Tom Shaw
March 1, 2005

If you want to see stock, original, unmodified musclecars mix it up on the quarter-mile, you need to see the Pure Stock Drags, held the second weekend after Labor Day each September. Open to all American performance cars from 1955-1974, the Pure Stock Drags is a unique venue for cars running in full factory trim: cast-iron exhaust manifolds and mufflers, stock size tires, all OEM engine components, suspension, and body parts. The only wiggle room is for supertuning the carburetor and distributor. Low restriction air filters and electronic ignition triggers are also allowed.

It's fascinating to see so many restored period musclecars at this race, performing exactly as they did right off the assembly line 40-50 years ago. Big-blocks, small-blocks, ponycars, full-size Galaxies, intermediate mega-engine supercars-there is an amazing spectrum in this type of racing. It's also great to watch the cars get faster every year as drivers make improvements and shave their elapsed times (e.t.'s).

Here's the format: Friday and Saturday morning is open track. Drivers run their best e.t. Then, the e.t.'s are sorted, and the two fastest cars are paired with each other for a best two-out-of-three shootout. Then, the next two fastest are paired, and so on. Typically, the qualifying e.t.'s are within a couple hundredths of a second, so the racing is very competitive. It's like drag racing was in the good old days.

What makes these particular musclecars remarkable is their weight. These are heavy cars, tipping the scales between 3,500 and 5,100 pounds. Talk about candidates for a weight loss program!

The Pure Stock Drags is a blast for those of us old enough to remember hot factory musclecars. It reminds us of walking around the pits at the U.S. Nationals back in the '60s and '70s.

How did the Fords do this year? Funny you should ask. The first racers are pulling to the line right now.

Bob Lovell's got the first Ford up, a Light Pewter Metallic '71 Mach 1 with the 429 Super Cobra Jet, C6 Select-Shift, and 4.11:1 Traction-Lok gears. He's up against Dave McCutcheon, a Pure Stock Drags regular who drives in from Red Bud, Illinois, in his '70 Chevelle SS396, a 350hp car, also with a Turbo 400 transmission and a highway-friendly 3.31:1 Posi-traction 12-bolt axle. Dave's Chevelle weighs in at a hefty 4,236 pounds, 488 more than Bob's 3,748-pound Mach 1. On paper it looks like a cakewalk for the lighter, better-geared, bigger-cube Mach, but the beauty of the Pure Stock Drags is the cars are paired together based on their actual performance during qualifying, not some well-meaning formula that attempts to calculate a car's potential.

Round One: Dave gets his Chevelle off the line with a fast .524 reaction time, visibly ahead of Bob's .873. But with a 2.30-second 60-foot time, the Chevelle is having some traction issues-highway gears will do that. Bob's better 2.19-second 60-footer erases the Chevelle's lead, and now we've got a real drag race! The two vintage musclecars roar downrange door handle to door handle and flash through the traps with-wow!-virtually identical e.t.'s: 14.952 seconds for Bob's Mustang and 14.95 for Dave's SS396. Speed was identical: 92.83 mph for both. by one half of a micro-whisker, the win light went on for the Chevelle.

Round Two: This time at the line, Dave's a little slower, and Bob's quicker. The 60-foot times are very close, and, again, this pair clears mid-track too close to call, hits high gear, and sprints towards the finish line. With a winning 14.92 at 92.61, it's Dave's Chevelle edging the Mach 1's 15.01 at 93.08.