Al (Ace) Blixt was involved in auto racing from the 1920's to the 1950's as a driver, car owner, photographer, writer and racing official. In 2014 he was inducted into the Michigan Motor Sport Hall of Fame.
As a reporter, photographer and columnist for the Illustrated Speedway News, he covered races throughout the region, including the Indianapolis 500. This site is devoted to his memory and to the history of racing in his era. Read on to learn more about Al (Ace) Blixt. Photo Credit: George Vargo.
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Al Blixt was born in Visby, Sweden in 1905. He came to Rockford, Illinois with his parents at the age of three. He left school when his father died and went to work at the age of 12 in a hardware store. His mother, Esther, remarried a few years later to a man named Axel Holmquist. The family moved to Detroit and Al was given his step father's name. Al Holmquist finished high school at night at Northern High while working as an apprentice electrician. He began going to races about 1924. I am still trying to locate his diaries from this period to learn more about what he was doing in the late 20's. In his day job, Al was working on some of the biggest construction projects in the Detroit area including the famous Fisher Building, still a Detroit landmark.
Here is a photo from 1925 showing Al's best friend, Clarence Baum at Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Clarence was a fellow electrician. He was killed on the job when another worker failed to disconnect the 12,000 volt line he was working on. Even years later, my dad would recall Clarence's death with a combination of grief and anger. But clearly, on this day, it is the thrill of speed that was on the minds of these young men.
Al, who now was known to his friends as "Ace", met the love of his life, Ella Nora Erlandson, at Sunday school about 1925. She was in nurses training at Highland Park Hospital. They would have wed quickly but they had to wait until she finished nursing school. At the time nursing students would be expelled if they married. Al and Nora were married in 1931 at the bottom of the great depression. I believe it was at this time that Al Holmquist changed his name back to Blixt.
Al and his friends had owned a "big car" and raced it in the late 1920's. One condition Nora had for getting married was that Al would stop driving race cars. Nora had no interest in becoming a young widow. Racing duties were turned over, as I recall, to Gayle Lanker and Al turned to photographing cars rather than driving them.
This is a shot from one of my dad's photo albums. Contents were entered between 1927 and 1949. This is a photo of Al Blixt (left) with racing writer and photographer Len Milde in 1940 at an unknown race track. Milde is a member of the National Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Note the snappy two-toned shoes.
This photo from the same album is of Al Blixt and Duke Prince at Toledo in 1938. Note again the fancy shoes and neck ties worn by photogs at the time. I have no information yet Prince. Please let me know if you can identify him.
That's my mom, Nora Blixt, on the left. On the right is my Aunt, Marie Ann. Marie was Al's half sister but he loved her dearly. Looks like they are at a party but the location isn't named. The year is 1937 or 1938. Don't you love those hats?
Al began writing for the Illustrated Speedway News about the time it began publication about 1938. He listed himself as the "Michigan Representative" but actually covered races throughout Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Here, in a humorous shot, he sits at our dining room table with his typewriter and an assortment of photos and papers waiting for an idea to come to him. Although he never went to college, Al was an excellent and prolific writer. His by-line appeared several times each week for years along with his regular column, "Thru the Lens".