We know they are excitement packed machines (and will be racing this Saturday, January 20 at the NITRO SLAM), but these fan favourite race cars also have one of the longest histories in drag racing.
It was the 1960s when motors from Top Fuel dragsters began to be transplanted into sedans with altered chassis by brave (or even foolhardy) drag racers. While the term Funny Car has cemented itself in the sport, the unusual name was originally something of an insult, referring to the odd stance of the cars as drivers and motors were shifted back through the chassis for better weight distribution.
The famous flip top bodies began to emerge around 1965 as modifications became more and more extreme in the chase for performance.
While Top Fuel Dragsters made the shift to rear engine layouts in the early 1970s, the Funny Cars kept the engine in the front. The danger was part of their appeal to fans and severe fires were not uncommon – even today Funny Cars catch fire like nothing else in motorsport.
Western Australia has had a long affection for Funny Cars. The biggest crowd ever at Ravenswood Raceway (the home of drag racing in WA before Perth Motorplex) was for a Boxing Day match up in 1995 between the USA’s Gary Densham and Allan Dobson, who was racing for the first time in the Greene Machine.
The track also held the Funny Car Nationals in 1998.
A Nitro Funny Car made the fastest ever wheel driven pass at Ravenswood (Lloyd Jones at 283mph), while the final ‘official’ run in competition at the now defunct venue was by the Greene Machine.
When drag racing moved to Perth Motorplex, the Funny Cars followed. Chemical Warfare owner Rod Bailey was there from the start, with brother Ashley Bailey racing against Dobson in the second ever major event at the venue. This match race saw fans get more than they bargained for when Bailey threw rods from the motor at the startline and speared into the opposite wall.
We’ve since seen a bunch of fantastic Funny Car runs, with the track record currently set at 4.87sec by Mark Sheehan, while Damien Harris holds the speed record at 315mph.
Nitro Funny Cars have also evolved and indeed split into two distinct varieties. The Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars have been producing popular shows around the country. They use a smaller fuel pump, different transmissions and are generally cheaper to run. Performances are mostly in the high five second zone.
‘Big show’ Nitro Funny Cars up the fuel volume and as a result are roughly double the horsepower of an Outlaw Nitro Funny Car, capable of covering the quarter mile in the four second zone.
The track records are definitely under threat this weekend from Sheehan and Anthony Begley, while the first side by side four second run is also up for grabs.
They might have a funny name, but when it comes to drag racing excitement it is hard to beat the Funny Cars.
Make sure you are in your seat from 5.30pm to catch all the motor-tainment of the NITRO SLAM at Perth Motorplex