My preferred design style is radical traditional, or "rad trad." This encompasses two elements. First, it must look, at least initially, like a period-correct piece, and next, it must push the envelope in a different direction than what would have been done in that period, yet flow together as if the two directions were meant to be.
Looking through some old Hot Rod magazines, I found the most common '50s body styles that were built into gassers. I also knew which body styles made for good-looking leadsleds. Seeing how these were drag-style cars, I had to do a sample of each of the two most recognized rivals in drag race history.
I chose the '51 Ford Tudor and the '51 Chevy Fleetline; both cars were chopped 3 1/3 inches, shaved, nosed, and decked. I swept their wheel arches to give them some forward motion, and what 'sled would be complete without frenched lights, fore and aft? A 2 1/2-inch wedge sliced out of the front rockers brought about the Ford's extra-evil stance.
These vintage gassers needed wide white slicks with matching rollers in front for impressive smoke shows. The Chevy runs Team III E/T 16x9.5 polished Classic Fives in the rear, and custom-built Radir 18x5 spindle-mounted polished Gassers in front. The Ford blasts through the traps on restored 16x10 and 16x6 vintage Radirs.
These gassers, unlike their early '60s counterparts, continually leave chassis paint on the asphalt. Motivation for the Ford comes from an SOHC 427 with Hilborn injection backed by a Top Loader and a narrowed 9-inch. The Chevy, playing tit-for-tat, would have a Rat with Hilborn injection twisting a Turbo 400 with a narrowed Olds rearend.
Unlike a real gasser, these cars show their custom side on the inside with high-gloss metalflake vinyl stitched in diamond tuck 'n' roll patterns, while their race car alter ego is highlighted by the six-point chrome-plated rollbars.
Both cars wear the standard gasser apparel with polished Moon tanks in the grille openings and a frenched-in fake 'chute in the rear with chrome-plated pushbars.