Old Hot Rods tend to be cool, but what’s really hip are hot new engines generating about 3000 horsepower.
The drag racing of classic cars has a rich history in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, where Sportsman ranks comprise the bulk of side-by-side competition and older cars dominate.
The Pro Modified class is a special class of old hot rods now called the Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. The formula for Pro Mods is about 20 years old and takes hot rod reality to another level by allowing big engines.
Rules are simple compared to other pro classes. Engines can be 527 cubic inches and supercharged (blown) and methanol fueled or have a larger 820 cubic inch engine fueled by nitrous oxide and gasoline. Typical horsepower is above 2500.
Cars can weigh 2700 lbs (supercharged) or 2375 lbs (nitrous) and have a hood scoop for the nitrous cars or cut hood to accommodate a supercharger fitted onto a blown motor.
NHRA drag racing expert Gary Larsen notes that typically the Pro Mod field consists of 23 to 25 entrants and the attraction for fans is “wild bodies and crazy launches.” Larsen added, “The class grew quickly as it had appeal, few rules and racers could use a supercharger or nitrous.”
Long-time NHRA drag racer and JEGS High Performance Parts family member Troy Coughlin races a Pro Mod “big yellow and black” Camaro.
“Pro Modified has always been a really cool class,” Coughlin said. “It’s the fastest growing class in drag racing.”
Most Pro Mod cars have a long flat wing that extends over the trunk area to allow for more downforce and hence stability. Typical speeds are over 220 mph and the quarter mile is often devoured in less than six seconds.
They may look cool, but Pro Mods are beasts to maneuver. Powerful thrust and hard steering hasn’t changed since the inception of the Pro Mod class in the IHRA series.
NHRA elevated their Pro Mod demonstration group to the professional level by establishing a 10 race season schedule with championship recognition and prize money.
“It’s a pretty mean car, on the edge all the time,” Coughlin said. “But I like going faster.”
Qualifying can be tough, winning tougher. Top Fuel dragster, Funny Car and Pro Mod driver Melanie Troxel explained her disappointment when her team missed the bump spot in St. Louis, the third of 10 NHRA Pro Mod races.
"The way Pro Mod is set up we only have three qualifying sessions before we start eliminations,” Melanie Troxel said. “Drag racing always has ups and downs.”
Troxel recently thrilled British fans with fastest Pro Mod run in European history at Santa Pod Raceway in England. She ran a stunning 5.937 at 242.42 mph, just the second five-second run on European soil.
"I was surprised that I was able to run any remotely respectable number," Troxel said.
She may get a chance to improve on that good number because starting in 2011, Pro Mod racing will get a true world championship. A Worldwide Pro Mod Challenge using NHRA rules will feature Olympic-style competition in six countries—the U.S., Canada, England, Sweden, Finland and Germany.
Many fans are attracted to hot rods with hot engines, but it now appears that Pro Modified Cars may be capable of speaking many languages.
The racing world listens when Pro Mods run.
Pro Mod racing resumes on this weekend June 10-13 during the NHRA Supernationals at Englishtown, N.J. Coverage is on ESPN2.
Photo credit: Gary Larsen @ Racetake.com