In researching a Video Documentary for Dover Drag Strip…the year 1964 sticks out like a sore thumb. Everything changed and when I ask the racers at the time …All I get is “the Kids where growing up ,so I got Out of it” .Now there was way More than that going on.All the race results in Eastern Drag News show all the northeast tracks changing their Eliminator formats. Most didn’t match each other.The Dover format of Top- Middle & Little Elim was switched to NHRA format in ’65-’66 .But the biggest differance we’ve documented is the Cars .We were Fortunate enough to obtain a 680 shot Slide collection In Color labled by year from ’61 on up. In 1964 EVERYTHING switched.Early photos show incredible Home-builts. Everything from street-strip Roadsters & coupes to full blown Altereds and Rails.By ’64 ,they were all gone. Local Speed Shops opened, Speed Equipt.companys started to show up and All new classes and “Detriot Hot Rods” emerged. But the Switch is dramatic. It’s like one year they closed the Strip.The next year opened it wth All new cars,classes and all new racers
My first guess was the traditional guys were turned away OR turned off,not meeting new tech rules and not fitting in new classes, never to return. And with New availlable GTO’s ,Mustangs,and other Muscle cars…with all the new “In A Box ” hop-up equipt ,they took a back seat. If you were around for this switch…what was the “thinking?” it’s got to be more ,than the “kids started growing up”
Reprinted from the April 17, 1964 issue of National DRAGSTER
Individual stock class victories in the World Points Championship Meets took on a little added luster this week with the establishment of a “Manufacturers Cup,” to be presented annually to the automotive builder whose cars score the most class victories each racing season.
The award will be made each year by National DRAGSTER at the close of the Points race, with competition in the Manufacturers Cup being limited to current model year cars.
Only stock production cars will be eligible to compile points for each company. No Factory Experimental entries, or sports cars, will be considered under the program.
Each class win at the Points meets throughout the United States will give that manufacturer [i.e., Plymouth, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Dodge, etc.] 10 points. Equal points will be awarded each current model year winner regardless of stock classification.
Standings in the Manufacturers Cup race will be reported each week in National DRAGSTER, in conjunction with the overall World Points Championship.
All current-model-year cars will be considered in compiling the weekly standings that will determine the winner of the award, and no “manufacturer participation” in organized drag racing is required.
The Manufacturers Cup was established to recognize the auto makers’ contributions to all drag racing classes, from Super/Stock through N/Stock.
I asked these Questions at another forum and Dave Downs from Penn. answered with this:
“This just my opinion, nothing more –
In 1964 drag racing started to become a spectator sport. More ‘exhibition-type’ cars began to appear, like the Hurst ‘Hemi Under Glass’ whose claim to fame was that it could do wheel-stands, (no s**t, sherlock, with the engine behind the driver….). Also the FX – MP type classes showed up (think the ‘altered-wheelbase Mopars), and my beloved Gassers became ‘pure racecars’ and not street drivable. The sport started its move away from cars you could actually build and drive or at least hope to some day to stuff that took big money. Funny cars were what the above machines morphed into, until they became nothing but a dragster with a fiberglass body that ‘sort of’ looked like a Mustang/Camaro/Whatever.
In the prime of Hot-Rodding/Drag Racing (1954-1964) I could go to the drags and see cars I could relate to, even the pure competion classes like the Altereds, Roadsters, Dragsters, each one had an engine I could ID on sight; I watched the modified HydraMatic transmission come into it’s own, and to own a Vertex magneto was to have the ultimate in ignition. The way the races were run was different, too. If your car wasn’t fired-up and running when got to the start line, you didn’t run. No burn-out pits, no waiting for the next ‘show’ of staging the car, no hokey ‘back-up’ girls – I went to the drags to see cars race each other, not some broad waving at a car going backwards.”
A bunch of guys mentioned everything from Viet Nam,factory Muscle cars ,the Beatles, Drugs, Music, and when you look at Dover now…we actually have TWO Groups…the Before And the later.Two distinct trains of thought that governed the action seen on the track …It was like ’64 started the “new’ era…”changing of the guard”.Very apparant in the photos.
Lets Hear your views If you were running then.
If you look at pictoral history of drag racing, there is a visual split between 64 and 65. Experiments with stockers and FX cars started in 64, but 65 was it – Funny cars and high dollar match racing (high dollar for 65). 64 was the last year that all the fastest “FXers” and match racers looked like the family car.
……..It was also the war. Gulf of Tonkin was September 1964, and this was the reason (excuse?) to move from advisors to combat troops. In a matter of months, we were at war, and would be for 8 combat/10 involvement years. It was way more than cars. You can almost say prewar/postwar Dover for 64. The war also changed attitudes and divided the country. It started in 64, but didn’t reach its peak until 67ish, but 64 saw more draft card burnings . Drugs took off during that time, but 64 is not really a bellweather. In 64, the only weed laws were tax laws, but that would need some research. Booze was everywhere, but drugs appeared little by little over the next couple of years. Then drug use went nuts.
Some see ’64 as kids in madras racing the family car. It was never like that again.
The preceding comments certainly are interesting, provacative and no doubt many factors influenced the 1964 “big happening”. I think, very simply, we went from needing to build speed ourselves to being able to buy it right off the showroom floor. The revolution actually was slowly building in 1961-1962-1963 and it all hit the tracks in 1964. Henry Ford II had thrown open his checkbook for Ford to dominate in racing; Dodge & Plymouth didn’t want to be left at the line, so they were designing race cars as fast as they could; Chevrolet “withdrew” from racing in 1963, but no one believed that and they had clandestine activities in the works.
I agree with the previous statements that “putting on a show” became important to track owners and also racers realized they could get paid to have fun. Plus, established racers were sought out and compensated in various ways by the car companies to run their “stock” drag cars.
Keep finding things on the internet ,that I think all of us were oblivious to..Being wrapped up “doing Our thing”…but when you think about it …it all contributed , and was effecting things .even if we were’nt aware til way later.Heck ,I didn’t watch the News or read the paper …too busy at being busy with my ‘stuff’. Do remember we got let out of school the day Kennedy got shot…were kind of lost to comprehend it. Found this :
Friday, November 22, 1963, Dallas – the end of Camelot.
The assassination of JFK on that day cast a pall over the U.S – that generation never recovered from that day – we all knew where we were at that moment. The short administration of JFK offered such promise during the cold war (threat of nuclear annihilation), and it all disappeared in an instant.
TV was still in its infancy – the JFK tragedy and the following crazy days revolutionized the industry. On 11/22/63, cameras at the major network newsrooms were off, and had to be “warmed up”. News was still wire service based.
1964 dawned with a country in mourning and TV news services warmed up and at the ready. Reporting would never be the same, and in 65, the war would come to our living rooms each night.
The GTO – One could argue that putting a cross ram 413 in a mid size unibody was the first “Muscle Car”, but most car historians agree it was the 64 GTO. A big engine in a small car – did that ever change the industry. Pontiac left all the others scrambling. It is suspected that the test car provided to the magazines of the time actually had a 421 prepped by Royal, but no one would ever admit to that.
The Mustang – the 64 1/2 Mustang – people have written books about it. Everybody, had one. Introduced on April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair. (Went to That …past the old FreedomLand with my Girl freind) Now the world had “Pony Cars” and “Muscle Cars”, both in 64. Larry was right…didn’t have to build them…just buy them.
Found More…It all had an effect somehow….
Sunday, February 9th, 1964.
“Ladies and gentlemen, THE BEATLES”
Ed Roth, The Rat Fink, claimed in his biography,(Confessions of a Rat Fink), that the Beatles ruined the model car culture. He felt that after the Beatles appeared, kids who were building models(Getting interested in Hot Rods-Drag Cars, before they had a license) bought guitars and started bands. Not sure this is true, but model sales really fell off around this time.Then Revell (His Freinds) stopped making the “component kits”-(Which you could mix & Match engines and Chassis and stuff). I even stopped building and got….A Guitar! ….before I started At Dover-’67 …I even had a Band.
The British Invasion used american influences, and changed everything from fashion -art -hair- but not the pre-64 mainstream music. The Beatles and the Stones looked to Elvis, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, that type of music, not what you heard on the Am dial!…the times …they were a -changin’.
maybe this will help!
I started going to the Drag races in 1963. It seems that in 1964 drag racing had grown enough that speed
equipment manufacturers could see a return on the investment to produce parts that were not available.
Professional chassis builders became more common and often losing a few weeks in a row to one of these
cars had you placing an order for one to replace your homemade creation.
Well .somebody had to bring it up _ Drugs..Hey -even subtle lyrics in Beatles “I want to hold your hand ” repeated “I get High” …then they and all the others went through the “Expand your mind deal”…Hippie styles started and a LOT of kids just didn’t get interested with Hot Rods.
No No ‘THIS’ is what happened!
Dover had one !….Ronnie Morehead…Oh- He actually performed at the Fore’n’Aft east (New Rochelle) to a packed house!….only the V-Man would come up with that .
J.S. recently told me this could have been the turning point or did he say HI point!
Oh, maybe it was the ‘Popsicle Twins’ performing on The Gong Show ,I don’t know,anyone of these would change the way we were!!