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Ads From the Past

The Art Of Speed 2

By Steve Magnante

The Cragar S/S is the most iconic two-piece custom wheel offering of all time. When this Bell Auto Parts ad appeared in late 1965, the all-chrome S/S had been on the market for a year and had inspired numerous copy cats. In return, Bell/Cragar Industries honcho Roy Richter launched the satin-finished version (depicted above the traditional chrome S/S). Not to be confused with the Cragar G/T, the satin finish S/S wheel used the same cast-aluminum center hat as the normal S/S. The only difference was surface treatment, which sought to emulate the dull but serious look of magnesium racing wheels.

Bet you didn't know this popular five-spoke wheel wasn't always marketed as the Keystone Klassic. As this 1965 ad proves, it was originally introduced as the Kustomag. A key detail separating Keystone wheels from most five-spoke competitors is the subtle scallop cast into the sides of the spokes. When coated with semi-matte black paint, the recesses and hubs give the Kustomag (and later Klassic variants) a sinister yet classy vibe. Better still, the blacked-out surface draws extra attention to the chrome lug nuts. In nearly continuous production since 1965, minimal changes have been made to the chrome-steel hoop and die-cast aluminum center hat. Rather, Keystone has concentrated on updating the center cap and surface finish of the spokes. Typically pitted and faded from age, somebody needs to re-pop the original-style "simple K" center cap seen here. When added to a modern Klassic, the wheel is transformed, and major retro points result.

This humble Torq-Thrust ad from 1965 signaled a major change in strategy for American Racing Equipment (ARE). Since its birth in 1956 under the guidance of Romeo Palamides, ARE had focused on the production of magnesium wheels for race applications. While magnesium is half the weight of aluminum, it's more brittle in nature, making it less desirable for street use, where sudden shocks can result in fractures. By adding the aluminum alternative depicted here, the Torq-Thrust met the street-oriented (read heavy) Cragar S/S and Keystone Kustomag head-on. Incidentally, when properly designed and heat-treated, magnesium wheels are perfectly safe for street use—just ask the owner of any recent ZO6 Corvette.

This 1970 ad for Crank Shaft Company (CSC) may not win awards for creativity but proves that a simple layout can be very effective. Combining hand-cropped rear-three-quarter images of two winning drag machines engages the eye before leading the viewer to bold-face type touting their win records and the benefits of CSC products. John Elliot's 1968 428CJ Mustang stands out, not just for the fact it was the first Canadian entry to win a National event, but for its astonishing graphics. Though this image doesn't convey how the vertical black-and-white tail stripes and bright-orange nose combine for massive eye appeal, it's a true one-plus-one-equals-three design.

Here's a visual pun we can all get behind. While most of the drag-racing world was focused on sticky rear tires for traction, the late Dick Moroso, a successful Modified Production drag racer, knew "it's what's up front that counts." This 1970 quarter-page shingle playfully hypes Dick's line of low-mass tubeless front tires for heavy, full-body drag cars. At the time, Moroso Performance Sales was but two years old.

Your author recently interviewed the lead designer for the Dodge SRT and Viper product lines. You know what he did for fun as a kid? He built model cars. Bet you did, too. Or maybe you still do. Regardless, this 1973 full-page bleat for Revell's line of flip-top Funny Cars probably inspired a million kids to get into hot cars. The ad copy poses the question: "What's so great about 1/25th of a Funny Car?"—a reference to the fact the cars are 1⁄25 the size of the real thing. Revell also produced many of these cars in 1⁄16 scale, with rubber drag slicks and vinyl spark-plug wires.

By Steve Magnante
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