Our Gang 4 Wheelers will be celebrating 45 years of ice racing in 2021, but our type of ice racing can be traced back even further, to approximately 1965. It all started when a group of guys got together and decided to try driving on a frozen pond above Central City. Eventually one of the guys decided to put chains on the tires and then they were off to the races. These guys began seeking out new ways to get traction and their group grew. The Rat Patrol was formed and this group over the next decade or so began to evolve it into a unique sport. Races were held on Crystal Lake/Pine Junction and St. Mary’s Glacier. After the rise and fall of several different clubs, Our Gang 4 Wheelers was formed in 1977. The charter members (listed on the official charter) of Our Gang were Pode Baliff, Keith Clemons, Joe Irvine, Steve Larson, Kenny Olson, Jim Olson and Orville Olson.
The Inaugural Season for Our Gang was held in 1977 at Twin Lakes. Racing remained there until around 1980 when the regular season races were moved to Georgetown. The Tri-State (Championship) events were still held at Twin Lakes until 1982 when all events moved to Georgetown where they remain now. Our Gang started out by hosting 3 events and has gradually increased the season over the years to 6 weekends (78 regular season races, 4 Championship events, a Kid’s Race and 2 Fun Days).
In the early days, drivers with street legal vehicles and those with vehicles built for ice racing participated together in Bare Rubber, Studs and even Cheaters. Bare Rubber was the most popular class and was the first to be split into “Novice” and “Pro” divisions to make the classes more competitive and manageable. Street legal vehicles were considered “Novice” while the race vehicles were considered “Pro”. Studs were the next to be split into “Novice” and “Pro” because of popularity around 1988. The “Novice” and “Pro” names were changed in the late 90’s to “Street” and “Competition”. Again, the Street Bare Rubber class was split in the late 90’s to accommodate an influx of new, novice drivers in SUVs and stock 4x4s. So, the official divisions became “Competition”, “Pro Street” and “Street”.
The “heads up” style of racing we still use can be attributed to those first guys who wanted to race their friends on that pond. This method allows us to race one another without any of the problems wheel to wheel racing can bring, especially on ice. The Dog Bone track has been used since ice racing started and it is unknown who designed it. Lee Bashline created the Sock track, Peanut track, the ill-fated Alice Twak and was the first to set up the Oval track. Around 2004, we started setting up “road courses” that had no specific shape and we began running modified versions of the original tracks for variety. The Dog Bone was run exclusively in Cheaters until the 2000’s, when Jimmy Olson started using modified tracks in this class as well.
Around 1968 (before Our Gang was formed) the special built ice racers began popping up. “Super Jeep”, “Red Baron”, “Quiksilver” and “Green Latrine” were just a few of the new rigs specially built for ice racing. A lot of racers have named their Jeeps over the years out of tradition. Numbers were never used because they weren’t a factor in Registration or Race Operation. Here are some of the past/present rigs that have ice raced with Our Gang.
The mechanical evolution of ice racing is and will always be changing. Many changes have affected the sport and separated the divisions. Competition Jeeps built specifically for ice racing have adopted a lot of the racing technology that other sports have. Over the years this has included; automatic transmissions, more horsepower, lightened vehicles, lengthening and then shortening the bolts in cheater tires, lower profile bolt tires, specialty bare rubber tires and the incorporation of racing chassis set-ups. And although the majority of the vehicles that participated in our races have been Jeeps (the choice vehicle of our four wheeling founders) we have seen a variety of 4×4 or all wheel drive makes and models in SUVs, trucks, sedans and wagons come out and be very competitive.
All of our Championship races are run once a year. Each division holds an open championship race (the Go fors) and there is also an Invitational Championship. The first Championship race combining men and women was the “Go for the Gold” race in 1980. The first two races were bolted tire events. In 1982, the race was changed to stud tires to attract more participants. Currently, it remains a Championship race with studded tires. Spencer Steele has won the most Go for the Gold titles with 12. The first “Go for the Silver” race was held in 1992. It’s the Championship race for the Pro Street classes and is run with studded tires. From the information we still have, Danny Ling & Mike Tjarks have tied for the most Silver wins with 3 titles each. The first “Go for the Bronze” race was held in 2002. The only person to have won the bronze title more than once was Earl Garczynski; he has 2 titles. The Cheater Invitational was first run in 1995. It is the only race we’ve had to date where drivers have had to earn the chance to compete. There have been 3 female Champions and 7 different male Champions. Jimmy Olson has won the most titles, with 6.
Our Gang is proud of our 45 year run and we look forward to many more years of racing on ice. Our website contains a lot of our club’s racing history. Be sure to check out the photo, video, race result and point standing archive sections for a more detailed history.