Photos: Courtesy CarTech
Back in the heyday for classic muscle cars, drag racing was immensely popular and fans of the sport would regularly head out to the local drag strip to see the sport’s biggest names. All through the 1960s, major drag racing events created heroes, rivalries, and plenty of excitement that steered people toward the local dealerships to buy the hottest new cars. If you stir all of these factors together, you’d soon have some incredibly talented car builders, supported by the major auto manufacturers, racing against each other all over the country.
While the major events put on by the big sanctioning bodies got most of the press, a vibrant market also existed for match races. These were popular at many of the smaller tracks, where they might be able to book in a major event, but they could get a couple big names in a given class (or two) to come out and run against each other in a “best 5 of 7 runs” format (or something similar) and fill the grand stands on a weeknight. Sounds like fun, right?
Unfortunately, these times had to eventually come to an end, but author Doug Boyce has done an extensive amount of research on the era and produced a solid book about it. “Match Race Mayhem” (ISBN 978-1-61325-305-2, $34.95) is a fun read, full of crazy tales and amazing photography. One of the greatest parts about these Match Races is that they were typically done without either car having to conform to any specific sanctioning body rules. No minimum weights or other limiting factors had to be enforced, although everything was up for negotiation.
This meant that the fans could be treated to even more impressive performance numbers than they were reading about at the national sanctioned races, which certainly added to the appeal. Add in a nice cash reward for the winner, let them talk trash about each other beforehand to get people excited, and you have the recipe for a great story.
Boyce’s command of the material is evident, as he tells the tale with confidence and specific dates, performance numbers, quotes from the people who were there, and plenty of photos from a wide range of sources. It’s cool to see the evolution of the cars from upgraded stockers and Super Stockers to Gassers, Altereds and finally the Funny Cars we grew up with.
]The drivers of the time read like a wall at the NHRA Hall of Fame, with legendary names like Stone, Woods, and Cook, Big John Mazmanian, Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick, Dyno Don Nicholson, TV Tommy Ivo, Jungle Jim Lieberman, and Dandy Dick Landy all included. The rivalries between the teams, the manufacturers, and the cars all played into the amazing story. On the way there, some crazy evolution took place, and the cars are a big part of the story told between the covers of Match Race Mayhem.
Available at www.cartechbooks.com, 800-551-4754.
After spending almost a decade in the aerospace industry, Scott Parkhurst chose to learn about racing engines by working in some of Southern California’s most respected engine shops. He took on the role of Tech Editor at Popular Hot Rodding magazine back in 1998, and was instrumental in the development of both the Engine Masters Challenge competition and Engine Masters Quarterly magazine. He was also the founding Editor of Street Thunder magazine and Author of the V8 Horsepower Performance Handbook before he arrived at Timeless Muscle.