After calling in a few favors, and after many, many phone calls and persistence, club member raVenX delivered the news to the members, “The hangars are ours!!!” So began the preparations for a club shoot inside of Hangar 1 at the decommissioned Marine Corps Air Station Tustin in Orange County, CA.

These hangars were built during WWII to house airships (blimps) that were being used as coast watchers after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The hangars themselves are the largest free standing wooden structures in the world. They were built out of wood because all of the steel was being directed to the war effort to build ships and tanks. The wood has been heavily treated with metallic salts to withstand flash fires and as such also makes them unattractive to insects, such as termites. At the end of WWII, the hangars changed they purpose to become the home for several helicopter squadrons until the base closure in 1999.

Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, Hangar 1

Club members Andrew (aka Quarterpound), Bill (aka CrankCase), Julio (aka MrJ_RT), Larry (aka raVenX), and Leo (aka Dahboom), five photography and video minded members, took charge to plan and execute the photo shoot, from vehicle set-up to vehicle color coordination, and everything in between. It was a tremendous undertaking nothing short of putting on a full scale car show.

The Photo Shoot Committee immediately began throwing around suggestions, comments and changes until we all seemed to be on the same page. At one point, after a meeting over lunch, we headed out to an empty parking lot to attempt and practice some of the formations and set-ups that we had in mind. Even with just a few cars, we quickly discovered that our job was about to get much more complicated. Couple that with the fact that we didn’t know what to expect once we rolled into the hangar. We had to plan for everything and then have a backup contingency plan in case the first one failed, and then a contingency plan for that contingency. We covered all of our bases

Testing out some set-up ideas in an empty parking lot

We knew in advance that there was no electricity and thus no lights inside of the hangar as well as no water which meant no restrooms. We would have to bring in our own lighting or depend on the natural lighting from the six banks of fiberglass correlated panels which ran the length of the hangar and provides for a diffused natural light inside of the hangar. We were also given a two hour time clock for our photo shoot, so we would be under the gun as well. And those were some of the easy obstacles to overcome in the planning of this photo shoot.

After about a month of planning and literally discussing the photo shoot on a daily basis, the day of the photo shoot finally arrived. Never before, in the history of our club, had every single club member chimed in and been accounted for. The club members really took this event to heart, from new club members to old. Everyone was excited, even the club members who couldn’t be there with us for the event.

After meeting up a few blocks away from the hangars, club members were briefed on last minute details of the photo shoot. We then rallied the troops and headed off for a quick caravan of some two dozen Dodge Challengers.

Marine Corps Air Station Tustin

We were met at the access gate by an assistant grounds keeper who directed us around to the east side of hangar where we all parked.

Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, Hangar 1

Joining us for the first part of the day was the Tustin Area Historical Society who was there to take a tour of the hangars. We were invited beforehand to accompany them on this tour which included stories of the hangar from the hangar’s caretaker as well as stories from a retired airship captain who was based at MCAS Tustin during WWII and came in full dress uniform of the era.

WWII Airship Captain (ret.)

While the club members were off on their tour, the Photo Shoot Committee began setting up equipment and sizing up the location. Immediately upon entering the hangar, the first thing you notice, other than its enormous size, is that the fiberglass corrugated panels that allow light into the hangar are green?! This cast a green tint on everything and we knew it was going to do the same through the lens. We were just hoping we would be able to neutralize that green through Photoshop once the shots were taken. Be that as it may, green light is better than no light at all, especially with as many cars as we brought with us.

Green lighting inside of the hangar

As the tour ended, we were allowed to begin bringing our Challengers into the hangar for the photo shoot. We brought the first few cars in and staged them across from one another to see how much distance we had in our wide angle lens before escaping the frame. Once those positions were established, we made a last minute decision to go in reverse and begin from the outside and work our way towards the final two cars which would complete the set-up. We knew in advance that we needed at least 150 feet between to the two lead outside cars, but after staging four cars on each side, we immediately realized we would be wayyy short in completing a 180 degree semi-circle, our intended set-up configuration. As we discussed it, we decided to go to Plan B and begin our second set-up, that of a V-formation facing the camera. One of the two professional photographers that we brought along suggested maybe doing a combination of both — keep going as we were except taper the cars less to form a rounded and reverse V-formation, with it’s point being the farthest away from the camera. Boom, boom boom. We rolled the cars into the hangar one by one, sorting by color, and quickly set them up in that configuration. Our goal was to get the cars as close to the lens as possible while still being able to capture all of the cars — and this configuration was right on the money.

West Coast Challengers, SoCal Chapter

Our 2 hour clock was running and we had already burned a good 45 minutes of it with this setup alone. We snapped a few shots and then asked the vehicle owner’s to come stand by their cars and snapped a few shots of that. Then we asked all of our club members, family and friends to join us in the center and snapped some group photos of them with the cars. Finally, we began photographing each car individually. With the owner seated in his or her car, we began taking pictures one car at a time. Almost literally as we were working the last few cars, we were told that our time was up. We were graciously granted 30 more minutes.

Now severely under the gun, we decided to opt for a final set-up that we had only thought of moments before. That Larry would lead the cars out of the hangar and park in front of the hangar’s massive doors, then have everyone line up on his car. We rolled out of the hangar, approached the hangar doors, and the club members rolled perfectly into place one after another to form a long line of Challengers. We all then exited our cars and took a walk on the tarmac in order to capture the moment with our cameras. I think many of us stood in awe for the first few moments when looking back at our Challengers and just taking in the sight — the enormous size of the hangar had dwarfed our cars sitting in front of it. Simply breath taking is all I can say about it. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, Hangar 1

Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, Hangar 1

Bidding Marine Corps Air Station Tustin a farewell, the club members headed over to In-N-Out Burger at the District in Tustin for lunch. Everyone quickly began sharing their stories about what they saw, pictures they took and the day’s events in general.

This event will easily go down in the club’s history books as the most successful and favorite event that the club has ever put together.

West Coast Challengers, SoCal Chapter

A special thank you goes out to the Photo Shoot Committee who made this event possible and to all of the club members for helping make this such a fun day and successful event. Kudos to you all.

Some photos from the club photo shoot can be found here: West Coast Challengers Club Photo Shoot.


Here is some information about the hangars that we’re sure you’ll find interesting:

  • 17 stories tall
  • 297 feet wide
  • 1,088 feet long
  • 2,719,000 board feet of lumber (Oregon Douglas Fir)
  • 296,000 square feet (6.8 acres under one roof)

Written Documentary: The Tustin Hangars: Titans of History, a historical account of the MCAS Tustin Hangars. (pdf file)

Video Documentary (25 min.): Tustin Hangars: Titans of History

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  1. Incredible pictures!!! Love the location

  2. […] is a write up on our recent club photo shoot. See: West Coast Challengers Club Photo Shoot – MCAS Tustin Hangars Some pictures of the photo shoot can be here: West Coast Challengers Club Photo Shoot […]

  3. Oh man! West Coast that’s one of the most killer photos I’ve ever seen, love it! ;}

  4. Great idea for a shot guys.

  5. Heidi Tetzlaff-Miller says:

    I really enjoyed the pics. The only sad thing is to see a the place in such decline that once represented American might as well as muscle. Something good happened again on those grounds that day when you all took your cars out there.

  6. Julie Cain says:

    Well said Heidi, I love the pics Sooooo much!!!

  7. nd4topspd says:

    Amazing pictures!! That hanger is HUGE :-)

  8. Faline French says:

    Bad ass pictures for sure!

  9. […] West Coast Challengers Club Photo Shoot – MCAS Tustin Hangars Popular Highlights […]

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