a White steamer – is 1905 and raced on the dirt trotting horse tracks. It has just one seat and no riding mechanic but the longer distance Vanderbilt White racing car had two seats, one for the racing mechanic. I have done considerable research in the newspapers of the seven years that Billy raced and find that most years there were many complaints from the drivers that the trotting horse tracks were too dangerous for racing on as the cars were already too fast for the surface and the build of the tracks. The week that the driver Webb Jay had his serious accident landing in a pond after catching the railing while unsighted by the car that he was overtaking, one driver had already been killed and the famous Barney Oldfield was recovering from injuries. It seems from then that motor racing was almost completely stopped for about a year.

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