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A collage of Thunderbolts photos from the collection of Norm Milne. Photo courtesy of Jeff Faeber.
Norm Milne's 1938 Ford convertible sedan of Sacramento, California. About 1940 Norm drove the Ford to Los Angeles to have Carson Top Shop chop the top and make a padded top. The rest of the car was restyled by Harry Westergard.
Gene Garret's 1940 Ford of Sacramento, California. Gene was a member of the Thunderbolts auto club, and his custom featured a padded top by Carson Top Shop.
A newspaper clipping about the Thunderbolts 50 year reunion held in February of 1995. The photo shows first President Norm Milne in his 1931 Ford roadster. Scan provided by Jeff Faeber.
Butch Gardner bough and restored Jim Doyle's 1952 Mercury Convertible in 1996

Thunderbolts Capitol Auto Club of Sacramento

The Thunderbolts Auto Club of Sacramento, California was formed by Harry Westergard, Norm Milne and Dick Bertolucci in 1945. The club was first called the Capitol Auto Club, and their first meeting was held in September of 1945, in Harry Westergard's chicken coup shop on Fullton Avenue. The guys in the club used to hang out at Jack Stack's Flying A Gas station at 18th & L in Sacramento.[1]

Norm Milne was the club's first president. Norm, Dick, and Harry also decided that a club would be the best way to find a place to race off of the city streets, and organize that racing. Norm had been to the dry lakes of Southern California, and was familiar with the clubs there and the SCTA, the Southern California Timing Association. Being a military flier, he also knew of several large military airstrips in the area, some of which had been abandoned after the war. The Davis-Winters Field west of Sacramento was available and, though they never got official permission to use it, this became the site of regular weekly drag races as early as 1946. Most of the time, 20 to 30 cars and motorcycles would show up. The racing was not timed, and there was no set distance; the two vehicles would simply race until there was a clear winner. Although it was not officially organized or sanctioned, these races clearly predate the "first" drags at Goleta or Santa Ana.

The first members in the club in addition to Harry, Norm and Dick were Don Wallace, Gene Garrett, Spud Metha, Al Garcia, Ed "Buddy" Ohanesian, Leroy Semas, Buck Davis, Dick Orteiz, Jack Odberg, Harold "Baggy" Bagdasarian, Ray Falconer, Mel Falconer, Ed Shaw, Bob Fallon and Wayne Selser.

The club became active in roadster track racing around 1948 at the Lazy J Ranch, which was a former horse track, on Saturday nights. Harry Westergard turned out some beautiful machines, which Butler Rugard drove. Wayne Selser built and drove his own cars with engines he bought from Andy Granatelli in Chicago. Several members of the Thunderboltss participated in dry lakes events through the Valley Timing Association.

The first Sacramento Autorama in 1950 was organized by members of the Thunderbolts. Three of the founding members, Norm Milne, Buck Davis, and Lawrence Brochini, were all arguing one night about who had the nicest roadster. Fellow club member Harold Bagdasarian suggested they stage a little car show to let the public decide whose roadster was the coolest. That show was held in the service area of new car dealer Capitol Chevrolet on November 4-5, 1950. Twenty-two cars showed up for the show. In 1951 they show moved to Cope Buick, which had a larger showroom space.

In 1952 Harold Bagdasarian was the president of the club.

In 1978 the Thunderbolts were the first hot rod car club to join the Association of California Car Clubs, a grassroots lobbying organization dedicated to maintaining and preserving the old car hobby in California.

In 2005 the club celebrated their 60th reunion at the Sacramento Autorama. The club did then count 24 active members. The club is still active today, and has meeting every second week in an old construction site trailer parked at the Elk Grove Regional Airport. The club is going strong, and has never missed holding their every two week meeting for the last 65 years. July 17th, 2010 the remaining members of the Thunderbolts will host their 65 year reunion.[2]


Al Garcia
Andy Nantz
Bob Eldridge
Bob Fallon
Bob Lessman
Bob Moore
Bob Woll
Bruce Glenn
Buck Davis
Butch Gardner
Butler Rugard
Charlie Matus
Carter Gimlen
Dave Broyles
Dave May
Dave Telles
Dennis Valentine
Dick Bertolucci
Dick Ortiz
Dick Plamondon
Don Wallace
Dub Wilson
Ed Cortopassi
Ed Gardner
Ed Shaw
Ezra Earhardt
Frank Endralin
Gary Williams
Gene Garret
Harold Bagdasarian
Harold Meth
Harold Ohanesian
Harry Westergard
Jack Odberg
James Guthmiller
Jerry Fassett
Joe Radon
John Diaz
Kenji Kuwahara
Lawrence Brocchini
Leroy Semas
Mel Falconer
Mike Clougher
Norm Milne
Paul Ensle
Randy Vidmar
Ray Falconer
Rick Holland
Ron Brock
Spud Metha
Val Mejia
Verly Meth
Wayne Selser
Wade Hallsted

Club Cars

Norm Milne's 1938 Ford Convertible Sedan
Gene Garret's 1940 Ford




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