In the early days of drag racing there weren’t many factory built performance cars. If you wanted to go fast, you had to use what was available and make it work. Many of the old race cars you see are business sedans and other passenger cars, and some of the first and most popular race cars were what are famously known as “Gassers”. The name Gasser is derived for their use of regular gasoline versus another type of fuel. Gassers were the original pump gas race car class.
Your standard issue Gasser from the 1950’s through the 1970’s was a passenger car that had been lightened in any way possible. The fenders would be removed, fiberglass parts used, and plexiglass windows would be installed. Another big change, perhaps the most signature modification of them all, would be the addition of a raised straight axle in the front. Early race pioneers raised the front ride height with these straight axles to help with weight transfer to the rear. The downside to making these changes would the cars very difficult to drive at times with that higher center of gravity.
Gassers were separated into different classes based on their weight and motor combination. You could go to the track and see cars sporting a mildly build motor, all the way up to a big block with a gnarly roots supercharger.
The classic Gasser, of course, is the 1930’s and 1940’s Willys. It was not uncommon to turn just about anything into a Gasser, including ’55-57 Chevys, Corvettes, Novas, and even Henry Js. Just about any of these cars would be capable of putting it on the bumper and doing it with a wild period correct paint scheme.
This video from www.maziracing.com shows some great Gasser racing action that took place at Beaver Springs Dragway’s annual Gasser Reunion which brings together a collection of period-correct, retro Gassers that’s as impressive as you’ll find anywhere.