"WILD WILLIE" BORSCH's "WInged Express" AA/Altered
FIAT-BODIED HEMI-POWERED Altered
Growing up, my interest in automobiles was stoked by my interest in racing of all kinds. While I attended a few sanctioned drag races, never as a participant, I read HOT ROD and other magazines, always fascinated by the little cars with big engines that were there. Besides the power, the aesthetics of monster blowers and fat slicks struck me...and it's been fun to capture it in miniature. I can't imagine sitting behind a 800 hp engine in a car with a 100" wheelbase!
The "DOUBLE DRAGSTER KIT" by AMT has been around for years and has been reissued several times. It was released once in a 'collector's edition' metal box. I don't recall building the kit as a kid but I've had a blast creating a couple of cars from it recently. Parts from several kits were combined to create the fictitious MIDWEST AUTO PARTS AA Altered, a hemi-powered Fiat-bodied altered.
STREET LEGAL '32 FORD 5-Window Coupe
I've always liked the aesthetic of big slicks on a channeled '32 and a Hemi shoe-horned in the engine compartment. This rendition was built from parts from several kits. The body was channeled over the frame and all the interior trim panels modified accordingly. With a stock height roof, it's a comfortable ride. Who wouldn't enjoy cruising the drive-in in this little coupe...the coolest car at Belmont High!
One of the more amazing classes of cars in drag racing in the 1960s were called "ALTEREDS" and were basically giant engines on short-wheelbased chassis and some form of bodywork to give some suggestion that this machine was a car. Giant slicks on the rear and crankshafts high off the ground completed the recipe. "Wild Willie" Borsch had one of the more successful altereds and he called the "Winged Express" as he pioneered the use of a large wing mounted overhead. A blown hemi provided the power of this orange ultimate altered.
Drag racers are an inventive bunch. No different than those in other forms of motor sport, I suppose. One of the strangest trends in drag racing was the so-called Factory Experimental (F/X) 'altered wheelbase' stock cars of the 1960s. The rear wheels were moved forward to improve weight transfer and therefore traction. The alterations were done on many models of cars both large and small. A fraternity brother of mine had a Chevy II Super Sport fitted with a 327 V8. The drag guys took it one step further by stuffing a 427 into the little cars to create a strange looking but fast running dragster. This model was built from an AMT kit with a few components, including the rear wheels and decals, from other kits.
When I purchased a new 1968 Firebird, I really wanted to own a Marlboro Maroon 1967 Corvette Coupe. I still have the brochure (left) that caused the stir! Well, I never bought the 'Vette but I still think the car is a classic. Since I likely won't ever own one, I built this 'show and go' drag race version from an 1963 AMT kit. I've conceived the model as a streetable drag car...one that "looks wilder than it is". It has a full interior, street exhaust and a license plate!
The basic 427 engine is from the kit but the headers and wired distributor were bought on eBay, the wing is from a Wild Willie altered kit, and the wheels and tires are from AMT's Double Dragster kit. The interior roll bar, side exhaust and the wheelie bar were scratchbuilt. I included the prototype's black 'stinger stripe' on the hood and complimented it with a black hood scoop. The rear exhaust tips are 1/8" aluminum tubing. It would be the wildest ride at the A&W!
Since the production exhaust is molded into the underbody, the model was built as if these are still useable for street use via cutout valve. The headers are 'powdercoated' white.
While not as common as the Willys bodied cars, 1940 Ford coupes were used to build gassers, too. This one is powered by Oldmobile and takes fuel through dual quads mounted on a hi-rise manifold. A straight front axle, headers dumping into the wheels wheels, large slicks and an aggressive stance are all the elements that define this purely American racing formula.
Starting with a kit of a stock '40 Ford, it was necessary to build the straight front axle from aluminum tube and brass wire and replace the stock rear axle/transverse spring with a larger axle and longitudinal springs from a pickup truck. The wheels, tires, carbs, velocity stacks, manifold, shocks, traction bars and decals are from other kits while the headers and wired distributor are commercially available items. The car was painted with Rustoleum Paprika semi-gloss spray paint.
This kit, by AMT, has been around for years. As a teenager I built basically this same model...an orange '40 Ford coupe representing a old-time oval dirt race car. It was fun to reprise the build with this much more aggressive-looking gasser model.
1950s ERA FRONT ENGINED DRAGSTER
The second half of the AMT Double Dragster kit was a 50s-era 'rail' dragster. In the early days of drag racing, these cars were for 'go' not 'show'...few bright parts, simple paint jobs and straightforward construction. The photo on the right has the feeling I was after. To build this model I removed the 'chrome' plating from all the parts...except the filler cap on the fuel tank. Many parts were swapped from other kits including the wheels and engine. Several parts were built from brass wire including the long steering drag link. The idea was to create a model that looks like it could have been built at Ronnie's Machine Shop whose name is painted on the cowl. 'Can't imagine sitting a matter of inches behind a blown Hemi while straddling the differential!
The AMT "Double Dragster" kit. (above). These cars must have been a handful to drive!
The earliest pictures of these cars sometimes show the use of solid wheels on the front, but builders quickly adopted wire-spoked cycle wheels due to their light weight.