Monday, June 6, 2011
Drag racing has it's beginnings with the earliest speed contests-once someone went fast, someone else decided they could go faster, and pretty soon things evolved into head to head duels to see who could get to the finish line first. In America, the earliest races happened-like so many American car culture touchstones-in California, on the dry lakes that would soon become famous for speed trials and airbases. Four or five guys, in whatever they brought, would set off across the desert floor, and first across the line got bragging rights.
It was only the beginning, and after the Second World War the sport evolved into the two lane, quarter mile contests we know today. The hot rod clubs that sanctioned events set up classes, but for many years things were still very much "run what ya brung", and it was very common for a slick roadster to take it's driver to work during the week, only to be driven to the strip for weekend duty. Gradually, cars got more and more highly strung, interiors more stripped out, in the search for an elusive few tenths of a second, and they slowly evolved into specialized racers.
Some classes still had a pretense of using stock vehicles. Super Stock, funny cars, gassers, all still carried recognizable bodywork, but the top dogs all ran slingshots. These were cars distilled down to the basics-tubes welded together into a chassis, axles and wheels at each end, a seat, and a whacking great motor. Initially, these bare bones bombs had the engines in front of the drivers, where they always were, but by the early 70's, they started migrating to a spot just behind the pilot-much like Grand Prix and Indy racers were doing. The reasons were many, but mostly for safety-these beasts were highly strung, and having one blow up was much safer if it was behind you.
This is a vintage front engined rail, from Chassis Research, one of the famous designers of dragster chassis. It's beautifully presented, and period perfect.