Try this: https://soundcloud.com/bigsounds2001
BIG SOUNDS ARE FREE…
Public Release of the Big Sounds of the Drags 2001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2008, Los Angeles, CA — In the spirit of what is known as “Creative Commons,” the Nitronic Research founders have released the entire body of NR’s ambient sound f/x recording, “The Big Sounds of the Drags 2001” for free public consumption.
More than than just a fetishistic exercise in audio drag porn, the “Big Sounds” is made up of 37 distinct recordings, ranging from the intimate and ambient sounds of Top Fuel dragsters, Funny Cars, Fuel Altereds, Jet Cars, Wheelstanders and doorslammers, interspersed with interviews from drag racing luminaries such as “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, “Wild Bill” Alexander, Roland Leong, Dean Skuza, Ron Capps, “Techno Tim” Gibson and others, all of which is sporadically underscored by surf music. It was engineered, recorded, mixed and mastered by Ikky Shivers and Cole Coonce.
All tracks (and accompanying liner notes) are available here: https://thebigsoundsofthedrags2001.wordpress.com
Feel free to load up your iTunes library, create “drag strip ringtones” and/or burn discs to your heart’s content. — Cole Coonce
Recorded at a drag strip in Bakersfield, a couple of pairs of doorslammers dance down the race track, as the crowd and the track announcers get ready for the pending competition between apocalyptically-loud Top Fuel dragsters.
The proverbial calm before the storm….
Infamous track announcer, Jon “Thunderlungs” Lundberg hails the firing off of and competition between a pair of nitro-burning dragsters as “Camelot Top Fuel Style.”
Recorded at a drag strip in Pomona, the Champion Speed Shop AA/Fuel Dragster records a stellar elapsed time of 6.17 seconds.
The entry is driven by “Swingin’ Sammy” Hale, who originally piloted the earliest incarnations of this Chevy-powered, nitro-propelled Top Fuel dragster in 1961.
In an interview for HOT ROD Magazine, Tom Jobe of the wiley Surfers Top Fuel team expounds upon how his bunch could fool and psych-out their competition into hopping up their dragster’s engines with bigger and more volatile loads of nitromethane and thereby fall prey to “blow(ing) the thing up.”
As a pair of drag racing machines prepare for battle, Jon Lundberg explains the nuances of nitromethane as a racing fuel and what makes a Top Fuel dragster “cackle.”
World champion drag racer Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney expounds on the perils of nitro addiction. (Underscored by the all-girl surf group the Neptunas.)
This documentation of a Top Fuel drag race between “Techno Tim” Gibson and Bob Vandergriff was captured by a mini-disc recorder stuffed inside Gibson’s firesuit. Here the listener gets the driver’s perspective, beginning with his getting tucked into his top fuel dragster, waiting while in the staging lanes, conversing with this crew chief and his pit gang, as well as the burn out process and what it sounds like from the cockpit while in a side-by-side drag race.
In this heat, Gibson’s machine spins the tires and tosses the blower belt. (And yes, while suited up in the staging lanes, Gibson absent-mindedly hums Frank Sinatra’s version of “Luck Be A Lady” from the musical “Guys and Dolls.”)
A recording from the top end of a drag strip. From this perspective, the listener can discern the negative g-force of a Pro Stock drag race car as the driver applies the braking parachutes.
(File Under “Ambient”)
The sounds of Top Fuel dragsters “in the eyes” (i.e., the electronic beams that record the machine’s maximum velocity.)
(File Under “Ambient”)
Alcohol funny cars wind out their “screw-type” superchargers as the motors race to maximum rpm at the drag strip’s finish line.
(File Under “Ambient”)
While pondering the human and financial costs of racing Top Fuel dragsters, Jon “Thunderlungs” Lundberg provides a philosophical and dramatic prelude to a drag race that surpasses even his flair for the histrionic. In this heat, the Champion Speed Shop entry — piloted by veteran racer “Swingin’ Sammy” Hale in a dragster renowned as the world’s fastest small-block Chevrolet — squares off against the Chrysler-powered dragster of “Wild Bill” Alexander.
The sounds of the nitro-powered Chevrolet blowing up and shrieks of the crowd say as much about the drama as Lundberg’s play-by-play.
The postscript to the heated, ego-fueled drag race between savvy, cagey Top Fuel pilots “Swingin’ Sammy” Hale and “Wild Bill” Alexander; track workers comes to Hale’s rescue, but cannot find Alexander.
Esteemed track announcer Jon “Thunderlungs” Lundberg recalls the explosion that cut the Swamp Rat top fuel dragster of “Big Daddy” Don Garlits in two pieces, severing half of Garlits’ foot in the process — and forever changing the course of professional drg racing.
Top Fuel drag racing legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits reveals the circumstances of his darkest — and most traumatic — moment in competition: the 1970 transmission explosion at Lion Drag Strip that severed half of his right foot.
The explosion led to a change that revolutionized Top Fuel dragster design; while in recovery in the hospital, Garlits sketched the design for an effective way to put the motor behind the driver. Its success rendered the front-engined Top Fueler obsolete. (Incidental surf music by the Insect Surfers.)
Ikky Shivers and I drove out to Palmdale to record the sound of a jet car. Before it launched, the track operators commenced the night’s festivities with a public address playback recording of the Osmond Bros. singing the National Anthem. Shivers had always insisted that the drag races are far more surreal than any Robert Altman movie… I really couldn’t argue with him.
“Nitro Neil” Bisciglia’s front-engined Top Fueler, burning a fuel mixture loaded with 90 percent nitromethane. The classic drag racing sound: a steel Chrysler 392 hemi, with a generous dollop of “pop” (nitro).
An audio verite recording of the pit crew for top fuel drag racer “Nitro Neil” Biscigilia, as they chase their driver down after he sets Low Elapsed Time at a drag race in Noble, Oklahoma.
As “Nitro Neil” exclaims, “”Number 1 Qualifier… Unbelievably So…”
As his crew member says, “That’s what steering wheels are for.”
The most mashed-up of any of the recordings on The Big Sounds of the Drags 2001 elpee… First, we took a tape recording of notorious street racer “Big Willie” Robinson giving an emergency press conference at a torn-up slag heat where his Brotherhood Raceway once stood at Terminal Island; then we layered that on top of a surf music track that underscored the sounds of a wheelstander dragging its back bumper up and down the drag strip at Palmdale….
“Before you put nose in the air to the lowriders and the mini-hot rodders, you better think them for getting the Brotherhood back…”
At a Noble, Oklahoma drag race, famed track announcer Jon “Thunderlungs” Lundberg (aka “The Voice of Drag Racing”) delivers the play-by-play of an appearance by the Winged Express AA/Fuel Altered. As Lundberg notes, the machine burns “So much (nitromethane), the engine can’t process it…”
Alvin “Mousie” Marcellus of the Marcellus and Borsch “Winged Express,” recalls some of the more radical showman-like exploits of his partner and driver, “Wild Willie” Borsch.
Side-by-side nitro funny car action….
During a lull in the drag strip action, the track announcers attempt to convince the race fans to buy some turkey legs from the concession stand…
While track announcers banter in an echo chamber, a pair of Junior Fuel dragsters dash down the quarter mile….
Roberto Skinners of the Surfer’s AA/Fuel Dragster expounds upon how when checking the main bearings, “the parts speak to you.”
A rare sound these days…. a Top Fuel dragster utilizing a “pedal clutch.” Hear this fierce nitro-burning drag racing machine raise the rpms up to a disturbing and unsettling pitch as the driver prepares to launch….
Roland “the Hawaiian” Leong describes the relationships between the various parts of a nitro-motor in a Funny Car, and how the crew chief can analyze the “cries” from the different elements of the tune-up, and “what they are telling you.”
As close as drag racing gets to modern physics coveted “Theory of Everything…”
“Nothing fixes itself,” he says….
In keeping with the BIG Sounds of the Drags 2001’s “recorded in visual stereo” production value, this track is an example of extreme panning (from left to right), as the microphones follow a pair of nitro-burning Top Fuelers in a drag race at Pomona.
NHRA Funny Car racer Ron Capps recounts driving through tire spin on the top end of the track — and how “pedaling” the throttle allowed him to triumph in a drag race.
Mike Brown in the Old Trail Garage dragster, takes the win light with his injected small-block Chevy dragster, running a fuel mixture of 30 percent nitromethane.
Troy Green in a front engined Top Fuel Dragster, drag racing in Noble, Oklahoma and, according to track announcer Jon “Thunderlungs” Lundberg, “Smiling His Brains Out….”
A pair of nostalgia Top Fuel cars pair off and then “saw through the clutch….”
NHRA Funny Car racer Dean Skuza compares the application of a clutch management system in a modern nitro-burning racecar to using an orbital sander.
Legendary Top Fuel drag racers “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney square off in a match race in 1996 at Noble, Oklahoma.
“Techno Tim” Gibson in his tow vehicle at the drag races in Pomona, reliving and describing the nuances of his just-completed pass in the Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel dragster to his team owner.
Tom Jobe of the notorious “Surfers” Top Fuel team reflects on how the team used skateboards as instruments of psychological warfare in the pits at the drag races in the 1960s.
Musical score by Jack Logan.
A top end interview with “Wild Bill” Alexander, moments after winning Top Fuel eliminator at the prestigious March Meet drag race — an honor that had eluded him his entire drag racing career.
Jobe and Skinner are tippin’ the can again
Looks like they are tippin’ the can again
Make sure the injector’s alright
Still pullin’ strong through the lights
They called them the Surfers
From South California
Holed up in the Red Apple
Who knows what they’re doin’?
Sorokin’ cuttin’ the light again
They’re puttin it right back in line again
Playin’ round on their skateboards
Never seem to lift a wrench
What you have in your hands are the liner notes to a soundtrack record for an unfinished film entitled “Where the Pavement Ends.” The film is a documentary on the search for what makes drag racers such an interesting anthropological study. Shot on 16mm stock, it was never finished because the filmmaker, “Cousin Roy” Lee Gittens, ran out of dough when it came time to process the reams of film he had exposed. As I write this, both he and I are brainstorming on how to actually pull his precious celluoid out of whatever fidicuary fires have consumed it thus far.
He and I have both bummed about not bringing this home…. But all is not lost. Y’see, while driving through the desert with my girlfriend and listening to a cassette tape of “The Big Sounds of the Drags,” an old drag racing sound f/x record recorded at Pomona in 1963, I came to certain epiphany: It is indeed time to update these Big Sounds…and a lot of the work had already been done…
Voila! The Big Sounds of the Drags 2001! So, taking many of the interviews that Roy and I made happen, and underscoring them with some SoCal surf music, was a start. I also liberated some verite sounds of the drag strip that Roy and his soundman, Ikky Shivers, had captured. But this wasn’t enough…so both Ikky Shivers and I proceeded to record a plethora of drag strip sounds that you won’t necessarily find on”Where the Pavement Ends”—assuming it ever gets finished.
In the interim, I ask you to groove on both the various sounds we have accumulated as well the copious prose from a legion of nitromaniacs who have shared their individual impressions of the soothing and euphonious drag strip sounds. Fire the next pair… — Cole Coonce, NITRONIC RESEARCH Wind Tunnels 04/04/2000
What give me the chills is hearing the whir of the starter and the cackle start to life. Give me a few quick hits on the throttle and fill my face full of nitro and I’m in heaven. Can you bottle that smell and put it in your CD? — Jerry Clarke <email@example.com>
The first time my brother and I went to Brainerd to watch the fuel cars: we sat at the traps in the beginning. It was cool but just too loud, kind of like a dentist drill to the eardrums. We then went to the starting line and we could stand pretty close. The sound was thunderous, the fumes intense, but the most awesome sensory overload I had ever witnessed. At the end I was just dumbstuck, wandering around, my clothes smelled of nitro and rubber dust, my ears were ringing. I could guess why people were wearing earplugs.-Jim Hanson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It is really great to go to the drags with a first timer! My brother and his wife were with me on our way to Beeline and it was her first race. I tried to tell her what to expect, but she thought I was exaggerating. The fuel cars at Beeline echoed off the tower sounding like a pair of snorting bulls. It was great. I kept telling my sister-in-law that if she would open her mouth when the cars passed by that it would relieve the pressure on her ear drums to which she replied, “I haven’t been able to close my mouth since we arrived,” meaning that she was in awe! After that trip if my brother or I wouldn’t take her to the races she would go alone. She became good friends with the bunch from the MOB AA/Fuel Altered. No need starting at the bottom I suppose!—Jack <email@example.com>
I am younger than I look—I only ever saw one event where they still push started some of the cars. It was at Amarillo. Some dragsters self started and some push started, but only a few. I didn’t even know what was going on when the first one came pushing by in front of the stands. The driver let the clutch out, the motor started throwing fuel out the pipes and never made a sound, just kept right on going. I moved down and stood at the fence so I could get a better look. Second car comes down, lets the clutch out and the blower blows completely off the car held on only by a fuel line—RIGHT IN MY FACE—WOW. I moved back up into the stands.—Brent Fanning <firstname.lastname@example.org>
No matter who they are, the first time they hear a pair of fuelers launch, they’ll spit cuss words like a seasoned sailor. Try it sometime.Take a neighbor, relative, or even your Rabbi to the track and listen to ’em wail: “GAWD DAMN!!”, or “SON OF A BITCH !!”, or “OY VEY!!” or whatever other expletive they can wrap their face splittin’ grin around. Never Fails.—David Ross <email@example.com>
I don’t have half as many things in the catalog of my mind as some you do as it pertains to nitro, but I do and always will carry one nitro-induced memory. Mid 70’s, the Super Nationals at Ontario International Speedway, I am a strapping lad of about 8 years old at my first national event. The sound feel of the fuelers is what has kept me coming back since, but one in particular, I have no idea who it was or what happened, but the guy is on a pass, just flyin’ til about 800′. All of a sudden it was like what I imagined a nuclear bomb blast to be and the blower takes off for the atmosphere, it seems like you could actually hear the thing whistling and picking up speed as it flew higher and higher. I remember that sound to this day and am still in awe of it.—Charlie <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Bad experience at the Keystone Nats in ’98… first drag race since we put the Wheeler Dealer in the trailer that fateful night in ’69… I misjudged when Funny Car qualifying was… I’m in the Port-O-Can under the stands about 200 feet out. First up, John Force makes a VERY LOUD and very long burnout as per usual… I thought that fiberglass enclosure was going to tip forward and become my fiberglass coffin!!!! A fine welcome back to the digs!—Bert Toulotte <Featstuff@dmv.com>
Engine tunes are neat, but NOTHING raises the hair inside my headsock like the keening wail of a trannie [just a few feet behind me] as it spools up in second gear at the 800 foot mark… especially when the torque band kicks in and that Giant Hand starts pushing me back in the seat a second time…—The Mad Coater<email@example.com>
Favorite Nitro Sound? The pre-stage is lit on both sides: all sixteen exhaust pipes belch nitro in the air for a few seconds. Then the”WHUMP WHUMP, WHUMP, WHUMP” of the cars staging hits, two seconds then WHAM! The air is sucked out of your lungs as two projectile devices launch in front of your face!—Todd Given <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The sight of your motor exploding in a front engine dragster. You get to see it twice—once when she blows and again when you drive through it. Also the eerie quiet at the tall end when you shut them down— no sound except for the gears turning and the sight of the header flames as they lick out at the night sky. Ain’t it great?—Laurie <email@example.com>
It seems to me that a backfire always sounds louder or more pronounced when you’re either in the pits or behind the stands. Definitely sounds a little different. I was standing in the shutoff area at Pomona one year when Gary Beck blew the blower off in the lights big time (WAY before restraints). We all ducked & you could hear pieces tinkling all around us as the car went by. I still have a piece of an end-plate that hit my shoe.—Troy Cagle < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Unless you have been there, no one can describe the sounds of when you’re on a good pass and at about a thousand feet the motor completely explodes in your face, parts flying, the car sliding and, ah yes, the fire! I was on such a pass: The car left hard and about half track, I’m thinking, ” this thing is on a good one,” and at eight hundred feet, without any warning, she goes boom—even with all your gear and helmet on the explosion is so loud it rings your bell. In less than a heartbeat after the big noise I’m sitting in the middle of a twenty foot diameter fire ball and can’t see anything but red. I start for the chutes and thought they will just burn off, went for the bottle and could not completely depress the button. I grabbed the brake to realize it didn’t help the problem, the remains of the motor that was not on the drag strip were locked up and so were the tires. All I could hear were the tires groaning and parts still coming out of the motor below the car, I still can’t see nothing and it’s getting real hot; as the car slid one way or the other I just instinctively steered into it, the car slid from eight hundred feet out at about 200 mph through the lights and kept sliding for about eighty feet past the lights. Somehow I didn’t hit anything and the fire didn’t go out ’till the car stopped. The next thing I remember was standing beside the car trying to put my fire suit out that was still on fire.—Kent Terry <email@example.com>
The “whomp” of an alcohol car, as the driver gives it that quick stab to get the r’s up. The “poomp” of losing the panels at a 1000 ft. The “grwhomp…crackle…crackle …crackle…grwhomp” as the nitro guys warm ’em up in Denver and the sound echoes off the mountain.The “sizzzspl-ooouch” of burning your leg on the headers again! The “whaaaaattt!!!” of the #1 qualifier being told by tech his run doesn’t count because his fuel doesn’t smell right. The “clask…clunk…clack” as your securely attached (with two cables) body burst panel hits the track after being launched 70 ft. in the air. The “swashshshshsh” of air coming out where someone forgot to hook up the boost gauge line on the mainifold, and finally, “yehh…wooow…yes…alright” (X40,000 people) on their feet going nuts beacause you just stuck the #1 qualified car in the box. It doesn’t get any better than that!!!—Ghost <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sitting (make that standing) in the stands at the stating line at Puyallup Valley Raceway at nite, in the pre-burnout days, looking down at two Top Fuel cars running at the starting line and watching them alternately cleaning the motors out before staging, seeing who would get the last WOP!! in before staging. The flames, the sound echoing down the valley, the Nitro fumes blasting up into the stands, almost too much, almost.—Dick Kalivoda <email@example.com>
Dragsters with chain drive blowers.The far end at Bristol’s Thunder Valley, an outdoor recording studio… AA/gassers, or today’s ProMods, lurching in to the beams to stage… ANY fuel car seating the clutch in the pits… Air wrenches and torque wrenches and dropped hand tools during a serious thrash… The growl of a Chrisman or Strange when the car makes the turnoff… Saturday night match races with two AWB nitro funny cars doing burnouts through the rosin… Buster Couch explaining the “facts of life” to an errant racer, OR telling an old story. —Eddie Vidrine <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Yeah, yeah, dry hops. Damn, I can hear em now. Almost like the engines took over and were barking to the horsepower gods. At the right track the gods answered back almost as loud. From the top end you could see the car move almost lazy looking till the sound hit you. Then you knew it was serious.—T.Howell <email@example.com>
There can never be a sound like the Speed Sport roadster running high gear on a big load of fuel with no slipper clutch and a solid mounted rearend and—how can you write a sound like that?—Charlie <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Yeah, those fuel cars doing alternate WOPS inching to the starting line, then the sudden quiet as they idle down just before the hit. Almost better than — well, you know!—Jerry Clarke <email@example.com>
Standing down just past the finish line is a very cool place, especially for the sounds, the growing roar as the cars start and hurtle toward you, louder and louder, the whine of the supercharger as it’s spinning itself into a frenzy… then POOF!… chute pops, engine off, just the sound of all that compression in the engine as the driver slows down.—Bert Toulotte <Featstuff@dmv.com>
The simultaneous “Oh man”, “Shut it off”, “Gawd damn” or “Kill it already” comments, from drivers/crews in the pits, when they heard another fuel/alcohol racer on the track, and it was obvious to all, (except the driver who still had his foot into it) that the motor was committing suicide!—Dawn Mazi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It is the first time out with the new Mike Kasse chassis alky f/c. Been chasing bugs all weekend trying to get the car to respond like the old one. It is late in the day and we pull out as the last pair. Fire the car, and it is sounding stout, good long burnout, backed up in Steve’s tracks, walk around to the front and raise the body, Dave tapes the fuel shut off secure, John is looking at the pipes making sure it is clean and checks the engine temp, this time will let it get another 30-40 degrees more heat in it and see if she wakes up. Car is prestaged, WHAP-WHAP- WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA to six grand, clutch tugs Steve into the last light, yellow, WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA UH AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa uhaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa BAAAAAP!!! Car disappears in smoke and silence at about 1100 feet, notice a small orange dot appear in the middle of the smoke, orange dot gets bigger and brighter, suddenly see a huge cloud of white and it blocks the view of everything from the starting line. Jump in the truck and haul ass down there to see the brand new, still primered Daytona bodied car sitting in the middle of the track 400 ft past the finish, and listing from a flattened rear tire. All you hear is the remaining bit of halon trickling out of the nozzles and the SSSSSZZZZZZ SSSSZZZZZZZZZZ of the oil dripping on the headers. Steve is out of the car, eyes as big as plates yelling “HOLY SHIT I was on FIRE!!! DAMN, don’t say anything to Diane (wife), she’ll just shit.” Crank in 3 pieces, Block split down the middle front to back. And this was only on alky (????????).-Dale Smith < TAFC273@aol.com>
Favorite sound? Any type Fueler, but especially one that’s gotta peddle to get to the other end. Like coming out strong, getting loose and getting out of it, then back, then out, then in, anything to get to the other end. The big sound, then the silence, then the thunder again. When both lanes are doing this, becomes one hell of a concert.—injected48<email@example.com>
I always enjoyed watching people step back away from the car when it went from alky to fuel during a warm-up. I always wanted to yell out, “Look out it’s gonna’ blow!”—T.Howell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The sound in the cockpit, the nanosecond the nitro lights on a push start. -Dick Kalivoda <email@example.com>
I don’t know what sound was the best in my career, but I do remember the scariest one is one you can’t even hear. The scariest sound of all is the complete silence between hitting shit in a fuel car crash! The greatest sound, in the same vein, is when it finally gets quiet and stays quiet. You say to yourself, “guess I made it—again!”—Pat Foster <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Nitro engines have always sounded like… well, nitro engines! Nothing else on earth quite compares. The “HIT” on the line has always been a cataclysmic, apocalyptic, spine-tingling eruption of pure unbridled power, and it’s only intensified as we’ve learned to force feed the beast. The trumpet blast of Armageddon will have a hard time beating it!—Vic Cooke <email@example.com>
The awesome spectacle of two bellowing, swaying machines in a lock-step, smoke-the-quarter assault… The totally different doppler effect at the finish line for a weedburner versus zoomie-headered fueler… The ominous idle of a fat-tuned 392 and the crispness of a spot-on cammer… In the push-start era, pre-race engine warm-ups and check-out fire-ups in the pits were not a part of the normal routine prior to every run.Far more opportunity nowadays for a prolonged, up close and in-your-face immersion in nitro. And pitting them between two semi-trailers only amplifies the experience. Far cry from the flat-tow, and open-field-pit days.
There use to be a CC/GAS ’40 Willys from the Buffalo NY. area that would race at Cayuga in the late 60’s. It was called CC Rider, it was the wildest high winding sound I have ever witnessed, 10,000 plus blown rpm, wheels-up start, screaming all the way to the finish . Your ears tickled during the whole run.—Frank Kunkel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the end of the national anthem, the first sound as it lights on gas and then hits on nitro. It runs chills right through my body as they idle to the burn out box and hit it, smoking the tires, they stop, the motor goes fat , the flames shooting to the sky…geeeesss…FIRE THE NEXT TWO—Digger Dan <email@example.com>
George Bolthoff’s gas car turning behind the starting line on low idle. Lotsa black smoke shooting straight up. No sound anywhere like the rolling lope of a Chrysler with an arm on gas and that big old Enderle on it… absolutely chilling! Talk to Ol’ “Lonesome George” now and then… he says it sounded really bad sitting a foot behind it, too.The Norton Brothers & Hamlin Potvin front drive fuel Chrysler. Ed Norton put everything in the fuel that would pour. What a sound… give ya goosebumps… had a pretty weird smell, too! Firing a funny was cool. Shoot a little gas in the injector, push the button, and that big ol’ starter spins— it catches, and you’re under there with all that noise (no ear protectors in those days), pulling off a 30 pound starter— all the while that hungry blower is tryin’ to suck your shirt sleeve, (or your whole arm), into the injector. Face fulla’ fuel and lookin’ for leaks.—Fred Vosk <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From the driver’s seat: the pair in front have done their burn out and as they back up and you are sitting there looking at the back of your injector and the hand resting on the butteryfly all you hear from behind the fire mask is your own breathing through the mask and maybe a heartbeat or two just as you get the signal to lite it up.—Bert <NTfuel@msn.com>
There’s nothing like standing right in front of the motor, it’s been backed off, the fuel shut off is tapped on, I nod to Digger, he opens the butterflies; I give it a little juice, Digger gives me the ok so I start to spin her, I add a little more juice while she spins; Digger throws the mag switch, she starts to pop and crack on the juice the pipes are a little black and then you start to feel it down low; it’s starting to hit on the fuel, the pop & crack suddenly turn to a rolling crackling thunder, the pipes clear… the flames start dancing like a symphony conductor was leading, then a chill like none other runs through your body; as you remove the starter the intensity keeps escalating. I walk out in front of Digger, line him up and he starts to roll up; all the while the heat in the motor becomes the conductor of the 8 piece symphony as he rolls out of the water and suddenly Digger puts it to the can you see the butterflies go horizontal, the rolling crackling thunder cries out to the world as the valves teeter on floating; the tires are in a full on blaze as he screams past me, the exhaust pulses thump me in the chest. He lifts and stops the car. The conductor keeps demanding more as he rolls back to the line; it’s in a full-on crackling thump, the car is rocking side to side as Digger stages the car. The bulbs are lit, the tree comes down, Digger swaps pedals, the pipes go to full flames, the chute lines go horizontal, the tires are in full squat, the back of the car becomes partially hazed from view as the soft discs do their job and belch; the welcomed black fog only the outer edges of the tires & the top of the roll cage are still visible; Digger disappears to the big end, all the while the flames keep their intensity until he clicks it.
That’s how it sounded and felt to me every time I would start Digger Dan. A real childhood dream come true. No BS, starting a fuel car is one of the wonders of the world & good therapy for the blues.—Shawn Anderson <email@example.com>
Top O’ The List has to be: a blown fueler as it first lites and picks up all 8 cylinders! The sound of a port injected motor at the end of a burnout as you snap the throttle shut. All 16 pipes: intake and exhaust! (only one seat where you’ll find that one!) That little chirp of the tires as the finally catch up to the pavement after the burnout! The hit of the throttle on the launch. Controlled fury!! The momentary dead silence after shutting the throttle when it smokes the tires! Calm after the storm!! The wheezing sound when you hit the fuel shut off.The concussion of a blower explosion! Burst panels were the best thing they added to the alcohol cars yet! Big BOOM, no shrapnel!! The high winding, gear shifting scream of a blown alcohol funny car or dragster!! The rifle report of a parachute opening at 250+ mph!! The sound of a driver in trouble. Even from across the pits, you can tell when someone’s going on their head and bouncing off the walls! Something you just sense!—Dave Tuttle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The pop and fizz of an opening can of ale after a long day of racing. The ringing in your ears, a subtle reminder of a great day at the track as you drift off to sleep, the smell of nitro still lingers. The moment of absolute silence during a blowover before all hell breaks loose.The strange hollering you hear when you first face the dragon (till you realize that it is you). The voices of fans stopping by with words of encouragement. A wife or mother granting permission to go to the track and “Have a great time!” Sid Waterman saying, “I’ve got just what you need!”—David Ross <email@example.com>
Best sound I EVER heard at the drags was Glen Ely’s “GET THE HELL AWAY FROM MY CAR” directed at the kids scavenging for souvenirs from his wreck…Up until then, I thought he was dead…—Ski <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It wasn’t a sound that really got my attention but the DEAD SILENCE at 165 MPH—that meant I was AIRBORNE….Then came the landing—It was noisy.—Good ol Olin <email@example.com>
I was lucky enough to have lived in Long Beach during the mid 60s and until the Beach closed. My favorite sound was about 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon while I was laying on the beach in Belmont Shores and the first fuelers made a pass at the Beach! That was the time to haul ass to Lions for the great weekly nitro fest!—Rex Schimmer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the mid 1960s (and before) pushing was the only way you could start a dragster. Different strips had different staging procedures but you always ended up push starting toward the starting line for qualifying or a race. Push starting in the pits is a whole different story!
My favorite was Lions because you staged the cars on the “push down road”” that ran the length of the strip on the spectators side. When it was time to run they’d swing out a section of guardrail and you’d push out on the strip just before the first light. When both cars were lined up the guy would give you a signal and the push cars/trucks would accelerate. We all had our rituals and mine was to be pushed as fast as possible and when we reached 30mph I’d have them blow the horn. Out came the clutch and the engine would start this eerie whine. The third member would rumble between your legs and I’d watch the oil pressure gauge. As soon as the pressure jumped up I’d hit the mag switch. In an instant the world changed and there was this beautiful fire breathing monster in front of you. Blower humming… the cylinders banging as they cried for heat — it was the most bitchin’ thing you can imagine. Then the other car would fire (either behind or in front of you) and there was a whole new sound. By the time you reached the starting line both cars (all things being right) were at a nice crisp idle and you slowed for the turnaround. Behind the line you swapped lanes and roll into the VHT (or whatever). Hit the throttle and the bomb in front of you comes alive. Burnouts were FUN. Your guys push you back and once behind the line the barking ritual began (whacking throttles). There was heat in the engine so (especially at night) the header flames were even and bright. You aren’t aware of the crowd… only the pounding vibration of the fuel hemi in the chassis you’re one with.
There weren’t a lot of staging games back then so you made your way right to the line. Both cars staged — yellow light — leave. The combination of nitro and vibrations was orgasmic. High gear only so all there was to do was drive and enjoy the ride. 1000′ mark and the other guy’s not in sight. There’s a spark out of the right bank — by the time it registers the blower in front of you is gone in a massive explosion of fire and shrapnel. What was an instant before the steady roar of 8 cylinders on nitro was now a head jarring, ear numbing, eye blinding battle for control. First reaction — pull the chute. You know what happened — you just don’t know how bad. In a heartbeat you’re assailed by new sounds —the other car, the hurricane type swishing of air around you, the snap of your chute opening, and then silence… almost. Since you can now see without that stupid blower obstruction your view, the sight and subtle clunk of rotor careening off the guardrail in front of you is almost surreal. The clinking and clanking of magnesium debris is all around you and the parts that went up are now coming down. You do a quick check to make sure the other guy’s okay and well clear of you. There’s something dragging on the ground — maybe the fuel lines, could be the injector hat. Awful sound— probably the hat. Hot oil is sizzling like bacon in a skillet. Slowing to a stop the tires pick up and throw little rocks that clang on the car’s body.—Don Ewald <email@example.com>
I had been meaning to visit some houses in San Fernando I had lived in as a mere guttersnipe… I wanted to see what had changed in the old hood since the days of my cavity-prone years… I visited what remained of my grandmother’s house on Mountain View Street a couple of miles from San Fernando Raceway… I’ll never forget her cursing the sound of the fuel cars on Sunday afternoon, hearing the blowers w-i-n-d up into a glorious glissando and then the sound would seemingly vaporize instantaneously….She h-a-t-e-d the sound of drag racing and I was always bummed that I wasn’t there.—Cole Coonce <firstname.lastname@example.org>
NR would like to thank “Cousin Roy” Gittens, Ikky Shivers, “Techno Tim” Gibson and the Bill Miller Engineering Top Fuel team, Pamita Neptuna and Jeff Utterback, the Insect Surfers, the Neptunas, the Deoras, Slacktone, the Black Widows, “Rockin’ Ron” Lewis, Kate Peters, Dave Wallace and Hot Rod Nostalgia, Roland Leong, the Surfers, Jon “Thunderlungs” Lundberg, David Arnson, Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, Ron “Crazy Legs” Capps, “Nitro Neil” Bisciglia, the Champion Speed Shop, WW2 Racing, Hedge & Alexander, Marcellus, Borsch & Boyd, Mike Palm, “Hamachi John” Drummond and Goodguys VRA, the Heartland Hot Rod Reunion, the Header Flames Rolling Electronic Militia, Roxanne “Hotmail” Davis, “9 Fingers” Westover, Full Throttle News, Jim Sorenson and Mysterion Screenprint, Mike Civelli and the Old Trail Garage A/FD Racing Team, Dale “the Coyote” Smith, AmC, the Garo Foundation, Art Fein’s Poker Party, “Mighty Matt” Blaty, Sunny, “Wheels” Harrison, Thrash Racing, WDIFL, the 1320 Bunch, the Monopropellants, Jack Logan, and the Braindead Soundmachine
Cover Photography: Ron Lewis; Booklet Photography, Chris Murray, Kate Peters, Cole Coonce, Nick Licata
For more dope on the Big Sounds of the Drags, including detailed information on the bands who have performed on this record, point your browser to http://www.nitronic.com/bigsounds
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