"It will probably create more excitement and hard racing than we've seen in years; it's one of NHRA's better ideas."
That's how Associate Editor John Dianna described Pro Stock, the new NHRA eliminator introduced for the 1970 season, when he wrote about the year's new drag racing rules in the March 1970 issue of HOT ROD. Since news broke about the new class, "there have been more racers switching and building new Pro Stockers than any other single class that we know of. "
The rules for this "heads-up Super Stock" class, as Dianna described it, "are relatively basic and are very similar to Modified Production regulations. However, only American-built cars with American engines and no less than a 97-inch wheelbase will be allowed to run." The engine had to be the same make as the car, and had some induction restrictions—a maximum of two four-barrel carburetors or four two-barrels, and a height-limited hood scoop—but any internal modifications were allowed. Fiberglass body panels were allowed, but only for the hood, front fenders, splash pans, and rear decklid. Cars had to run safety glass and keep "full interior trim," Dianna wrote, including two full-size bucket seats, "but this does not restrict one from 86-ing all the under-dash garbage. There's a lot of weight that can be removed from an interior."
A month later, Dianna covered Pro Stock's debut at the 1970 Winternationals, where the 16-car field was "a real crowd pleaser." Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin's 1970 'Cuda took an early lead in qualifying with a 10.00/139.10 pass, followed by Bill Jenkins' Camaro, at 10.08. "Arlen Vanke showed with a '68 'Cuda and an engine that sounded more like an Offy than a Hemi," Dianna said, due to a 180-degree flat-plane crankshaft "that showed a 20-horsepower increase on the dyno." Vanke made the program, running consistent 10.20s, "but then again so was Bill Bagshaw with a stock-form ordinary race Hemi." Vanke wasn't the only one experimenting with his Hemi; the engine in Dick Landy's Challenger "had 16 spark plugs and dual ignition—including distributors," Dianna said. "Dick was also running an individual-runner tube manifold like Sox & Martin's, only with larger diameter tubes."
Not having a good day was Don Nicholson, who "lost his second-in-one-week Ford Cammer engine on a qualifying pass." Dianna was optimistic that Nicholson's Maverick would eventually "be in the 9s."
Jenkins beat him to it. In the first round of eliminations, he posted "the very first 9-second Pro Stock run ever recorded during a major NHRA event," his 9.98 at 138.46 mph, beating Bill Hielscher. Jenkins ran a nearly identical time against Landy—who red-lighted—in the semi-finals, moving on to meet a very consistent Sox.
"The Grump," Dianna said, "was on a fresh engine and drivetrain that he, Dick Whitman, and Dave Strickler had installed the previous night (second ring-job in a week), and there was little doubt that his Camaro was putting out a good tenth on the S&M 'Cuda. Jenkins had been sharp on the tree all day, and on the run for the money he left with the Burlington, North Carolina, whiz, pulling him the rest of the strip. Jenkins turned a 9.996 at 139.53 mph to Sox & Martin's losing 10.12 at 138.46.
"Chevy and Jenkins won the first Pro Stock Eliminator and are likely to win a few more," Dianna said, "but we wouldn't count out the Chrysler camp just yet—they've been known to hold an ace or two."
One of the cheapest ways to go racing is to buy someone else's abandoned project car, and that's exactly what happens on episode 69 of Roadkill. But do the guys get what they paid for? This time, "the guys" are Roadkill regular Mike Finnegan and guest cohost Tony Angelo. Roadkill's David Freiburger returns on the next episode, but he may be happy to have been absent for this misadventure with a 1977 Chevy El Camino that was a gutted, old, eighth-mile drag racing bracket car. What could go wrong with a simple 350ci Chevy engine and TH350 automatic transmission? Plenty, at least when Roadkill shows up with a mother-bottle of nitrous oxide! Sign up for MotorTrend+ today and start watching every episode of Roadkill!