Been Reading Issue 8

When it’s this cold and miserable outside, it’s nice to curl up with a good book, although when that book’s about such a summery pursuit as drag racing, that’s not necessarily a good thing…
Still, if nostalgia drag racing is your bag, this book is a corker. Match Race Mayhem is all about the glory days of match racing back in the Sixties, when big rivalries emerged on the strips, and the emphasis was often on “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.”

A good grudge match between two famous racers, or between manufacturers in stock classes, would get bums on seats strip-side, and bringing in the punters often meant big cash prizes for the winners. This is how many of the big names of the time got to be big names, and it seems that having a nickname was almost compulsory – Dyno Don Nicholson, Jungle Jim Liberman, Big John Mazmanian, TV Tommy Ivo etc etc.

It was a great time to be a racer, a time when the successful ones could earn more than a comfortable living by match racing almost every night of the week (if you liked living on the road). Competition was so tough that it led to some of the top professional NHRA classes being formed – Funny Car and Pro Stock, mainly. It also seems to be making something of a comeback in TV shows such as Street Outlaws, where the grudge matches – whether real or contrived – are a real crowd-draw.

This title looks back at some of these grudge-fests from the Sixties, some of the characters involved and some of the machinery that was developed. The author recounts some of the bigger match-ups, and it’s extremely worthwhile reading, although it’s not a title to sit and read cover-to-cover in one hit – there are only so many different ways of saying “Racer X beat Racer Y.” That said, Boyce has clearly done his research, and assembled an incredible album of period photographs to punctuate the story. The photos alone are worth the price of the book. Get it, and lose yourself in the grubby, greasy world of match racing 50 years ago.

Match Race Mayhem – Drag Racing’s Grudges, Rivalries And Big-Money Showdowns, by Doug Boyce, is published in softback by CarTech, and has a RRP of £29.99.