By the time we were all around 18 years old, heading off to the nearby Southern California city of Irwindale was a frequent Wednesday-evening ritual. While Saturday nights were typically the “big night” at Irwindale Raceway, with the “ground- pounding” nitromethane- and alcohol-burning Funny Cars and Dragsters, on Wednesday night the drag strip opened up to so-called “run what ya’ brung’ cars. That meant that whether you had a 10-second street car, or your mother’s 19-second station wagon … you were still able to race on the drag strip for “time” only.
Still, the street machine match ups made for some lively “real world” racing. Inevitably informal “classes” of racing would form for the night. For example, if we saw another person with a similar car and level of modification to ours, we might suggest a race — just to spice up the night. An occasional bet might occur in these match ups, but never for those famed “pink slips” — we couldn’t afford to lose (fun concept though, eh? … Sounds good in bold stories about ‘racing for pink slips!!).
Here in this photo my pals (L to R, Dave Ide, me, and Craig Haworth) are changing the Rochester Quadrajet secondary metering rods and changing the advance mechanism springs on the distributor in our attempt to experiment and extract another tenth-of-a-second reduction in the quarter-mile time. The car is a 1970 Ponitiac Formula 400.
With a particular interest in tune-up and carburetion, I ended up carrying a special box of carburetor jets, metering rods and power valves (for respective Rochester and Holley carburetors), as well as different-size distributor advance mechanism weights and springs to be able to “strip tune” my cars. My friends and I learned a lot from those “pit stop” moments, like this one, where we did actually witness improvements in clocked top-speed or quarter-mile elapsed times from the most precise adjustments.
When we returned to our daily motoring back home in the San Fernando Valley, we knew that our cars were just a bit more crisp in performance for those “strip tune” changes … and we felt a bit closer to those “ground-pounding” nitromethane dragsters on Saturday nights, too. Well, at least we shared the same drag strip, if only for a few celebrated quarter-mile seconds on “Street Machine Night.”