Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Detroit AutoRama: Dragsters and Race Cars

To be clear, there are lots of speedy cars tucked in all these AutoRama posts, many of them cars that have been converted to various classes of street-legal dragsters. But among the many purpose-built drag racers, these were a few that especially caught my eye:

A "Big Car" a 1937 forerunner to today's sprint cars. It is owned and was restored by Bob DeVine and Doug Oland. It has an Essex chassis, a Ford Model B engine, and is believed to have been originally built in Fremont, Ohio, by Karl Behlmer. What particularly struck me about this car is the utter lack of any safety equipment whatsoever. It's no wonder car racing was so horrifyingly dangerous back then.

I can't deny it. I took this photo of this 1969 Camaro SS pro-modified dragster owned by Tony Lasky of Fort Gratiot, Michigan, because I knew Monique would be appalled by the giant air scoop above the engine. I was rewarded with a scrunchy face and an, "Ugh!" for my troubles.

Personally, I thought it looked awesome. The badging on the side of this car claims 632 cubic inches. Having taken a closer look at the engine, I believe it.

You might say this is a custom 1970 Mustang GT owned by Scott Wahlstrom of Watervliet, Michigan. What I say is that every eight year old boy in America wanted his Hot Wheels car to be real.

This one is!

This is Slam'n Sammy Miller's Spirit of '76 rocket car, restored and owned by Steve Atwell of Walled Lake, Michigan. It's purportedly a 1976 Mustang II.  I've seen a lot of Mustang II's in my day, and ain't none of 'em looked like this.

This is a truly historic drag racer. I remember seeing pictures of Sammy Miller racing it when I was a kid. It was the first car to record a pass in five-plus seconds for the 1/4-mile and then in four-plus seconds for the 1/4-mile. It was also the first car to finish a 1/4-mile above 250 mph, then the first above 300 mph. It's best pass ever was in 4.47 seconds with a speed of 330 mph.

How does it do this crazy thing?  A hydrogen-peroxide rocket:

Okay, so that's a hydrogen-peroxide tank. Trust me, there's a rocket sticking out the back. The hydrogen peroxide passes over a silver-mesh screen which causes it to explode at 1200 degrees F into water and oxygen. The hot gasses rush out the back, and the car rushes forward at more than 11 G's, which supposedly then causes the driver to often bleed from the nose and ears.

I shan't be driving a rocket car any time soon.

But I would like to extend my thanks to Steve Atwater for his informative boards showing the history and science behind the Spirit of '76 rocket car:

And finally, I present to you a stock car:

I know this is a stock car because if you had asked young me to draw a picture of a stock car, it would've been blue with red trim and a big "43" on the side. For those of you who don't know, that means this is Richard Petty's stock car -- in this case a Pontiac from the 1988 season near the end of a career in which "The King" won an amazing 200 races.

I once beat my little brother down a hill in a thrilling Big Wheel vs. Big Wheel matchup.

Look out, King. I'm just 199 more victories short of your record!

Tomorrow? Station wagons.

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