CH NO 3 2 SPEED LIMIT 330
CH NO 3 2
Who’s the greatest? John Force…
That’s easy: “Big Daddy” Don Garlits. Based on most wins, it’s me, but
I’m not the greatest. No way. When NHRA was picking the top 50 drivers
of all time [in 2001, to commemorate NHRA’s 50th anniversary]. I was
hoping it wasn’t gonna be me, because it’s not me. It’s Don Garlits.
KINDA FUNNY LOOKING
(MAIN) The shape of Robert Hight’s John
Force Racing ’Stang is approved by NHRA.
Back in the day, Funny Cars looked closer to
stock. (RIGHT) Here’s Force’s ’ 79 Corvette.
Purists pine for the days when Funny Car bodies actually looked like the production vehicles they’re based on.
To some, the only way to tell one from
another today is to look at the headlights
and the grille. But if the bodies still closely
resembled the original road cars, the
racecars would literally take flight as they
neared the finish line – as Funny Cars of
the late ’60s and early ’70s sometimes did.
“We can’t just do anything we want and call it a Mustang,”
explains driver Robert Hight, who, as president of John Force
Racing, is involved in every aspect of the operation. “NHRA plays
a big role. We have to provide them a car, and they take
measurements and tell us what we can and can’t do – how far back
the roof can go, how wide the A and B posts can be. We make a
1/3-scale model first and wind-tunnel test it before the first body is
ever made, and NHRA inspects the plug before we make the mold.”
National Dragster Archive
The bodies don’t last forever. The Mustang that vaporized when
Hight blew a tire in Seattle this summer was on its 23rd race.
Grille and headlight decals aside, there are subtle, but definite differences between the current Funny Car bodies.
FORD MUSTANG TOYOTA SOLARA DODGE CHARGER CHEVROLET IMPALA
Coincidentally, it would have been retired
after the 24th. Teams hope to get as many
as 100 runs out of a body, and 150 isn’t
unheard of. They’re repaired constantly
and, each time they are, they get heavier.
When a body is either blown up, too
fatigued, or too heavy, it’s pulled out of
service, and the cost for just the
carbon-fiber replacement shell itself is
$35,000. Getting it mounted and
“tinned” – fitted to the chassis with
titanium tubing and struts – adds at least
that much. Then there’s the paint job or
wrap. “I don’t know how many hours go
into making a body,” Hight says. “It’s got
to be hundreds, maybe thousands.”
CUTTING A LONG STORY SHORT
From the time the
the driver literally
straddling the rear end, first
appeared 50 years ago, Top
300in. – yes, a humongous
25ft – as the maximum
wheelbase for the world’s
vehicles, and it’s remained
there ever since.
run anything longer than
300in., but a Top Fuel
dragster will never be any
shorter than that, either,”
Bernstein insists. “The
wheelbase has to be this
long to dissipate all the
power that these cars make
and to make them drivable.
If it was shorter, dragsters
would be like Funny Cars –
all over the track.”