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  • The Octane Addict

Know Your Motor - Gassers

Gassers? Aren't they just jacked up cars with big engines, big tires and silly names?. Yes and no, there's a lot more to it than that, let me explain.

Drag Racing has been an ever evolving sport, with competitors constantly thinking of new ways to approach the 1/4 mile. Everything from standard production cars, all the way to nitro fueled monsters have been raced. No idea was too big, and no approach too odd, as long as you're having fun and going fast no one really cares.

Lets start with the name "Gasser", it's a general term for cars that raced in the Gas (Petrol for those of us using the Queens' English)classes through the 1950s and 60s. As this class of cars became faster, rules for these classes became more defined and the "Gasser" look was born.

Gasser's can be identified by a few distinctive characteristics:

  1. Straight Front Axle - Chassis technology wasn't the best in 1960s America, if you wanted a car to launch hard and transfer all the weight into the rear the theory was to use straight axle up front. These were typically sourced from a truck and combined with a significant suspension lift to help with weight transfer.

  2. Fenderwell Headers - Dumping the exhaust behind the front wheels wasn't a style choice, it was all for performance. Short open headers are light and they don't strangle power.

  3. Slicks 'n' Skinnies - Big rubber in the rear and slim rubber up front. Gassers do not do corners!

  4. Moon Tank - Drag cars are not endurance racers, you run a single pass at a time. So you don't need a huge fuel tank, hence the small Moon Tank up front. These usually held just enough fuel for a single pass and the return to the pits.

  5. Lightweight parts - Better weight distribution helps with traction so commonly you'll see cars with grilles removed, fiberglass front ends, plexiglass windows and paired back interiors.

  6. Highly Tuned V8s - There ain't no replacement for displacement is very much the case here. Expect big engines, superchargers and big lumpy cams.

  7. Style - We all know the 60s were crazy times for style, and that even tricked down to drag racing. You'll often see Gassers with metal flake paint jobs, nicknames and funky colored windows.

See a few examples below:

The Jumpin' Jalapeno - a 61 Ford Falcon.

A 37 Willys Coupe powered by a 357 Chevy.

Identity Crisis - a 64 Dodge Dart

Gassers unfortunately died out in the early 1970s as rules changed and technology evolved. Altered wheelbase became popular and Nitro powered cars began to emerge. Fast forward to today and Gassers have a cult following the world over, and they still race! All images here were taken at the 2021 Mopar Euro Nats in the Gasser Circus class. I highly recommend going to see them race, the wheelies are epic.

So if you were wondering what exactly is a Gasser? You now know!

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