Tom Medley drew the East African Safari cartoon - featuring a cheetah racing a rally car - back in 1964. Hot Rod magazine were reporting on the Mercury Comet team’s decision to enter the East African Safari rally and Medley was asked to contribute some cartoons to commemorate the event. Mercury (a division of Ford) loved the design so much that they decided to make it the team’s official logo for the challenging race.
Originally called the Coronation Rally, the first East Africa Safari rally was held in 1953, to honour the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Aimed at production cars, the rally covered a gruelling four-day 3,188.5 mile course passing through Uganda, Kenya and what was (in 1964) the Republic of Tanganyika (Now Tanzania). Up until 1964 no American team had entered the rally and Ford sought to address this by entering 6 brand new Mercury Comet Calientes into the race that year.
Of the 94 cars that set off in Kenya for the 1964 rally, just 21 finished the race - including 2 of the 6 Comets. But it wasn’t all bad news for Ford as another of their cars took the top prize for the first time. The Comet’s distant cousin - a British Ford Cortina GT – took first place, driven by Kenyans Peter Hughes and Billy Young. As a Cortina owner I have to admit this makes me proud – although mine is a 1975 model and British ‘mini muscle car’ which is more similar in body shape to the Comet or the Ford Taunus that won the rally in 1969. There’s some great footage of the 1964 rally on YouTube featuring another British classic, the Hillman Minx rolling down to the starting line. Worn Free owner Steve once owned one of these and it drove like a boat so it’s so pretty impressive to see one taking on some of those dusty African trails!
The East African Safari Rally is still in operation today - with a classic version also running every other year since 2003. It really is quite incredible to see those old cars tackling the inhospitable terrain with no air con or cup holders! It’s also quite hard in our digital age to understand how important Tom Medley and his characters were to the world of hot rods back in the day. When he first started out at Hot Rod magazine in the 1940s, hot-rodders were perceived by the public as subversive and dangerous. Medley’s sense of humour, knowledge and dedication to the field, along with characters like Stroker McGurk brought hot-rodding to the mainstream and softened it’s image as a bad boy sport. Check out our latest additions to the Tom Medley range in the Worn Free store to see for yourself why his characters are so enduring and well-loved to this day.
Stroker McGurk is the Go-Karting character that Medley created for Hot Rod magazine. The happy and slightly mischievous hot-rodder first appeared in the third edition of Hot Rod back in 1948. Medley went on to stay with the same publishing company for 37 years, creating a wealth of characters and cartoon strips – but McGurk was an enduring favourite with both Medley and his fans. In fact some people say Stroker McGurk is Tom Medley. Talking about his creation in the Best of Hot Rod book published in 1981, keen hot-rodder Medley described his inspiration:
“The idea was to create a character who would become the reader's friend, one they could relate to through his trials and tribulations of just being a hot-rodder.”
Tom’s son Gary Medley suggests that many of his father’s eccentric scribbles went on to inspire a number of real-life innovations:
“Stroker's - or Medley's - inspired genius came up with a host of crazy ideas that appeared impractical at first, but were later adopted by everyday car builders and racers. Multi-engine dragsters, wheelie bars, and drag chutes all sprung from Stroker's fertile mind before they were embraced in the real world.”
And it wasn’t just the hot rodders that liked Stroker! The original vintage Go-Kart t-shirt design was frequently worn by Ron Asheton and Iggy Pop from the Stooges. According to the Stooges fan forum it was Ron’s shirt and Iggy borrowed it! Let’s hope the sweaty self-harmer washed it before he gave it back! Ron really loved that shirt – or maybe he had more than one? He was snapped wearing it at the recording of both ‘The Stooges’ (1969) and ‘Funhouse’ (1970) albums (he’s also wearing it on the inside cover of the Funhouse gatefold LP). According to one source was still pictured wearing it after the Stooges split and he formed American protopunk rockers, The New Order in 1974.
Like wearing the same t-shirt everyday? Order yours now in our online store! And don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter if you’d like to know when the rest of our Tom Medley range of tees become available in store. Fun on wheels - for everyone!