The engine roar, the angry, vibrating growl of the machine. Still that ain’t enough. The wheels spinning – methodically, madly, mercilessly – on dry pavement, blowing up pungent, white smoke. Naw, not there yet. The wild jerk from the start and the irrational sprint forward to lurch into the serious wind. Almost, but not quite.
Automobile racing – especially as it developed in the 1930s and beyond – was not so much about any of those bombastic sensations of sight and sound and movement; it was about winning – rip-roaring, raw victory. Nothing else would do. Second place was no place. This is the history of the race track and automobile.
Offering the largest selection of new and rebuilt transmissions, we at Astro Performance Warehouse enjoy writing about performance cars, parts and maintenance issues, racing and the exciting history of the race track. This is part one of this series and today we’re continuing with part two.
The idea of propelling one’s self forward at violent velocities was born a half century earlier in the basement laboratories of 19th century inventors. Mechanical concoctions – belching and sputtering strange magic – took to the byways of dusty backwoods and tall-hat metropolises; then the big boys with the fat wallets and the manufacturing muscle began to take notice. And, from there, the racing industry lurched forward at breathtaking speeds (at least for that time some three generations ago).
A third of the way through the 20th century, it was the bad boys, the money makers and the engineers who began to gravitate to this adrenaline-producing way of life. The big-money roadsters were fading; machines that would win began to rise.
The Alfa Romeo, Auto Union, Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, and Mercedes-Benz began building sleeker cars – designed exclusively for speed and power – packing engines with more than 600 horse power. The beasts were just growing larger, meaner and more dominant until racing organizers set 1,653-pound weight limits, throwing designers into engineering tizzies.
Manufacturers began using aluminum to lighten the load on their monsters; Mercedes created its big shot, the Silver Arrows, with no paint to reduce weight.
Bill France, Sr. and other drivers founded NASCAR in early 1948 and held the first “Strictly Stock” race on June 19, 1948 at Daytona Beach, Florida. The “Strictly Stock” division was then put on hold because American automobile makers couldn’t manufacture family sedans fast enough to keep pace with post-World War ll demand.
Sports cars roared onto the scene with the International Automobile Federation’s World Championship in 1953. NASCAR’s “Strictly Stock” became the “Grand National” in that decade. Over the next decade, engineers redesigned stock-car racers specifically for increased performance with some safety modifications, but kept the stock bodies.
Grand Touring (GT) cars took center stage in the early 1960s, moving quickly ahead of sports cars, with the formation of the International Championship for GT Manufacturers. As developers increasingly built paved speedways in the 1960s, races on dirt tracks became less common.
We hope you enjoyed this second part of our series on the history of the race track. We’d love to hear your comments or suggestions.