Before Funny Cars, there was Match Bash

Before Funny Cars, there was Match Bash

Match Bash. A phrase that sounds best when yelled. You see, Match Bash wasn’t for the rule followers. It wasn’t for the tape measure jockeys in white coveralls, and it certainly wasn’t for the faint of heart. Think cobbled, flimsy metal shells held together by strands of hope and wishful thinking. Wavy fiberglass doors and decklids intertwined with acid-dipped shells to create collages much like an AMT kit built by a kid who went a little heavy on the glue. Moon tanks, beam axles, magnesium wheels and meaty slicks. Match Bash is what kids dreamt of and fathers denounced.

“Don’t you want to watch the dragsters?? He’ll ask nervously as his young son points at the car painted like a tiger in the staging lanes. The Endrle hat atop the 421 Poncho fills the void where a hood once was. As the motor roars to life, the thin fenders sway while the car violently thrashes side to side.

Small blocks, big blocks, Semi-Hemis, Cammers and Hemis. In rare cases, carburetors bolted to homemade manifolds made appearances. But that wasn’t the winning strategy for these exiled prizefighters. To stay in this cutthroat battle, the Match Bashers turned to tightly-cranked 6-71s and calliopes of injectors.

Some racers snuck into their old high schools, disguised as students, to sit in on chemistry lessons with hopes of mixing the next winning fuel. Though their alchemy was much improved, they failed the course due to poor grammar in their lab reports.

Undeterred, these foil-wrapped spacemen loaded their spun-aluminum tanks with strange combinations of benzene, hydrazine or maybe nitromethane in preparation to catapult their home-brews down the 1320.

Best two of three. Winner takes all, the crudely printed posters would boast. Who’s in the other lane tonight? An AA/Gasser? A turbine rocket car? There was more money in this game than sanctioned competition. Besides, why not put it all on the line for three runs?

Run a couple dry hops through the gold dust. Open the door and throw it in reverse. Eyes burn as the car idles at the line.

The tree signals green and both driver and car know it’s time to pounce. Frontend lifts, bumper scrapes as blips of flame exit the weedburners. White-knuckled hands grip the wheel, struggling to keep the beast straight. After several seconds of Hell, the driver pulls the chute and it’s all over. He takes a deep breath.

Match Bash. They’re not gassers. They’re not A/FXers. They’re not stockers. They’re their own breed.

-Joey Ukrop 

Lead photo from the Hot Rod Magazine Archives. All other photos selected indiscriminately from the many altered wheelbase or F/X threads on the  H.A.M.B. 


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