This is a tale that’s been unfolding ever since the small-block Chevrolet, arguably the most influential and successful American auto engine design ever, forcibly shoved another legend, the flathead Ford V-8, aside during the 1950s. The small-block came to be a dominant powerplant in literally every form of American motorsports. In drag racing, its hegemony was nearly total. If you wanted to post quick times, and not go bankrupt doing it, you went with Chevy power. An entire industry evolved around supplying performance parts for this engine. And we haven’t even begun discussing the Mark IV big-block V-8 that came along later. Drag racing historian and journalist Doug Boyce has now completed a very important book that exhaustively maps Chevrolet’s march to quarter-mile immortality,
Chevy Drag Racing 1955-1980 will certainly be essential reading for anyone who’s a fan of Chevrolet performance or drag racing history. The author indisputably understands and venerates his material: Boyce is the author of a technological biography of Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and an acclaimed history of NHRA Junior Stock, both topics that are relevant to the subject matter in this book. There’s a fair amount of tech in these 176 softcover pages, but the book is organized around the individuals whose names, like Chevrolet’s, became synonymous with success in drag racing. The expected names like Jenkins, Dave Strickler and Jungle Jim Liberman are here, but the real strength of this book is its close focus on the other guys who are less well-known today. If you grew up on the East Coast, I’m talking guys like Jack Merkel, Truppi and Kling, Bernie Agaman, Paul Blevins, Dennis Ferrara, Bo Laws, Larry Kopp and Malcolm Durham. It was especially gratifying to see an in-depth look at Jim Bucher, whose win with a steel-block Chevy at the 1975 Summernationals at Englishtown was the first Top Fuel win for a Chevrolet-powered dragster since the brilliant “Sneaky Pete” Robinson took the U.S. Nationals in 1961. If you’re into the subject matter, you have to buy this book. It’s that simple. The price is $36.95 and it comes from CarTech Books, which also stocks the author’s previous titles.