The mural includes Steve McQueen, No. 48, just left of the checkered flag. Photo by Dain Gingerelli
By and large, motorcycle racers are a likable lot. As a former racer myself I know that racers generally have many friends, even in low places. One such place is The Wreck, a lovable dive bar with a colorful history in Lake Elsinore, California, also home to the legendary Elsinore Grand Prix. Stand curbside at 120 W. Graham Avenue in Lake Elsinore and when you gaze across the street at The Wreck you’ll also catch an eyeful of what’s officially known as the Elsinore Grand Prix Tribute Mural.
The mural, painted by muralist Robin Golden, stretches about 80 feet across The Wreck’s front wall. As the name suggests, the mural celebrates the race that gained notoriety in the movie On Any Sunday 50 years ago. The nonprofit organization Studio 395, a group dedicated to promoting artists from Lake Elsinore and the surrounding area, commissioned Golden to paint the mural during the autumn of 2014, its official dedication occurring December 5th that same year.
“It took me about a month to finish,” recalls Golden today. She credits John Larson with helping manage the project.
The mural adorns the front of The Wreck. Photo by Dain Gingerelli
“He (John) did most of the leg work, organizing everything, including lining up The Wreck and such. That allowed me to concentrate on the actual art,” Golden said. And much of her concentration was done high off the ground — the mural itself measures 15 feet vertically, in addition to the height consumed by the building’s stone facing, forcing her to rely on tall ladders and a cherry picker to elevate her into position.
Perhaps the mural’s most identifiable character is located center stage. That’s Steve McQueen, No. 48, who competed under the pseudonym Harvey Mushman in the 1970 race featured in OAS. The duo in the sidecar rig are Ace and Kevin Kale, also Elsinore GP veterans.
For the most part, though, the players on the 15-by-80-foot mural are regular Joes and Josephines, local citizens who donated funds to the project, allowing them to share the marquee with other supportive members of the Southern California race. Golden relied on photos from the donors to create their individual scenes set on a common backdrop that she initially painted. Their generosity helped fund future Studio 395 art projects.
The building, now known as The Wreck, has its own colorful and storied past. Starting as a Quonset hut, the structure purportedly served as a livery stable in what was then a small town. Eventually an auto repair shop occupied the Quonset hut, and over time other businesses came and went as the building grew in proportion. The colorful dive bar that it became gained its name after the building served as the Recreation Center for Lake Elsinore’s youth. Citizens referred to it as The Rec, but that name morphed into The Wreck when it became a bona fide establishment for serving adult beverages. As you can imagine, kids can no longer apply.
But the Elsinore Grand Prix itself remains, held every year during Veterans Day weekend since 1996, when former MX great Goat Breker revived the event after a 24-year hiatus. Various race promoters have assumed leadership since then, although the race was suspended in 2015 due to water rationing implemented in response to California’s drought.
Racing resumed in 2016, with another pause for the 2020 pandemic. Yet through it all The Wreck and its landmark mural endure.
— Dain Gingerelli