Fire and Smoke Funny Car Drag Racing Gallery from the 1960s and 1970s – Hot Rod

As a guideline, Petersen Publishing discouraged the use of wreck and fire photos in the publications for some obvious reasons. No one likes to burn down his race car or scare the kids with a rollover, as those sorts of photos depict drag racing as a dangerous sport. There were exceptions, however, such as the CC Action Showcase, a department prone to showing some occasional accidental violence, a move that likely brought down the management hammer on the editor (unless it sold a lot of copies).

The sentiment toward drag racing accidents seemed to have changed 35 years later when a fire and destruction spread was scheduled for the pages of Car Craft. It didn’t work. It got no reaction from the readers—the same grim nonreaction you get from friends and family on the line as your car burns or you take a roll. No wants to talk about it, no one wants to see it.

That doesn’t mean fire isn’t fun to watch, we just like to see it popping from the zoomies instead of burning off the paint. These pics were unearthed from the Car Craft archives and represent what we think are the best moments from the early 1970s Orange County International drag racing scene and the proper use of fire.

Early Barry Setzer Vega Funny Car

Photographer Mike Brenner threaded on the starlight filter at Dallas International Motor Speedway for this shot of the Barry Setzer Vega Funny Car driven by Kelly Brown. According to our information, this was an early version of the car; later versions were driven by Pat Foster. Foster was likely driving the Mickey Thompson Mustang Funny at this time.

1971 Mustang at Orange County International Raceway

This is a Ralph Guldahl photo from the Professional Drag Racers Association meet at Orange County International Raceway. The Atlas Oil Tool Special 1971 Mustang is waiting in the water box.

Gene Conway Corvette

Here we have a Gene Conway Corvette with an early body that still features the Stingray gills. It is ready to light the tires at Orange County International Raceway in 1971. The markings on the slide sleeve say he is the winner of the meet, but our information says otherwise.

Drag Racing Scene

From a photography standpoint, this is an average shot, but the scene is one of our favorites. All four candles are lit, and there is an eerie haze hanging over the crowd from endless burnouts. That, combined with a long exposure, gives everyone a ghostly look. Note the unpainted Nova Funny in the right of the frame. Is it a Jungle Jim car?

Bob Pickett 1971 ‘Cuda vs. Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen

Everyone knows Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen and the legendary Duster in the tower lane. In the far lane (foreground) is Bob Pickett’s 1971 ‘Cuda one year after he crashed his AMC Javelin. We’re diggin’ this photo because of the large correction the ‘Cuda is making and the huge crowd shot. Later, Orange County International Raceway (OCIR) would suspend the Christmas Tree from a cable after too many cars ran over it.

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