(Words and Photos by Joe Grippo) I guess it was early February, on a freezing afternoon and I was just going through my day working and minding my own business and my wife Stacey turns to me says. “We should go to Florida.” I said, “You don’t have to tell me twice. Where should we go?” Her reply was, “How about the Baby Gators?” I was in immediately. After some quick discussion and planning, we had booked a VRBO, a rental F150, and plane tickets. Fast forward a few weeks and there we were in sunny Jacksonville, Florida and soon heading south towards Ocala.
If you don’t know what the attraction to Ocala is, you may be on the wrong website. Ocala is the home of the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. This place is a must for even the most casual fan of the 1320, it’s the Louvre for gearheads, the MOMA for the quarter mile. If you have never been, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Big Daddy’s cars dominate the collection but a true cross-section can be found, from Top Fuelers to Pro Stockers and other oddities of the strip. The cars are front and center but Don Garlits is known as the Swamp Rat, but he could also be called the Pack Rat. Don has amassed an incredible array of drag racing memorabilia and artifacts and it is all on display. The Museum of Drag Racing consists of a few buildings and multiple rooms within, one building houses Don’s extensive early Ford collection, a bit of a departure from the nitro-burning monsters on display in the main building but are off the scale cool, nonetheless.
Dig into the galleries, and be sure to get down there yourself, it’s worth the trip.
Stay tuned for more vacation photos from our whirlwind automotive tour of the Sunshine State.
Jeeze Joe, I’m jealous. I went past there on my way to visit Ocala state park and my wifey wouldn’t let me stop. Always regretted it…and the wifey,
I’ve been to Florida four times and this museum four times. It’s a great visit and takes hours.
I made the exact same sojourn on my way to the airport the Monday after this year’s Gatornationals. It really is amazing…just jam-packed with so many titanic artifacts of drag racing history, the majority of which I had only seen in the pages of Drag Racing USA, National Dragster, Car Craft, and Popular Hot Rodding. Joe’s photos give a great sense of the feel of the place…history everywhere you look…it’s kind of overwhelming, actually…but there is so much more than can be shown in a single BangShift gallery…
More galleries to come.
I made it down to the Garlits Mopar show around 2015 and got there a day early so I could see the museum. Well worth the drive and for Mopar guys you really need to get to that show if you didn’t already.
I think the sign in the red 63 Dodge 413 Maxie said they bought the car new at the dealership, drove it a couple hundred miles to an event, let his wife Pat run the car and she actually won. Then they drove it back home again. You don’t see stuff like that happen anymore.
There are collections and there are “I was F******g there” collections. Garlits’ is the latter. You can’t buy a collection like that.