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c. 1962

Cool cars and hot rods: dragster days in the ’60s

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Popping the chute.

The sport—if one can call it a sport—of drag-racing is somehow inherently cool, involving as it does large quantities of color, noise, speed and adrenalin.

And it is a sport that requires a big, long, flat space, of at least a quarter of a mile. The salt flats of California are ideal for drag-racing, which is why, by the 1930s, stripped-down and souped-up vehicles— dragsters—were being raced against each other in that state.

Early dragster designers were known to employ former aircraft engines. This, and the overall experimental nature of the cars, created very high danger, and indeed many fatalities.

Gradually, though, the unorthodox events began to cohere into something like an organized activity. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was formed in 1951, and its first formal race took place two years later in Los Angeles. The pictures shown here are of a NHRA event in 1962.

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Many dragster engines were powered by pure alcohol.  This is not a metaphor, though it may also, of course, be said to apply to some dragster drivers.

1962
Pit scene featuring two 1962 Dodge Darts, one from Glenn E. Thomas Dodge and the other XD-413 from Foothill Motors.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1962
Sleek enclosed highboy Ford roadster goes up on the scales during tech inspection.
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1962
Lonnie Butts’ “Twitch-A-Wee” Fiat-bodied Competition Coupe passes the tech weigh-in.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1962
Vikings Car Club of Pasadena back a Flathead-powered Ford in the C/Roadster class. Here it passes the tech weigh-in.
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1962
The Dean Moon Mooneyes dragster pops the chute at the finish line to reveal the iconic Mooneyes logo.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1962
1935 Ford Coupe, far lane, versus Fiat Topolino, near lane, in the C/Altered Class.
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1962
Two Ford Flathead-powered turtledeck C/Roadsters square off at the starting line in Pomona.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1962
The Dean Moon Mooneyes dragster with forward mounted supercharger.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1962
Pit scene featuring two 1962 Dodge Darts, one from Glenn E. Thomas Dodge and the other XD-413 from Foothill Motors.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1962
Gene Adams’ AA/Dragster driven by Tom McEwen, in far lane, versus Mickey Thompson’s dual inline blown aluminum Pontiac-powered dragster driven by Jack Chrisman in the near lane.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1962
The flag man strides away as the A/Roadster leaves the starting line at Pomona.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1962
Pit scene at Pomona featuring Lonnie Butts packing the chute for the “Twitch-A-Wee” Competition Coupe. The Dragmaster “One Thing” competing in A/D can be seen on the left. Note drive gears hung on front axle as ballast.
The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images

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