A Quick Look at The World of Speed

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 07/2016
  • posted in: Great Garages

Although thousands of miles from Daytona, Wilsonville, Oregon, is right up close to motorsports.

Here, the 80,000-square-foot World of Speed, 15 miles south of downtown Portland, displays historic racecars, boats and motorcycles. Through interactive exhibits and hands-on activities, the World of Speed is an educational center offering visitors a unique look at the racing world. If names like Petty, LaBonte, and Earnhardt and Goodell resonate with you, circle this place on your motorsports map.

The museum’s permanent and rotating displays include 80 and 100 vehicles, either on loan from private collectors or part of the World of Speed collection. Cars celebrate drag racing, road racing, land speed racing, motorcycle racing, open wheel, NASCAR and hydroplanes.

Co-founders David and Sally Bany are assisted by community leaders, many of them motorsport enthusiasts and car collectors. David Schaeffer, executive director, and Curator Ron Huegli handle day-to-day operations at the nonprofit 501(C)(3) venue.

Portland, Oregon-resident Schaeffer has coordinated fundraising capacity for a number of organizations during his career, including the Children’s Cancer Association American Cancer Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He oversees the museum’s mission of education and entertainment through the celebration and preservation of motorsports.

Huegli, a Hillsboro, Oregon, native grew up around drag racing, spending time at Colletti’s Chrysler Plymouth and later with the funny car racers. He remembers visiting tracks in Portland, Woodburn, Seattle, Arlington, Puyallup and Bremerton.

“I fixed up my first car when I was 13, and my first driver was a 1970 340 ’Cuda,” he says. “Back in 1979, my dad bought Kenney Goodell’s last funny car, and we worked on it together. About that time, I began racing with Roger Orr. His first race car was a 1956 Pro Gass T-Bird.”

In the late 1990s, he became involved with nitro dragsters and moved to Top Fuel racing. “In 2006, I began working on a stock car operation, but I left to do composite work on race cars and to race the Tiki Warrior funny car,” he says.

At the World of Speed, he acquires, cares for, develops, displays and interprets the museum’s exhibits and also works on archiving, marketing, fundraising, volunteer and educational programs.

“When our founders created World of Speed, they envisioned a permanent location where all ages could enjoy every form of motorsports while preserving the rich history and stories behind these vehicles,” Schaeffer says. Sponsorships, foundations, admissions, corporate and individual memberships and events income fund the Museum.

Displays continue several years, while rotating exhibits change every six to 12 months. Current exhibits include:

•Daytona Banking –– The original Daytona tri-oval course is 2.5 miles long with 31-degree banking in the turns and 18-degree banking at the start/finish line. The World of Speed Daytona display features four vehicles from legendary NASCAR drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 2000 Chevy Impala, Jim Vandiver’s 1974 Dodge Charger, Terry Labonte’s 1988 Chevy Monte Carlo and Cale Yarborough’s 1979 Oldsmobile 442.

•Wall of Sound –– This exhibit explores our fascination for cars and music, from the first rock ‘n’ roll song, Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 of 1951, through ZZ Top’s 1980s hits, auto-related record albums and guitars and displays of contemporary radios, TVs, in-car record players, tape decks and CD players, most of which are working.

•ZERO TO 1000 MPH –– The history of the land speed record includes cars from Mickey Thompson’s fleet, such as his original Assault 1 and Attempt and tributes to his Pontiac Catalina and two-cylinder dragster with the original engine.

•Triumph Motorcycles –– Sponsored by Triumph Motorcycles, the motorcycle display was designed to replicate the original board tracks popular during the 1920s and 1930s. The first display, which will rotate every nine months, celebrates Clackamas’ famous Sidewinders Club.

The most recent exhibit is Heroes & History. Celebrating the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, the exhibit will feature 33 Indy cars from six decades, including Al Unser Sr.’s 1967 Lola and Mario Andretti’s 1981 WildCat. In addition, interactive exhibits will tell the stories of the race and its drivers.

Schaeffer and Huegli recently strapped us in for a fast tour:

•1965 Nanook AA/Fuel Altered –– “The merging of a Top Fuel Dragster engine with the bulky body and short chassis of a traditional hot rod produced history’s hottest hot rods: the supercharged, nitromethane-burning coupes, sedans and roadsters known as AA/Fuel Altereds,” Huegli explains.

Legendary racer Dave Hough is the original driver of this famous roadster, which debuted in 1965, setting records and winning races around the world. In 1995 Gene DeBortole began a faithful restoration. Since then, the Nanook has been displayed in several museums before returning to the World of Speed’s collection.

•1969 Petersen & Fitz Northwest Terror Top Fuel Dragster –– The World of Speed’s Herm Petersen Board Room is named for this Washington state nitro veteran, also known as the “Northwest Terror,” who has faced death at least four times, two race-related. This classic dragster is in World of Speed’s north gallery.

The engine was assembled using a ’57 block, Velasco billet crank, Arias pistons, Crower cam, and Mondello heads — a potent combination which cackled loud and performed loud.

•1979 Markley Bruins Top Fuel Dragster –– This is the dragster in which Northwest dragster Rob Bruins became champion during the 1979 NHRA World Finals.

“Chris Horn, the previous owner was not in a position to restore it and felt that World of Speed was the best place for it,” Schaeffer says. “Considering it was almost 35 years old, the car was in amazingly good shape and almost complete.”

•1979 Chevy Monte Carlo NASCAR –– Richard Petty drove this signature number 43 to win the 1979 Winston Cup Championship.

“Our Monte Carlo is the larger 1973-78 model,” Huegli explains. “This car was used for short-track races during the season and saw some of the most intense competition in what may be NASCAR’s closest-ever Winston Cup Season ever.

•1961 Mooneyes Dragmaster Dragster –– The Mooneyes Company with its signature “eyes” logo became one of the most recognized logos in the world.

This dragster made the cover of Hot Rod Magazine’s September 1961 issue. From then it toured Europe and Australia and became the top-selling Revell model kit celebrating the gas dragster era.

“When the World of Speed acquired some of the Bucky Austin collection there was a bright yellow, front-mounted, Potvin-blown small-block as well as a yellow-painted Dragmaster rolling chassis, it seemed a no-brainer to put the motor in the chassis and create a tribute to the original,” Schaeffer says.

The World of Speed is open Saturday 9 a.m. through 5 p.m.; 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. all other days. The museum is closed most Mondays and on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check the website for full opening schedule.

Admission pricing is as follows: Members are free; adults, $10; seniors 63+, students and active military (with valid ID), $8.50; 6−12 Years, $5; 5 and under, free; simulators, $10 for twelve minutes and museum members receive a 10 percent discount on simulator tickets. Gift tickets available in person at World of Speed or by phone, 503.563.6444.

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