Holley Rendered Rides: Shouldn't A Funny Car Look Like A Real Car?

10 min read

Holley Rendered Rides: Shouldn't A Funny Car Look Like A Real Car?

10 min read

A Top Fuel dragster is drag racing, simplified: a chassis stout enough to contain thousands of horsepower, equipped enough to put that power to the ground, and safe enough that if the program goes wrong, the driver has the best chance of surviving what happens next. It's all tubing and engine, with some rubber at all four corners for good measure. A Pro Stock car, on the other side of the coin, is just as much a racing machine, but it is derived from a production vehicle. Yours might not run a consistent high-six second quarter mile like the racer does, but you can park your car next to the Pro Stocker and see the family resemblance. In the years that Pro Stock has run, the biggest draw for the class is how close the race cars are to the real thing. Go through the model name list and see for yourself: whether you're talking about Bob Glidden's Thunderbird, Larry Peternel's Imperial, Warren Johnson's Oldsmobiles or the Gapp & Roush "Tijuana Taxi" Ford Maverick four-door, any audience member can easily relate to what the vehicle is.

Beyond Criticism Cadillac Eldorado

"Beyond Criticism", 1984 Cadillac Eldorado Pro Stock. Photo: Courtesy of NHRA

But what about Funny Cars? The machines that occupy that ground between a Pro Stocker and a Top Fueler? The class originated from production-based-car roots with standouts like the Chrysler-backed S/FX Dodge 330 "Chargers" and Jack Chrisman's nitro-huffing BF/D Mercury Comet in the mid-1960s, but the idea of a dragster wearing a fiberglass body of a street-going car didn't take long to surface. By the 1970s, fiberglass-bodied "floppers" like "Jungle" Jim Liberman's Novas and Vegas, the Rod Shop Dodges, Raymond Beadle's "Blue Max" Mustang II and many more were capturing the attention of audiences everywhere. Sure, they had as much in common with a production car as a peroxide rocket has with a Saturn V, but the shape and general "feel" of the production vehicle was there. You didn't have to guess what kind of machine was rolling up to the line, with the blower whining ominously and the rear tires ready to grab ahold of the strip like a startled lion's claws. You knew what it was. You knew the driver, you knew the car's name (or sponsor) and you knew that you should probably cover your ears and keep your eyes open.

Mr. Ed Charger FC

"Mr. Ed", 1971 Dodge Charger Funny Car, driven by Dave Beebe. Photo: courtesy of NHRA.

Funny cars didn't go away, but in the mid-1980s, the advance of aerodynamics caused teams to start morphing the fiberglass bodies away from a vehicle you could recognize at a glance into a wind-cheating shape that barely was anything more than a cover shell for the chassis. Without question, the car that started the trend was the 1987 Buick LeSabre that was piloted by Kenny Bernstein. Derisively known as the "Batmobile", the LeSabre almost didn't see the light of day at all and was only ran for one season. But that shape left an impact on teams, one that could be seen through the Dodge Avengers and Pontiac Firebirds of the 1990s and even through to the shapes of today that are supposed to be Dodge Chargers and Chevrolet Camaros. While the audience knows what the car is supposed to be, how close are they to the real thing? Short answer: they weren't.

Dodge Challenger Funny Car rendering 1

We miss the days of being able to identify the funny car at a glance. Call us old-fashioned if you will, but we know we aren't alone in that matter. The original idea with a Funny Car was to have a street-going car shape with the power that could compare with a Top Fueler. With that in mind, we sent a request to Rotislav Prokop: take a Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and make us a Funny Car that still looks like a Dodge Challenger when you're done. Why the Challenger? Easy: if there was any manufacturer in the current time that would be right back at home in the mid-1970s, when Funny Cars were at their peak, Dodge would be right in the middle of the party, without a doubt. Where EV powertrains, crossovers, and comfort rule the day for most, Dodge has been drunk on horsepower, selling consumers up to 807 horsepower road-going machines the likes of which are worthy of their place in horsepower history...why not celebrate that with fire-breathing zoomies and a triple-butterfly blower scoop perched on top of a great big Roots-style huffer?

Dodge Challenger Funny Car rendering 2

You can pick apart details if you really want to. The wheels might not be your cup of tea, or you might want the RedEye's twin-scooped hood instead of the cowl-style setup here. The dive planes, no matter how useful, might make your stomach knot up. But don't miss the main point: this is still a car you could park the street-going version next to and see more similarities than differences between the two. That's the main point of this exercise. You could apply this same theory to a Camaro, Mustang, or Toyota Supra body. You can have a relatable shape pull to the line, blasting out a gut-punching soundtrack before the long, skinny pedal on the right is even thought of. You can have a real car shape instead of the aerodynamically-superior shell with stickers telling you what it is supposed to be. Now, if we could get memorable car names, we'd be set!


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