Iconic dragsters roar into America On Wheels

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – More than a dozen of the fastest quarter-mile speedsters to ever roar across the Lehigh Valley will be on exhibit this spring as America On Wheels unveils its “What A Drag! Drag Racing At Its Best” exhibit on Feb. 12.

The exhibit, which includes the famous “Cooper Speed Shop Car” once owned by Quakertown racer Louie Lang, two “Jungle Jim” Lieberman cars, a 1941 Willys sedan that once copped the National Hot Rod Association title and a mid-1980s jet-fueled Corvette, will run through June 4. The exhibit pays tribute to the drag racing era of the 1950s and 1960s that was championed locally by the Lehigh Valley Timing Association.

“Just looking at these stock, pro-stock and modified speedsters evokes the smell of burning rubber, the roar of the engines and the excitement of these split-second races,” said America On Wheels executive director Linda Merkel. “This is an exhibit that will bring back great memories for those who remember the races run by the LV Timing Association and create new ones for those who want to enjoy a bit of that experience.”

The Lehigh Valley Timing Association, formed in 1955, organized drag races at the Queen City Airport and Perkasie’s Vargo Dragway in the 1950s and 1960s, said AOW Exhibit Committee member Don Jones, president of the Lehigh Valley Regional Chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America.

Born on the back roads and dry lakebeds of the American West, drag racing is the adrenaline-packed legacy of a need for adventure and a never-ending thirst for speed during the Post World War II era of the early 1950s. The smell of burning rubber and the roar of high-powered engines winding down a quarter-mile strip in mere seconds – that was “Drag Racing At Its Best!”

The cars displayed in America On Wheels “What a Drag!” exhibit exemplify an era when the cars modified by ordinary men competed with the best factory-production models built strictly for track competition. Many of the exhibits here are stock cars passed along from fathers to sons and modified through the generations to create a family heritage of speed, excitement and fun.

Lang’s famous 1940 Willys coupe was a legend in drag racing around the Lehigh Valley. Touted as the museum’s “Barn Find,” it was found sitting in a garage and recently purchased by an Emmaus man who plans to refurbish it, Jones said. The Lieberman vehicles include two high-powered Chevy Vegas raced in the Las Vegas area and the 1941 Willys coupe Pro Stock shows the work of a father-and-son team did in modifying to a competitive dragster.

In addition to the dragsters, AOW will host “Kid’s Exploration Day” on Feb. 19. Included in that day will be the first Community Program — "Ice Cream Making for Kids of all Ages" — from 1 to 2 p.m. in The Hub Cap Cafe, an authentic 1950s-era soda fountain where participants will get to experience making ice cream using the old-fashioned crank method and then enjoy samples of the day’s wares. Advance registration is requested.

Easily accessible to a half-dozen other renowned cultural institutions in Allentown, AOW celebrates our nation’s love affair with motorized and non-motorized over-the-road transportation and its permanent exhibits range from the Nadig – one of America’s first automobiles, produced in Allentown – to the massive Mack Trucks that helped America become the most powerful nation in the world.

AOW also offers hands-on playtime exhibits and learning centers for the children and a souvenir shop for race fans and anyone with an affinity for our automotive legacy.

For more information: Visit the museum’s website at www.americaonwheels.org, call the museum staff at 610-432-4200, or e-mail your questions to director@americaonwheels.org.

America On Wheels is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday during January and February. Ticket prices are $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and $3.50 for students ages 6 to 16. Children under 5 are free.

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