Back in the 1960s and 1970s, funny cars were so named because of the simple rule that they didn’t look completely stock, rather, they looked “funny”. The early years were a bit different because the cars were simply modified, and had the body moved backwards, or each axle was moved forward, depending on how you want to look at it.
1966 was the first year for the flip-body cars, when Dyno Don Nicholson, Steffey & Schartman, and Kenz & Leslie piloted Mercury Comets. 1966 was also, coincidentally, the first year for the elephant motor, the street HEMI, to find itself under the hood of a Mopar at the dealerships. Much of drag racing saw HEMI engine design under the flip-bodies of cars in the years that followed. These engines took very well to superchargers, as did the famed Ford SOHC “cammers”.
One of the cars that campaigned in late August in 1966, amid the missing Comet floppers, was the Ramcharger Dart with it’s candy-stripes and fiberglass body panels. The driver sat in the rear seat area of the car, like they did in the Comets, and the steering was a bit stretched so the driver could reach the wheel. While the Dart was known as one of the fastest door-slammers, it only had one door on the right side for entering the vehicle, saving on weight and costs.
Later, the flip-bodies began to show up and by 1969 names like Russel Liberman with his “Jungle Jim” Nova began to make the scene. The 1970s saw more and more of these flip-body cars and the flopper was the name given to these cars because the body would flop onto the tube chassis. It was always a sight to behold when an engine would blow and the body would skyrocket into the air, fiberglass floating everywhere.
But back in those days, as funny as the funny cars looked, they more resembled their counterpart with only stretched bodies and colorful graphics to alter the resemblance. In those days of bodies shaped like bricks on the early altered wheelbase cars, funny car drivers searched for more aerodynamic vehicles to help propel they down the 1320. That’s when cars like the Chevrolet Vega, Pontiac Firebirds, and even the Ford Pinto, among the many others, found their way onto these funny cars.
Today, many funny cars only resemble their counterpart because of the logos and graphics, and of course they’re so aerodynamic that the cars are seeing top speeds unheard of in the ’70s. But still, as “slow” as those cars were back then, it’s still always a treat to see the cars that started it all, the floppers, the funny cars, and the drivers who donned the racing suits and helmets to pilot these beasts down the strip. Check out the video above, and tell us who was your favorite from the 1970s, we know you have one.