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Best of BS 2017: BangShift Top 11: Strangest NASCAR Stock Cars Raced

Best of BS 2017: BangShift Top 11: Strangest NASCAR Stock Cars Raced

Ever since I could identify what the cars were that flew around superspeedways on ESPN, I could tell you two things about NASCAR:

  1. The cars all look the same.
  2. The amount of manufacturers seems to be shrinking.

It’s true. I started watching races sometime around 1988, which means I got to see a few relic G-body GM cars taking on the new whiz-bang W-body cars and the Aero Birds. It didn’t take long for me to switch the channel. But that wasn’t always the case. It used to be that racers grabbed whatever car fit into the wheelbase rule, built it enough to satisfy tech inspection, and with VIN tag in place, went out and ran that sucker until the wheels fell off. Some of the older choices, like Dodge Chargers and Ford Torinos, make sense. The selection we dug up…not so much. But we’d take just about any of them now!

11. 1980-82 Ford Thunderbird

Ford’s Thunderbird and NASCAR go back a ways. Most people fondly remember the “Aero Birds”, the re-shaped Fox-body Thunderbird best known for holding the speed record at Talladega at the hands of Bill Elliot. But before the Aero Birds, there was the Barn Door. The first Fox Thunderbird wasn’t a winner in the looks department, sales department, or on the circuit. In fact, the only way this isn’t an outright fail is because there’s hope for the ones that remain on the street…here’s one way you can make a Box Bird look badass.

10. 1975 Plymouth Road Runner

Much like the Thunderbird, Plymouth’s Road Runner and roundy-round racing have a great history. Unfortunately, in 1975, Chrysler had to face the music that the 1971-74 B-body had a shelf life and would have to be replaced. It was natural that the Road Runner, which had been reskinned for 1975, would make the jump, but as far as how it did? Not many chose the RR/Fury/Monaco/Coronet/Charger Sport shell…

9. 1982 Pontiac Grand Am

In response to NASCAR shrinking the wheelbase of their race cars, racers hurriedly sought replacements for their midsize-by-1970s standards cars. Most GM guys jumped to G-bodies, Ford guys went to the Fox Thunderbird and Cougar, and Mopar guys got left out in the cold to play with whatever they could make from nothing. But the A/G Pontiac Grand Am had the chops, the wheelbase, and a slight aero edge over the notchback G-body cars.

8. 1980-81 Dodge Diplomat

Yeah, that’s a Dodge Diplomat stock car. The Chrysler M-body has been my specialty for nearly two decades, yet this is the first stocker version I’ve ever seen. I’m still hunting down information on this one. They were built as coupes for two years before they became sedan-only, and wheelbase-wise would’ve qualified to run. A glimpse at what could have been if Chrysler hadn’t just walked away?

7. 1981 Chevrolet Caprice

Prior to the NASCAR downsizing, the Chevrolet Caprice coupe was the perfect size for a NASCAR stocker. In fact, Rusty Wallace’s stunning debut can be traced to a Caprice that had been built by Penske, and Richard Petty ran one for a bit before he moved on to the Buick Regal.

6. 1982 Chrysler Imperial

After the disastrous testing of a Dodge Mirada by Petty, Chrysler pretty much gave up on NASCAR and most Mopars disappeared from the track, save one: Buddy Arrington, who ran a Dodge Mirada on short-tracks and a Chrysler Imperial on superspeedways until 1986, when the bodies aged out.

5. 1978 Chrysler Cordoba

More mid-1970s Mopar floundering. The Dodge Magnum was the car most racers gravitated to…and learned to hate…but this 1978 Chrysler Cordoba made laps as well. Do you think the announcers had a “Corinthian Leather” joke spooled up and ready to go?

4. 1993 Mercury Cougar XR-7

With the introduction of the MN-12 Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar and Lincoln Mark series, Ford stepped in and made sure that the Thunderbird was the only star of the show on tracks across the country. Cale Yarborough had other ideas, and this 1993 Mercury Cougar raised eyebrows…and tempers in Detroit.

3. 1972 American Motors Matador

Prior to the truly funky mid-1970s Matador Coupe, AMC’s previous generation Matador was the stock car of choice. Driver: Mark Donohue, Trans-Am legend and overall speed freak.

2. 1996 Lincoln Mark VIII

Another flouting of the rules within Ford, this Lincoln was tested before someone at HQ nearly blew a vein in anger. NASCAR even approved use of the body!

1. 1958 Citroen ID-19

Front wheel drive, two-digit horsepower and looks that reminds us of a landed fish…we don’t know if the Citroens were that good, or the other cars that bad. But we can’t argue with the news of the day there…

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23 thoughts on “Best of BS 2017: BangShift Top 11: Strangest NASCAR Stock Cars Raced


    we are in the same club … I loved watching NASCAR in the sixty’s and early seventies but I gave up on it when they stopped using a Body In White

  2. jerry z

    Go back to the late 50’s/early 60’s, there were Hawks and Larks as stock cars.

  3. David

    The Diplomat is…I believe an ARCA car, not sure of the driver, but I think that car was run in ARCA.

    Oh what could have been…picture the Imperial in Black, with the CHROME, grill and bumper…it would have looked sick.

    The Lincoln, could have been a game changer…at the time, it tested more stable in traffic, then the T-bird.

    I know this is more about NASCAR centric cars but…during the 80’s, before the Lumina, Chevy tested a Berretta Stock Car, in the ARCA series. If I remember correctly, the drivers name was Raymond, no the car number was 1.

  4. orange65

    I hated to see Pontiac leave NASCAR- almost as much as I hated to see GM kill the brand.

  5. Big Dave

    It’s all cookie cutter cars with cookie cutter drivers in one long parade. Quit watching a long time ago…….because rubbing is racing and that’s been long gone.

    1. John yuengel

      I agree totally get the candy asses out of the cars and put the men back in them but wouldn\’t happen it\’s all money and technology nowadays NASCAR has became a business no longer a sport just like baseball football basketball

  6. Keith Schuldt

    The diplomat was a arca car. It was sold to bettenhausen racing. Before that I believe it was a cup car. I believe it was a harrry hyde car. I was on bettenhausens pit crew at the time. We rebodyied it to a mirada. These cars were great to watch on dirt. Best days of my life. For full story contact mike bettenhausen at bettenhausen dodge tinley park Illinois.

    1. Tom Mooty

      That Bettenhausen car still exists as last raced, it was in the Memory Lane tourist attraction in Mooresville, NC several years ago. The chassis looked like an old Petty chassis based on what I could see but I\’m not all that familiar with the cars Harry Hyde built on Rathgeb\’s surface plate in the mid and late \’70s and I\’m guessing they would look similar to the structure the Pettys used also.

  7. Lou_100x

    Sad. NASCAR used to be great fun. It’s crazy how it got turned into the automotive WWE.

  8. motorhead

    That is a LeMans, not a Grand AM. The Grand AM has single headlights and a more square/upright grille.

  9. Gary Willis

    Agree that Pontiac had some great looking and performing cars in Nascar . The Rusty Wallace/Penske Impala was on display in a the North Carolina racing museum a few years back.

  10. Matt

    I saw Yarborough test that Lincoln body at Daytona in July of 1993. Pure stroke of luck, we wanted to do a tour of the track, and it was “closed” except for the grandstand gate my dad found open. I’ll have to see if we can dig up the photos we took.

  11. Dennis

    Wonderful pictures. What strikes me is how stock the cars even in the 80’s still looked. By the 90’s you could still recognize them but they had strayed so far from the factory look that it took a great deal of the fun out of it for me and millions of others. It only has gotten worse from there.

  12. Rick Byrne

    This is a great list. Bob Schacht (ARCA and sometimes NASCAR competitor) built that Diplomat on a shortened \’74 Charger frame for an ARCA competitor. By the way, the reason they chose the Diplomat body was because by a quirk of the ARCA rules at the time, it was the only body style they still allowed to run a Hemi (strange, but true). The Bettenhausens did own it for a while and both Gary and Mike raced it in ARCA, USAC and the short-lived IRA series. It was rebodied, with a bit of corner-cutting, into a Mirada for ARCA and last raced by a northeast sprint and midget racer at Pocono in 1987. It still sits at the Memory Lane auto museum in Mooresville as a red #9.

    By the way, Petty\’s test of the Mirada would never have been a problem if Mopar had put anything into engine development for NASCAR. Aero was never the problem for the Magnum, the Mirada or the Imperial. Teams who stuck with Chrysler were literally scouring junkyards all over the country to find wrecked AAR \’Cudas and T/A Challengers, the only production cars that came with a race-capable small block, and they still didn\’t have a modern cylinder head until around the time Dodge got back into racing in the Truck series.

    Ford teams were in a similar boat around that time, having to import 351-C blocks from Australia, as US production had ceased.

  13. Bob

    Amazing how the cars in this list are pretty awesome compared to the cars these days where you cant tell one from another unless you can see the brand sticker on the nose.

  14. Ian

    That’s first photo of both the Lincoln and the Mercury I’ve ever seen, despite seeing mentions of them, and the fall out when Ford found out, for years.

  15. Kent D Pascoe

    Little trivia for everyone. The 87-88 Thunderbird is the only stock bodied car (template) to win both the NASCAR and the NHRA and IHRA championships.

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