The “Gasser” may be a race car from another era, but its image has transcended changing times to represent the spirit of competitive American drag racing from the 1960s. With this inspiration, the Automotive Driving Museum presents a “Tribute to Gassers” exhibit and show on Saturday, August 2, 2014. The ADM will be hosting the event to Gasser enthusiasts from all over Los Angeles County from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both Gasser Magazine and Gasser Wars Magazine with the Mid-America Willys Club will be sponsoring the event with a fantastic display of Gasser race cars.
Gassers were hot rods developed to compete in NHRA Gas Class events that began in the early 1950s and lasted through 1970. The 1956 NHRA Nationals program characterized Gas coupes and sedans as “…the classic hot rod of today. Cars running in this division are generally used for transportation, instead of being built for competition, and they feature hopped-up engines. Each must have a full complement of equipment essential for legal on-the-street transportation use, and MUST satisfy the eagle-eyed technical inspectors in action at NHRA-sanctioned drag strips. Four cubic-inch-to-weight divisions of this class attest to its popularity.”
As weight was the enemy to the racer, racers tended to gravitate to lighter cars and vehicles with short wheelbases. Willys was perhaps the quintessential Gasser choice, but racers also learned the charms of the late-1930s Studebaker Champion, British Ford Anglia, and even the occasional Fiat “Topolino.” Anything cheap and plentiful, like Fords and Tri-Five Chevys, did not escape the Gasser treatment either. Lights, horns, and windshield wipers were required to remain intact, but any other superfluous weight was promptly removed, with the windows often replaced with Plexiglass. Just about any top American brand has powered Gassers, often with a supercharger and mechanical fuel injection, but as expected small-block or big-block Chevys were popular.
Gassers’ trademark jacked-up front end was due to the truck beam axle utilized for better weight distribution on acceleration. The rules stipulated that wheelbases had to maintain stock, but a car could be built with an engine slightly relocated to assist with weight distribution.
Often painted in flamboyant metalflakes, pearls, and candy finishes that reflected the zeitgeist of the time, the paint scheme was usually complemented by wild lettering, pin-striping, and even lace.
But like many old race cars, the latest going thing—the faster thing—caught the attention of racers, and Gassers fell by the wayside. Some were reconfigured for other classes, while many others were simply junked because of the hard lives they led.
The ADM will present this important and radical segment of automotive history to its visitors on August 2, 2014, for a special day of Gassers at the Automobile Driving Museum. Come see these fabulous vehicles and hear from the “real Gasser” racers in a forum setting.
Saturday, August 2, 2014