It never fails; someone comes up with a really cool idea, then someone else has to screw it up to the point that it’s no longer cool. And I hate to say it, but that’s where we are with nostalgia Funny Car racing. Before the class went nuts in popularity, the nostalgia Funny Cars actually looked like, well … vintage Funny Cars. And isn’t that the whole idea behind “nostalgia” drag racing?
It’s unfortunate, but today’s nostalgia Funny Cars racing within the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series have gone the way of the “big show” and have taken most of the “nostalgia” out of the cars in order to make room for sleek, more aerodynamic bodies. It’s common for the rocker panels on these cars to go all the way down to the ground, with the nose of the car extending way past the front wheels.
Those aspects didn’t exist in the early years of Funny Car racing, so if the goal is to retain the vintage vibe of that time period, I give today’s nostalgia drag racing a solid D-. This is exactly what happened to the original NHRA Funny Car class in the early ’80s. The bodies became so streamlined, the make and model of car they were mimicking was basically unrecognizable.
Look at the Funny Cars in NHRA racing today; beyond the headlight and grille stickers, there’s not much difference between a Mustang and a Camaro. John Force proved it in 2015 when he took the Ford decals off of his “Mustangs” and replaced them with Camaro-looking headlight and grille stickers, and voilà, he’s now “magically” sitting behind the wheel of a “2016 Camaro.” What?
Unfortunately, that’s where things are heading in the Nostalgia ranks, too. And it’s a shame, because when Randy Walls brought out his 1970 Super Nova Funny Car to go nostalgia drag racing over 10 years ago, it was freaking awesome! Not only was his car period correct – the new body came out of the original mold from back in the day. Yes, the chassis was upgraded for safety purposes, but the body was the same one. Now, I realize not everyone has an actual Funny Car body from the ’70s in their garage, but that car really gave you the feeling of what Funny Car racing was like back in 1970. It only ran in the mid to low 6-second zone, but the spectators in the stands could care less—they absolutely loved it.
At that time, the vibe around nostalgia Funny Cars was so cool and exciting that others jumped into the latest drag racing craze to go nitro Funny Car racing for a relatively reasonable amount of money.
George Doty’s Crazy Horse 1971 Mustang’s body was period correct (it didn’t even have windows), as was Jeff Gaynor’s ’Cuda, same with the Lil’ Nate’s 1971 Charger Funny Car. All these “floppers” (there were may others, too) were responsible for bringing back the spirit of early drag racing, and they hadn’t yet broken into the 5-second zone. They just loved the vibe of the old-school racing.
Everything was great until sometime in 2005 when one of the racers “borrowed” some ideas from modern Funny Cars and showed up with a “vintage” 1960-something Mustang that had an extended nose and rocker panels going south and resting about 1 inch from the ground. Unfortunately, in the name of competition, others followed suit. In my opinion, this was the beginning of the end of nostalgia Funny Car racing.
It’s probably just me, but my 53-year-old self keeps trying to hold on to something that is long gone. I just wish they wouldn’t have teased me with those period-correct Funny Cars for two or three years, you know, back when nostalgia drag racing was much cooler than it is now.