Drag Racing - Building My First Race Car

At the starting line of the North Texas Dragway doing a burnout
At the starting line of the North Texas Dragway doing a burnout

Car enthusiasts know that with amateur drag racing it takes skill and persistence to win the battle of speed. Winning is a lot more than who crosses the finish line first. It's about the driver's reaction time once the light goes green as well as the elapsed time it takes the car to travel between the starting line and the finish line. One of the most important things is not getting a red light for crossing the electronic sensors at the starting line before the light turns green, also known as red lighting. That is cause for an automatic loss. So is going too fast. Yes, it is possible to lose the race when a racer breaks out, meaning he goes faster than his projected ET or elapsed time estimate.

RacerX, also known as Jim Cole, is a participant in the Sportsman Class of Drag Racing at the Texas Motorplex. He finished building his first race car in the early nineties working on the weekends in a small garage at his residence in the suburbs. Many amateur drag racers hold down full-time jobs during the week to support their weekend racing hobby. This is the case for Jim, a regular guy who works the daily grind at as a computer technician Monday through Friday. But when the weekend comes, you’ll most often find him at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, at Red Line Raceway near Paris Texas or at the North Texas Dragway in North Dallas.

Chevy Nova Race Car

1964 Chevy Nova
1964 Chevy Nova | Source

To these enthusiasts who spend their off season time rebuilding their engines, every penny counts. Unlike the professional classes, many lack the sponsorship funding to support this money-hungry hobby, which makes it necessary to conserve and reuse as many parts as possible. RacerX is a real pro at attending swap meets to find equipment and especially at rebuilding carburetors.

For a typical engine rebuild, the costs can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the extent of repair and replacement items needed. As the enthusiasm for the sport grows, so does the amount of equipment required to be safe and successful.

When purchased, this Chevy Nova was an ugly shade of brown. It had a roll cage built inside but it needed some major work to get it suitable to pass tech inspection at the track.

The original paint on the Nova was stripped off to reveal bare metal before a coat of primer was applied.
The original paint on the Nova was stripped off to reveal bare metal before a coat of primer was applied. | Source
Source
Ready for the primer.
Ready for the primer.
At the Texas Motorplex Racetrack with the Ford Pinto doing a burn out
At the Texas Motorplex Racetrack with the Ford Pinto doing a burn out | Source
RacerX in his second race car, a Ford Pinto with a Chevy engine pitted against his friend, Larry in a roadster.
RacerX in his second race car, a Ford Pinto with a Chevy engine pitted against his friend, Larry in a roadster.

The Burn Out

One of the best parts of drag racing is doing the burn out. What is a burn out? Most young drivers find that out when they get behind the wheel of a car for the first time. You press the accelerator too hard and the tires spin. All too soon drivers realize this can be fun.

But in terms of the sport of drag racing, the driver pulls the race car up to the starting line before a run, waits for a signal from the starter and after setting their line lock, proceeds to rev the engine until the rear tires begin to spin. Once the engine reaches the proper RPM (revolutions per minute) and a good bit of white smoke starts pouring out behind the car from the burning rubber of the spinning tires, the driver lets up on the throttle.

The purpose of a burnout is to clean the tires and heat them up which will assist in or enable better traction for launch. Unfortunately the burnout can be quite abusive to the tread of a tire and will cause premature wear. At a cost of nearly four hundred dollars per tire, this can substantially add to the racer’s operating cost.

A competitor at the starting line at the Kennedale racetrack with lift off of the front tires after launching.
A competitor at the starting line at the Kennedale racetrack with lift off of the front tires after launching. | Source

After the build out of the first race car was finished in the late eighties, a Chevy Nova, equipped with a small block motor, it was necessary to purchase a flat bed trailer to transport it to the Texas Motorplex, a brand new track at the time. Towing a race car to the track is the preferred method as opposed to driving a streetcar to the track, then, changing out the rear tires, putting on slicks once the racer is at the track. In the event that the engine has mechanical problems, it would not only eliminate the driver from the competition, it might eliminate their ride home as well.

The first flat bed trailer RacerX purchased was a Featherlite model and was pulled behind his 1979 Chevy el Camino. Once at the track, he would back the Chevy Nova off the trailer, then use the flatbed trailer as a place to set up our lawn chairs and coolers. On several birthdays, we celebrated the occasion by sharing a home made cake served from the back end of the trailer surrounded by other race car enthusiasts.

The Chevy Nova with a coat of primer ready for the finish coat of race car red
The Chevy Nova with a coat of primer ready for the finish coat of race car red | Source

Have you ever attended a drag race?

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Those were good times where we learned new things each week from the more experienced drivers. We tried to find a pit next to the successful guys who were willing to jump in and help out the new drivers. These were the generous ones who shared extra parts when a racer broke down.

During the learning curve, we experimented with different sized jets in the carburetor to change the flow of fuel to try to improve performance. Working on improving the driver's reaction time at the starting line was part of the learning process for a new racer. These were times remembered fondly of having great fun while basking in the joy and thrills of the hobby.

Source
First time out of the garage!
First time out of the garage! | Source
And away we go. . . .
And away we go. . . . | Source

RacerX doing a burnout at North Texas Raceway

And next was the Chevy powered Ford Pinto race car

The Ford Pinto race car in the starting line up where lots of racing tips were learned.
The Ford Pinto race car in the starting line up where lots of racing tips were learned. | Source

© 2011 Jim Cole

Comments 9 comments

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Welcome RacerX. Congratulations on publishing your first article. Great pictures, cool race car.


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

Welcome to HP, RacerX. This is a cool hub and I've always loved going to the drag races. I come from a small town and many of my friends used to drag race. It was a lot of fun. I like this hub, brings back some fond memories. Cool pictures too. Voting this one up. I hope to see more hubs from you in the future. I look forward to it.

I'm telling my hubby about this as we both love old cars ad have owned several.


RacerX profile image

RacerX 5 years ago from Dallas Author

PegCole17 & BobbiRant, Thanks for the welcome, I'm glad my first hub is, so far, well received. Writing brings back wonderful memories of that long ago time. Think I'll do this more.


vietnamvet68 profile image

vietnamvet68 5 years ago from New York State

Great hub loved watching your run. Was that 8.11 in a 1/4 mile, if so pretty impressive my friend. I used to run my Superbee in the 70's at around 15 in a 1/4 mile and I was just running a stock 383. Looking forward to seeing some more great hubs.


RacerX profile image

RacerX 5 years ago from Dallas Author

vietnamvet68, wow I wish that was a quarter mile run back in those days! That was actually a shake-down run on a new small block motor at a local eighth mile track. Thanks for the comment, I heard you have a great hub on your Superbee, can't wait to read it, love those old Mopars...


tsmog profile image

tsmog 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

Need more. How about a bit about the Nationals and how the gals are kicking butt recently. (smile) Peg just stopped by and I learned you had an article. You are the only other drag racing enthusiasts I have ventured across so far. I see more above.

Great article. I love the photos sharing the love and desire of a dream being fulfilled step by step. Reminds me of reading Hot Rod magazine, Super Chevy, or Car Craft back in the 70's. This article demonstrates the desire sometimes needs a bit of elbow grease, eh?

I have written two articles one titled 'Who's You Daddy?' and the other "Title: The Drag Racer’s Mind, the Christmas Tree, Time & Destiny - Angelle Sampey" My hope is in the coming years to write more on this. You may consider a series about the weekend warrior. Are still near a track?

Thanks for sharing and giving the enthusiast a bit of a look at history in the making. Great job! (more, more, more) Hey, How about how to install a liquid cooler in a PC? Maybe how to put an exhaust fan in the top of a PC? What about a video showing the difference of negative pressure cooing vs positive pressure cooling?

Have a great day?

Tim


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

RacerX, write more about building a race car, I know that would interes more boys for the next generation of drivers. I also know that racing helps a person to become a better driver (at least that is my opinion).


RacerX profile image

RacerX 23 months ago from Dallas Author

Hello Tsmog, sorry for the extra long delay in answering your comment. The past two years have been pretty rough as I had back surgery and couldn't race during that time. I'm in the process of rebuilding a door slammer so that I can continue with the sport as that will make it easier to get into the car. With my current race car, a Corvette roadster, I have to crawl into the driver's window and that has been nearly impossible.

Peg helps me by keeping my article current and I'm hoping to publish a few more articles this year including how I rebuild carburetors to run E-85 racing fuel. One of my creations was in the Division Four winner's car this past year!

Thanks again for your great comment. I look forward to reading your articles. Jim


RacerX profile image

RacerX 23 months ago from Dallas Author

Hello Shyron, Thanks for the suggestion about writing more articles about cars. I hope to publish a few more articles this year about carburetors, powder coating engine parts and rebuilding transmissions. These past two years have been pretty stressful but I'm ready to get back into the game. I appreciate your visit and great comment.

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