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Now browsing: Hometown News > Opinion > Volusia County

A look at local racing art and Elvis in 'Speedway'
Rating: 2 / 5 (8 votes)  
Posted: 2014 Feb 07 - 06:20

Upon hearing of the great news that The Motorsports Hall Of Fame is relocating to Daytona Beach, I began reflecting on all of the fine mini-museums we already have locally.

For decades businessmen have played on our heritage by decorating with racing photos and memorabilia. They want their customers to know they support our long history of motorsports.

One of the most famous of these is Racing's North Turn restaurant at Ponce Inlet. That establishment sits at the actual north turn of Bill France's beach-road course. The walls are replete with a large collection of stock car photos from the 1940s and '50s.

In Ormond Beach, Billy's Tap Room at 58 E. Granada Blvd. has long housed a great collection of photos from racing's earliest days on the beach. Just a few steps west you will find the Ormond Beach Welcome Center that is run by the Ormond Beach Historical Society. There you can purchase some of those photos as well as books on local history and a fine film depicting early racing. In Granada Plaza, Hershey's Ice Cream also has a nice collection of historic photos including some of the early motorcars.

At the far east end of Granada, stands the replica of the Ormond Garage in the Birthplace Of Speed Park. Rapidly becoming a small museum, the garage now houses the city's replicas of the first two racecars to ever run our beach. The red Winton Bullet and the black Olds Pirate look much as they did back in 1903. While in the park, take the time to view the four granite monuments that describe some of the racing history that took place on the beach.

Just across the way on Bovard Street is Lulu's Restaurant where you will see posters from 1950s hot rod movies. An unexpected treasure is the McDonald's at the corner of Nova Road and West Granada Boulevard. That store has sepia tone murals of early racing icons like the Hotel Ormond, Stanley Steamer Rocket and the Ormond Garage. A little farther south, Hampton's Restaurant has a nice collection on display. Long a favorite stop for racing folks, Hampton's sits just off the corner of Mason Avenue and Derbyshire Road. Their best piece is the iconic photo of President Reagan's Air Force One landing behind the speedway with Dale Earnhart's black number 3 car on the back straightaway.

Downtown Daytona Beach has a small marvel in The Daytona Maritime Museum. Aside from all of the boating history, there is a strong connection to motorsports. To visit call (386) 451-0264 for an appointment. Nearby at Halifax Historical Museum (252 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach) you may see a wonderful collection of photos and artifacts. The hand-carved model racecars are most unique. The museum, housed in an ancient bank building, has the best collection of historic racing memorabilia outside of NASCAR itself. Also on Beach Street downtown is Angell and Phelps Restaurant that displays a great photo of Daytona International Speedway.

One of my favorite stops is The First Turn bar and grill in Port Orange. Sitting at the corner of U.S. 1 and Commonwealth that establishment has the best collection of stock car racing photos of any commercial business.

From the modern drivers back to the early days, it is all there. Although it is a bit morbid in nature, the photo of a British photographer lying dead on the sand is a valuable piece of history that you can't find anyplace else. Charles Straub was killed when struck by the big White Triplex that was attempting the land speed record in 1929. That wreck also killed the driver -- local boy Lee Bible. See it all at The First Turn.

The best group of land speed record photos on display is at the Daytona Beach Shores Community Center on A1A. See the Bluebird and the Golden Arrow among others and browse their commemorative bricks in the yard. A must see.

On a lighter side, Cinematique of Daytona, 242 S. Beach St., along with The Motor Racing Heritage Association will present a special Speed Weeks treat at 2 p.m. on Feb. 16. The theatre will show the movie "Speedway" starring Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra. Filmed in 1968 and as campy as they come, watch Elvis behind the wheel of a racecar. Join me there for all of the fun (heckling is not discouraged).

Well that is a fair list of some of the better racing collections in our area. Keep this column and take your guests on a whirlwind tour this Speed Weeks.

Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." Email questions and comments to fishwdan@att.net or call (386) 441-7793.

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