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Drag racing is a sport that has been built on innovation and out of the box thinking. To boldly go where no man has gone before -- thank you, Gene Roddenberry. However, how does one decide that maybe you might have gone too far?
When Ron Hodgson and his son Ryan showed up to the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion with their brand new Victory Race Cars-built 1969 Camaro Funny Car there was a great deal of consternation about the car. Mostly about the body of the car that was also produced by Victory Race Cars.
It is fair to say many of the flopper guys were not overly enthusiastic about the new car of Hodgson. The consensus was that while the body is a great piece of craftsmanship, the style of the body was not the intention of the rules or the theme of the nostalgia concept.
When I spoke with other drivers, crew chiefs and team owners, I got a sense that some felt it wasn’t gonna be that big of a deal, but if it was then they would have to spend those resources to keep up, and this body might be the beginning of an “arms race”. Others feel that it should not have been approved by the sanctioning body because it is not in the spirit of the class.
Jason Rupert comment was that “Nostalgia funny cars were done to show respect to those who came before us. To show fans today the history of the sport.”
Dennis Taylor was extremely vocal about his feelings. “They made me cut my car up ’cause the wing windows had kick-outs on them, and that thing is legal?”
Many other comments were not as PG, however the sentiment was still the same: the body looked more like a Pro Mod and not a nostalgia funny car, and the car does not fit the “spirit” of the class. One racer called it “Big Show Lite”. Another stated it was the second coming of the Bat Mobile. That might be a stretch, but…
I thought it was very important to get the whole story on this car. Therefore, I contacted the builders of the car, Ron and Jim Williams at Victory Race Cars, and got why they built the car in the manner they did.
Building of the Car
Ron and Jim Williams started Victory Race Cars over thirty years ago. The company has built racecars for some of the biggest names in the sport of drag racing in that time. Victory has built hundreds of chassis and mounted over 400 Funny Car bodies. They have mounted bodies using every manufacturer of racecar bodies in both fiberglass and carbon fiber. For nineteen seasons the company did all of John Force Racing body mounting.
This alliance with Force allotted Ron and his brother Jim access to the Lockheed wind tunnel. This experience gave the company a baseline of knowledge in aerodynamics that they were able to transfer into their business.
As the popularity of nostalgia racing grew, Victory became a great deal busier in building and mounting Funny Car bodies.
The biggest thing that Ron and Jim were seeing was that it really did not matter the manufacturer of the bodies, when Victory was commissioned to mount the body, there was a significant amount of bodywork (i.e. sanding, bondo, and fiberglass work) that needed to be done to the body to make it right. Whether the anomaly with the body was functionally, aerodynamically, and or structurally flawed, there was still a significant amount of work that needed to be done to the body itself in order to facilitate mounting and then to paint. This prompted the brothers to start producing their own brand of body.
Coincidentally nostalgia racer Ron Hodgson, a Canadian Chevrolet dealership owner, was ready to get back into Nostalgia Funny Car racing with his son Ryan driving.
Victory had built cars for Hodgson in the past so they ran the idea of a Camaro using all the information they had accumulated over the past years. Hodgson was in the market for a new car and seemed keen to the idea, so it became reality.
The two parties sat down and decided to take all aspects that have already been incorporated into bodies of “the fast” nostalgia cars along with those developed by Victory in order to come up with a concept for the body. Things like wheel opening symmetry and placement of escape hatches and burst panels.
For example, to make the wheel openings on the new racecar look more like big show cars rather than the stock appearing wheel openings on current nostalgia funny cars.