A Look Back–Drag Racing Moves To The River Beds In Los Angeles

Racing has been a part of automotive history since the horseless carriage was lined up next to a horse-drawn buggy. It’s only natural to pit your best creation against someone else’s. Urban sprawl has changed the landscape so much that would-be racers in the Los Angeles area found themselves gathering in an area that most people forget all about.

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Images: LA Times

The L.A. River Bed system was still growing back in the 1950s. As it progressed, many sections started growing concrete making it an ideal spot for a semi-secluded meeting point with long straight-aways. Teenagers from all around met up and pitted their best hot rod against rivals and friends alike.

An article published on March 7, 1955, in the Los Angeles Times reported:

“Police yesterday rounded up more than 150 teenagers who were drag-racing their souped-up cars on the paved Los Angeles River bottom.

Four squad cars and five motorcycle officers converged in the river bed where the youths had marked off a quarter-mile racing strip between 4th and 6th Sts.

About 90 jalopies were lined up in single file while the occupants, protesting bitterly, were ordered to show their driver’s licenses and registration papers to policemen guarding the river bed’s 6th St. exit.

Officers estimated that some 30 other cars escaped up the San Fernando Road ramp before police could catch them. There were no arrests….”

Many of these racers were just looking for a safer place to race and have some fun. Getting off the streets meant less accidents and legal issues.

“For three years the LA cops came down and watched while we raced.’ Ted Sebern told the LA Times. “In all that time the cops never bothered us, nor did they ticket any of us.” Later on, folks in LA decided they didn’t want kids racing near the Sixth Street Bridge and LAPD had to start enforcing. The racing spots moved but kept alive. Many of the greatest racers started out as kids with dreams of running the fastest car on the track and looking for a place to run it. 

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March 6th, 1955 – L.A.P.D. stops teenagers drag racing near the 6th Street Bridge.

About the author

Jake Headlee

Jake's passion started at a young age wrenching on cars with his Dad. Obtaining that glorious driver's license sparked his obsession with grease and horsepower, and the rest is history. Soon, he was a general mechanic and suspension specialist, and currently designs and modifies products for the off-road industry. Jake enjoys rock crawling, desert racing and trail running, and writing in his spare time.
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