In the 1950s and ’60s, the Kings Men Car Club of Solana Beach dominated the Southern California drag-racing scene. Most of the club’s members, at one time numbering up to 30, caught the racing bug after graduating from Oceanside, Carlsbad, or San Dieguito High Schools.
The club raced at Carlsbad Raceway, a quarter-mile drag strip east of Palomar Airport. The club also traveled to all the SoCal strips: Bakersfield, Colton, Irwindale, Lions, and Orange County.
On November 17, five remaining former Kings Men members gathered to remember one of their own, John Scheunemann. Scheunemann, one of the club’s leading racers back in the day, passed away on September 18, at age 82.
Henry Keener, Jeff Paulin, Andy Halther, Warren Rap, and “Bink” Binkinz reminisced and shared stories about their old friend. Several of Scheunemann’s old track pit passes and trophies were displayed.
The gang intently watched Scheunemann’s old VHS tape of an 8mm film shot in 1963 at various tracks. They remembered the cars, drivers, and sometimes the speeds they turned.
While most of the members raced backyard-built, high-powered stock cars, two of the club’s members went on to compete in the big show — the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona. Rap said they raced “stump pullers,” the long front-end rail-styled dragsters. “The front rail was 96 inches long, then we went to 120 inches,” said Keener. “Today they have 200 inches.”
“The club used to serve as a local AAA,” said Rap. The guys would drive around and help people change their tires and jump-start cars. They’d even publish posters with gory auto-accident scenes, reminding of the consequences of unsafe driving. Each Christmas they’d organize a toy giveaway for disabled kids, complete with a club-member Santa.
The club raced Chevys, Fords, and Pontiacs. Halther said helping his uncle with his ’39 Ford, which raced on the ovals at Cajon Speedway and Hemet Raceway, got him interested. “I was reading Hot Rod Magazine and would give him ideas. Then we’d go out east of Del Mar to test them out,” said Halther. Halther later worked at the Del Mar Richfield gas station on Highway 101 at 14th Street, a great place to work on his own racecar.
Rap reminded the guys of racing at Holtville, in the Imperial Valley. “It was an old airport runway. At 200 feet below sea level, the [atmospheric] pressure would act like a supercharger. We went fast,” said Rap as he watched the ’63 video showing clips from the Holtville Carrot Carnival, the valley’s biggest race event.
Perhaps the most treasured possessions of Scheunemann’s were his car club jacket and his rear window plaque, given to Rap by the family. Old car-club rear-window plaques, usually made of thick brass or heavy steel, are highly sought after by collectors, getting up to $150 on e-Bay. Scheunemann’s wasn’t for sale, nor was Rap’s. I tried.
Started in 1949, club members eventually got married, had kids, family activities, and careers. Like most club members trying to race on weekends, Scheunemann’s coaching Pop Warner, Little League, and serving in the Encinitas Optimists, eventually got in the way. The club ran its last meet on Easter Sunday 1974 at Carlsbad Raceway.
Footnote: The writer had the opportunity to race under the Kings Men banner in 1974 in their last official meet, in his totally stock 1965 283 Chevy El Camino. It still doesn’t entitle him to receive one of the old Kings Men rear window plaques.