Drag racing is one of the most accessible and simple ways to get into motorsports. Really, all it takes is a license and a car—plus maybe a nominal fee—and you’re literally off to the races. As a result, it’s relatable to the vast majority of car enthusiasts. The simple form of head-to-head automotive competition is also easy to watch as well, which makes videos about the sport increasingly popular with today’s attention-limited internet audience.
The intrigue of drag racing only grows when you stir rare, high-dollar vehicles into the mix. The Petersen Automotive Museum, the guardian to some of the world’s most exclusive machines, figured it had a magic recipe when it recently decided to bring some of its storied metal to Central California’s Santa Margarita Ranch airstrip.
Having been invited by the Petersen to witness this event, I took a lovely 200-mile drive north from Los Angeles to get a whiff of the action. Unfortunately, everything that could have gone wrong for the museum seemed to, well, go wrong. Road closures and broken transport vehicles meant that most of the cars slated to line up that day never showed up.
It wasn’t a complete waste of an all-day drive, however. Bad luck couldn’t keep the museum’s 1967 Ford GT40 Mark III away from the strip. It’s one thing to see this car inside the museum, but it’s a whole new thrill watching firsthand as it rips through gears down the quarter-mile stretch. Considering all the day’s hiccups, it was also a little nerve-wracking to see a $2.5 million machine, of which only seven were built, outside the museum’s protective walls.
Though the GT40 was the car that brought Ford victory at Le Mans from 1966 to 1969, the more than five decades that have passed have done no favors to this classic beast. When going against the museum’s Tesla Model S, it stood little chance and there was really no contest. Then, just after a handful of runs, the GT40 blew a coolant line and had to be put to bed.
One day later, however, the GT40 was ready for action against one of its modern successors. YouTube personality Doug DeMuro brought out his 2005 Ford GT to race its antecedent. If you’re guessing the Sixties sensation got annihilated, you’d be right.
That same day, DeMuro raced his 1994 Audi RS 2 Avant against a 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant that the museum is giving away through philanthropic auction platform Omaze. And you didn’t have to be a fortune-teller to predict how that turned out. While the new Audi did as well as you’d expect, I’d much rather be driving the RS wagon of my childhood. Vintage cars may not be as fast as their modern counterparts, but there’s a magic about exercising the classics that will never get old.