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Nostalgia Drag Racing, an Opinion

By Phil R. Elliott

(Originally printed in American Drag News)

It seems that in many parts of the country, nostalgia drag racing is unknown. One reason is that local racers still run the same racecar they did back in the '60s or '70s. Another is that folk feel no obligation to look outside their local area anyway, be it for an NHRA national event in their backyard or a major nostalgia event nearby.

In the past season, both were held in Topeka, and both were fairly successful.

I agree with local racers of today. AHRA was once a bastion for local racers who entered and were placed in one of the wide variety of classes available. Later, there were also big bracket fields to attract locals, a feature still utilized by IHRA. NHRA has never recognized the local little guy racers who are turned away at the gate, unless they're on foot, purchasing a general admission ticket.

I think it's a crime not to allow the weekly warriors into the tracks they race on the rest of the year, which for one week is professionally prep'd, AND they can race on the same surface the heroes do.

But, that's fodder for another time.

Nostalgia drag racing has gotten completely out of control. I'm certain that a bazillion people disagree with me on that point, but let me explain.

At the beginning of the movement, a few famous cars were found and restored for static displays. It wasn't long until some of the old-timers had the desire to fire-up and drive their museum pieces, and a couple of them rented Fremont for a day to do just that. A couple dozen cars were there, and about 70 or 80 owners and drivers got together to recollect and stretch old stories. It was the ultimate bench race session, and there was a little nitro in the air for good measure.

For several years, there was just the one nostalgia event at Fremont which eventually ran a Top Eliminator race for the hot dogs that showed, on a very tight, keep-'em-like-they-used-to-be set of rules. The bottom line was fun, even when there ended up to be three or four west coast events.

It seemed to many that it was the perfect recipe for guys to get together on a project, and it was just one step above running Bonneville once a year.

What has evolved out of that is now full-tilt race teams that spend untold dollars to win Top Fuel or A/GS at what seems like a couple dozen events.

The early rules makers didn't think quick enough to restrain real racers who jumped in with both feet. Dragster chassis stretched to the current maximum of 225 inches and teams took their old Chryslers to new heights with late-style fuel systems. Times have dipped into the fives at over 250mph.

A/GS entries, which started as resurrections or replications, are now built like Pro Mods or even funny cars. As in TF, a 6-71 blower helps to restrict performance, but still they are capable of 6.80s and 195mph.

I'm not picking on the racers because they are doing what they do naturally, improve on a formula to go quicker and faster. It's a mentality to aspire to as a racer. No, I blame those that forgot they would be dealing with racers and left the rules loose and easily manipulated by those who knew how to do just that.

Webster defines nostalgia as homesick or "a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for returning to or of some past period."

I resemble that latter remark. I'm basically lost in the sixties; it's my favorite time for all types of racing and it's still the music I listen too. I'd like to take everyone back to 1965 to see tire smoke, the altered wheelbase A/FX sedans that were so astonishing, A/GS, fuel altereds and other classes like AA/FMR and AA/FMC. You should also visit a few of the dragstrips that existed and race under several sanctions' rules. The times were great for racing.

I must admit that when I attended the 25th anniversary U.S. Nationals (1979) and saw Don Garlits make an exhibition run in Swamp Rat 1, tears rolled down my cheeks. That's the epitome, in my humble opinion, of feeling nostalgic. I felt the same way about the line up of cars at Bakersfield during one of the reunions there. The static displays are a walk back in time into a kind of time warp, where famous, infamous and obscure racecars of history still exist in a parallel universe.

It's not that I'm into sci-fi. Instead I just happen to have read about most of those cars while digging through old, musty copies of National Dragster and Drag News. When they magically appear in three-dimensional color, they bring something up inside my throat as if I've just seen that one true love years after the fact.

To one of my very good friends, Dave Wallace, the current state of nostalgia Top Fuel is perfect. It has full fields, close, side-by-side racing, very little breakage and room for old-style teams of two-to-four guys who just want to compete and can't afford NHRA TF. There is a degree of seriousness, but Dave states that most of these teams have a great deal of fun. He knows, he's at most of the west coast events.

After gigs with several magazines (similar to yours truly), Dave has formed first a public relations firm and later, what he calls the Hot Rod Nostalgia Magalog a combo of a magazine and a catalog. It is an amazing publication, full of all those books and posters you've seen in regular magazines plus photos by famous shooters from the old days, offered for sale. There is original artwork of famous cars, and custom artwork you can order of your own racecar. It seems to include just about everything currently available relating to nostalgia dragracing. The Magalog even offers those books by Don Montgomery, one of which is reviewed elsewhere, along with Jackson Bros. and other videos, articles about black & white photos, another about collecting dragabilia, and a bazillion other products and articles that will overwhelm. To get a copy, call (209) 293-2114 or E-mail mail@hotrodnostalgia.com. It is full of nostalgic stuff, even if Dave and I disagree on the current state of nostalgia Top Fuel.

Flyin' Phil Elliott


Thanks for checking out the PhilZone portion of Draglist.com. If you have accolades, complaints, comments, questions, or if you want to share a story, please feel free to post it on the PhilZone Message Board. Phil

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