2021 is now in full swing, in the “real world” the insanity of 2020 seems set to continue for the time being. DDC Towers is a busy place, hence the shameful neglect of this website. However, I have been sitting on a sad, but beautiful, tale of one of the casualties of this wretched pandemic. Take it away Mr. Horrocks…………..
Closure on COVID-19 is something we’ve all been waiting to experience for what seems like a long, long time. But as the days go on, the only closure we seem to be seeing is that of businesses as they find the struggle to keep afloat eventually defeats them. Because of the various mandated restrictions that have been placed upon enterprises sadly many have been forced to simply shut their doors for good.
One of the closures due to COVID-19 was World of Speed Motorsports Museum. This collection, located south of Portland Oregon, was a haven for the gearhead. While it focused on the history of motorsports in the area, it really encompassed the entire world of motoring competition. When the doors initially closed for the first COVID-19 lock-down, the display floor was just transitioning from having Mustang as the featured marque to Ferrari.
Unfortunately, the Ferrari exhibit was never to be seen by the public – the board of directors chose to lock their doors for good not too long after hoping to celebrate five years of being open. The celebration never happened. For those involved, the only closure was the locked doors.
I found about the museum in late 2014. This looked to be a good place for me to deposit the items I’d accumulated in my travels – PR kits, programs and various handouts I had taking up space in my basement. When I donated the items, I was given a tour of the facility as well as introduced to some of the management. I soon found this was also a recruitment session as they were looking for volunteers. As it appeared that my involvement in covering racing was reaching a limited future, I thought why not? It was closer to home and wouldn’t involve any redeye flights in order to get back for work after an event.
It was here that I was able to reopen an enthusiasm for all things motorsports as I’d been so micro-focused on sportscar racing for so long. Sort of bringing my gearhead life full circle. I found myself face to face with things from my youth – drag racing, Indycars, muscle cars, customs – you name it. There was even room for unlimited hydroplane boats, something I grew up with as a kid while living in the Seattle area.
And that wasn’t the only things from my youth. In these walls was none other than Challenger 1, Mickey Thompson’s massive 4-engined land speed record car that went 400 mph in 1960. This was a car that I’d built multiple models of as a kid – and still likely have one or two stashed away for safe keeping. Wow! It was also surrounded by other cars from his stable – all used to bring various records back to the United States as well as to his sponsors. Eventually Mickey’s son Danny brought the Challenger 2 that Mickey built in the late ‘60s back to the salt. He updated it and ran it to 448 mph at Bonneville in 2018. We had the two cars side by side for a while and it was spectacular.
I’d also found myself face to face with a car closer to home – a homebuilt drag car that I’d seen race when I was a young kid. It was made out of an old Dodge Pickup and featured a bed cover with an embroidered Thumper – the Thumper that stole the show in the Disney movie Bambi. That was important to a five-year-old me back then and suddenly became important to a much older me.
Through the nearly five-year run, the museum hosted tributes to many different and unique “marques”. The first big one was to celebrate the 100th running of the Indy 500. This display garnered the museum some good notoriety, as it featured at times up to 35 Indy cars ranging from 1914 to 1997. Included was Jack Brabham’s Cooper from 1961, a Lotus 56 turbine from 1968 and the Nigel Mansell Newman-Haas Lola among many others.
Other features included Corvettes (including the 1961 model that was in the film, Animal House), Muscle Cars, Porsche 911, as well as the previously mentioned Mustang and Ferrari. Another spectacular exhibit was a tribute to Mario Andretti in 2019, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his win at Indy. Up front and in your face was the Ford GT Mk4 that he and Bruce McLaren won Sebring in 1967 and next to it was a replica of his Daytona 500-winning Ford from two months earlier. That GT got everybody’s attention in a very big way. It was a stunning way to highlight the versatility of racers back then, especially Mario.
But it was more than the feature exhibits. As you can see in the accompanying photos, it was a spectacular ride. Unfortunately, it simply didn’t last. The hardships placed upon it due to COVID-19 was just too great to succeed.
I hope that we’ll soon be back to what we considered to be normal, or at least close to it. We can’t afford to have places we’ve enjoyed simply vanish from our existence. Sure, World of Speed was minor in the trials and tribulations of our modern times, but to many it was a great distraction from reality. We all are in need of positive distractions…
Good news is that much of the content from World of Speed has been distributed to other museums that are open or still have hopes in reopening. Just recently I saw one of the drag cars on display in the window of a speed shop/museum close to where I live. Also, the International Motor Racing Research Center located at Watkins Glen recently announced it had received a large shipment of archival material from World of Speed. Likely some of my old donations are also there. While it is good to see that some of the items that were at the museum are resurfacing elsewhere, it is still a sad reminder of what we had so close to home…
Gary Horrocks, January 2021