Modified also had its share of star power, attracting many of the day's Pro Stock stars and serving as a training ground for those who would later go on to success in NHRA's factory hot rod class, including Butch Leal, "Dyno Don" Nicholson, Dick Landy, Herb McCandless, Bruce Allen, and world champions Lee Shepherd, Warren Johnson, and current kingpin Mike Edwards. With a set of very strict rules that limited competitors to a single four-barrel carburetor, a set of production-based cylinder heads, a four-speed (not five) transmission, and a maximum rear tire width of 10.5 inches, Super Modified was indeed a hit, but it wasn't long before costs once again spiraled out of control as the haves continued to raise the bar by outspending the havenots.
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
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