Old Cars in an Old Place
Hinchliffe Stadium in the aging city of Paterson, New Jersey, has the look and feel of an ancient ruin. But the decrepit stadium, designated a National Historic Landmark in 2013 and in its heyday home to everything from Negro League baseball to Abbott and Costello performances, came to life recently with the annual Hinchliffe Stadium Racing Expo.
The Expo, held each September and spearheaded by Paterson businessman Keith Majka, celebrates Hinchliffe Stadium’s auto racing history. In the years immediately following World War II, the popularity of Midget racing hit its peak, and Hinchliffe was one of the top venues nationwide. In support of the racing at Hinchliffe and elsewhere, a series of garages on Paterson’s east side became home to numerous racing shops – calling them racing shops is in truth too fancy a description – and were nicknamed “Gasoline Alley.”
On a recent September Sunday, vintage oval-track racers of all types gathered in the gravel infield of the 10,000-seat concrete stadium. A makeshift track was established at one end of the arena, and cars made laps in small groups all afternoon. Old-timers bench-raced and entertained visitors, children got to sit in the race cars, and there was no judging, no podium, just a laid-back afternoon of gas, oil, and reminiscing.
Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres was among those on hand, and Torres has been supportive of plans to revitalize the stadium, backing initiatives both public and private. A return of racing has been suggested more than once, and Torres has expressed enthusiasm for such a plan, but it is a long shot at best. On top of what is needed to restore the crumbling stadium, the work necessary to install a track meeting modern safety standards is considerable. In the meantime, enjoy CarShowSafari’s gallery of photos from the 2016 Hinchliffe Stadium Racing Expo.
Photos by Tomm Scalera and Ace Lane, Jr.