The sport of bench racing has a storied past. People have been arguing which car is faster for eons (well, a bit more than 100 years). The only way to prove it is to pit at least two cars together, but there’s no saying all things are equal because, in the name of the competitive spirit, people are liable to do what they can do to skirt the rules.
So when you can’t rely on old car magazines to show which cars are the fastest (were they showroom-stock? Did they tune them? Did the factory supply a ringer? Did the magazine fudge the numbers?), how is the pecking order established? Perhaps the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Race brings us one step closer to the answer.
Now in its 17th year, the Pure Stock Drags was formed by Michiganders Bob Boden and Dan Jensen. Both were veterans of the muscle car shootouts of the 1980s and wanted to bring back the excitement that they had experienced. Over the years, through word of mouth, magazine coverage, and the Internet, it has grown and settled to about 150 cars going down the 1320. If you think of it as a car show where they go racing, you won’t be far off. Where else can you find Super Sports, Superbirds, and Studebakers all in one place?
This time around, the two-day Pure Stock Drag – held at the Mid Michigan Motorplex – welcomed enthusiasts nationwide willing to pit their show-quality muscle cars against one another for some serious bragging rights over the September 15th weekend.
The rules are quite simple: The cars must be stock. However, due to drivability and other general issues that individuals have for the other 364 days of the year, it makes it hard for the cars to be 100% stock.
The little wiggle room given in the rules don’t detract from the mission but, as the popularity of the event has grown, people have built engines that exploit the wiggle room.
Then, to keep things civil and fair, drivers are only paired up with those who are running similar times. The best of three wins his/her respective pairing.
You may be scratching your head how this establishes a pecking order of what’s fastest, but not everyone can own a L88 Corvette, so this gives owners an opportunity to sort out their cars and maximize their cars’ potential through tuning and acquired knowledge.
Did your car run an unimpressive 15.13 ET this year? You’ll have a year to practice and improve your times. This is the spirit of the event.
The heavy hitters at the Pure Stock Drags are a couple of L88 Corvettes, a ZL1 Camaro, a HEMI ‘Cuda owned by “Mr. Six Pack,” Bob Karakashian, and a Ram Air II 1968 Firebird 400.
The Firebird is unique among the top dogs because it is never mentioned in the same breath as the others. And as only 110 were built, they may have been off your the radar.
However, a Pennsylvanian by the name of Jim Mino participated in those early muscle car shootouts and wowed everyone with its light weight and efficient delivery of power.
As the first engine to have Pontiac’s round-port heads, the Ram Air II was an April, 1968 addition that only lasted through the model year until it was replaced by the Ram Air IV in September.
Jim broke down in this race, but there were two more to show that solid lifters and twin four-barrels were not needed.
On the other end of the spectrum you’ll find cars like the 1972 Montego GT, 1965 Galaxie 500 XL with a 390 Police Interceptor, and even a 1974 Cougar. While the latter may invoke the imminent Disco era, it was available with a 351 Cobra Jet.
Yours truly has been the announcer since 1997, so I’m kept busy in the tower while I entertain the spectators. However, I managed to sneak out and take a few photos while the cars were in the pits so you can get an idea how sweet an event this is. Next year’s race has yet to be announced, but check out their website for updates as they happen.
The results (listed below) are simply a list of times as there are no classes, qualifying runs, eliminations or are really even lined up in a “Heads Up” style race. Everyone’s here just to do their best. Basically, you have all of the test and tune to fiddle around with your motor to find that sweet spot. At some point, you tally up your best run. Then, you’re paired up with someone running a similar time for the next day, the official race day. It’s more about doing your best, learning about how your car works, and having fun.
Here’s all the results. Click the image for the full-sized version: