Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 2, Page

On the Block


ast month there was mention of quite possibly the greatest result of the connection between drag racing and Detroit – the 1968 Hemi Barracuda. This little beastie came from the factory to the dealer as a racecar. Heater delete. Window crank delete. Everything else delete. It was clad with lightweight doors, front bumper, and window glass, and equally light fiberglass hood and front fenders. Hurst shifter. Beefed up drivetrain. To offset what the factory took out they put plenty more in. A 426 with 12.5 to 1 slugs was shoehorned into the engine bay and topped off with two giant four barrels sitting on top of a cross ram manifold. Best of all the car was light, tipping the scales at a hair over 3000 pounds. The little A-body Mopar was purposely built for drag racing and available from your friendly neighborhood Chrysler Plymouth Dodge dealer for the princely sum of a little over five large. The car had everything in it needed for you to turn the key in front of the tree and go racing, and was designed for exactly that in mind. So why didn't these little beasties fetch a bazillion dollars at the Barrett Jackson auction like the over chromed, too big wheeled monstrosities did? Mainly because theses beasts were never designed to be anything but racecars and therefore forever immune to the evil powers of restorodification. The little hemicar can never be converted back into a street car – it's always a racecar no matter what happens.

While sales of million dollar Camaros are without question fantastic news for those in the restoration business it sends shivers up the spines of those who long to preserve the history of drag racing. What more frightening trend to the die-hard drag racer than to have a winning drag car with a vast and storied history reverted back to its purely stock form in the name of making bank off a restoration? The horror of a car that built its reputation on winning races having its chronicle erased and purpose destroyed is bad enough – but to have that same car turned into an over chromed, over restored restoriffic ride is enough to make this writer reach for the Maalox. Ray Allen's nearly never losing 1970 Chevelle racecar recently sold at the Barrett Jackson auction for the alarming sum of 1.15 million dollars.

We just hope the new owner will somehow retain the car's drag racing heritage. Prices like this solidify evidence of the most alarming trend of all - that of snapping up classic race cars with a vast and varied history and returning them to stock condition so they can potentially fetch stratospheric prices at auction. After all, even after 1001 runs down a track a drag car will only have 250 plus miles on the clock. We urge those in possession of classic race cars to leave them as such, race them as is, and preserve the history of drag racing so that future generations will have something to look at besides a dated "restification" of a car with all the same holding power of a airbrush painted seventies-era van conversion.

In the meantime we need to snap up anything we can and go drag racing. Darts, Willys, Dusters, Crosleys, Nova Wagons, Elcos, Camarobirds – all of it. I can't imagine white gloving a car into a UV proof climate controlled humidor for automobiles is more fun than hammering it down the drag strip, so we must buy and tire fry while there's still time. Set it up right and you can do show and go. The best of both worlds! Remember too that with creativity all hope is not lost. Even though the classics are now getting priced into unobtanium there are still plenty of cars around in prime shape for drag race conversion. Despite the fact we all hate to admit it – time is marching on, and yesterday's classics are today's million dollar antiques. One just has to be creative with the stuff that's still affordable.

Who could forget Steve Magnante putting a big Caddy engine into a Chevy Chevette? He was evidently ahead of his time. How about a Maverick, Pinto, or Gremlin? I didn’t see any Pinto Wagons with the rare avocado interior and opera window option rolling into the white gloved hands of millionaires at the Barrett Jackson, so there are still probably a few around in prime shape for V-8 conversion. Don't forget the rebadged imports either. How about a seventies Dodge Colt with a Mopar Performance 440 small block under the hood? An Opel GT with an LS1? Why not I say! We Americans pride ourselves on ingenuity and innovation and it is our duty to keep drag racing alive and well, despite the evil forces of resto rodders. And Speed TV? How about broadcasting some racing, please.

Retro Rant [1-9-05]
Slamming the Door on 2005

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