LOCH ARBOUR and ALLENHURST, N.J., Oct. 19–20–When we think of tank-shifted motorcycles racing on the beach, nostalgic images of pre-war Daytona Beach come to mind. That simple combination of beach, bikes, bands, bonfires and a day of drag racing with your buddies was only a memory of days gone by until Oilers Car Club President Mel Stultz of Neptune, New Jersey, had the concept of recapturing some of this nostalgic mojo with the inaugural Race of Gentlemen. He pitched his idea of an eighth-mile drag race on the beach at the Jersey Shore to mayors Dave McLaughlin of Allenhurst and Rob Fernicola of Loch Arbour. The race would feature pre-1934 cars and American-made pre-1950 tank-shifted bikes. Much to his surprise, both mayors enthusiastically agreed, allowing Mel’s dream to become a reality.
With Tom Laruso and his fellow Oilers, Mel got busy hammering out the details, handing out flyers, hand painting signs and billboards, designing programs, T-shirts and posters and other tasks needed to prepare for the big day. The event his elite group of “race guys” pulled off in three months is what national rally promoters can only dream about. Mel’s desire and enthusiasm to hold an event that stayed true to the legends of racing history in addition to providing an authentic nostalgic experience for racers and patrons had never been achieved, or even attempted, on the Jersey Shore.
Friday night’s free beach party kick-started the event with the live music of the Swingin’ Neckbreakers, a big top tent filled with food, and a huge bonfire in the sand that lit up the beach. Throughout the night the racers trickled in quietly, and by dawn the streets were lined with 4-bangers, hop ups, flathead V-8s, model As, roadsters and tank shifters. It was a surreal moment seeing the sun peek over the horizon as racers dialed in final adjustments on their antique machines for a race none had ever experienced before.
The actual race took place on the pristine beaches of Loch Arbour and Allenhurst the next day. New to the scene, Matt Rush and Bill Applegate, affectionately known as “The Flying Cubans,” hit the beach at sunrise on a 1950 Panhead TT, owned by Marty MacCollum of New Jersey, and raced all day. Matt said, “It was amazing, well put together and we had the time of our lives.”
After a morning of bikes and cars qualifying, things settled down only for a moment, and then the Ribeye Brothers cranked up the volume. With their live music floating over the dunes, the spectators arrived in droves hauling coolers, picnic baskets, beach blankets and cameras. Even the iconic DJ Cousin Brucie heard about the races and showed up to see the action.
Then, as the giant earth rollers that packed the sand backed away from the track, the checkered eighth-mile marker pylons were carefully positioned, the mic crackled and emcee Nick Foster started the races. With a wave of the flag, throttles twisted, sand flew and tires dug in… And they were off! You could feel the racers’ adrenalin as they tested the limits of their machines in the wet sand while dodging crashing waves and seagulls. A total of 15 cars and 15 motorcycles raced that day as thousands of spectators held their breath in disbelief, knowing what they were watching was magical—a crystal-clear day at the Jersey Shore with antique bikes and hotrods racing against a backdrop of local surfers catching huge waves, sailboats on the horizon, jumpin’ live music and general racing madness.
At the awards ceremony, Mel and his Indian were presented the win in the bike drags category. He humbly passed off his wreath to “The Cubans” who he felt had raced hard and entertained the crowd all day.
Looking back at the event, Mel reminisced, “We didn’t receive a single complaint. It went over really well. The mayors were enthused, and the patrons and residents loved it. This may just be the coolest thing ever. Thank God for New Jersey.”
Just a little over a week later, Superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast and washed the beach away. Mel said that today, nothing remains: “No beach, no cabanas, no nothing.” But he is a very determined force of nature, and even though he is heavily involved in rebuilding from the hurricane, the next Race of Gentlemen haunts his dreams.
For information and updates on the second annual Race of Gentlemen, keep an eye on the Oilers Facebook page (www.facebook.com/oilers.carclub).