A Few Words About “Jalopy Racer”

I mentioned last week that I had sold my story called “Jalopy Racer” to the Itty Bitty Writing Space anthology, which is currently rocking its Kickstarter campaign. At the time of this writing, it is 355% funded, with 17 days to go. During the first 48 hours of the Kickstarter, backers earmarked 256 copies of the book to go to libraries during a special promotion! Jason Brick, the Publisher/Editor, has done a good job of providing perks for backers, and I’m excited that the more the Kickstarter earns, the more perks they will receive. The most recent addition to the perks is that every backer will get a copy of the inaugural issue of Flash Fiction Aficionado magazine when it comes out! (Also, the more the project funds, the more the story authors get paid for their work, and that’s a good thing!) If you have already backed the anthology, thank you! If not, please consider supporting it. Who knows what Jason will come up with to reward you?

“Jalopy Racer” is a piece of flash fiction about the early days of informal stock car racing in 1950s New Mexico. My dad was one of those racers. He raced a 40s-era Ford with a flathead V8 motor, just like the main character in the story. The rules and safety features at community dirt tracks back then were very loose, and drivers rarely wore safety equipment beyond a pair of goggles to keep the dirt out of their eyes. Some cars even ran with open tops and no roll cages, as seen in this 1950s video of a jalopy race near Colorado Springs. (Warning: There are a couple of rollover accidents in this video. It’s unclear the extent of injuries suffered by the drivers, but nothing gruesome appears in the video.)

It was also common practice for young girls to present trophies to the winners, along with a celebratory kiss, so I made that part of the story. Our dirt track racer is determined to do what it takes to keep his rival from smooching his girl, who happens to be giving out the trophy that day.

The events in the story and the rival racer, McIntyre, are completely made up, but are inspired by stories my dad used to tell about his racing days. The racer’s family members (Winnie, Mary Ellen, and Gordy) are inspired by my mother, sister, and brother, respectively, though I honestly don’t know if they ever attended one of my dad’s races.

Somewhere, I have pictures of my dad’s race car, a ’41 Ford five-window coupe (I think) that he called the Purple Heart. I think he named it in honor of his brother, Wayne, who received a purple heart in WWII, and is the inspiration for my story “Chesterfield Gray“. When I find them, I will upload them, but for now, here’s a grainy picture of my dad from around the same time, with a different Ford that’s about the same age. (This one looks like a 1937 Ford Standard, judging by the hood and grille. Note the rear suicide doors; the handles for both doors are behind my dad.)

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