Creeper Races, Fuel Curve

Creeper Races – Motorized Mayhem in Merced

Before we tell you about the Creeper Races that became a thing at 1980s rod runs, we need to throw out a few thank you’s. First off, thanks to Pat Ganahl for telling old stories on www.patganahl.com. Pat has dusted off the keyboard to file periodic entries on his blog talking about the way things used to be in the wonderful world of rods and customs. Secondly, we throw out a big thanks to Todd Olson, who went along to the 70s and 80s rod runs with his late father “Deuce” Bruce Olson. These images are from Todd and Pat’s archives.

Creeper Races, Fuel Curve


Today’s baby boomers, who average anywhere from 70-90 years old, were in their 30s and 40s during the 1970s. The late Gary “Goodguy” Meadors was THE guy in street rod event circles. Nobody matched Meadors’ ability to get everyone together for a rod run and provide them with a big time event and a fun weekend. Meadors’ signature event was the Western Nationals which spawned from his annual Mini Nationals in Lodi. After shifting to Merced throughout the end of the decade and into the 80s, it eventually would move to Pleasanton to launch the national event series of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association.

Creeper Races, Fuel Curve

One of the hallmarks of a Meadors event was a series of fun games to break up the monotony of sitting around polishing and looking at cars. Meadors knew his peers wanted action and he delivered.

Let’s let Pat Ganahl take it from here. “Rod-related games were an integral part of those rod runs not only across our country, but around the world,” Ganahl recalled.

“And this, my friends, is yours truly hanging onto the ankle of Dean Hargesheimer, as we compete in a Meadors-invented game called the StreetSweeper. Again, it was a StreetSweeper short, twisty, hay-baled circuit, and you had to maintain contact with the rubber ball, with a broom, the whole way. This was at Lodi in ’74, not long after I had found this “lost for 10 years” orange ’32 Chevy with a big race-built 394 Olds and 4-speed Hydro. I’m pretty sure we won this event and I came in 2nd in the Go-Whoa (run to your car, get in, start it, accelerate, then stop on a mark). That coupe was a runner. Too bad I set the engine on fire. But that’s another story.”

“But the game that got everybody intrigued was Creeper Races. You know, lie on your back on a regular shop creeper, push with your feet, and try to navigate a course…not easy, as you can imagine. Well, Goodguy Gary Meadors and his fun-loving crew–not to mention enthusiastic (i.e., competitive) participants–were always going one better. So of course plain creeper racing soon evolved into–what else!–motorized creeper races! And if hot rodders are going to race things with motors, you know where that goes, right? So that’s what those speed-crazed creeper racers are doing in these images.”

Creeper Races, Fuel Curve

Creeper Races, Fuel Curve

Tom Walsh, (pictured below in the Bay Area Roadster hat) remembers the Creeper Races well. “Some of the Creepers were made from shop creepers while others were hand fabricated. Like Pat said, it started out as foot powered shop creepers but then it went berserk with full on custom builds. The motors were usually from a weed eater and were fully tuned with various amounts of ‘stuff’ in the gas tank. It was a bunch of guys having a good time. They kept over building them, which meant they kept getting faster, then they got so fast they became dangerous. Then they went away, no doubt due to liability concerns.”

Creeper Races, Fuel Curve

These images were from the Western Nationals in 1982. Through the action and pit shots, you get an idea of just how slick these machines were and how much fun they provided.

Creeper Races, Fuel Curve

Teams featured here included the “Norwegian Race Team” of Don Engebretson, Bruce Olson, Ron Engebretson, Linda Engebretson, and Ed Lee.

Then you had the team of Ray Lenz, Gary Arias, Jim Robinson, and Rich Gonzales not to mention Gary Chong’s radical prone creeper on which he would lay out head first.

Don Specht’s “Lakewood Muffler Special” creeper is the best looking but Roger Garcia’s “Eyeball Engineering” creeper was bitchin’ too.

In hindsight, seeing the cones and chalk lines – its clear that Creeper Races were the precursor to Goodguys AutoCross. That, as you know, was born out of the same scenario as the creepers, guys got bored sitting in lawn chairs and wanted to race something which, liability coverage sorted out, has developed into a full blown points series for Goodguys.

And that my friends, is a look back at Motorized Mayhem in Merced.

Photos courtesy of Pat Ganahl and Todd Olson

Senior Editor, Digital Media

With three decades of automotive journalism under his belt, John Drummond serves as Senior Editor – Digital Media for Fuel Curve and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association where he has worked since 1990. Drummond got his start in motorsports reporting by making a fake press pass to gain starting line access. The ruse worked and he began covering auto races as far back as 1986 in Northern California, eventually getting his stories published worldwide. He has owned and driven everything from a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere to a ridiculously modded Subaru WRX as well as a string of Mercedes AMG’s, most of which had the warranties voided the day after leaving the dealership.

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