Our Roots: The Iowa Four Cylinder Speed Trials

Somewhere in the dusty dawn of hotrodding, Ford Model “T” and Model “A” engines with shaved heads, overhead-valve conversions and backyard-engineered speed tricks barked their way down backroads and race courses across the country. In the early days of racing, the four cylinder engine reigned supreme.

For the F.A.S.T. (Ford “A” Speed Technology) Speed Trial folks, it still does.

Ingenuity and variety rule. Stripped down speedsters co-exist with beautifully restored touring cars. Rusty coupes and T.R.O.G. veterans roll with equal attitude. It’s a close-knit, multi-generational circle with enthusiasts gladly trading or selling N.O.S. and rare parts to help keep another veteran on the road. Knowledge personally gathered over decades is freely shared with the express purpose of extending the vintage four-cylinder’s legacy. For 18 seasons now, this group has gathered for the annual Four Banger Speed Meet. This year’s itinerary began with an informal get-together of four-banger friends at the impeccably-manicured Worth County Fairgrounds in Northwood, Iowa.

That was followed by a parade to join the Aristocrats Car Club’s car show in uptown Northwood, held in conjunction with Northwood’s annual Founder’s Day celebration.

From there the crew adjourned to Northwood’s airport grounds for the time trials. As a first-time attendee, I saw this as a pretty laid-back affair – at least until the cars started heading down the timed course adjacent to the airport. Multiple runs meant nobody was babying their cars. They ran ’em hard. But the sight of elbows resting on the driver’s door suggested that it might be as much about the fun of winding it out as it is about the competition.

Have you heard a vintage four-banger at full song lately? Here’s your chance. This meetup happens yearly in September and no matter where you are in the upper midwest, it’s within driving distance. Be advised that this is not a heavily-promoted, live-streamed packed-grandstands type of event. What you will take home, though, is the comradery and easy pace that’s often lost in the flash and bravado of the modern-day push to win at all costs. The F.A.S.T. Speed Meet embodies the pure fun and simplicity of home-brewed modified vintage cars going way faster than they were ever intended to go; one of the best ways I know to venerate the birth of hotrods. Well done, guys.

Just a bit of “clowning around” on the starting line!

To go to the full photo gallery you can click here. Enjoy!

2 Replies to “Our Roots: The Iowa Four Cylinder Speed Trials”

  1. Thanks Kerry. This event was something new for me and I’d recommend it for anyone into hotrods and racing. It was a fun glimpse into where it all started.

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