For Funny Cars, I remember the 1980s as the decade of the mega-sponsorships that had begun in the late 1970s along with rapid advances in aerodynamics. These sponsorships included the Big Three car manufacturers, beer companies, restaurant chains, and non-alcoholic beverage makers.
Not long into the 1980s, the most successful Funny Cars ceased to resemble the cars they represented. This was to be expected, given that speeds easily exceeded 250 mph.
The 1980s Chevy Funny Cars included Camaros, Corvettes, and an occasional Monte Carlo. Most notable were the mid-decade Corvettes campaigned by none other than John Force and Tom “Mongoo$e” McEwen. These racers secured major corporate backing from the likes of Coors, Wendy’s, Jolly Rancher, Mountain Dew, and Coca-Cola for both Corvettes and Camaros.
One of my favorite shots in this gallery is of Sherm Gunn’s Camaro Funny Car at the Pomona finish line narrowly beating Kenny Bernstein’s Ford Entry. Needless to say, this was a huge upset! Among the other photos of Southern California independents are Joe Pisano’s early 1980s Camaro and John Lindsay’s Monte Carlo.
Veteran drivers Butch Leal and Bruce Allen drove 1980s Chevy Beretta Pro Stockers on the national level with a fair degree of success. Each had major sponsors that included the Super Shops speed shop chain and the Rod Shop.
The late Chuck Beal can be seen in his highly successful Camaro alcohol Funny Car that sported a bright candy orange paintjob and competed in both NHRA and IHRA events.
The 1980s may have featured some music and hairstyles we’d gladly like to forget, but at the same time, there were some groundbreaking Funny Cars that made a huge impact on the sport of drag racing that lingers on today. CHP
Photos by Ron Lewis