Quarter Midget Racing - A Brief History
By Doug Schiller, Port Lavaca, TX,    txsn8v@aol.com

Quarter Midget Racing -- competition among young boys and girls driving scaled down, gasoline powered race cars, has its roots firmly planted on Long Island.


The Long Island Junior Motor Sports Club and a few of its
youthful competitors in 1954-1955 across the street from the Mineola Courthouse.
In 1954 a group of parents banded together at a parking lot venue across the street from the Court House in Mineola where they erected a 1/20 mile oval using traffic cones provided by the sponsors of the racing activity -- the Garden City Police Department.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the youngsters who guided those pint size racers in competition. In the early days, the group known as the Long Island Junior Motor Sports Club fielded about 30 cars on designated Sunday outings. Ron Christie, an M.I.T. student, was the club’s first president.
Most of the cars in those first months, were of the home built variety. Lawn mower engines, tires from wheelbarrows and bodies made from, among other things, castoff car fenders from the 1940’s were the norm. However, the demand for cars for youngsters to race grew so rapidly that several companies were formed on both the east and west coasts to fill the need for quarter midgets.

My Model 200 Offyette as it was found in northern California. As many street rodders know - the parts of a vintage car are not always all there!


I, like many of you, had to fabricate reproductions of missing parts. Here, the Offyette appears during dry assembly. Note, lots of fiberglass repair was needed.

Long Island has long had folks entrenched in the “car culture”, but, when it came to both quarter midget manufacturers and tracks, it could not compete with the rabid west coast crowd. In California, dozens of tracks sprouted up in communities throughout the state. The availability of undeveloped land and a huge Los Angeles based automotive industry gave them an advantage. At its height, the west coast had upwards of three dozen manufacturers of quarter midget race cars. Some builders lasted for years, some did not.
Although, the group racing quarter midgets in Mineola was among the first to offer organized competition for youngsters, it was the west coast (California) that received the bulk of the media attention. The east coast chose a more encompassing set of specifications for its quarter midgets and had several “homegrown” manufacturers build cars to comply with those specs. Among them was a company created by my family. The Larc-Douglas Company began the building of quarter midgets early in 1955 under the brand name, “Offyette”. This new breed of car used fiberglass bodies and the Continental Red Seal 4 stroke engine. Tire and car size was standardized to make for more equal competition.


Much personal satisfaction is garnered during final assembly. Note the independent front suspension, hydraulic rear brakes as well as torsion bar rear suspension and monococque (frameless) construction -- all unique to the Offyette.

Among those involved in the early days, were Dennis Manfredo and his older brother, Jimmy. Jim became a “hired gun” and drove the very first Offyette produced. The owner of that car was Ray Cuomo, a mechanic and part time race driver from Levittown. Jimmy, Dennis and I tore up tracks throughout New York and Connecticut. But alas, we soon outgrew our cars as we entered high school. The club continued to grow and soon relocated to Roosevelt Field, and changed its name to the Nassau Quarter Midget Association. The cars, too, continued to change, reflecting the designsof full size race cars and the “classic” upright midget and sprint car designs faded into the past.


The finished car in front of my shop in Texas
I, like most of you, never abandoned my interest in things automotive. For 4 decades I did not think a great deal about the early “quarter midget days.” I was involved with raising a family as well as other car related endeavors -- which included the building of two “kit cars” and successfully building and racing off-road race cars (winning the Baja 1000 in 1976). However in the late 90’s I happened upon a posting on a web site that sparked a renewed interest in vintage quarter midgets from the 1950’s. This led to more than a dozen years of collecting and restoring those small race cars, chauffeured by youngsters more than 50 years ago -- possibly even some of you. At one time my collection consisted of more than a dozen vintage quarter midgets, several of which were Offyettes. At Dennis’ request I am providing several photos of one of my restorations. Enjoy, and I hope that for some of you, it will bring back memories of that parking lot in Mineola! 
 

 
           
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