Pro Mod began as an IHRA class at tracks primarily in the Southeastern part of the United States. The events that I attended in the late 1980s and ’90s were at the Texas Motorplex, Darlington, and the old Bristol tracks, which drew sellout crowds each day.
These events were reminiscent of the 1966-’68 races I attended as a kid at California’s Lions Drag Strip and Carlsbad Raceway, where large numbers of mostly homebuilt Funny Cars raced. Events such as the East vs. West Funny Car race at Lions and the Pro Mod races featured here had a strong resemblance to each other, in that the cars were not confined to a narrow set of rules and they had an appealing range of body styles and powerplants. The early Pro Mods were definitely unpredictable, exciting to watch, and great to see up close.
Among the photos from my archive is a ’55 Chevy named Too Fat To Fly. It’s particularly memorable for me as it had a blown Hemi set back halfway into the driver’s compartment and was a handful to drive at high speeds.
The red, white, and blue Summit-sponsored Beretta, driven by Bill Kuhlman, in this image collection was the first Pro Mod to officially run 200 mph.
While covering these races with drag racing journalists such as Dave Wallace, Jeff Burk, Bobby Bennett, and Don Gillespie, I knew back then we were witnessing something special that likely would not happen again in drag racing.
Take a look and see for yourself in this rare image gallery featuring photos, most of which have never been published before, from the early days of Pro Mod drag racing.
Photos: Ron Lewis