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Detroit Dragway: August 1966 Funny Car Show

Such a deal. $4.00 admission, two bucks for a pit pass. A big name nitro funny car show for six dollars total. Ah, to be back at Detroit Dragway in 1966

Such a deal! $4.00 admission, two bucks for a pit pass. A big name nitro funny car show for six dollars total. Ah, to be back at Detroit Dragway in 1966.

August 2, 1966:Three and half months after the Detroit Dragway Invitational, my friends and I were back at Sibley and Dix. This time however, all the cars were burning nitromethane. Even better, for this event, we had pit passes and had the chance to see the famous nitro cars up close.

Gil Kohn always ran his midweek Detroit Dragway shows on Tuesday. I’m not sure why; he must have learned that the crowds were better on Tuesday nights.

Detroit Dragway promoted a four car Tuesday funny car show “under the lights.” Two Detroit area cars headlined the program: the Ramchargers candy-striped Dart and the famous Seaton’s Shaker Chevelle. Bill Lawton’s SOHC Mystery 9 Mustang gave Ford fans something to cheer about, while Malcom Durham rounded out the fourth spot with his new Strip Blazer Corvair.

When we got to the track, things got even better, as two unadvertised funny cars turned up to boost the field to six. Rodger Lindamood took advantage of the Tuesday event to make some shake down runs in the brand new Color Me Gone Dodge Charger.

The sixth car was a true surprise. Tom Sturm’s west-coast ’64 Chevelle didn’t typically travel outside of California, but that August night found the Just for Chevy Lovers match racer at Detroit Dragway. Sturm wasn’t driving the car that night. I know that Larry Christopherson sometimes drove the Chevelle for Sturm on the west coast, but I can’t remember who was behind the wheel that evening.

Funny Car evolution in progress

So the field was made up of three “old school” match bash machines and three tube-framed “intermediate” funny cars. The first flip-top funny cars; the factory backed Mercury Comets, were just starting to create a sensation in the funny car ranks. In 1966, however, it wasn’t clear that the floppers would be the wave of the future. There was still a wild-west, anything-goes atmosphere about the match racers, and funny cars appeared in every shape and form.

The two Chevelles and Lawton’s Mustang were traditonal, altered wheelbase match racers. All three were highly modified, with lots of fiberglass body components. But underneath, each one was based on a factory chassis. The frame rails, although far from stock, were essentially the same as those under the cars you would find at the local dealership.

The cars of Durham, Lindamood and the Ramchargers were a new breed. They weren’t flip-top funny cars, but they rode on custom-built tube frames. The long front clip either swung up or was removable. The fixed body had opening doors, but overall the intermediate cars were far lighter than the old-school machines. Nitro funny cars were evolving, but no one was quite sure what they were morphing into.

Naturally, I brought my old Kodak Instamatic along, although I didn’t take many photos after dark. I did get some images in the pits and I’ll include those in my next series of posts.


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One Comment

  1. Keith Hallett
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I drove one of the Detroit Dragway owned funny cars in the 1970s. I drove the
    “Red Barn Barracuda” My son and I would like to recreate this car. We now run a 1956 Ford T-Bird in a nostalgia F/C group. I would love to find the original body to do this. Any help would be great. Keith Hallett

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