The Slo Poks story

The Portland Roadster Show began its historic run in 1956 and has become one of the most respected and long running shows in the country. To put things in perspective, the Slo Poks Car Club came into being in 1952, some four years before the inception of the Multnomah Hot Rod Council who produces the Roadster Show. The Slo Poks have been in continuous operation since, now beginning their seventh decade with a near sixty car entry into this year’s show.

Only a very few clubs in the entire nation can boast of such a marathon history of sustained activity. The club began as many did with several guys hanging around their cars at a local gathering place when some suggested forming a club, this was 1952. The “Spic”, as it was known, was a popular stop for these car lovers. Typically they would buy a malt or a Coke and dump the contents out, replacing it with their beer of choice. The group adjourned to a local business, Luepke’s Flower Shop, to discuss its further. There were seven in this founding group, Frank Baker, Bob Bernstein, Roger Porter, Rudy Luepke (son of a city councilman), Gale Todd, Dick Evanson, and Ron Stevens. Roger, Rudy and Ron are still active members today.

The club’s first few meetings were held at the flower shop until Rudy’s dad threw them out because of all the hot rod activity in the area on meeting nights, something the neighbors didn’t appreciate that much. The club moved to another location with the same result, then ended up at Tom Pratt’s mother’s house in 1953. Hot rodders were looked upon by the community in general as hooligans and trouble makers, nothing more than an outlaw motorcycle gang, so finding a place to gather was a challenge. The hot rod activity wasn’t as much of an issue at Tom’s because he lived just a block from Sellberg’s and Rosemere’s Taverns and a couple more, which already had its share of ne’er-do-wells.

From the beginning the Slo Poks were racers first. Street racing was the main reason many of them flocked together. Their beverage of choice was a close second. Racing and beer drinking were the Poks celebrity in the teen age community. Vancouver Hi was the only high school in Vancouver at the time and the Poks had car guys separated into two groups, Slo Poks, and those that wanted to be Slo Poks. When Scappoose Drag Strip began operation in 1952 at the airport there and racing could take place openly without fear of police interference, the Poks were first in line. They shared the airport and often the racing would stop to allow a plane to take off or land. For years Slo Poks such as Chester Jennings were virtually unbeatable in many classes and guys like Richard Dunn with his aluminum framed, rear engine and independent suspended dragster were searching for more speed with new ideas, decades ahead of their time. By 1955 the National Hot Rod Association had developed some guidelines for putting on organized drag races and had embarked on a nationwide tour with their Safety Safari, educating clubs and civic organizations about drag racing. This began to open up new strips in the area like Aurora, Shelton, Madras, Arlington, McMinnville and Dallsport. Later the Multnomah Hot Rod Council would spearhead the opening of Woodburn Drag Strip, and the Poks were there.

The club carried on through those formative years both street and strip racing. As time evolved so did the cars and performance until in the early 1960s Slo Poks members held numerous national records and were competing at national events on a regular basis. In an article in Hot Rod Magazine in April 1963, a list showed no fewer than nineteen Slo Pok cars holding seventeen individual national records including fuel and gas dragsters, altereds, gassers, roadsters, modified sports and stockers. By the mid 60s The Famous “Northwind” fuel dragster of Jim Albrich, Steve Kreiger and Ed McCulloch had captured the #1 spot in the nation, Jack Coonrod was one of the first full time touring pros in the country with his blown Chrysler Willys coupe and Skeans and Pickering were terrorizing the competition in their well advertised modified roadster. The racing history of the Slo Poks is legendary closely followed by their reputation for having a good time. Throughout the 1960s and on past the 80s, the good times flowed freely with the Slo Poks. As interests changed so did the Pok membership, moving away from the drag racing to boats, motorcycles and back to hot rods, but would eventually return to racing as well.

The Slo Poks are also famous for their Friday night get-togethers known as the “Alley”. Started in 1972 in an alley by Ed Smith’s Muffler Shop in Hazeldell, the club gained new prominence as older members brought new blood into the club and the partying continued non-stop. Every Friday the Poks would meet, members and guests, no women (as it still is today), to drink beer, do a little gambling and test fast cars up and down the alley. In the early 80s the partying reached a new high when Billy’s Park, north of Vancouver, was rented for a Slo Poks picnic. The beer was free and so was the food, many memorable and often embarrassing moments took place there. One year Don Generaux, an early Pok member, flew his airplane in and landed in the somewhat rough and very small grassy pasture called a park. To make the next year even better, an aerobatic plane was added, doing stunts over the park and Interstate 5, an event that the FAA might not have cared much for. The Billy’s Park affair, with certain restraints, became the Ash Bash which the Poks produced for 25 years with the last decade and a half at the Clark County. Proceeds from those events supported charities in the Vancouver area.

In recent years the Poks have continued to race, cars like Nick Nicholson’s string of winners, Buz Peck’s fuel altered, Earl Floyd’s flathead and DeSoto powered fuelers, Wayne Harry’s Supercharged Willys Gassers and many more. The Poks continue to keep their hand in local events and have produced a summer car show, another event is being planned for the Uptown Village of Vancouver, and the Poks are the host club for the annual Billetproof event in Centralia, Washington.

The Slo Poks are pleased to be included in the 56th edition of the Portland Show, exhibiting cars that represent the club’s sixty years.

Written by Don  Pennington, This was included in the 2012 Portland Roadster Show Program