New ‘Start Your Engines’ Exhibit in Hayward

Hayward and San Leandro are certainly no strangers to the auto racing scene. This small corner of East Bay has been burning rubber on the racetrack for more than fifty years. While people continue to cram themselves into speedways around the country few people give much thought to the history of this legendary sport.

If you want to change this trend and learn more about the history of auto racing in the East Bay area, the Hayward Area Historical Society Museum is the perfect place to get yourself acquainted with the past. This museum, which is located in downtown Hayward, has just launched a ‘Start Your Engines‘ exhibit, which explores the auto racing history of the surrounding area. Few people today realize that auto racing was once king on the San Leandro flatlands and the Hayward Museum’s new exhibit recreates all the excitement of stock car, roadster, hardtop and midget racing in those early years of auto racing. While today this area is jam-packed with homes and businesses, between 1931 and 1955 it was the home of the Oakland Speedway (later the Oakland Stadium). Despite difficulties, the Speedway remained open during the Great Depression and it continued to carve a name for itself even after the AAA pulled out of the West Coast. In its day it was known as the “fastest dirt mile in the Nation”. This was the place where locals came to watch the biggest names in auto racing compete with locals for top titles and prizes. One of those big names was Tom Motter. Motter is now an auto racing historian who’s first hand experiences no doubt give his books an exciting edge. His books about Oakland Speedway and Oakland Stadium are currently on sale at the museum’s gift shop for those who would like some additional reading. The Oakland Speedway was finally replaced with the Oakland Stadium in 1946 after a grandstand fire and the fuel and rubber rations of WWII brought the old speedway to a close. The new track had a 5/8-mile paved oval combined with a quarter-mile oval and was every bit as popular as its predecessor.

Visitors to the museum are usually surprised to learn that the Bayfair Center shopping mall was once the location of the top auto racing stadium in the area. After the Oakland Stadium was torn down to make way for the shopping mall, youths between five and sixteen years of age continued to compete on quarter-midget tracks in Hayward for almost 30 years. Among them was the Rice family who are now famous for their quarter-midget racing cars. Many enthusiasts may feel saddened that very little of this once great legacy remains in Hayward, but a visit to the museum can certainly help to ease that feeling. A life-sized side-view cardboard cut-out of a 1915 Ford race car provides visitors with a great photographic opportunity and the museum’s shop has all the additional information and keepsakes you could want.

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