(Words and photos by Benoit Pigeon) – I can’t say it’s my best work ever when it comes to photography. Far from it and my low end scanner probably did not improve the situation, but these are the pictures of the very first NHRA event that I ever witnessed. The World Finals of 1987.
I was just a spectator but I had brought a lot of film, my Minolta X500 (5000 in the US) and some low end lenses but the best I could afford to own then. However I had a blast and during the days prior to the event friends involved in racing took me to many places, including Hot Rod Magazine’s offices, Arias engines, I met Elmer Trett at a shop and stopped at Kenny Bernstein’s shop where we saw Ray Alley and checked on the then new Racepak. Earlier in the week, I was in Florida at Frank Hawley’s School driving a little streamlined dragster build after Garlits’ car with the canopy and the tiny wheels and visited the Garlits Museum as well. Frankly put, despite the fact that it totally depleted my wallet, it was at the time the trip of my life coming from over 6000 miles away. At the race, I stayed only until Saturday, but at 22 you got to do what you got to do and I am so glad now that I did it back then.
While in my mind I was going for the big show with pro stocks and fuel cars one of cool things that took my attention by surprise were cars like Racer Brown. A ’51 that is in fact still being raced and by the same owner today (Editor’s note: I was at Bakersfield last Saturday and a guy DROVE that thing in the gate right behind me!). In fact the car looks very much it was in 1987 from the pictures I have seen of it.
Regarding the top cars, this was a great time for streamlined cars and all kind of crazy things like the McGee 4-cam engine or the Arivett Brothers streamliner. That car was so beautiful and made for a nice article in a publications but did not run that much and quickly disappeared from the headlines, but just the headlines as I was able to find traces of the car’s activities three years later.
What is for sure is that for a span of maybe six years or a little more drag racing was as wild as could be, naming Swamp rat 30, Bernstein bat mobile, and starting a few years prior with Amato’s radical rear wing design that took Top Fuel to another level of imaginations thereafter. I loved that time and reading the magazines. I mean one little body plate added on a funny car and if that car won the race it was like every other team had one the next week, then a few months later it was all off and a new thing came up to replace it. Who won the race? I have no memories, I think these type of events are overwhelming enough that as sad as it sounds, my eyes had more to see than my brain could retain.
Well, that was back then, but yet there is something new cooking for 2016 that will most likely be as exiting with a tremendous amount of technology unseen before and untested in the class. As pro stock is being revamped we can expect a totally new game, new parts, may be new comers and all kinds of surprises but what is for sure it will be of great interest again.