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Hot Rods Just how fast were they, back in the day?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Zuffen, Aug 3, 2021.

  1. I got to wondering what sort of times cars were running in (let's say) 1955.

    I know there will be differing numbers for different classes but what about the guy down the street with the hotted up model A? Did he get below 20seconds?
    AHotRod and hotrodjack33 like this.
  2. Gofannon
    Joined: Feb 8, 2007
    Posts: 782


    Everything was slow in those days, including clocks.:rolleyes:
  3. Donut Dave
    Joined: Jul 9, 2007
    Posts: 417

    Donut Dave

    Some of the cars were so slow they were timed with a calender!!!
  4. yellow dog
    Joined: Oct 15, 2011
    Posts: 495

    yellow dog
    from san diego

    Howard Johansen ran in the low 90's in 1955. He got classed as C gas taking a brand new 55 Chevy.
    What stands out most in memory was that he had taken the brand new car and cut out the hood for
    the stacks to exit

  5. mohr hp
    Joined: Nov 18, 2009
    Posts: 426

    mohr hp
    from Georgia

    First off, I wasn't there, so there's that. But I have read a mountain of Hot Rod magazines from the day, and they always reported times from the big races, and showed ET's of feature cars. (may not have represented reality well) and I've been a troglodyte all my life, so I'll take a stab at it. I'd say the hotted up flatty or Olds or Cad powered A by the guy down the street probably ran from the low 16's down to maybe a low 14 in the quarter. This is assuming a dual purpose Hot Rod. Any guy that got more serious with a purpose built car, probably 13's to low 12's. Horsepower and traction was not easy like when the muscle car engines evolved. I could be all wet. I'm sure they SEEMED faster, cuz they drove so badly, but reality is, a modern commuter car with the upgrade engine option box checked off, could probably wax most of them.
  6. v8flat44
    Joined: Nov 13, 2017
    Posts: 1,007


    Here is something from 1957....
    That year, the Thunderbird was offered with several engine options, ranging from 212 to 300 hp. At the high end was the 312-cid, F-code V8, fitted with a 4-bbl carburetor and McCulloch VR57 Supercharger. Modified cylinder heads and camshafts were used to get the best out of the optional motor. Sources vary somewhat in the estimated production numbers, but something on the order of two hundred F-Code Thunderbirds are thought to have been built.

    This option brought serious performance to the ‘Bird, enabling 0-60 mph times in the very low 6-second range and a top speed approaching 130 mp
  7. KevKo
    Joined: Jun 25, 2009
    Posts: 781

    from Motown

    Everything is faster today. Track prep is better. Tires are WAY better. I've seen weekend warrior door-slammers on 10-inch tires run in the sixes at over 200. That's about what the last of the front-engine Top Fuel cars ran. Late '60's muscle cars ran 13's. Today Camaro's, Challengers and Mustangs run low 10's, maybe high 9's.
  8. greybeard360
    Joined: Feb 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,916


    64 Thundetbolts were in mid to high 11 second cars in their day. Butch Leal won the 64 Winternats at 11.74 in S/S
    ffr1222k, Deuces and stillrunners like this.
  9. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,110


    I remember reading "Uncle Tom" McCahill's road tests in Mechanix Illustrated in the mid to late '50's. The thing I remember back then was that breaking 10 seconds in the 0-60 run was a real big deal. It translated to a 17-18 second quarter mile time. Back then 0-60 was the standard for acceleration times (the 1/4 mile was something some goofy kids in California used).

    A bunch of friends and I took our cars to the dragstrip one Sunday. The "hot" flatheads (mainly stock "shoebox" Fords) could break the 20 second mark in the 1/4 miles. One guy had a stock Model "A". I seem to remember he ran in the 22 second area. In 1961, a friend and I ran a stripped '36 Ford coupe with a '42 Merc engine (heads and carbs, modified ignition; all else stock) and turned a best time of 16.44 seconds. We were happy with it and held the "D/Altered" track record at Minnesota Dragways for a few months. Some guys came down from Fargo later in the year with a '32 coach with a fully built 296" flathead with 4 carbs and cut almost 2 seconds off our "record".

    A couple of other comments. In '58 we were all astounded by the fact that a stock FI 283 '57 Chevrolet ran a certified 14.34 in the quarter; it was almost unbelievable then (and I expect a little sophisticated cheating was going on). In the late '80's, a friend had some nicely restored '63 and '64 409 Four speed Chevrolets. We went for a ride and ran them through their paces. At that time, I had a '67 Corvette with a 327/350, a four speed and 3.55 gears. I will have to say I was singularly unimpressed with the performance of the vaunted 409's.

    I can't let Mr. "Elcohaulic"'statements pass without comment. First of all, I would discount the fact that a 337 Lincoln flathead was involved. I knew a couple of guys in high school who put one in a '53 Ford. It was waaay nose-heavy, handled like a safe in a wheelbarrow, and would have had no traction. Also, although I think Edmunds made heads and carbs, no serious speed equipment was available for that lump of iron. As to 11 second quarters with a modified flathead in a '49 Ford. Sorry, but that never happened. Joe Abbin made 335 hp on the dyno with a blown 284" engine in a '34 sedan and ran consistent 12's at the strip. The only way that guy was in the 11's was on a 1/8 mile strip.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2021
    R A Wrench, pitman, Charlie K and 7 others like this.
  10. hotrodjack33
    Joined: Aug 19, 2019
    Posts: 3,542


    I was kinda slow back then too. All the other kids on the "short bus" would probably agree;)
  11. wicarnut
    Joined: Oct 29, 2009
    Posts: 8,533


    "The Older we get, The Faster we were". and if an you are an old dizzy track racer, " A Legend in my own mind " I believe these pertain to all car guys in general. I enjoy reading some of the Whoppers on here, the 9/10,000 rpm 283 back in the day is my favorite.
    jimgoetz, Joe Travers, egads and 5 others like this.
  12. In 1962 I ran my Merc. (my avatar Pic.) it was bone Stock in
    N Stock 1/4 mile race & Turned 16 second's at Westhampton, NY
    It took somebody 10 years to brake my record & they sent me a
    Letter asking if I wanted to challenge it & I told them NO
    I use to Drive the Car 100 miles to the Track & Race all day & Drive Home
    I Prep my Car by backing off the Brakes so it would Free Wheel
    Reject the Carb. & Advance the Timming
    And at the End of the Day I would Reverce everything & Drive Home.

    Just my 3.5 cents

    Live Learn & Die a Fool
  13. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 4,055

    from illinois

    In the late 60's a 12 second street driven car was very unusual , most good stuff ran 14-18 second quarters .
    57Custom300, SlamIam, pitman and 6 others like this.
  14. coilover
    Joined: Apr 19, 2007
    Posts: 681

    from Texas

    The gps has sure let the air out of the "it would run 140, 150, and even some a wild 160". We've had 440 Mopars, 427 Fords and Chevy's, and a 426 Dodge come through the shop and NONE broke out of the 130 range on level road and show floor trim. A surprise is the Buick GS which run in the low 130's with the a-c going. Speedometers were very optimistic back then.
  15. MCjim
    Joined: Jun 4, 2006
    Posts: 470

    from soCal

    Most first trips down a drag strip ended in disillusionment at the E.T. booth...
    Joe Travers, X-cpe, rod1 and 4 others like this.
  16. olscrounger
    Joined: Feb 23, 2008
    Posts: 4,549


    In the early 60's a 14 sec street car was pretty damn quick! Friend had a 60 Chevy 335HP 4 spd 4;11 with light flywheel headers etc--mid to low 14's
  17. A 14 second street car is still pretty damn fast.
    HSF, jimgoetz, pitman and 9 others like this.
  18. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,110


    I saw an article a few years ago where they ran a current model Camry against a FI 1965 Corvette; both turned in the high 15's.:mad:
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2021
  19. hemihotrod66
    Joined: May 5, 2019
    Posts: 628


    The quickest I can remember our Superstock 1965 Cornet hemi car ran was 10.96 and don't remember the MPH...In 1966 the shop went fuel funny car racing with a 66 fiberglass Dodge Dart and I think it went into the high 9's...
    stillrunners likes this.
  20. 1971BB427
    Joined: Mar 6, 2010
    Posts: 7,350

    from Oregon

    In 1955 at the first NHRA Nationals in Great Bend, Ks. only one car broke 100 mph in the 1/4, and that was Warren Turner's Chrysler powered Allard roadster in A/SP class. The next year at Kansas City, Ms. three cars broke the 100 mph mark in A/G, B/G, and A/SR. The fastest times were recorded in 1955, but in 1956 they recorded ET's and only A/SR broke into the high 13 sec. at 13.94 et.
    egads, stillrunners and pprather like this.
  21. MCjim
    Joined: Jun 4, 2006
    Posts: 470

    from soCal

  22. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,110


    I really have to ask ; was Westhampton an NHRA sanctioned track?
    302GMC likes this.
  23. FrozenMerc
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 2,826


    This. This is a very fast car even by today's standards in capable hands, and a very dangerous one in anybody else hands.


    The 427 Cobra was the fastest accelerating (0 to 60 mph) "production" car tested by Road and Track until the 1997 Porsche 911 Turbo. Shelby was nuts, and the 427 Cobra was (is) an absolute beast. Given the tire and suspension technology of the time, it is no wonder many owners had the 427 replaced with a 289 shortly after purchase.

    1964 427 Cobra 0-60: 4.4 seconds
    1997 911T 0-60: 4.3 seconds

    Now we have Teslas that can do it in 2 flat. Progress, I guess.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2021
  24. Don't believe me? Even modern fast cars have a hard time on the street. Under controlled conditions a Hellcat barely breaks the 11 second mark at 10.8. Most folks don't even know how to handle the power they can put down, hence all of the totalled Hellcats you see. Your average Joe would back off far before he could hit 11 in an actual 1/4.
  25. for HAMB era stuff yeah its not too bad, but with good tires its not hard to take what used to be a 13/14 second car back in the 60s and drop it into the 12/13 or lower with just that change. I mean my street driven 33 pickup in the early 90's with just BFG T/A's was in the high 12's with a warmed over small block and it still never got traction. With traction the truck was a low 12 high 11 rig.
    Blues4U likes this.
  26. yeah they need a prepped track to break into the 10s, but the 5.0 will click 11s right off the floor and a SS Camaro is in the very low 12's. I run consistent 12.1's in mine as I race it in a modern series.

    The thing with the modern stuff is they dont feel fast until they snap out of control. At the line in my Camaro it feels like I am just cruising down the highway at 65. My 33 feels like I knocking on heavens door at the traps and its almost a second slower.
  27. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 11,210

    jimmy six

    Watch you tube with Hellcats and GT 500 Mustangs getting totaled…idiots own most of the fast cars. An old guys drive new Corvettes….. very old guys.
    Guy Patterson, Blues4U and Tman like this.
  28. hipojoe
    Joined: Jul 23, 2021
    Posts: 357


    Except the COBRA came along 10 years later, not 1955 as the OP was asking for.
    rod1, seb fontana and lurker mick like this.
  29. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 31,008


    Around 1958 My step father traded a 53 Mercury hardtop for a 52 Ford Victoria that was lowered to the ground and had a 56 Thunderbird special with overdrive 3 speed behind it. The Car held the Ellensberg WA C gas track record when he traded for it running in the 14's.
    Up through the 60's Hot Rod listed the current (when published) national records and they weren't all that fast most of the time.

    The first weekend The now Pacific Raceways that has also been known as Seattle Pacific and Seattle International raceways at times opened in 1960 they ran just about every type of event that was run at the track for a couple of hour time slots include road racing with sports cars, bikes and GP cars and then the Drags with some of the top name diggers in the country running and most were running in the tens at the time. As a 14 year old car freak I was in absolute car heaven.

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