As I mentioned during my event coverage from this month’s Eagle Field Drags, the 8th mile runway races were the perfect place to relive the history of drag racing. And among the entries there were race cars representing many different eras of the sport.
One of my favorites was this 1965 Plymouth Belvedere, built as a tribute to the wild experimental drag cars of the mid-1960s.
As automakers became more invested in drag racing competition during the ’60s, they started to do some pretty crazy things to gain an edge. In order to improve the traction on the less-than-great tires of the time, Chrysler decided it would start modifying the wheelbase of its factory race cars.
Both the front and rear axles were pushed forward, putting more of the car’s weight over the rear tires and greatly improving the launch. And thus the legend of the altered wheelbase was born. This particular car was recently built by Rich Roberts as a tribute to this golden era of drag racing.
The car is loaded with period aesthetics, from the narrow Rocket wheels up front and wide steelies in the back, to the hand painted lettering and graphics.
And like the altered wheelbase cars of the ’60s, Rich’s Plymouth is powered by an injected 426 Hemi with velocity stacks towering over the top, and fender-well headers dominating the engine bay.
For as wild as their exteriors and engine bays looked, the interiors of these machines were surprisingly factory-like. In Rich’s car you’ll still find the stock instruments and steering wheel, while a Hurst-shifted 4-speed handles the gear changes.
Because of their unusual look, race fans soon began calling the altered wheelbase machines ‘funny cars’. The name stuck, all the way through to the fiberglass-bodied dragsters that still exist today.
While I dig the old school funnies as much as anyone, I’m not sure if anything gets better than these heavily modified but still production-based race cars of the drag racing’s golden era.
Thumbs up to Rich for keeping the spirit alive.