Last night I cruised out to South Austin Speed to check out Fat Lucky’s latest creation (perfect as always) and found myself in a conversation about vintage drag cars. More specifically, we were all giving our opinions on what we considered the most beautiful early drag cars built. My first reaction was to mention anything Pat Foster (Get well soon Pat!) had ever restored. If you’ve ever been around any of his restorations, you know first hand that they are all off the hook. The fellas all agreed, but to keep the conversation interesting we decided to leave his cars out.
Between the years of 1957 and 1963, the drag racing world was split between the guys that honored the NHRA’s fuel ban and those that didn’t. Of course, the media and the attention sided with the NHRA and their new rules. As such, serious drivers and teams were left with the challenge of trying to go faster with the cooler combustion. While a lot of folks see this as a dark period for the sport, I see it as the pinnacle. The fuel limitation lead to guys trying to figure out how to go faster with less. Innovation and experimentation created a field of cars with personality. Drag racing in 1963 was not a “me too” sport.
And it was that year, 1963, that produced my two favorite drag cars of all time. The first car finished was Angelo Giampetroni’s ’27 ‘T’ roadster pictured above and as the lead in this article. The 482-inch nailhead was Hilborn injected and located just under the rear deck lid. The graceful roll bar cover doubles an air intake and provides a line to the car that is, in my opinion, unmatched by any drag car then, now, or since.
The next car on my list was built and owned by the uber-popular Tony Nancy. His 482-inch Plymouth powered FED featured one of the lowest “streamlined” bodies of the time. And while the mechanicals of this beast are certainly impressive and proven (the car ran 8’s and stopped with rear mounted disc brakes), it’s the incredible body work that does it for me. The integrated chute canopy, the aggressive injector scoop, and the pencil sharp nose work together to create one of the meanest appearing dragsters to ever hit the strip.
Certainly, there are other drag cars out there that were innovative for their time and beautifully built… and certainly, there were more successful cars built in the day, but these two are it for me. What are your favorites?