Photos courtesy of Tom Finale
Wayn Phillips, Tommy Finale, Steve O’Brien, Joe Darbonne, Jim Hensel, Raina Phillips and Tom Finale with the 1975 Buick Skyhawk they are modifying into a drag-racing car.
Racing has never been this close, or this appealing when the Juggers Racing Team gets together.
The club will exhibit approximately 22 cars owned by Jugger members in the main pavilion at the San Mateo County Fair, starting June 8.
San Mateo-based Juggers Racing Team is in its 60th year in existence, and was founded by nine car enthusiasts in 1953.
Back then, races often began when one driver would seek out competition at various drive-in establishments, according to Jim Hensel, one the founding members of the club.
The organization has approximately 114 members who are further separated into different teams that work on their own specialties of racing.
“They race everything from road race to drag race — all different classes of drag racing,” said Tommy Finale, one member helping get the cars ready for more than a year.
One of the teams is currently working on a car that will compete to set a land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
The car would be entered in the Competition Coupe/Sedan category, while the current record is 269.590 mph, set in 1997. The team will be at the fair to drum up support from both passersby and car enthusiasts.
Finale hopes that the project will be far along enough to be on display at the fair, but that may not happen with the amount of work that still needs to be done.
“We will need people to work on [the car], not to mention the people [who want] to donate parts and/or money,” Finale said.
The car was found up near Reno, Nev. and the chassis was donated by Harold Hungerford, a longtime member who lives in Southern California.
“I spoke to Harold a couple of times about the car. It was designed as a 1975 Buick Skyhawk. That is a GM ‘H’ body style, which includes the Pontiac Astre, Sunbird, Oldsmobile Starfire, Chevy Monza and the Chevy Vega,” said Wayn Phillips, whose garage is being used as the group’s workshop.
The origin of the club’s name isn’t readily apparent, but the story of the moniker is surprisingly straightforward.
“Carburetors were called “jugs” back in the old days — [which is why] our emblem is an intake manifold with three carburetors on top of it,” Hensel said.
“[The jugs also] represent moonshine, that stuff was so strong, you could run your car off of it,” Finale said.
According to Hensel, alcohol is now often used as racing fuel, because it is cheaper than gasoline.
“The gasoline that you use to be able to buy at a gasoline station to run race cars on, no longer exist at the gas station now, so you have to have special racing gas in order to race cars,” Hensel said.
One piece of the club’s humble beginnings still survives to this day. The original club sign in the original clubhouse is taken to all the meetings and will be on display at the fairgrounds as well.
The appeal of car clubs such as the Juggers stemmed from the car culture in the mid-20th century, when street racing was prevalent among high school students, which gave way to racing on courses, Hensel said.
“For me personally, [the appeal of racing] is the speed, the noise,” Finale said. “It’s exciting. It’s fast.”
For more information about Juggers Racing Team go to www.juggersracingteam.com. For more information about the San Mateo County Fair go to www.sanmateocountyfair.com.