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The History of the Gopher State Timing Association

The History of the Gopher State Timing Association


 This story was told to Gary and Linda by Russ Peterson, Member of Street Customs, Member Club of Gopher State Timing Association  


GSTA has a long history and heritage in the hot rod community in the Twin Cities area of  Minnesota.  This is a brief overview on how it all started 60 years ago.The initial vision was to put together a governing body of car clubs to promote safety and the image of hot rodders.  Back then our hobby did not always have a good reputation as a lot of hot rodders were portrayed as hoodlums, and juvenile delinquents.


Captain Bailey of the Minneapolis Police Dept, Northside precinct, came up with the idea of getting car clubs together to form an organization to promote the positive image of Minnesota hot rodders. 25 area car clubs came to the first meeting in 1954. Obviously, it worked well as we are still around promoting racing and our car show 60 years later. Elections were held and John Foster of the Strokers was our first president. John held that position until 1966 when he retired as president. John and his wife Marge were also the only managers that Minnesota Dragways ever had.  More on that topic later.



Several people over the years had tried to get a drag strip in the area started with the intent to get these ‘hoodlums’ from racing on the Minnesota  city streets and highways. The Twin Cities Optimists Club in association with GSTA stepped up and agreed to help get a drag  strip off the ground with the intention of providing a safe place to race and and at the same time  fund the Optimist Club Youth work as well. It all came to reality in 1957 when Minnesota Drag Ways opened and operated in Coon Rapids, MN until it closed in 1976. For all those interested in drag racing, this was a sad day for the hot rodders in the Midwest.

We held our first car show in a Grocery Store parking lot on Sept, 16, 1956. There was had a large turnout and a long running tradition had begun. The second car show was held at the Minneapolis National Guard Armory and was hosted there through 1980. In 1981, GSTA moved the car show to the Minnesota State Fair Coliseum at the MN State Fairgrounds in St Paul. GSTA is still there and will have their 59th Annual show in April, 2015. Some of the Midwest’s finest car builders have debuted their latest creations at this annual car show.  We have a long running relationship with the Minnesota Street Rod Association (MSRA) as well. They have been great partners and have a display every year of eight to ten cars which includes MSRA’s Street Rod and Custom Cars of the Year.


In the early years we had queen contests, multi-media car related movies and slides of racing and other events for entertainment. One year we had an Elvis display, Ed Roth in person. Other notables have included Chip Foose who appeared at our 49th show.




GSTA has had several dragsters over the years.   Currently we have our 8th dragster which is certified for 6:50’s and has run 7:60’s at around 180 mph. Any GSTA car club member that helps work on the dragster, passes a physical and is properly licensed, is eligible to drive the dragster.

GSTA also has a 1976 Nova called “Door Slammer” that any GSTA car club member that works on the Nova can race as well. The Nova is setup to run low 12’s and has made over 100 passes in the last couple of years with over 20 drivers. This is a great way for our members to go drag racing without the expense of owning a car.

We recently acquired a Jr. Dragster. It has the GSTA logo on it and is currently used for promotional purposes.




GSTA has endured through changes in car culture when customs and street rods were being sidelined for Muscle cars and economy cars during oil embargos, and escalating gas prices of the 70’s. Some of the hard times for us have made us a stronger organization.  GSTA currently has 14 active car clubs. Within GSTA there are three generations involved in our great sport.  GSTA will continue to strive to attract younger people and get them involved in the hobby.

Mark your calendars for the 59th annual show April 11-12, 2015 to see some of the best Midwest builders showing their new creations. We invite you to visit our website which has all the information.