NHRA Motorsports Museum Pays Tribute to American Ingenuity

POMONA, Calif.  – A special "double exhibit" highlighting the anniversaries of two iconic automotive aftermarket companies will open May 7 at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California. Called "A Tribute to American
Ingenuity," the new exhibit will honor the 60th anniversary of Honest Charley Speed Shop as well as the 50th anniversary of Coker Tire. The
exhibit runs through Nov. 16. The May 7 opening is in conjunction with the Museum’s monthly "Prolong" Twilight Cruise Night.

    “The long, colorful history of these two legendary companies will be a real treat to see,” said Tony Thacker, executive director of the Parks Museum. “Both had major influences on the hot rod and racing industries.”

    “My family and I are honored that the NHRA has decided to help us celebrate our golden anniversary at the fantastic Wally Parks Motorsports Museum,” Corky Coker said. “Wally Parks helped legitimize the car hobby and was one of the first staffers at Hot Rod Magazine. Honest Charley Card was one of Hot Rod’s first advertisers, and Coker has been supporting car guys since its inception, so it’s a great fit and we’re very excited.”

    Harold Coker started the Coker Tire Co. in 1958. Coker had the vision of making rare and obsolete tires commercially available to antique car
collectors. This vision came from firsthand knowledge of the needs of the car collector and hobbyist, as he himself was one among their ranks. Having collected and restored cars for years, he recognized the need for this specialty area that his fellow hobbyists had so often demanded.

    In 1974, Harold’s son Corky was handed the reigns of the antique tire company. The vintage tires represented less than five percent of the
company’s total tire business. Today, Coker Tire is the world’s largest and most prominent supplier of antique and classic tires for automobiles, trucks and motorcycles.

    Corky Coker also had a hand in reviving Honest Charley, one of the first speed shops in America. “Honest” Charley Card established the store in 1948 in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains in Chattanooga, Tenn. It featured a unique combination of automotive, performance and custom accessories and worldwide distribution of the humorous Honest Charley catalogs. Honest Charley was one of the first advertisers featured in Hot Rod Magazine. It was one of the first speed shops with coast-to-coast distribution, and one of the first computerized automotive businesses. “Honest” was a fixture at both Daytona and at Indy for many years. He retired in late 1970.

    In 1998, the Honest Charley name and trademarks were acquired by Coker. The store is now located within the Coker Tire Complex in historic downtown Chattanooga.

    The exhibit will feature rare photos, catalogs, artifacts and memorabilia from the rich history of the two companies, according to Greg Sharp, curator of the Parks Museum. Several significant vehicles will be on display, including:

— The Double Exposure ’32 Ford roadster
— The ’37 Buick Schaffer "Great Race" roadster
— Honest Charley V8-60 motorcycle
— Ed Winfield’s Model T racer – one of the most famous T racers ever
— Sam Barris’ ’49 Merc – arguably the most famous Merc customs of all time.
— "Jungle Jim" Lieberman’s Camaro Funny Car, sponsored by Honest Charley
— The Tommy Ivo/Bruce Larson Top Fuel dragster, famous for its spectacular fiery crash at the 1974 NHRA Winternationals.

More new exhibits coming to the Parks Museum in ’08 include:
. Trophy Queens, a photo exhibit on the glamour girls of racing, runs Aug. 2 through August 2009.
. Ford Racing Tribute honoring 60 years of NASCAR opens Aug. 27 and runs through Mar. 1, 2009.
 
    The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST. Current NHRA members are admitted free. Admission for non-members is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors 60 and older, $5 for juniors six through 15, and free for children under the age of five. The Museum is also available for special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave. in Pomona. For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit http://museum.nhra.com. You can also check out a video of the cars at http://blog.coker.com/index.php/2008/04/28/pomona-here-we-come/

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