A San Diego Snap Shot

Chula Vista, Ca. 1953: PARADISE MESA DRAG STRIP. From the pages of Hot Rod Magazine, when Wally Parks was the editor, is this scene just south of San Diego proper on a landing strip mesa above the city of Chula Vista. During the ‘50s, this early drag racing Mecca was nearly as popular as the Santa Ana Airport farther north. (Photo courtesy of Hot Rod Magazine archives)

This is a replica of a program from the original Paradise Mesa Drags held in 1953!


Chula Vista late ‘50s: These guys were everywhere. Yes it is the Speed Sport Roadster from Tucson winning Top Eliminator at Paradise Mesa.  L/R Red Greth, Don Maynard, Trophy Queen, and Lyle Fisher.

During 1957, while attending Arizona State University, a group traveled to San Diego State for a Pi Kappa Alpha function. During our stay, we visited the little den of sin south of the border known as Tijuana. Coming back to S.D. we noticed a sign for Drag Races, and in we went.  Driving my ’57 Olds, J-2, we entered the competition and were beaten by... a Plymouth?  WOW that hurt. Anyway, that was my one and only trip to what was known as Paradise Mesa. There was a huge crowd there that day, and the milder temp really whetted my appetite for drag racing.

As the city of Chula Vista exploded in growth after WWII, the hills and mesa areas above the coast became expansion land for housing. By the late ‘50s, Paradise Mesa was forced to close, leaving the large population base nowhere to race their highly prepared cars.