Words/Photos Richard Brady
One of the enduring things about spending 26 years as the NHRA Division 3 Photographer is that in the early days, the NHRA was still running both pros along with all the sportsman cars at the divisional meets. While I enjoyed shooting the pro cars, I really enjoyed shooting all the different sportsman classes just as much.
These days it seems only the pro cars get any respect both from the spectators and those that go to the NHRA events to cover them, but I enjoy covering the sportsman cars when given the chance.
As I have said before, it was during my early shooting years that I could see the innovation and determination to try new things in the pro cars that ran back then. I sometimes feel the pro cars of today are just clone cars all built to look and perform the same, except for the sponsor wraps on each car.
When it came to the sportsman cars, they were always unique, with lots of them having their own innovations that would propel them to wins, national records and world championships. There wasn’t much to not like about the sportsman cars which showed up at the races and their drivers and owners who plied their trade at the national events. There were full-bodied cars in the Stock and Super Stock classes, with dragsters, altereds and roadsters in the beloved Modified Eliminator that everyone remembers and wishes had never been thrown to the wayside by NHRA. There was a class filled with a wonderful plethora of unique cars, but what really was unique to me were the amount of four- and six-cylinder cars which seemed to be in abundance, no matter which race event I was at.
Some of these cars had innovation written all over them, because some of these power plants were pieced and welded together to create what could be seen between their frame rails. Unique and custom-made fuel systems, custom one-off cylinder heads, not to mention the hours spent perfecting the combinations were what made them fascinating. I always thought those cars to be some of the best in the country, and besides they were fun to shoot photos of.
I suppose in today's modern era of drag racing, Competition Eliminator could be compared to the old Modified class everyone loved because there is just about every type of car there, which makes the racing interesting but oh so expensive to be competitive.
Because I shot the Division 3 divisional events every year, I noticed there were lots of four- and six-cylinder cars which competed on both the divisional as well as national events. This isn't to take away anything from the rest of the sportsman classes but those cars were a hoot. Actually, I love shooting everything sportsman regardless the motor or body style. Call me crazy; and many do; but no matter who or what the class, if it ran, I shot it. I guess that the term “crazy” goes along with the territory, but not to worry, I wear that label well.
I'm sure there were more four- and six-cylinder cars running than I could ever come up with a list on, but man some of the ones I do remember were some of the best in the business. To be very truthful, having spent so much of my life shooting all these cars at one time or another, for me to reach back into the memory banks and come up with every single car or team running those types of powerplants is something I'm unable to do. I apologize for the memory but that could be another thing which goes along with the territory. I certainly don’t have the memory or data bank a person such as Bret Kepner has.
I hope this might jog one's own memory and bring back thoughts of some of the four- and six-cylinder powered cars. They were and still are some of the most unique and interesting powerplants you’d see at the track and just like everything else I seem to do these days, I’m glad I get to Remember When.