In the summer of 1970, I attended the NHRA regional event held at St. Thomas Dragway. At this event, some of the hottest cars from across North America came to the track in Sparta, Ontario, hoping to race and win valuable points in the season-long championship series. Fuel and gas dragsters, altereds, gassers, super stocks and a bunch of other classes were all competing that weekend. During the height of the activity, gassers were called up to the staging lanes. It was late in the afternoon when “Ontario George” Gray in his 1933 Willys coupe lined up in the tower lane. Across from him was Bob Easterbrook with his 1941 Chevy. I was in the grandstands on the spectator side of the track. I positioned my Polaroid camera towards the starting line and clicked the shutter, capturing this image of these two gassers from the London, Ontario area in all their glory. The picture is one of my earliest efforts at drag race photography, and is a treasured favourite of mine.
While attending the ELTA Big Go Drags at St. Thomas early in August of 2018, a truly interesting coincidence happened. As it turns out, George Gray recently had Dale Performance Speed Shop build him a contemporary version of his old 1933 Willys gasser, a car he could drive on the street, or take down the track on occasion. At the same event, Bob Easterbrook Jr. brought his dad’s restored 1941 Chevy gasser to the same event. Both owners knew that the cars had raced each other years ago, so they lined both cars up on the starting line Saturday morning for a photo shoot that turned into a full fledged grudge match race.
It just so happens that I had a camera (no surprise there) and took a picture of the two cars again. Here were basically the same cars at the same track, even in the same lanes, now 47 years later. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to run over to the same spot to take the picture before the cars fired up and staged for their race. As I lined up my shot through the viewfinder, I smiled to myself as I thought about the picture I took in 1970.
Below are the two pictures, taken 47 years apart.
“Ontario George” Gray in his 1933 Willys vs. Bob Easterbrook and his 1941 Chevy in 1970.
“Ontario George” Gray in his new 1933 Willys vs. Bob Easterbrook Jr. in his dad’s restored 1941 Chevy in 2018.