(Photos: Ford Motor Company) While there might be a little bit of disagreement, I’m calling the first-generation Chevrolet Lumina stock car the moment when NASCAR moved away from “stock” cars and turned to silhouette race cars that were cookie cutter and lacked any real identification past a stickered-on name callout on the car. You can look at 1980s racing and see Monte Carlos, Grand Prix, Regals, and Thunderbirds, no problem. But look at a race circa 1992 and all you see are very, very slight shape changes between Chevrolet, Ford, Oldsmobile and Buick…and you have to squint and really know what you are looking for to figure out which car you are looking at. NASCARs seemed to take on one form, the shell that debuted as the 1996 Ford Taurus. Nit-picking aside, that same shell seems to have been used on everything, and only nose and tail changes are made for any individuality’s sake.
But is that going to last much longer? Take a look at the replacement vehicle for Ford’s stable. Since the Fusion won’t survive Ford’s Carpocalypse model-cutting strategy, the car next in line is the Mustang. So far, it’s everything that NASCAR fans have complained against for decades now: it’s a two-door, rear-drive V8-powered model, all positive things. If you look at it dead from the front, you can’t mistake the Mustang design. In fact, until you get to the B-pillar, you can give designers credit for doing a great job…there’s even the door cut.
After the B-pillar, however, things quickly go back to the same NASCAR soap shape. And we’ve seen similar from the Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 race car, and the upcoming Toyota Supra race car. From the front third or so, visual identity has returned, and not a moment too soon. But from the B-pillar back it’s a yawn-fest. Is it that hard to just bite the bullet and turn the cars into a V8 Supercars or touring car-style racer? Would that make any difference in whether or not you paid attention to the sport? Or is NASCAR too far gone for you?