The Pride of the East

'We just got to Florida'
'Gus snapped this picture from upstairs.'

Charlie Dodge and Mike Sforza.

Now there’s a friendship! One half of the duo is no longer with us. Mike is left to tell the tales. In the hopes that all is not lost, here begins a chronicle of two Incredibly Driven men.

These men grew up together in the 50's. Life was different then. Friends were real. Times were hard. Cars were beefy and fast.

Engines were tweaked to perfection and then raced amongst peers. As Charlie would say, the 'collars and cuffs had to match.'  The finish must be breathtaking... and the engine must take your breath away.

There was showmanship for the car, for the location, for the race, and for the men responsible.

The Pride of the East is our topic for now. 1954 is the year. Mike’s ‘32 Ford was set to race in Daytona. It just had to get there. Charlie went along for the ride.

On the way...

And a ride it was!  Mike’s heavy foot, and the fact that the car ran about 130mph in second gear, made sure of that!  Being a passenger was at first a shaky experience. It was hard to keep your senses in line. As time went on... the 130mph hum was the perfect white noise by which to get some sleep to.

That is, of course, unless you are being abruptly woken by flashing lights and a driver determined to out run the origin of such.

No words from Charlie... Mike kept talking to him... but still no words from Charlie.  More lights went on.  More determination from Mike.  "Hold on!" His heavy foot and heavily loaded car were no match for the cops.

The road passed quickly, seeing trees or land was near impossible ...all was a blur. The road block ahead, however, was not. "Christ, Charlie they got a block up!?!"  No comment from Charlie.

Determination did not leave Mike for an instance. Still in second gear he announced "I am going to go for it!" Over the embankment they went.  Fast as they could - ‘hitting the limit’ per Mike... which based on his already speedy record, must have been off the charts... He went for it. This is where they drove... until North Carolina. Charlie still said nothing, at this point Mike, too, had no words.


After about an hour Mike announced... "Charlie, I gotta get gas." The roads were dark, no lights to be seen. Cruising at 120mph, although slow for the ‘Pride’, made curves jump out of nowhere. It was time to take a break. They would never survive another flashing light tryst with the amount of gas they had left.

Mike found a gas station and his voice... "We might as well get a cup of coffee."  The car was gassed up and ready to go. A quick question to the attendant revealed more then the men expected. "Can you tell us when we get out of North Carolina?" The response.. in cliché southern drawl... "Boy.  You almost out of South Carolina?!"

Off again. This time slowing the pace. 100mph speeds brought them to the Okefenokee Swamp.  'It came up out of nowhere!'  ‘The Pride of the East’ was almost lost. Time to stop for the night.

Parked in a parking lot somewhere in Jacksonville, Florida, the two men were woken by a knock on the window. Dreary eyed and fearing they had been busted... they looked up, only to be handed cups of coffee from a kind stranger.

All Guts!

On the beach...

‘The Pride’ made it to its destination.

The race was a success. Not starting till midnight they went on for hours. The tides had the final say.   The next day it would start all over again.

I wonder the stories of all these men and all their cars... all racing to a race... merely to burn rubber on the sand.