Drag racing is all about acceleration. From the moment the light turns green, a car should be accelerating smoothly and rapidly all the way through the finish line. Technically, a car needs to have some weight transfer from the front of the vehicle onto the rear tires for maximum traction, and thus acceleration. Take that weight transfer too far, though, and you get cars lifting the front axle. The result is great for photos, but not always great for elapsed times.
Wheelies are fun though, so why not make an event around just the image part, and ignore the go-fast part? Byron Dragway in Byron, Illinois does just that. Once a year, they prep the start line and welcome the bravest drivers who are willing to put the loud pedal down and see more sky than earth.
Setting up a car for going fast minimizes wheel stands, but getting a car to drive while scraping the rear bumper takes more than throwing horsepower at the tires. We reached out to Davin Reckow, star of our Redline Rebuild series, for some input as to how these madmen might be making it look so easy to hoist a heavy car nose skyward.
“You need to have a decent of power, like maybe 5-600 horsepower, and the gumption to your foot in it,” said Davin. “There is some suspension tricks like putting soft springs in the front and slowing the rebound of the rear shocks that will exaggerate a small wheelie.These are likely second cars for the drivers, because doing stunts like this is just plain destructive. You can see it in how hard they land.”
The two top cars in the event, an AMC Gremlin and a Ford Pinto, also share a short wheelbase. That short wheelbase makes it easier to pick up even a heavy front end. However, the black 1960 Chevrolet shown in the video proves that with enough disregard for the condition of your vehicle, even a full-sized car can put up quite a show.
Watching the tires return to earth made our editorial staff cringe every time, as crossmembers slapped the track surface and front suspension systems decided they just couldn’t take it anymore. Surprisingly, only one car ends up in the wall over the course of the two-run contest, which is the cost of putting on an awesome show.