COST OF OLD – GOLDEN DAYS VS 2021
By “Animal Jim” Feurer
Looking at new and old prices and is a very popular posting on FaceBook. Look at drag racing entry fees for example. When I first started sanctioned drag racing in trophy class at Oswego, IL. In 1969, entry was $5.00 for car and driver. All classes. Crew/family and fans were $3.00 @ and 12 and under free. That was long ago. Some readers may not have been racing yet. Of course, prices went up as time went on. I became a national AHRA/IHRA Touring Pro Stock racer in ‘76. Professional racers (Pro Stock, Nitro Funny Cars, and Top Fuel cars, driver, and three crew got free entry if pre-registered two weeks in advance. Even early days of IHRA Pro Modified (1990s), entry was still free for cars, drivers,and three crew people.
AS for professional circuit racing, like UDRA (UNITED DRAG RACING ASSOC.), Midwest Pro Stock Circuit etc. Membership and dues were required.
Some very popular show circuits however, racers were paid BOOKING guarantees. Like the early Funny Car” Coca-Cola Cavalcade of STARS.” They ran in 1969 TO MID ‘70S. And years later history kind of repeated itself. The “Pro Mod USSC Circuit” (UNITED STATES SUPER CIRCUIT). Ran in ‘89-‘94. The racers involved in these circuits were the most popular of their type and in huge demand.
Match racing bookings also were usually contracted by an agent, and paid bookings. Fees paid to racers were based on popularity and distance. Luckily I was one of them.
Prices of ordinary goods and fees were also insanely cheaper many years ago. In my teens, my senior year in LaSalle/Peru, IL. high school (1959) In LaSalle/Peru, IL. gas was 17 cents @ gallon for regular. Name brand cigarettes were 25 cents a pack for regular size and 30 cents @ pack for king size and filtered. And filtered smokes were rare yet.
I was raised in the Bakery Business. My folks owned Rays Cake Box in LaSalle, Il. In 1959 a loaf of sliced butter crust white bread was 20 cents. Other types like rye, whole wheat, potato, French, and Italian were 25 cents a loaf. Sweet Rolls and donuts were 50 cents @ dozen. Danish rolls were 60 cents @ dozen.
Bigger stuff like cars and homes by today’s standards were amazing. A new Ford in 59 started at $2200. One just sold on Hemmings auction for $69 K. In 59 a new Corvette was $3800. An average home cost $12,500.
Of course I realize the cost of living, taxes and myriad factors have evolved our prices today.
Getting back to drag racing, today it is expensive even for local bracket cars. Those of you readers that do race on any level know what I am talking about.
My first drag race car, The Big Animal 57 Merc I started in 1969 I had probably $3500 invested. Over the next 8 years, I probably put a few more thousand dollars in it.
The Big Animal became a multi season Oswego champion, and one of the winningest RTE (Run Tuff Eliminator) cars in Oswego Dragway history.
In 1975 when I decided to race Pro Stock, I bought a decent UDRA running Pinto Pro Stock car for $9500, with a nice open trailer. The former builders and owners were UDRA standouts Mark Seaman and Pete Rich from Portage, Ind.
Rick Davis, my friend, and crew chief, and I spent the winter and a few thousand dollars more to improve the Pinto. When I bought that Pinto it already had a Gapp and Roush PS Cleveland engine, 4 speed Lenco, Dana 60 rear, four-link, and Koni double adjustable alum rear shocks. I won’t go into detail about what we did to update the Pinto, but one main item was a reverser for the Lenco. So let’s say we had 15K in the Pinto. From 1976 to 1979 that car would qualify at any AHRA or UDRA event and even go a few rounds. And worthy for match race performances.
Let’s jump to the early 90s. In 92 I had my second Pro Mod car. I am using it for an example because we kept close tract of the expenses by then. I named my new car The “WunderBird.” It was a new Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe Pro Modified Chassis, built exclusive for me by Jerry Haas. The engine was a Kaase 698 with only a few runs on it, and drive train came from my Rick Jones 90/91 Ford Probe Pro Mod. The RJ car was a terrific car. It was the first 200 mph/6 sec. Ford door car, and was 1990 USSC Season Champion. In the early days of Pro Mod, things were changing at lightning speed. Racers were building new stuff constantly. Plus building new cars got lot of ink.
The cost for the Haas car Chassis was $45K. The engine was worth 35 to 40 K. Bottom line was, the beginning of 1992 we inventoried the WunderBird- conservatively ready to run at $150K.
Today an equivalent Pro Mod race car would be valued at $500,000 and more for a top player. Lot of that escalated cost is due to technology, better materials, and rules. Especially safety rules. And the cost running these cars, R&D and logistics have risen accordingly.
Of course the performance of Pro Mod and all Professional classed has also improved. For Pro Mod thirty years ago a mid 6 sec. and 210 mph was a respectable ¼ mile run. Today Pro Mods run mid 5s at over 259 MPH. in the ¼ mile.
I was lucky. I got to race Pro Stock and later Pro Mod at a time, when a couple ambitious people with a reasonable budget could put together a professional drag car and be competitive on some level somewhere. My drag racing career and my heyday years were at the tail end of the good gone days of professional drag racing, and I did get my licks in.
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD – By Jim Feurer