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Golden age: behind the scenes at Nostalgia Drags 2017

4 April 2017

Despite a dicey-looking weather forecast in the lead-up to the Trans America Shipping Nostalgia Drags 2017, hosted by Bay Rodders, was all go. A foggy morning gave way to fine weather conditions punctuated by bursts of clear sunlight — racing conditions as good as anyone in attendance could have hoped for. 

As one of the most popular, and certainly most entertaining, drag events of the calendar for both racers and spectators alike, the annual Bay Rodders Nostalgia Drags is a chance to get an old-school fix from an era where three pedals reigned supreme and fuel injection was a European gimmick. 

And as cool as it is to watch these vintage beasts lumber down the drag strip, often accompanied by a soundtrack rarely heard these days, the best way to get acquainted with the bones of the Nostalgia Drags is with a jaunt through the pit area. 

That’s a fair bit of old-school cool tucked into one patch of grass. 

And if you’re going to race, you may as well take it seriously. Chucking some sticky meats on the back certainly helps in this regard, and this ’65 Coronet might just need them — though we didn’t get the chance to chat with the owner, someone did say something about a 500-cube Coronet, and we can’t help but wonder if this was it.

The Pist ’n’ Broke Henry J gasser is a staple of the nostalgia drag racing scene, owned and campaigned by Gary Norris for the last three decades. Power is provided by an injected Chrysler 440 big block, providing a whole lot of bite to match its serious bark.

Russell Long’s gasserized Model A tudor perfectly embodies the spirit of the Nostalgia Drags scene. The car has only recently been completed by the team at Mac’s Speed Shop, and even though he wasn’t able to get the A race ready, Russ was understandably stoked just to have it there. 

His gasser is as good as it gets, blending that vintage tough-as-nails attitude with modern quality. How’s this for an interior that just oozes retro cool?

And, speaking of retro-style gassers, Daniel Barnett finally managed to roll his wicked little ’60s-styled Ford Anglia gasser down to Meremere for a shakedown. With open headers, the hot tunnel-rammed 406ci small block sounds like a bit of an animal!

Gassers are a big part of this meeting, and rightly so — what other style exemplifies the glory days with such cartoonish exaggeration? Chris Hornblow’s ’56 Chev is a perfect example of an authentic ex-USA gasser. 

Wide steelies, fat slicks, radiused guards, ladder bars, and tinted windows — it doesn’t get much more gasser than that!

Of course it wasn’t all gassers and drag-spec contraptions. Joel Painter had his immaculate bomb-style ’38 Chev roadster in attendance, and although the split-six–powered style machine was hardly a weapon down the strip, it earned maximum points for cool factor. 

The ‘EZPEEL’ Galaxie was out in force, sounding as tough as 514 nitrous-assisted cubes does. Though it looks every bit as intimidating as a 10-second all-steel tank should, this thing is finished to a show-quality level and just at home on the street as it is on the strip. 

Michael Crook’s ’70 Chevelle runs a 402ci big block and remains essentially as he purchased it 25 years ago. As you may guess, he isn’t averse to running it down the strip, mentioning he took out a DYO-format Nationals meeting some years ago. 

On the opposite end of the style spectrum, Russell Lowe had his cool as hell Model A coupe in attendance. The car was slapped together out of his spare parts collection around nine years ago, with a 260ci Mercury flattie, ’39 Ford three-speed, and Quick Change rear end hiding beneath the patina-coated shell. 

And one of the most notable cars of the day was the Beach Hop ’49 Ford shoebox, piloted by Ron Selia, the husband of the car’s original American owner Vicky. The pair flew over to New Zealand to attend Beach Hop, and were given the opportunity to race at the Nostalgia Drags, although Vicky unfortunately broke her foot and was unable to do so. Ron managed to run a 9.86 at 132.4mph, beating the car’s PB back in the USA! This was despite the engine hitting the limiter well before the finish, so there’s more potential left in it. 

We’ll have even more drag action from the Trans America Shipping Nostalgia Drags 2017 up here shortly, as well as in a future issue of NZV8 magazine, so watch this space!