Sunday, February 19, 2006
A Rare, Very Expensive, Yet Legal Addiction
I was sixteen. I had a new 1960 Corvair coupe. My first new car! It was the first year of production for the new major American compacts, and I was the only teenager in town who had one. Cool!
An acquaintance of mine, a senior named Wes Rydell, always had a new Impala (his dad owned Rydell Chevrolet, the local dealer), but he was on the football team too, so we ran in different circles.
Back then, teenagers used cars mostly for two things: dating and racing. We did some street racing on the little used secondary roads outside of town. We did some hare-and-hound chasing in town at night: the rubes from the new SAC base were dating local girls and, see, we didn't like that. Three or four guys in the car, we'd shine headlights on a parked car (with an out-of-state plate) until he moved. We'd follow. He'd try to shake us. We'd chase him around for a while.
I wanted to legitimately race my new car and find out what I could do against a clock. Now, a 1960 Corvair wasn't exactly a race car. It was small and light; a pretty good handler, (Ralph Nader was a damned liar!) but underpowered. It could scoot down the twisties with the best (of the cars available to most teenagers), but was a very slow dog on the strip. I wanted to try it anyway.
The nearest drag strip was in Fargo. They had Run-What-You-Brung races once a month on Saturdays. As I recall, it cost about a buck to race. Drivers of stock cars didn't have to have helmets or roll bars; just seat belts. A couple of friends and I drove down to Fargo early one Saturday morning.
The car clocked 68 mph in 20 seconds in the standing quarter-mile. Not very impressive compared to the V-8 Chevies and Fords, but it was fun, and I got to drive a real race track!
I've been a casual NHRA drag race fan for all these years, though my interest increased after I moved to Sunny SoCal after my stint in the Navy. California hadn't yet sunk to Stalag status, and was truly a wonderful place to live and work, smog and traffic notwithstanding. I'd gladly trade California's War on Productivity for a little smog anytime!
After all, you can't trust any air you can't see.
Back to the point, I watched and followed drag racing for years, never having actually gone to a race. I'd read about it in magazines and see results in the newspaper, and occasionally see coverage on TV. In the late 1960's, top fuel dragsters finally were able to accelerate to over 200 mph in the quarter mile, and today, they routinely surpass 300mph. I can only imagine what it must be like to run a car from a standing start to over 300 in a quarter mile! In well under five seconds!
One year, fairly recently, I finally went to the Pomona Drags. The nitro fuel cars are outrageously loud, and with that comes the addiction: once you've inhaled the exhaust from a fuel dragster, you're hooked. I can't usually get up to Pomona every time there's a race, but I usually catch the coverage on TV.
The Pomona Spring Nationals were last weekend, and I missed 'em (drat!), but there's the Phoenix race next weekend! Now, if they could find a way to bottle that nitrous aroma......
They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!