In September 1996, I moved from Colorado to New Jersey to prepare for my entrance in grad school. Along the way, I stopped by the Pure Stock Musclecar Drag Race in Stanton, MI, unpacked my 4-4-2, and went racing. I continued on to the Garden State but found myself attending classes at Michigan State a few months later. When September 1997 showed up on the calendar, I called up the PSMDR promoters and told them that I was in the region, had no car, and would be happy to help out with the event. Would you believe they put me in the announcer’s booth? I’ve been the voice of the event ever since.
This year’s PSMDR, held on September 14-15, 2012, had over 130 muscle cars in attendance. Unusual cars like supercharged Studebaker Larks and 429 Thunder Jet-powered 1970 Ford XL mingled with typical creme de la creme vehicles like an L88 Corvette and Hemi’Cuda. The greatest thing about this event? It’s practically a car show where a drag race breaks out!
To learn about the hows and whys of this event, you have to go back to the 1980s when periodicals like Musclecar Review, Musclecars magazine, Guide to Muscle Cars, and Musclecar Classics were fodder for a rosy-faced cherub like me. This was the moment when high-performance American cars from the 1960s had graduated from being regarded with derision by the older crowd to being full-on collectibles, and the newsstand reflected this. Articles like Musclecar Review’s “50 Fastest” list and subsequent “Hemi vs. Buick GS Stage 1” shootout gave the hobby momentum, shuffling the pecking order, and increasing values until a stock market mini-crash in 1989 forced the hobby to grow up.
During this time, a certain Pontiac was making the rounds in the buff books – it was a T-37, which was a spinoff of (and, subsequently, the successor to) the Tempest. In 1971, Pontiac decided to allow its top motors to be available on other A-bodies besides the GTO, so the lowly T-37 post coupe could be ordered with the round-port 455 HO.
Owned by Dan Jensen, this Canyon Copper T-37 was an active participant of the Supercar Showdown and similar series of drags that were popular in the 1980s. For a car that was relatively stock, Dan’s T-37 aroused the consternation of competitors because they had never seen a low-compression Pontiac run so fast.
Few were familiar with the T-37 as well, and several had trouble believing the 455 HO was available in this car from the factory until shown literature clearly indicating the 455 HO was an option for the T-37 all the way up to the GTO; as it turned out, only 11 post coupe and 15 hardtop T-37s were built with this motor.
All these Supercar Showdown-esque races died out as the hobby experienced lean years as we entered the 1990s, but Dan and another Pontiac racer from Michigan, Bob Boden, remembered the good times and decided to put on the first Pure Stock race in 1994. It was magazine coverage from the 1995 event that caught my eye, not only because it was similar to the races that I had missed due to my youth but also because the guys running the event owned the dream cars I was reading in the magazines. I wanted to be part of the action!
Due to inclement weather in 1996, the turnout was low, but I got to race against a 1965 Pontiac 2+2 and have me some fun before I continued on to New Jersey. However, nothing compares to having the pleasure of helping Bob and Dan run the event, making friends, and seeing just about every neat muscle car ever made race down the 1320.
For this year’s event, it was looking like 20-30% rain, with the rate increasing as the weekend approached. Luckily, the rain passed through the night before, giving participants an absolutely gorgeous Friday and Saturday. Fridays at the PSMDR consist of test’n tune, so racers can drag to their heart’s content. The official race is on Saturday, with the best of three races for each pairing.
Pairings are based on your best ET from Friday and not anything else – after all, not everyone can afford a 425-horsepower missile, or perhaps one’s pride is too great to pay a visit to Brand X. Hence, the PSMDR is about learning about your car, how to tune it for maximum go, and making friends along the way.
Over the years, cars have gotten faster and faster due to people taking liberties with the rules. Looking at the Pure Stock website, the rules are similar to the NHRA‘s bible – all engines are allowed 1.5 extra points over advertised, for example – but the PSMDR is also a grass roots event that relies on the racers to be on their best behavior. The notoriety for the folks who learned to maximize performance using stock parts created a spin-off with the F.A.S.T. races, but the great bulk of cars at the PSMDR are true to stock form.
Now in its 18th year, the Pure Stock drags continue to be the muscle car fan’s event to end all events, with plenty of coverage in the buff book if you can’t make it to central Michigan. But what’s your excuse? With racers from Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Missouri, it’s more than just a regional event. And with participants like a 1958 Mercury Medalist with a tri-carb 430 (the first motor to be rated 400 horses), you’re bound to see more than just GTOs.
Of course, being that I am in the announcer’s seat most of the time, I can’t bring you play-by-play action, but these photos should give you an idea of what a special event this is. Visit purestockdrags.com for more information.