“CAR CRAZY” EXHIBIT OPENS ON THE ONE-HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF AUTO RACING IN VIRGINIA
March 31, 2004
over 60 years Southwest Virginia has had a love affair with fast custom
automobiles, and the region has fostered a host of oval race tracks, drag
strips, and car builders. Car Crazy: Racing and Rodding in Southwest
Virginia, a new exhibit at Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge
Institute & Museum, showcases the regional speed scene from the early
moonshine “liquor cars” through the “muscle cars”
of the 1960s. Car Crazy opens May 1, 2004, in honor of
the 100th anniversary of auto racing in the Commonwealth.
Featuring premier examples of vintage hot rods, drag cars, and oval track cars, Car Crazy: Racing and Rodding in Southwest Virginia combines historical photographs, track memorabilia, club memorabilia, car-building equipment, and the work of living car builders to tell the story of the “motorheads” of the Virginia highlands. Nationally young men were enchanted with the automobile’s potential for speed and design, and by the 1940s Southwest Virginia mechanics, body-and-fender craftsmen, and drivers had begun transforming automobiles into souped-up, chopped-down, tricked-out vehicles. The region has been home to a host of community race tracks and drag strips, and in the 1950s and ‘60s, Southwest Virginia had over 30 hot rod clubs. A network of remarkable artisans—upholsterers, pinstripers, motor builders, metal workers—grew, and many of these craftsmen continue to work in the custom car scene.
The vehicles featured in Car Crazy include a 1931 Ford roadster hot rod, a 1950 Austin drag car, a 1939 Ford oval track race car, and Virgnia’s oldest surviving open-wheel racer. The exhibit also highlights the work of five of Southwest Viginia’s finest living car builders and customizers: upholsterer Michael Moore, hot rod builder John Rinehart, pinstriper Tom Van Nortwick, car builder/drag racer Charlie Overfelt, and body customizer and painter Norwood Wooding.
“In the 1950s the car scene in Southwest Virginia really took off, and the young men in it were remarkably focused and innovative. Unless you are a male over fifty, you probably do not realize how popular souped-up hot rods and similar cars were,” said Roddy Moore, Director of the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum. “Car Crazy is the first exhibit to explore the history of Virginia’ car subculture.”
Supported with funding from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Car Crazy: Racing and Rodding in Southwest Virginia runs through March of 2005. Located on the campus of Ferrum College, the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., year-round; and Sundays, 1 to 4:30 p.m., mid-May through mid-August. For more information call 540-365-4416 or visit blueridgeinstitute.org.