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Old 12-21-2013, 11:39 AM   #1
George Klass
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Default Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

"FX", there's almost magic in the name alone. It was originally conceived by NHRA to deal with the factory's releasing high performance parts that were not in regular production or "assembly line produced". This had been going on during 1961 and threatened to continue into 1962. In the Chevy camp, for instance, the 409 engine had been installed in more than a few 1961 Chevy Impalas and Biscayne coupes by dealers and racers, probably a lot more than had ever been produced at the factory (the number most quoted as being built on the assembly line in 1961 was 142 409-equipped Chevys). NHRA was not going to have that happen in 1962. They were prepared to maintain that Super Stock cars had to be built "in quantity" at the factory on the assembly line.
And so, to deal with the discrepancy between "stock parts" and "special equipment" the Factory Experimental class was born. The NHRA rulebook for 1962 listed the FX class rules right along side the Super Stock rules. Basically, the FX class was a "mix and match" combination of stock parts from one vehicle being used on another vehicle of the same name. An engine from one vehicle (a Pontiac Catalina 421 engine for instance) could be mated with a much smaller and lighter Pontiac (a Tempest Le Mans). The same held true with transmissions, rear end housings and other driveline components. Whatever was used on one model could be mated with another model, of the same brand. But the important point to remember is that the engine transported from one model to the other model (the Pontiac 421 in this instance) still had to meet the same specs as if it were in the original Catalina model. It still had to be "Super Stock legal". Fiberglass or aluminum body parts were not legal in 1962 for the FX class, unless produced (or released) by the factory. Same for magnesium wheels. Wheelbases still needed to remain stock for the body used. Same for suspension. Tube front axles, forgetaboutit. If you did decide to use a straight front axle, it had to come from a vehicle of the same brand, such as a pick-up truck or a van, etc. (not many Pontiac pick-ups around at the time). Fabricated round-tube axles were not permitted. You could install a bigger engine in a smaller car but in the end, what you created was a smaller and lighter version of the Super Stock car. FX did permit a slightly larger tire to be used. The restrictions for the Super Stock class was a tire with at least two tread grooves and a width not to exceed 7-inches. Drag slicks were permitted in the Factory Experimental class, provided that they fit inside the original and unmodified rear wheel well tubs, and did not exceed 10-inches.
And as far as classification between the three Factory Experimental classes (A/FX. B/FX and C/FX), they were based on weight to cubic inches instead of the factory rated horsepower formula used in the Super Stock classes.
All of this burst on the scene at the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona in 1962.

The big noise in the A/FX class that year was a Pontiac Tempest fitted with a 421-inch Pontiac engine. This car was assembled by Hayden Proffitt and Lloyd Cox, working out of Mickey Thompson's shop in Long Beach, CA. This was a natural combination. Both Proffitt and Cox were racing M/T owned Pontiac Catalinas in S/S competition and had plenty of pieces laying around. Installing the 421-inch S/S V8 in the Tempest was easy, the car came from the factory with a 4-cylinder engine that was actually one half of the V8 to begin with. It dropped right in with few if any under-hood modifications required. The standard S/S 3-speed (not a 4-speed) trans was used. In the rear, the factory Tempest swing-axle/transmission was replaced with a narrowed rear end out of the bigger Catalina. The drive shaft was from the Catalina too, shortened to fit (does anyone remember the factory "droopy" drive shafts on the Tempests?).
As would be expected, the Tempest did very well at the Winternationals, winning the A/FX class with very low 12-second runs. I don't think anyone was surprised at the performance of this car. The 421 Pontiac Catalinas were more than holding their own in Super Stock competition at drag strips around the nation and the 421-inch Tempest was a scaled down Pontiac Super Stocker. The standard Pontiac Catalina had a 120-inch wheelbase and was 211.6-inches in length, whereas the Tempest had a 112-inch wheelbase and was only 189.3-inches in length. Plus, the Tempest was over 6-inches narrower than the "wide track" Panchos. That equated to a lot of iron that didn't need to be hauled down the 1/4 mile.
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But Pontiac was not alone. The bigger engine installed in the smaller car concept was not reserved for Pontiac. The same idea occurred to Jim Nelson and Dode Martin, the owners of the legendary Dragmaster Chassis company in San Diego. Why not take the 413-inch Dodge S/S engine out of the Dodge sedan and install it in the small Dodge Lancer? The Dodge sedan in 1962 had a 116-inch wheelbase whereas the Lancer had a petite wheelbase of 106.5-inches. The Lancer was also 13.2-inches shorter overall and about 4-inches narrower.
The 413-inch Dodge Golden Lancer ran fine, of course, but I never understood why it didn't make as much of an impact on the FX scene in 1962 as did the Pontiac 421 Tempest. Perhaps it wasn't raced as much or maybe the Dragmaster team was not as into Super Stock competition as much as Proffitt was. After all, Dragmaster was turning out their dragster chassis by the hundreds, and that was their primary focus. It's also possible that Dodge and Plymouth were less interested in using a compact car in the FX class and preferred to promote their Super Stock cars at the time. Maybe there are some HAMB members that have more details on all of this.


I've always felt that Don Nicholson should have been elected President of the Chevrolet Division of General Motors. I don't believe that any other human being ever did as much to promote drag strip performance for a particular brand as did Don Nicholson for Chevrolet. Mention "409 Chevy" to me and the first vision that pops into my head is Don's white 1961 Impala, despite the reality that I bought a 409 Chevy Bel Air "bubble top" in 1962 for myself, from Service Chevrolet in Pasadena.


Several racers installed Small Block Chevy V8 engines into the Chevy II's for FX competition for the Winternationals in 1962 but for all practical purposes, how many people only remember Don's white Chevy II station wagon? I would guess only about 99%. One reason was that if was "Dyno" Don Nicholson and the other reason was that his wagon took home the trophy in the B/FX class. Again, it was the engine out of the bigger sedan stuffed into the little sedan that was the hot set-up. The Impala/Bel Air/Biscayne had a 119-inch wheelbase and was 209-inches long and 79-inches wide. The Chevy II had a 110-inch wheelbase, was 183-inches long and under 71-inches in width. Unlike t-ts and d-cks, smaller was better when it came to drag racing in the 1960's.
Here's a question. How come nobody ever installed a 409 based V8 in a Chevy II back in 1962 for FX competition? If someone did, it's a well kept secret. It would have been a tight fit but NHRA rules allowed front wheel well "trimming" to accommodate bigger engines in smaller cars in FX. It would have fallen into the A/FX class and probably been pretty competitive with a 421-inch Tempest and a 413-inch Lancer.

Tasca Ford out of East Providence, RI built a 1962 Ford Fairlane for FX competition, equipped with Fords 406-inch Super Stock engine. Tasca's work with the V8 equipped FX Fairlanes in 1962 and 1963 eventually led to the Ford Thunderbolt program for S/S competition in 1964. I don't know when their 1962 FX car actually was used in competition, maybe at the NHRA Nationals later that year. I don't remember seeing it at the Winternationals in February of 1962. I think it may have been used more as a "test mule" for Ford brass than as an FX car, although I'm willing to be wrong about that. Rhode Island is a long way from California.
By the way, I'm willing to be wrong about a lot of this stuff. I was 23 years old in 1962 and my memory today is not what it used to be.
Let's see what other HAMB members remember about the introduction of the Factory Experimental class in 1962, the Glory Year of FX in my opinion.
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Old 12-21-2013, 01:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

Nice article and I would love to see it go further through the years
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Old 12-21-2013, 01:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

Great information, and a lot of ?s answered.
It's a shame NHRA has gone in the direction it has!
The "class" competition is all but forgotten.
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Old 12-21-2013, 02:52 PM   #4
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

That was really interesting! Thanks!!!
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Old 12-21-2013, 03:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

Formatting removed, so I can read it....

Quote:
Originally Posted by George Klass View Post
...quoted article...
"FX", there's almost magic in the name alone. It was originally conceived by NHRA to deal with the factory's releasing high performance parts that were not in regular production or "assembly line produced". This had been going on during 1961 and threatened to continue into 1962. In the Chevy camp, for instance, the 409 engine had been installed in more than a few 1961 Chevy Impalas and Biscayne coupes by dealers and racers, probably a lot more than had ever been produced at the factory (the number most quoted as being built on the assembly line in 1961 was 142 409-equipped Chevys). NHRA was not going to have that happen in 1962. They were prepared to maintain that Super Stock cars had to be built "in quantity" at the factory on the assembly line.

And so, to deal with the discrepancy between "stock parts" and "special equipment" the Factory Experimental class was born. The NHRA rulebook for 1962 listed the FX class rules right along side the Super Stock rules. Basically, the FX class was a "mix and match" combination of stock parts from one vehicle being used on another vehicle of the same name. An engine from one vehicle (a Pontiac Catalina 421 engine for instance) could be mated with a much smaller and lighter Pontiac (a Tempest Le Mans). The same held true with transmissions, rear end housings and other driveline components. Whatever was used on one model could be mated with another model, of the same brand. But the important point to remember is that the engine transported from one model to the other model (the Pontiac 421 in this instance) still had to meet the same specs as if it were in the original Catalina model. It still had to be "Super Stock legal". Fiberglass or aluminum body parts were not legal in 1962 for the FX class, unless produced (or released) by the factory. Same for magnesium wheels. Wheelbases still needed to remain stock for the body used. Same for suspension. Tube front axles, forgetaboutit. If you did decide to use a straight front axle, it had to come from a vehicle of the same brand, such as a pick-up truck or a van, etc. (not many Pontiac pick-ups around at the time). Fabricated round-tube axles were not permitted. You could install a bigger engine in a smaller car but in the end, what you created was a smaller and lighter version of the Super Stock car. FX did permit a slightly larger tire to be used. The restrictions for the Super Stock class was a tire with at least two tread grooves and a width not to exceed 7-inches. Drag slicks were permitted in the Factory Experimental class, provided that they fit inside the original and unmodified rear wheel well tubs, and did not exceed 10-inches.

And as far as classification between the three Factory Experimental classes (A/FX. B/FX and C/FX), they were based on weight to cubic inches instead of the factory rated horsepower formula used in the Super Stock classes.

All of this burst on the scene at the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona in 1962.



The big noise in the A/FX class that year was a Pontiac Tempest fitted with a 421-inch Pontiac engine. This car was assembled by Hayden Proffitt and Lloyd Cox, working out of Mickey Thompson's shop in Long Beach, CA. This was a natural combination. Both Proffitt and Cox were racing M/T owned Pontiac Catalinas in S/S competition and had plenty of pieces laying around. Installing the 421-inch S/S V8 in the Tempest was easy, the car came from the factory with a 4-cylinder engine that was actually one half of the V8 to begin with. It dropped right in with few if any under-hood modifications required. The standard S/S 3-speed (not a 4-speed) trans was used. In the rear, the factory Tempest swing-axle/transmission was replaced with a narrowed rear end out of the bigger Catalina. The drive shaft was from the Catalina too, shortened to fit (does anyone remember the factory "droopy" drive shafts on the Tempests?).

As would be expected, the Tempest did very well at the Winternationals, winning the A/FX class with very low 12-second runs. I don't think anyone was surprised at the performance of this car. The 421 Pontiac Catalinas were more than holding their own in Super Stock competition at drag strips around the nation and the 421-inch Tempest was a scaled down Pontiac Super Stocker. The standard Pontiac Catalina had a 120-inch wheelbase and was 211.6-inches in length, whereas the Tempest had a 112-inch wheelbase and was only 189.3-inches in length. Plus, the Tempest was over 6-inches narrower than the "wide track" Panchos. That equated to a lot of iron that didn't need to be hauled down the 1/4 mile.



But Pontiac was not alone. The bigger engine installed in the smaller car concept was not reserved for Pontiac. The same idea occurred to Jim Nelson and Dode Martin, the owners of the legendary Dragmaster Chassis company in San Diego. Why not take the 413-inch Dodge S/S engine out of the Dodge sedan and install it in the small Dodge Lancer? The Dodge sedan in 1962 had a 116-inch wheelbase whereas the Lancer had a petite wheelbase of 106.5-inches. The Lancer was also 13.2-inches shorter overall and about 4-inches narrower.

The 413-inch Dodge Golden Lancer ran fine, of course, but I never understood why it didn't make as much of an impact on the FX scene in 1962 as did the Pontiac 421 Tempest. Perhaps it wasn't raced as much or maybe the Dragmaster team was not as into Super Stock competition as much as Proffitt was. After all, Dragmaster was turning out their dragster chassis by the hundreds, and that was their primary focus. It's also possible that Dodge and Plymouth were less interested in using a compact car in the FX class and preferred to promote their Super Stock cars at the time. Maybe there are some HAMB members that have more details on all of this.


I've always felt that Don Nicholson should have been elected President of the Chevrolet Division of General Motors. I don't believe that any other human being ever did as much to promote drag strip performance for a particular brand as did Don Nicholson for Chevrolet. Mention "409 Chevy" to me and the first vision that pops into my head is Don's white 1961 Impala, despite the reality that I bought a 409 Chevy Bel Air "bubble top" in 1962 for myself, from Service Chevrolet in Pasadena.



Several racers installed Small Block Chevy V8 engines into the Chevy II's for FX competition for the Winternationals in 1962 but for all practical purposes, how many people only remember Don's white Chevy II station wagon? I would guess only about 99%. One reason was that if was "Dyno" Don Nicholson and the other reason was that his wagon took home the trophy in the B/FX class. Again, it was the engine out of the bigger sedan stuffed into the little sedan that was the hot set-up. The Impala/Bel Air/Biscayne had a 119-inch wheelbase and was 209-inches long and 79-inches wide. The Chevy II had a 110-inch wheelbase, was 183-inches long and under 71-inches in width. Unlike t-ts and d-cks, smaller was better when it came to drag racing in the 1960's.

Here's a question. How come nobody ever installed a 409 based V8 in a Chevy II back in 1962 for FX competition? If someone did, it's a well kept secret. It would have been a tight fit but NHRA rules allowed front wheel well "trimming" to accommodate bigger engines in smaller cars in FX. It would have fallen into the A/FX class and probably been pretty competitive with a 421-inch Tempest and a 413-inch Lancer.



Tasca Ford out of East Providence, RI built a 1962 Ford Fairlane for FX competition, equipped with Fords 406-inch Super Stock engine. Tasca's work with the V8 equipped FX Fairlanes in 1962 and 1963 eventually led to the Ford Thunderbolt program for S/S competition in 1964. I don't know when their 1962 FX car actually was used in competition, maybe at the NHRA Nationals later that year. I don't remember seeing it at the Winternationals in February of 1962. I think it may have been used more as a "test mule" for Ford brass than as an FX car, although I'm willing to be wrong about that. Rhode Island is a long way from California.

By the way, I'm willing to be wrong about a lot of this stuff. I was 23 years old in 1962 and my memory today is not what it used to be.

Let's see what other HAMB members remember about the introduction of the Factory Experimental class in 1962, the Glory Year of FX in my opinion.
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Old 12-21-2013, 03:17 PM   #6
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

Nice reading, look forward to seeing this thread grow!
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Old 12-21-2013, 04:45 PM   #7
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Thanks for the information. Subscribed !
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Old 12-21-2013, 04:52 PM   #8
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Hey George,
Ive been spending a lot of time on your Website and I really enjoy it.
Great job ,Thanks
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Old 12-21-2013, 07:15 PM   #9
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THAT'S A INTERESTING POST AND i HOPE MORE PEOPLE CHIME IN WITH ADDITIONAL HISTORY!
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Old 12-21-2013, 07:51 PM   #10
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

GEORGE! Great to see you here posting your first-hand accounts of the history of our sport. I'm damn happy to see you putting it all into the record.

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Old 12-22-2013, 03:54 AM   #11
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George happy to see someone that really was there and knows his business clearing up the history for us. Enjoy your website also.
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Old 12-22-2013, 06:00 AM   #12
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

Great article and well written! What ever happened to your '62 "bubble top" w/409? They are/were one of the neatest cars out there along with the SD powered '61 Pontiacs.
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Old 12-22-2013, 08:04 AM   #13
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

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George happy to see someone that really was there and knows his business clearing up the history for us. Enjoy your website also.
Absolutely! Thanks George!
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Old 12-22-2013, 08:26 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Great article and well written! What ever happened to your '62 "bubble top" w/409? They are/were one of the neatest cars out there along with the SD powered '61 Pontiacs.
What happened to it? Same thing that probably happened to all the cars that old farts like me ever owned, we sold them for peanuts 'cause we never realized they would be worth so much in the future. We lived for today, off with the old, on with the new.

I grew up in Los Angeles, with a 1-car garage, never had a barn to store old stuff in for "the future". I've had a lot of cars in my lifetime. Never regretted anything I ever bought, my regret is all the stuff I didn't keep ('40 Ford coupe, '55 Chevy, '30 Model A roadster, etc.)
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Old 12-22-2013, 09:16 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George Klass View Post
What happened to it? Same thing that probably happened to all the cars that old farts like me ever owned, we sold them for peanuts 'cause we never realized they would be worth so much in the future. We lived for today, off with the old, on with the new.

I grew up in Los Angeles, with a 1-car garage, never had a barn to store old stuff in for "the future". I've had a lot of cars in my lifetime. Never regretted anything I ever bought, my regret is all the stuff I didn't keep ('40 Ford coupe, '55 Chevy, '30 Model A roadster, etc.)
Yeah, like the one owner "64 Corvette roadster ( both tops, cloth one brand new, 300 hp, 4 spd, Flipper hubcaps, white w/ red int.) I bought for a grand and later sold for 15 hundred and thought I was in high cotton. This was in 1969 or 70
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Old 12-22-2013, 09:39 AM   #16
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

Very enjoyable read George. I was 18 in '62 and at Concord drag strip every Saturday night. I remember Dyno driving in a Chevy 1 ton car hauler with the '62 Bubble Top on it...pulling an open trailer with the 327 fuel injected Chevy II wagon. It was the beginning of the unimaginable factory race cars that would follow.

Richard Broom, who was also only 18, went to work for Dyno and drove the '62 Bubbletop in '63 while Dyno drove the '63 Z-11. By then the '62 had the Z-11 engine and aluminum body parts. About 20 years later Broom was Rick Hendrick's crew chief on the blown fuel hydro and when Rick switched to NASCAR Broom stayed with him for a while but didn't like round track racing and moved on. I still stay in touch with him.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:02 AM   #17
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

Back on track some more about the FX classes for '62. Last night I went over to a buddy to borrow some of his old Hot Rod magazines, just to jog my memory about the FX class in 1962. The March issue had a big article about installing the 327 fuel injected engine and 'Vette 4-speed into the Chevy II. What I didn't remember until I read the article was that Chevrolet had a complete kit available for the swap, including all the relevant part numbers. The factory part numbers were the key to what was allowed in the FX class in '62 and what was not permitted. If you could order it from the factory, you could use it in the FX classes. For instance, the '62 Pontiac Tempest driven by Hayden Proffitt and later by Lloyd Cox had a S/S Pontiac 421 power plant, which included aluminum rods, special pistons and a custom cam. These pieces were never legal for S/S competition. They were manufactured by Mickey Thompson and had Pontiac part numbers. Anyone could order those pieces from a Pontiac dealer, who would purchase the parts directly from M/T. Remember, to be legal for NHRA S/S in '62, cars needed to be built "in quantity" and be assembly line produced. To be legal for the FX class, the parts just needed to be "available" from the factory or have a factory part number.

Back to the Chevy II V8 for a minute. According to the article in HRM, the 327 V8 swap added only 120 pounds to the car over the factory straight-6 engine. The car weight (2-door sedan) with the V8 was 2908 pounds (without driver), with 56.9% on the front wheels. This is one of the reasons that Nicholson opted to use the 4-door wagon, considering how nose heavy the 2-door sedan was. If you notice the photo above of Proffitt's Tempest running at the Winternationals, you will notice that the Chevy II in the other lane (also running in A/FX like the Tempest) was a 4-door sedan, most likely for the same reason.

Another thing about the Chevy II's, the stock rear suspension was a single leaf spring. NHRA would permit additional leaves if the racer wanted them, but the "swap kit" from Chevy included a traction bar instead, and maintained the single leaf springs.

Speaking of rear suspension systems, the Tempest used coil springs to hold up the trans-axle and swing arms (like the Corvair). Proffitt maintained the stock coil springs in the rear when he installed the straight axle housing, and built his own "ladder bars" out of square tubing.

The Golden Lancer used the stock (but beefed up) leaf springs in the rear and built some nifty tubular ladder bars. Ladder bars or "traction bars" as NHRA referred to them were legal in S/S classes as well, provided that the original suspension system was retained. NHRA was a little more lenient with the rear suspension systems in the FX classes. The front suspension systems had to remain stock for the car used, or be available for that brand vehicle from the factory. We really never saw the "tube front axle" suspension systems in NHRA FX competition for several years, that was something that kind of took off when the match race madness craze hit the drag strips.

Some random notes. Photos in HRM for both the Pontiac 421 Tempest and the Dodge 413 Golden Lancer show that the batteries have been relocated into the trunk. There was nothing in the NHRA rulebook for the FX class that addressed this (it was illegal in S/S to do this) but apparently it was permitted in FX. HRM also reported that the weight for Nicholson's 327 B/FX wagon was 2980 pounds, and 3030 pounds for the Lancer and 3140 pounds for the Tempest, all without driver.

One other note. Non-factory hood scoops were not permitted in either FX classes or in S/S classes. Some racers used them in 1961 but NHRA soon made them illegal.





Note the classification of Hayden Proffitt's 1961 Pontiac, OS/S. Illegal for Super Stock competition (S/S), it was required to run in the Optional Super Stock class. Cars like this were the reason that the Factory Experimental classes were even conceived. The factories were releasing new high performance parts almost every day, parts that were either in short supply or almost impossible to get "unless you knew somebody". The Chevy 409 was "sort of" assembly line produced in 1961, but as time went on that year, new "upgraded" parts became available (heads, intake manifolds, etc.). Sometimes it was tough to tell who was running what.


Dave Strickler's S/S car with "illegal for S/S completion" later in the season, running in OS/S.

GM racers seemed to have the most problems in the early 1960's, despite the fact that the 409 powered Chevy's cleaned up at both the 1962 Winternationals in Pomona and the Nationals in Indy. Chevy released the Z11 Impala in time for the NHRA Winternationals in 1963 only to find out that it was not going to be permitted to run in the S/S class. It was never built as an FX car, it was conceived as a S/S car. Maybe they never produced enough of them (they built 57 of them), I don't know. I do know that NHRA was pulling their hair out in clumps with all the trick factory cars built exclusively for drag racing.


This '63 Z11 Chevy had to cover up the S/S on his door and run in the Limited Production (L/P) class at Pomona.


This one chose to run in the A/FX class in Pomona.

And then to top all of this off, General Motors bailed out of racing all together in 1963. Although none of the Chevy or Pontiac guys realized it at the time, this proved to be a blessing in disguise. It now meant that anyone could build an FX car, you didn't need to be a "GM factory racer". All you needed was a compact car (a Chevy II or a Chevelle), a S/S engine, and a chain hoist.

http://georgeklass.net/super-stock.html
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:12 AM   #18
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Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

A great thread . Thanks for posting this.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:36 AM   #19
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Very nice article well written, very good information . thanks
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:39 AM   #20
Paul B
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Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Rockyhill Ct
Posts: 915
Default Re: Factory Experimental (the FX Class) and the myth...

good read thanks
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