Muscle cars will always have a special place in my heart.
My uncle owned a 1966 Mustang when I was a kid, and I have memories of sliding around on the back seat as a child as the car rumbled down the road. I distinctly remember the feeling of torque and the smell of exhaust fumes finding their way into the old Ford, two things my mom’s daily driver seemed to lack.
Old cars from the ’60s, perhaps especially American ones, certainly have their shortcomings. They aren’t exactly a picture of reliability, economy, or practicality. They’re big, unsafe, loud, and only fast in a straight line. But these are also the traits that make them so great.
It’s always an exciting and completely analog experience trying to tame an unruly V8 in a decades’ old chassis with a solid rear axle. It doesn’t really matter how fast you’re going, either; if the pedal is mashed there’s pretty much a guaranteed smile on your face. Then, there’s the styling. Unmatched lines that were significantly changing each year paired with incredible period modifications. The aesthetic is like nothing else.
Put these things all together – the torque, the old school looks, the speed – and throw in a solid dose of burning rubber, and you have the Mooneyes Xmas Party drags.
Held the weekend before last at Irwindale Speedway’s drag strip, this Xmas Party sub-event was the icing on the cake of an awesome car show. Nothing shakes up a static event like a good bit of speed.
Heading in to the tower to get my photographer wrist band, it was cool to see the tech these guys are still using here. Simple as it is, it’d probably still take me all day to figure out how to use it. And it all works down to the thousandth of a second, so you might as well just leave it alone; there’s no real sense updating it.
I hung out inside and chatted for a few minutes, but it became clear pretty quickly that I was on the wrong side of the wall.
Over I went…On The Line
Yes, definitely a bit more exhilarating on this side.
As much as I enjoy drag racing I haven’t shot at too many events, or even attended that many in person. This is something I definitely hope to change next year, because seeing and feeling these cars up close alters everything.
There’s just so much excitement the the staging area, and despite drag racing being a straight-line affair there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Hopefully, I’ll make good on my plans to attend some competitive events in 2019, which would be better suited for diving into the technicality of drag racing and the nuances of car setup. Today, though, was all for good fun.
Visually, the layout here was one that proved a little difficult to shoot. I didn’t bother checking, or even thinking too hard for that matter, about where the sun would be at this time of the year, but at around lunchtime deep shadows covered half of the staging area while the right-hand lane was subjected to harsh light.
This meant getting shots of both cars proved to be a futile task. But no matter, I had too much fun taking in the burnouts, the launches, and the wheelspin to really worry about how my shots were turning out if I’m honest. I’d have plenty of time to look through them later and critique myself.
I was shooting film here as well, so the vast majority of my concentration went into those 24 shots rather than the 1,000 or so I took on my main DSLR body. Really, when it came to my digital work, I just sort of went on autopilot for this one, basking in the glory of old school goodness. And let me tell you, that old school goodness is pretty damn loud. Thankfully, I did find a pair of earplugs in my backpack.
But even with these earplugs, I found my skull tingling from the incredible roar of some of the cars that rolled through. Standing behind these cars as they get their tires hot and sticky is an experience like nothing else.
If this sort of thing isn’t really your cup of tea I’d still really encourage you to go to an event in person sometime to give it a try and take it all in. Regardless of who’s running, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. You get to see the whole thing from start to finish, too, rather than just a snippet of one corner or straightaway like you would at a grand prix.Come One Come All
Being held at the Mooneyes Xmas Party, I knew we’d see a decent turnout as well as a huge spectrum of cars.
This also meant a big variety of drivers, each one bringing their own style to the event.
The Mooneyes drags brought out a bit of everything, from old VW bugs to demo runs with nitro-fueled cars, the latter of which really bring a new definition to the word loud. They also need a push start, if you’re wondering why there’s a pickup heading down the track with a couple guys in the back.
Each car and driver brought their own habits to the track too, with some simply spinning their tires up a bit while others used nearly the entire 1/8th mile to pour smoke over the crowd.
While the majority of guys out at Irwindale were hobbyists and friends looking for a good time, we did see some pretty serious runs from some proper race cars, too.
Every car seemed to come off the line in its own way, and no two launches were the same. With comically skinny wheels up front — which often aren’t on the ground when you need them to be the most — there’s a surprising amount of right foot steering going on for a straight track.
I’ve never been along for a ride in an all-out pass with one of these big-wheeled, high horsepower monsters either, so I can only imagine the feeling from inside the cockpit.
These guys are definitely their own breed – “90% gonads and the other half is all technical.” Whatever that means, it sounds about right.
Time was flying and eventually things started to wind down. Barbeques and pop-ups were broken down as cars from the show rolled out. Meanwhile, I reveled in the final hour of the Mooneyes Xmas Party.
Long live Mooneyes, and long live the muscle car.Cutting Room Floor