The Gasser Circus – sponsored by the NSRA
In the late 1950’s the ‘Gas’ classes in drag racing were populated with Henry’s Model A and 32 – 34 Fords but by the early 1960’s these had been superseded by the likes of Austin, Anglia, Chevy and of course Willys. By the mid 60’s the battles on the drag strip were escalating with ever more Gasser’s appearing and rivalry reaching new heights. Although those involved at the time couldn’t see it, this period in time would eventually go down as legendary!
There were to be various reasons for this, not least of which was the involvement of parts manufacturers many of whom were fledgling businesses attempting to cater for and capture the market for speed. These involved the camshaft companies Howard, Isky & Engle and the transmission specialists B&M, Cal-Hydro & Hydro-Motive. With their products being rapidly developed in selected Gassers it wasn’t long before they used their success against another Gasser and by association rival company to promote their business. Adverts began appearing in the press alerting the public to their wins and they were also not afraid within the same advert to brag about the car and associated products that they had beaten. The term ‘Gasser Wars’ rose from these clashes and the track promoters realised the value of this as a promotional tool. The drivers also realised the benefit of establishing a rivalry on the track as the public loved to see the battle between the two protagonists.
The appeal of the racing was also enhanced by the fact that it was attainable as during this period hometown guys and girls pulled their rides from scrap yards, old parking lots and from behind and within barns. These cars were soon converted for racing with them often being built in the open.
Original front suspensions were originally adapted and as the tyre compounds were limited, the racers realised they would get better traction, if they lifted the nose up in the air, then the weight on launch was more effectively transferred to the driving wheels. This achieved several things, faster times due to better traction, and without knowing it they had created one of the most recognisable aspects of a Gasser which in turn also generated significant interest from spectators as these jacked up cars hit the fire up lanes across America.
As the ‘Gas’ classes developed the nose high stance began to disappear but the class still remained relatively affordable and it was a time when your average Joe could get involved and come race weekend many people did. Some of these went onto establish themselves as household names with arguably the top five being KS Pittman, Ohio George Montgomery, Big John Mazmanian, Doug Cook and Junior Thompson. Others established teams and added their names to those above who would become synonymous with that period and the Gasser Wars.
Teams like: Stone, Woods and Cooke | S&S Racing Team | Kohler Bros | Herrera & Sons | Brasher & Cummings | Prock & Howell | Hamberis & Mitchell | Shores & Hess | Bones & Dubagh
Individuals like: Barb Hamilton | Chuck Finders | Joe Pirrone | Porky Zartman | Fred Bear | Jack Coonrod | Johnny Loper | Jack Merkel | Jim Oddy | Ronny Nunes
The ‘Gasser Wars’ raged on throughout the 60’s, with 1964 -1968 the absolute pinnacle of the on track battles and developments of race parts. By the 70’s the Gas classes were being decimated by the arrival of Funny Cars, and although the Gas classes continued they were far removed from the nose high racers that used to terrorise and excite the fans at the Drag strips of America. With the Gasser Wars well and truly over, many of the cars were either sold on to continue racing at local events, or were stashed away only to emerge again as Nostalgia Racing became popular some 30 years later.
Gasser racing still lived on in many people’s minds, some of these too young to have been around to witness it for themselves in the 60s, especially when they were not American. These people could not resist the appeal of the nose high, straight and dropped axle race cars that battled for supremacy in the mid 60’s.
In 2003 some of these gathered six Gasser style street driven and race only cars at the NSRA Nostalgia Nationals at Shakespeare County Raceway and debuted the ‘Gasser Circus’. From that point forward the ‘Circus’ has steadily grown in popularity and although competitors and their cars have come and gone, the group of racers determined and dedicated to campaigning cars which resemble and pay tribute to that era, continues to grow.
In 2010, the Gasser Circus became a structured Drivers Club and on the back of this with the support of sponsors developed a national race series – The Gasser Circus Showdown. Originally contested over 4 events, but in 2012 it grew to 5 and it continues that way to the present day.
The race series has been a huge success, with the Gasser Circus determined to put on a great show of Nostalgic Drag racing at all the events they attend.
The Gasser Circus were delighted when the NSRA agreed to sponsor the Club and Race Series, we are pleased to say this association will continue in 2014.
The NSRA Forum hosts the Gasser Circus and has a dedicated section where you can view and post Gasser related items and check out the latest gasser information.
Gasser Circus – Racing The Dream
Visit the Gasser Circus on Facebook
Gasser Circus photos courtesy of Stuart Mitchell Photography: http://stuartmitchellphotography.com/