9/1/1905 - 21/10/1961
Record updated 15-Apr-08
Al 'Ace' Blixt tried his hand at racing but marriage prevented him from following that course. Instead he expressed his passion for the sport through his photography, documenting the history of racing in Michigan and throughout the Midwest from 1932 to 1951.
Albert Bernard Blixt Sr. was born on January 9, 1905 in Visby, Sweden. He came with his family to Rockford, Illinois in 1908. When his father died in 1917, his mother remarried and the family moved to Detroit, Michigan. He married Ella Nora Erlandson in 1932 and they had one child, Albert B. Blixt Jr. in 1945. Al (Ace) Blixt, as he was known in his racing days, lived in Detroit and then Grosse Pointe Woods until his death on October 21, 1961.
Al Blixt was 19 when he photographed his first race at Mt. Clemens, Michigan in 1924. Like many young men at the time, he was fascinated by speed and all things mechanical. He worked on cars and motorcycles and could fix just about anything that burned gasoline. He was a journeyman electrician and trained himself to be a skilled photographer.
He attended races throughout the 1920’s at numerous local tracks including Ann Arbor, Toledo and the AAA Championship races at the Michigan State Fair Grounds. Al later said he tried race driving but was told in no uncertain terms by his soon-to-be wife Nora that she had no desire to be the widow of a race driver. It was then that he began photographing races seriously.
Blixt documented the history of racing in Michigan and throughout the Midwest from 1932 to 1951. He visited dozens of tracks, sometimes photographing races five or six days a week. Detroit’s VFW Speedway, later Motor City Speedway, was his home base but his camera took him to ovals at Flint, Milford, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Lansing, Davison, Northville, Jackson, Toledo, Winchester, Terre Haute, Greenville, Dayton, Cleveland, Chicago, Windsor (Ontario) and many more.
His photographs recorded the exploits of the great drivers of the era including early big car heroes like Burt Karnatz, Carmine Frazzini and Wilbur Shaw as well as the new generation of midget drivers when the so-called “doodlebugs” became the rage starting in 1935. He photographed all the drivers of that great racing fraternity of the time including Wally Zale, Curly Mills, Howard Dauphin, Glen Myers, Johnny Wohlfeil, Eddie Ostwick, Ronney Householder, Jake Jacobson, Sam Hanks, Duke Nalon, Duane Carter, Al Bonnell, Carl Forberg, Art Hartsfeld, Johnny Ritter, Jimmy Brock, Tony Willman and many many others. His photographs were in high demand by drivers and fans alike.
In 1938 Al Blixt added “journalist” to his list of titles as he became the Michigan representative of Walter Bull’s new Illustrated Speedway News. With the exception of the war years, Al published up to a hundred stories, features and columns each year until 1952. Combined with his outstanding photographs, Al’s stories put Michigan on the front page of the nation’s racing news nearly every week. Al was also the Michigan representative of the Central States Racing Association (CSRA) and officiated at some Michigan races beginning in 1940.
After WWII, Blixt took on another new role as the Program Director of the famous Motor City Speedway in Detroit. He was part of a legendary management team that took over the track in 1946 led by promoter Andy Barto. Working with announcer Carson Zeiter and starter Big Bill Mitchell, Barto and Blixt put on exciting racing programs three nights a week including midgets & motorcycles and later roadsters (hot rods) and hard tops before huge crowds. The 1947 season attendance at Motor City approached 225,000.
A new generation of drivers like Jack Goodwin and Rollie Beale was now competing with old-times like Al Miller and Paul Russo. In addition to Motor City, Blixt covered the races at Jesse Partington’s Detroit track called “The Pasture”. He was also in demand as a AAA track official serving as Steward at the 1949 & 1950 100 Mile National Championship races held at the Michigan State Fair Grounds track.
Al Blixt retired from racing at the end of 1951 and died ten years later at the age of 56. His legacy lives in the scrapbooks of hundreds of drivers and race fans of his era and in the many books written since about the period by race historians like Jack Fox and Buzz Rose. His son, Al Blixt Jr., has carefully preserved his thousands of negatives, photos, stories and records to share with future generations through a website and several books that are in preparation.
Al Blixt Jr