For many the period of time from the late '50s through to the late '60s/early '70s was the golden era of drag racing. This is in no small part due to a bunch of cars known as "Supercharged Gas Coupes", or "Gassers". "Gassers shared with fans of the quarter mile one of the most thrilling overall racecar types, and for an era that was all too short, they were literally the Kings of the Sport. The classes were basically offshoots from what these same racers were use to at the dry lakes. *1

Taking our inspiration from the early part of this period, cars like Doug Cook's '37 Chevy coupe street-rod, which won the 1959 NHRA Nationals (C/G) with a speed of 105+mph, as well as running 147+mph at the salt flats! "in the early years these cars were street legal, with headlights, full interiors, minimal body modifications, and even licence plates. But they could be modified, with bigger engines, blowers, jacked up suspensions, massive slicks and open headers. As for what to race, it was anything name it, someone raced it" *2 Commencing with Model A & 32-34 Fords, the category developed through to the most widely known Willy's, on to Austin's & Anglia's, before a move to modern Mustangs and the like, a move which ultimately probably contributed to their demise.

Throughout the '60s now legends of the sport developed their cars into full race vehicles, & ultimately contributed to the development of the "funny car" which to this day is a cornerstone of professional drag racing. "The Gassers were the heart & sould of the hot-rodding industry, and the lifeblood of the drag racing organizations. It was a wild ride while it lasted, and the Gasser Wars remain one of the most colorful chapters in drag racing history." *2 Ohio George Montgomery, KS Pittman, John Mazmanian, Jr. Thompson, & Stone Woods & Cook are just some of the better known legends who owe their status to the Gasser Wars! "They created the wheel-standing, tire-smoking, rail-to-rail racing action that drew in fans, sponsors and racers to create the most exciting drag racing action of the '50's & '60's." *3

"The Supercharged Gas Coupe classes had a rich and exciting history. It is full of great performances, controversies, exciting racing and interesting technical improvements. All of these cars started out as street-driven hot rods, and evolved into overpowered drag strip terrors."*3 Prior to 1961 the AA/GS cars were unlimited, for 1961 NHRA rules stated 4lbs/, in 1962 that went to 5lbs/, and in 1963 to 6lbs/ before returning to 5lbs/ in 1967. Throughout this period there were substantial developments in tire, chassis, transmission, engine & supercharger technology. Performances progressed from 12.0s@124mph in 1959/60 down to 8.4's@166mph in 1972.

It is a great disappointment that Australian drag racing history isn't as well documented as it's American counterpart. I would love to hear from anyone who has any information on this era and these cars on Australian strips.

And Now For Something Different

One of the most interesting participants in the Gasser Wars was undoubtedly the Mallicoat Bros. Obviously to most fans when we think of Gassers, and Doorslammers for that matter, it is the traditional Roots & now Screw type blowers sticking out through the bonnets of the vehicles that come to mind. However, as we mentioned earlier when talking about Doug Cook, some guys were playing around with centrifugal type blowers & even turbos back in the 50's & 60's. Derivatives of the McCulloch centrifugal type blower are still around today, the company now known as Paxton, & competitors such as Vortech & PoCharger offering great products that produce some amazing horsepower.

Even more amazing however was the Mallicoat Bros. experimentation with turbos, way back in 1965. After initially teaming up with 'Bones' Ballogh, the Mallicoats went on their own in the early '60's, & after a chance meeting with Bonneville racer Bill Edwards, the brothers utilized turbo technology to increase power from there 327ci small block by around 25% over the blown combination!!! The Mallicoats used this power to take out the '65 Winternationals in their '41 Willys, before taking a break from the sport only to return 3 years later with a supercharged Barracuda gasser. Once again the car was soon converted to turbo technology, and with a 30% power gain the car ran some extremely impressive numbers, reportedly running a best of 8:13 when most were running in the 8:50's.

Given the lack of chassis and tyre technology at the time, this is a simply amazing achievement. It has certainly led me to wonder how the development of Gassers & ultimately Doorslammers would have been influenced had the Mallicoats had access to increased levels of funding??? Like many others however, the Mallicoats left the sport as it got too expensive to compete, however these days they have returned to run on the Nostalgia circuit with cars similar to what they ran back in the golden era.

*1 Drag Racing Gassers: Photo Archive, Lou Hart, 2007

*2 Gasser Wars: Drag Racings Street Classes 1955-1958, Larry Davis, 2003.

*3 Supercharged Gas Coupes: Remembering the '60's, Don Montgomery, 1993.