International Motorsports Hall of Fame a Tradition Since 1983
Since 1983, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame has been the home to some of the most historical artifacts in all of motorsports. And, beginning in 1990, the legends of motorsports who used many of those artifacts began to take their place in the prestigious venue.
On July 25th of that year, 20 of the greatest legends of the global motorsports community were enshrined in a ceremony befitting their accomplishments. In a formal affair hosted by the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum, they, their families and the world learned the true meaning of the Hall’s creation.
The following day, July 26, the inductees joined officials and dignitaries from the motorsports community in cutting the ribbon on a new 15,000-square-foot building designed to highlight their place in history.
The induction of the first class into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the ribbon cutting for the building which became its home represented the fruits of a seed which was planted more than 25 years ago. To fully appreciate the events, one must be familiar with the people who planted that seed and who nurtured its growth.
In the late 1960s, the man who had the vision for the IMHOF and museum had just finished construction of an earlier dream in an area known as “Dry Valley” near Talladega, Alabama. Originally named Alabama International Motor Speedway, it was the realization of NASCAR founder William H.G. “Bill” France Sr.’s desire to build the fastest, and largest, superspeedway in the world.
In early 1970, France had hired a successful short track racing promoter by the name of Don Naman to manage the facility. In his first conversations with his new manager, France shared the dream we now know as the IMHOF. As Naman recalls, France talked of the need for a “museum and hall of fame to preserve the history of motorsports and honor those who had contributed to its growth.”
As France shared his dream for such a facility, a number of local and state elected officials and civic leaders in Alabama and around the nation lent support to the idea. Talladega, Alabama businessmen Billy McGehee, Travis McCaig and the late Jean Brandli of Pell City, were chief among those early supporters.
In 1975, the first major step was realized when then-Governor George C. Wallace appointed an 18-member commission to oversee the effort to create the IMHOF museum. Brandli served as its first chairman.
During her tenure an unsuccessful attempt was made to secure passage of a state bond issue to finance construction of the first phase of the facility. When the issue did not pass, France decided to underwrite the project himself. Part of that effort was the donation of 35 acres of land adjacent to what is now Talladega Superspeedway which served as the site of the project.
As health problems forced Brandli to reduce her level of involvement, State Senator Gerald Dial assumed the helm of the commission. Through continued diligence and support of many prominent business and civic leaders, they were able to bring about creation of the museum building.
Ground breaking ceremonies for the first phase of the facility were held on the site on March 27, 1981. Serving as members of the Commission at that time, in addition to Brandli, Dial, McCaig and McGehee, were Mark Bowen, Benny J. Camp, Ralph Collins, Hank Fannin, Sunny King, Winston Legge, William Moss, Fred Sington, Phil Smith, Bobby Davis, Charles Osborne, Tom Wright, Governor Wallace; Doctors Kenneth L. Harris and James L. Hardwick; Lincoln Mayor Lew Watson and Judges Walker Hobbie and Kyser Leonard. Andy Allred served as first Executive Director.
In the spring of 1983, ribbon cutting for the $2 million facility was held. The first phase included opening of the rotunda; welcoming area and gift shop; museum offices; offices for the International Speedway Corporation; ticket office; and the first two exhibit halls. They were promptly named the “Daytona Room,” for racing memorabilia centering around racing on the beach in Daytona, Florida; and the International Room, which contained a large and varied collection of racing memorabilia.
Today, the IMHOF is the home to countless historic vehicles from various worlds of racing that include: stock cars, open wheel, NHRA, road racing, modified, motorcycle and much more.
In addition to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the facility also houses other Halls of Fame. These include the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Hall of Fame; the Quarter Midgets of America Hall of Fame; the Alabama Racing Pioneers Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Writer’s Hall of Fame. The prestigious Henry T. McLemore Motorsports Journalism Award is also a part of the IMHOF.
All in all, the museum has something for everyone. Located just off Interstate 20, south of Talladega, it is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm CT. Now thanks to the vision of a few and the efforts of many, the IMHOF realizes its true mission, the enshrinement of the greats of motorsports.