Van Cleve's Racing Heritage

Back in October of 1953 a small car showroom had opened up in a small logging town of Morton, WA. Hand-built by its founders, this was a huge event attracting over 600 people to the storefront, where attendees enjoyed door prizes and dancing to a live orchestra. George Van Cleve was the owner, of the then named "Van Cleve Motors". He did well for many years and eventually passed it on to his son and his wife, Jim and Joan Van Cleve.

During Jim's time of owning the showroom a  passion for going fast began to set in. This would become a family tradition for the Van Cleve family. Jim and Joan both had raced many of the lesser-known drag races around the Pacific NW. At just the age of two, Jim, Jr had already watched his father race in Shelton driving his 1956 Crown Victoria, and he too was smitten with acceleration.

One of Jim Jr's most famous races was the 1972 Indy. It was the first time that the Van Cleve men had been to a nationally reknowned championship. Here at their very first national event, they won first place with their 1967 Ford Fairlane. They also went on to win plenty of trophies and set numerous national records with this Fairlane and even appearing in newspapers and hot rod magazines all around the United States.

"The best part of racing was beating all the guys!"
Joan Van Cleve

In fact it was driven so much by the two men, that Joan even had to look for her own drag racing car! She finally picked her 1962 Galaxy 406 to lead herself to victory. "The best part of racing was beating all the guys!" she laughs as she recalls her more adventurous days.

Then tragedy struck. In 1976, the garage that housed their racers had caught fire and had burnt almost everything inside to ash. The Fairlane had survived but not without quite a bit of cosmetic damage. 24 hours before an eventful race the Fairlane had no paint or decals. Both Jim and Jim Jr both thought to take off the wood-paneling and painted the car white. Attendees at the nex-day event barely recognized the all-white Fairlane, but racing logos or not, they came away with a win.

Jim Jr then semi retired his Fairlane and began racing a ProStock Pinto before switching to a Mustang SVO. With this Mustang he raced with the Ford and Budweiser team in Englishtown, where there he took yet another first place. This win was huge for Ford, who then used Jim Jr's face and car as a national advertising campaign for many months afterwards. It was also with this Mustang that Jim managed to get his best time of 8.06 running track at 170mph.

"Jim's best time of 8.06 at 170mph"
Joan Van Cleve

The Mustang was also a part in the Van Cleve history for also winning the "Mustang Elimination" competition by eliminating all other competitors.

The most popular racer that the Van Cleve men raced was the Fairlane. Even now there are still many people who can recall the "Van Cleve Fairlane" raced by father and son against each other and other teams. It's no surprise to hear Jim Jr name it as his favorite drag car.

Rumor has it that another Van Cleve Fairlane drag racer is in the works ... only time will tell!

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