Memories of Modified by ProQuest


More Info
									                                                         Memories of Modified
                                                          The rise and fall of Modified Eliminator

          by Kevin McKenna
          requested by Brian Seate
          South Boston, Va.

                    odified Eliminator has been

         M          gone from the NHRA
                    landscape for nearly three
                    decades, yet for many die-hard
          fans, the love affair with the class
          continues to this day. In its heyday,
          from the early 1970s until its demise
          following the 1981 season, the class
          seemingly had it all, including a wide
          variety of vehicles, such as high-
          winding, stick-shifted Corvettes;
          Camaros, Mavericks, and other classic
          muscle cars; street roadsters; a               The arrival of Modified Eliminator in the early 1970s provided a
          smattering of turbocharged                     training ground for a wave of future Pro Stock drivers, including Bob
          Volkswagens; and screaming rotary-             Riffle, who drove the famed Rod Shop entries.
          powered Mazdas.
              Giant wheelstands were the norm, and the           prohibited), which helped put a premium on           Modified win at the 1974 Winternationals.
          racing was almost always close and                     driver skill.                                        Shepherd’s driving skills, combined with his
          competitive. Modified also had its share of star           Modified quickly gained popularity among         off-track work in the critical area of cylinder-
          power, attracting many of the day’s Pro Stock          racers and fans because it successfully bridged      head development, made him a natural fit for
          stars and serving as a training ground for those       the gap between Super Stock and the new,             the Texas-based Reher-Morrison team.
          who would later go on to success in NHRA’s             ultrasophisticated Pro Stock class, which also           Without question, the most successful and
          factory hot rod class, including Butch Leal,           became a full-time eliminator in 1970. In its        perhaps the most controversial car ever to
          “Dyno Don” Nicholson, Dick Landy, Herb                 formative years, it was not only possible but        compete in Modified was the famed Wayne
          McCandless, Bruce Allen, and world                     very common for drivers to compete in                County Speed Shop Opel, which carried David
          champions Lee Shepherd, Warren Johnson, and Modified Eliminator and Pro Stock using the                     Hutchens to the series championship in 1980
          current kingpin Mike Edwards.                          same car with just a few minor modifications.        and later won multiple events for Larry Kopp
              The Modified class made its first appearance                                                            (as well as a few Comp races in later years with
                                                                    arroll Caudle won Modified’s first national       Todd Patterson behind the wheel). The tiny Opel
          at an NHRA national event at the 1967
          Springnationals in Bristol. By 1970, it had          C    championship by winning the season-ending was an engineering masterpiece and was far
          become a full-fledged eliminator with 30 separate NHRA Finals in 1970. In subsequent years,                 more sophisticated than anything in the class at
          classes, including Modified Production, Gas            other stars emerged, including the legendary         the time. It’s widely rumored that the car tested
          Coupe & Sedans, and Street Roadsters. Similar to Shepherd, a three-time Pro Stock champ who                 the outer limits of the NHRA Rulebook, but in
          today’s Comp, handicap starts were used, but           launched his hall of fame career with a              all fairness, the car was never cited for a major
          instead of an index system,                                                                                 infraction. The Wayne County Opel was also
          racers were handicapped                                                                                     one of the fastest cars ever to race in Modified
          according to the national                                                                                   with elapsed times in the low-eight-second zone
          record for each class.                                                                                      and speeds in the 170-mph range.
          Nearly all of the cars in the                                                                                   Another unusual but highly competitive
          class were equipped with                                                                                    Modified entry was the ’66 Chevy II
          manual transmissions                                                                                        campaigned by Ringgold, Ga., resident Cotton
          (with clutchless units                                                                                      Perry. Chevy IIs were the vehicle of
To top