Images of America; Central Coast Motor Sports Book Review

Images of America; Central Coast Motor Sports Book Review
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Images of America

Central Coast Motor Sports

by Tony Baker

Book review by Richard Parks, photograph by Roger Rohrdanz

Tony Baker has written a fine pictorial book titled Images of America; Central Coast Motor Sports, covering a short history of motorized racing in Santa Barbara County. The book is 6½ x 9¼ inches in size and has 128 pages on high quality, photographic paper. The book was published by Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, South Carolina and is a regional history. I’ve seen these books all over, especially at county historical societies, doctors' offices and local Chamber of Commerce offices. The topics often have to do with the local history of a city, county or topical event and usually they are well done, with photographs from private collections.

Images of America; Central Coast Motor Sports concerns six basic subjects and therefore has six easy-to-read chapters: 1) Sam Foose, the Master Craftsman, 2) Lompoc and the Model-T Club, 3) Don Edwards and the Golden Komotion, 4) The Road Racers, 5) 200 MPH Club, and 6) People and Places. The book is a pictorial work with more than ample captions explaining each photograph, but a minimum of text, and therefore is more suited as a gift to someone in or around Santa Barbara County and Santa Maria, California. It has sections on Buellton, Santa Maria, Goleta and Lompoc, and for those who love the “Gold Coast,” as I do, and the quirky and friendly people there, this would make a great gift.

The captions are crisp and informative; the photographs are all in black and white and very well done - clear, that is. The big drawback is that it is a small work and covers only a small section of the rich motor racing history of the area. This reflects Tony Baker’s main goal in creating this work; he wasn’t aiming the book at the historian, but meant it as a quick and easy book to pick up, scan through and enjoy.

Several men in this book deserve more coverage - specifically, Jack Mendenhall and Don Edwards. Mendenhall was a special man not because he won great races or set records, but because he was a facilitator: a man who loved racing so much that he dedicated his life to racing simply out of love. He was a most important part of the Dry Lakes Racers Hall of Fame, the Mendenhall Petroleum Museum with its impressive gas pumps and globe faces, but was also very important for the people that he inspired in racing. He was a good friend of the Parks family, especially Wally and Richard Parks. He motivated many of us to leave our humdrum life and embark on treks to Mexico or Black Rock Desert for experiences that can never be replicated. Don Edwards, like Jack Mendenhall, was driven by passion, and his achievements in drag boat racing led him to championships and to become a co-founder of the Boat Racers Reunion in 2000, which received national recognition. Edwards also infused his particular brand of passion in others, and for this he will always be remembered.

I found the book simply delightful, but that’s because I know most of the people and I feel that this area of the California Coast has been long overlooked. Few people know that celebrities such as Fess Parker, Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan and many other notable names have made the Gold Coast their home and hideaway, or that motor racing goes back a long ways in Santa Barbara County. Images of America; Central Coast Motor Sports will not provide all the history of this rich area, but it is a good start and a very well put-together book that I found pleasant to thumb through and come back to later to read it again. Perhaps Tony Baker will take up my challenge and author a second book on the history of this wonderful region, and complete the history of the Central Coast, an area of fascinating people and places. On a scale of one to eight sparkplugs I rate this book seven plugs.

Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.