Tricky. It's a loaded word that can mean a lot of things. Maybe somebody is cheating. Maybe somebody is doing something completely out of the ordinary. Indeed, when someone calls you tricky, it can be an insult or a compliment. For the guys who made the rules in drag racing, tricky often meant Excedrin headache number 1,320. You had to figure out a balance that would allow a level playing field for all of the above. Throw in hard-thinking racers, evolving parts development, fat manufacturer budgets with associated politicking or similar factors, and it became a cat-and-mouse game for everyone.
The development of Factory Experimental as we recounted in the Fall 2013 issue of Elapsed Times warranted a steady hand on the rules tiller. After all, drag racing was more exotic than NASCAR's Grand National circuit, where safety, 7 liters, and a set weight were the primary limitations before Smokey or Junior began "interpreting the rulebook." In straight-line sprinting, you could have various engine displacements and designs, widely disparate body styles—from compact to station wagon—and the reality of older technology being recycled with new developments. When the NHRA created its FX divisions for 1962, it selected three categories based on weight: A/FX—0 to 8.99 lb/ci; B/FX—9.00 to 12.99 lb/ci; and C/FX—13.00 or more lb/ci.
Bill Hoefer gets underway at the 1965 Winternationals, held on a single day that year due
These were the similar to formulas used in the Gas divisions, and the lower stock classes worked off of a weight-to-horsepower (advertised/but later factored) ratio. As a result, when class eliminations had ended, the FX entries would end up in Stock or Street Eliminator. Also in class racing, cars were indexed off of a set elapsed-time number, later modified to be the current national record.
The A-class cars were always the stars of the game at that 0.00 to 8.99 number—minimum weight rules kept the insanity within reason, not to mention the peril of top tech-man Jack Hart's thumbs-up/thumbs-down decisions. In A/FX, a lot of exotic factory pieces were available, and the resultant performances got the attention of anyone who ran or watched late-model stockers. For example, the Mickey Thompson/Hayden Proffitt Pontiac Tempest for 1962 used a 434ci (bored-out 421) displacement and weighed a mere 3,150 pounds (7.25 lb/ci), affording Proffitt a victory at both Pomona and Indy that year.
B-class was a little less radical; there were late-models, but a lot of second-year or superseded equipment in less radical iron also tried for that 9.00-pound ratio. However, moving to the C-category at 13.00 pounds per inch required some serious thinking. After all, now you were talking about a very small-displacement engine in a heavy body.
And unlike the Gas classes, this was not simply what the racers thought up; some of the F/X rules allowed the NHRA to keep tabs on what combinations were being offered. The factories had to file specific paperwork on them, listing the specific parts and their weights on the cars running in that class. In some cases, it was simply the standard engine combination that was offered in a different body design. For instance, in 1962, Californian Tom Sturm raced a Bel Air powered by the hot fuel-injected Corvette 283 engine.
The F/X rules also prohibited ballast, something that Ford discovered in a terse letter dated May 18, 1964, from Executive Director Jack Hart. The NHRA would not allow a heavy-duty bumper on the Falcon that Ford had just authorized Holman-Moody to build for Dick Brannan. The argument was in case the car was rear-ended on the track, that the "safety" replacement unit weighed a mere...175 pounds. Bumper? The NHRA snapped: Ballast!
Things came to a head in early 1963 when President Ed Cole pulled all of GM's development money from competition due to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy's desire to investigate the corporate giant; that left a huge void which Ford and Chrysler began to fill. Ford had been playing lightly in A/FX more than anything else, and it would work on a 427 Fairlane with help from Rhode Island dealer Tasca Ford by mid-season. Meanwhile, Ford began opening up to the lower F/X categories, as well. There was a truck project in B/FX, but that saw little use. In 1964, after that same Fairlane package was released in large enough numbers to qualify it for Super Stock as the Thunderbolt, Ford began figuring out how to get the new Mustang into A/FX (under the Bob Ford sponsorship of Len Richter) and built the aforementioned Falcons (for Brannan and Phil Bonner).
Dave Koffel puts it to the wood as he hit the record for the second time in as many weeken
In those early days, Dodge also went into B/FX with a 426 wedge pickup and floated a couple of station wagons around during the '63 season, as well. Of course, at this point, the Ramchargers were working on their A/FX wheelbase changes, which evolved in 1964 to the point where the earliest "funny car" designs showed up. Former corporate lawyer Al Eckstrand was given a Hemi Plymouth in early summer that was changed fairly significantly and classed in A/FX; he admitted to this writer he personally hated racing it for fear of damaging his legal reputation if the NHRA decided it was "more legal" one way or another.
But C/FX was another story, and really, the class received little attention after the 1963 GM pullout, until 1965 when Chrysler boycotted NASCAR and pushed all-in with drag racing. Ford, for its part, actually had stabilized a multi-prong plan for that year, as well. In late 1963, Ford employee Bill Clawson got a two-year-old Falcon that Holman and Moody had created to go road racing with, and it had minor success with the four-barrel 260ci factory powerplant in C/FX, but the effort had generated little notoriety. By 1965, Ford had that hot little Weber-carbureted 289 Cobra mill that Carroll Shelby had dreamed up for the same cornering needs, a perfect combination for C/FX since stack-type injectors were not permitted.