By Hot Rod Jimmy
Many moons ago, I was reading the 20th Anniversary of Rolling Stone. In it, they had PJ O’Rourke interviewing the Late Hunter S. Thompson. PJ asked if there was anything about the 60’s that made him Mad? Hunter replied that he was mad that he didn’t get all the acid flashbacks that he had been promised. I got to thinking about this and the Victory Phase 3 body that has caused all the hate and discontent in the last couple of years. Did we finally get the 60’s flashbacks we deserved?
So I thought about it–it is supposed to be a 1969 Camaro, after all… What if you were standing on a corner in 1969 and saw one of these things? Would you rush home run into your kitchen to see if there was a pair of dragons in your refrigerator eating all your watermelon pie? Although that might not be the case unless you are from Winslow, Arizona–you would sure be thinking about what you saw though.
I have questions about all of this as well… First off, why would someone be driving one of these things on the street where you could see it? Second, I don’t think it is a good idea to take LSD and drive a fuel funny car. The way funny cars are built might save you though; there are no rearview mirrors so you can’t see the parachutes when they come out… Look at all those lovely colors…and where is all that noise coming from?
The next question is more to the point though; why a 1969 Camaro? I know the car is popular, and it is a great looking car. You look at the history of it, and it does have a great ancestry in racing. From the Roger Penske Trans Am cars driven by the late great Mark Donahue to the late William Tyler Jenkins “Grumpy’s Toy” version in 1969. In funny car they didn’t make the show that much though. There were the 1970’s versions of the body that showed up. And there were even some great racers that ran Big Block Chevys in them, like Kelly Chadwick and Charlie Therwanger. What of the late great Jungle Jim Lieberman? He went from Nova’s, to the ’70 Camaro, and right on to Vegas, and then Monza’s.
The 1969 version–not so much. In NFC, every other car out there is a 1969 Camaro. They are great looking cars, and fans love them. Of the four cars, that is the 1967-8 Camaro, the 1970, and the 1969 versions, the ’69 body has the most frontal area of the four cars. That grill hanging out there is like a billboard. The ’67-’68 version is not much better–still it is less frontal area than the ’69. The 1970 body is the lowest in frontal area, and it has that quenched down grill that in a funny car version was, and still is, great as far as aerodynamics go. The windshield angle on the cars is about the same. Only one car is running the stock windshield angle in NFC.
That is Steven Denshem in the “Teacher’s Pet” Car. You roll it up next to another Camaro body and it is night and day. I love the way the body hangs and the overall finish of Littlefield and Rupert’s “Rolling Thunder” and Tim Boycuck’s “Happy Hour” cars. Unlike people back in the day who, like Jungle Jim, extended their greenhouse to make the body longer, these cars take another route. They shortened the greenhouse and lengthened the car from the windshield forward. It gives it a look like the late Raymond Beatle’s bobtail “Blue Max” from back in the day. It blends better than the Max did, in my opinion. Using the shorter greenhouse and giving it this killer ‘I am a bad ass funny car’ look, both cars are big time favorites amongst both racers and fans.
How about the “Flashback” Camaros though? A lot of people do not like them because they look like they are Pro/Mods…and they do have that look, without a doubt. They have taken the ’69 grill and reduced it in size. They are trying to reduce the frontal area. I am thinking that works to an extent. Then, they took the flat hood area of the Camaro and rounded it from the windshield down to the top of the grill like a C4 Corvette. The greenhouse is shortened like the others, but here, the rear is pied just a bit to get air onto the rear spoiler; the rear quarter panels are pushed out and pumped up. They look like a newer 2017 Camaro quarter panel. They still kind of maintain the ’69 Camaro look.
Okay. The argument can be made they are funny cars. They roll out big horsepower… So, who cares what the body looks like? I would say that is true…but it isn’t. The fastest car in NFC land last year was Jason Rupert at 269MPH. This was no fluke. Go on youtube.com and watch the video. That car was gettin’ it. It was a ’69 Camaro body, sure…but it wasn’t a flashback Camaro. Not to sell those bodies short; the two out there in Nitroland have both gone over 260 and are members in Kevin Stith’s 260 MPH club.
Funny cars have long been the wild west of nitro racing. Over 50 years of cars have brought them to a near standard in the class. It is a racing standard; not one created as in many forms of motorsports by the current rules. Every week the spoiler heights change up or down. On and on and on. Nitro racing, for the most part, is still a little bit wild west. Changes are presented to the rules committee and are, for the most part, approved.
With the flashback cars, there have been a lot of comments on how the car was approved. I cannot get into that. It is the inner workings of NHRA and a total mystery to me. To NHRA’s credit, after the showing of the car at the CHRR in 2015, they took another look at it. They made changes. They seemed to have done this at the behest of the other car owners, drivers and the fans. This has to be considered a good thing.
One argument about the cars is that this is a nostalgia class. Seems a lot of the guys are behind this one. It has a lot of pull to it as well. “If you call it Nostalgia, the cars need to look like they did from 1978 or earlier.” Not the stock cars on the street, but what funny cars looked like in 1978. They had gone through a lot of changes by that point in the history of the class. The bodies had been reshaped and made much more aerodynamic. People like Jerry Clayton even went as far as using the Formula One trick of creating a wind tunnel under the car to give it more downforce. In the late 90’s, it became the norm to use wind tunnels for testing for some of the high dollar teams. This kind of testing served them well. We saw the cars taking on the aerodynamic shape of a wedge. The greenhouses were narrowed. The front wheel wells pushed out.
So the question ends up being, do we let change happen and let the class progress along another timeline? Or do we stick with bodies having to be like the days of old? If we allow a new timeline, all the cars are going to change over time. Do we end up like NASCAR and let them go so far there has to be a reboot? A Nostalgia car of tomorrow? That would-be kind of a hard sell, wouldn’t it? The people in this class do not have the coin to make all kinds of changes as well.
So where do I end up standing on this? I think that no great damage has been done to the class…as of yet. In truth, has there been any damage done at all? I think the only damage that could come from this is stepping across the line and going down the road the big show has gone–Funny cars that are almost ‘brand neutral’ and cars evolving into brightly painted wedges. It all might come down to, “Do you believe in Chaos Theory or not?”
The branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.
It is like time travel and a conflict of two different time lines. The first timeline 1968 to 1978–what all the cars were back in the day. We know what happened, how the cars evolved, what details happened.
Then the second time around–the development of the Nostalgia class. It has broken away from the timeline of the first. It is becoming something different altogether. The cars are going to end up quite different as we know where the stratosphere of the sport lays and what it is in the Big Show.
The two cars that are out there, one racing for one season and the other for two seasons, have not really set the world on fire. When they both ran really well, they both had guest crewchiefs that made some great differences. They both have traveled over 260mph. These cars are solid performers, lasting into the later rounds every time they roll out. As far as I know, the two have only raced once at Firebird in the NHRA Igniter. Dan Horan took the honors. For a time at that event they held the national record. In the end, it was Kris Krabill and the Bucky Austin gang that rang the bell.
Bucky Austin has the third body to be produced for the 2017 season. They sold their old car and it was picked up after the CHRR. The car will represent the great team in defense of its 2016 NHRA title. Some people should get a bit worried as to how all of this is going to come down now. This is a hard-running team; they are always there when the sunset comes around. Kris Krabill has said the change was because of their new car. The body switch is for performance reasons.
I think, as with the dawn of any new season, the best is yet to come. It is going to be a wild and woolly season. With IHRA ending their nitro campaigns (supposedly for one season), the NHRA events are going to be maxed out for entries. Nobody is going to catch a slow slot or bye round to make the show. Everything is going to be earned. The Bardahl car is going to be a rocket ship walking on the moon by the end of the season. It is going to be like the days of old with gunslingers that carried two peacemakers; with the Deadman hole filled. Like John Wane said, “Load six if your insides tell you to.”
-Hot Rod Jimmy
Somewhere in the wild backlands of Oregon snowed in.