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When Drag Racing Was King

Car Craft’s 60th Anniversary

By , Photography by CC archives

In 1976, NHRA opened up three classes with A/SM at a lighter 8.5 lb/ci for big-block engines and an 850-cfm carburetor, B/SM at 9.50 lb/ci with a 750-cfm carburetor, and C/SM at 10.5 lb/ci. C/SM quickly became the popular class, and there were 30-plus cars just in C/SM at the U.S. Nationals. Super Modified eventually attracted several reputable names in sportsman drag racing, including Ray Allen, Arlen Fadely, Garley Daniels, Larry Nelson, Rick Houser, F.J. Smith, Dempsey Hardy, Mike Edwards, Don Bowles, and many more.

Of course, the competition quickly became intense, and it was inevitable that racers would undertake extraordinary efforts to gain a competitive advantage. Voegelin said it was around this time Chevy racers discovered the now-legendary 461X small-block Chevy head that enjoyed a measurably larger intake port. "They were going for $3,000 a pair," Voegelin says, "and there was no guarantee they weren't cracked." Another nail in the budget coffin was racers like Don Bowles who were willing to pay for integrating Roush Pro Stock technology into big-bore, small-block Fords. Of course, to be competitive, the Chevy racers were also taking advantage of the Pro Stock talents of racers like David Reher, Buddy Morrison, and Lee Shepherd. The CC Camaro certainly held its own against some very tough competition. From the car's debut in 1975 to its final race in 1981, the Super Mod Camaro won the Division 7 Modified championship twice, won its class at the Winternationals five consecutive years, went to the final round in two NHRA national events, and set 16 NHRA national records for elapsed time and top speed. Not bad for a $300 shell.

While the Super Modified battles continued, the watershed moment occurred in the early '80s. "In my opinion," Voegelin says, "Super Modified died when NHRA killed Modified eliminator at the end of the 1981 season." All of the Modified Eliminator classes continued to officially exist. But you had to choose to either race in Competition Eliminator or in Super Stock. To show how far these cars have come, the current Competition Eliminator record for A/SM, as of December 2012, is a lightning-quick 7.74/176.26 held by Scott Hedlund. While Econo Dragster and Super Modified elapsed times have certainly evolved, you can trace the heritage of both of these classes back to events shaped directly by the influence of a West Coast car magazine and a small band of dedicated automotive journalists who believed in the sport.

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