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60's Gassers - Austin Drag Racing History

Austin Gasser - September 30, 1962 (82K)


Photo by:  "Pete" Garramone


The mid-sixties was the period when British built Austin and Anglia bodied cars joined the ranks of the "GASSERS", the Supercharged Gas Coupe classes, in American drag racing. Prior to 1965 varying rules by different drag racing organizations "excluded" Austins and Anglias from the Supercharged Gas Coupe classes.

The two main drag racing associations were the NHRA and the AHRA. The NHRA and AHRA rules for A/GS were slightly different. The main difference was that AHRA allowed the 90" wheel-based Anglia to run while NHRA held to a 92" minimum wheel-base. NHRA rules for the Gas Coupe classes were basically written to include full sized cars, predominately 1955 Chevrolets or earlier Fords or Willys by saying "American only" and 92 inch minimum wheelbase required.

The interesting point of the 92-inch wheelbase rule was that all variations of the Austin (two door sedan, four door sedan, pick-up truck, panel delivery, and station wagon) and the four door sedan version of the Anglia (Ford Prefect) actually had the required 92" wheelbase. Another variance between the two racing associations was the minimum weight and displacement ratio: 5.0 lbs./ by the AHRA vs 6.0 lbs./ by the NHRA.

Even though varying rules by different drag racing organizations "excluded" Austins and Anglias, many competitors built cars to fit requirements of their local drag strips.

Austins and Anglias were smaller in size and had the advantage of better weight placement and improved weight transfer which could result in quicker elapsed times. It is easy to see what rules the competitors used when it is pointed out that AA/G shows with cash payouts were being held weekly at Irwindale and Long Beach, both AHRA sanctioned strips.

The rush to run the smaller Austins and Anglias began at the very beginning of 1966 and became a major movement as Willys owners replaced their "big" cars with little cars. When a racer built his new small car the old car was often sold to a new participant in the Supercharged Gas Coupe classes. This helped increase the number of competitors around the country.

Gas coupe competition featuring Austins in the mid-sixties centered around five main geographic areas of the country:

AREA Northwest West Coast Texas Mid-West East Coast Unknown

Dan Broguiere (W) Gene Ciambella (W) Conroy Bros (W) Leonard Cottrell (E) Jeg Coughlin (M)
Bill Drake (E) Denny Dunkirk (M) Fetter Brothers (M) Pete Gretz (M) John Herrera (W)
James Kaylor (W) Lemma Bros. (E) John Mazmanian (W) Claudie Meador (T) Larry Meyer (W)
Ed Middlebrook (W) Larry Nail (M) Newell Bros (E) Jim Oddy (E) Poole Bros (E)
Bob Silva (W) Chip Starr (N) Mike Steinberg (W) Junior Thompson (W) Randy Timmings (N)
Larry Van Horn (U) Big Wilson (M) Jeff Wright (N)    

A complete history of Gassers in the Sixties can be found in Don Montgomery's book:

Remembering the "Sixties"

Don Montgomery's Hot Rod Books
636 Morro Hills Road
Fallbrook, CA 92028

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