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						Corvette Gasser 8
Barn-Find Chevrolet Corvette Gasser

1961 Corvette Corvette drag racer

By Dean Larson

There’s been a huge resurgence lately in gassers, altered-wheelbase cars and other nostalgic race cars of drag racing’s golden era. The term gasser has been thrown around a lot, and is all-too-often used to describe a car’s appearance rather than its intended purpose. Just because the front end of a classic car has been raised 8 inches and big slicks are mounted out back does not mean that you’re looking at a gasser. True, raised front ends, slicks, skinny front runners and wild paint schemes appear on many gassers, but the actual meaning of the term comes down drag strip performance characteristics and car classifications from the late 1950s and 1960s.

It might be a bit intuitive, but the term gasser is derived from drag race sanctioning bodies’ classes for the hottest gasoline-powered cars of the day. Gas classes, A/Gas, B/Gas, C/Gas, etc., were designated by determining the vehicles weight (pounds) per cubic inch. The hottest gassers raced in the A/Gas class and were regulated to 5.00 to 8.99 pounds per cubic inch. Supercharged cars ran their own classes, A/GS, B/GS and C/GS, with the S designating supercharged.

The physical characteristics of a gasser can be described by a few simple modifications that involve shedding weight and adding traction to help cars hook up and leave the starting line harder. Watch a traditional gasser event like the ones hosted by the Southeast Gasser Association, and you’ll be treated to a nostalgic spectacle of wheel standing, high rpms and bang shifting. 

Corvette Gasser 9

One of the most notable aspects of a gasser is front axle and suspension, which are extensively modified from stock. Ditch that heavy and underutilized independent front suspension in favor a simple beam axle or drop axle, and you’ve lost a considerable amount of weight. These suspension systems are also much easier to raise, usually with leaf springs, and allow the front of the car to be raised up several inches cheaply. The added height up front looks radical, but it’s actually done to improve weight transfer to the rear end upon launch. Transferring more of the car’s weight to the rear gives the rear tires the most traction possible for leaving the line hard. A few other items you’re sure to find on nostalgic gassers are fender-well headers, Plexiglas windows, traction bars and various protruding intakes.

This barn-find 1961 Corvette for sale on Craigslist is truly a once-in-a-lifetime discovery, and a great example of an early gasser-era drag racer. The car was found in eastern Pennsylvania in a yard, and has all the qualities of a barn find without the barn. The first photos of the car to circulate the web showed it sitting behind a house with a tree growing up against the front fender, validating the seller’s claims that the car sat in that spot for the last 40 years.

Originally born as a ’61 convertible with red interior and white paint, this Vette has undergone quite the transformation, however, not as much as most gassers. The suspension sits higher than stock, in the gasser style, but it lacks the straight axle typically used. Instead, the factory independent front suspension was raised with blocks. The car retains the weight of the IFS, but the heightened front suspension should help with weight transfer on the starting line. A set of four slot-mag wheels give the Vette even more attitude, and period-correct Mickey Thompson tires are a blast from the past. The front grille and bumper have also been removed, shedding weight and making room for the spun-aluminum tank up front. 

There’s no engine in the car now, but the seller says the engine bay is set up for a big block, and a ’68 date coded 427 ci/435 hp block is available with NOS goodies. Some additional parts included with the car are a line-lock, ladder bars and a four-speed transmission.

The seller knows this Corvette is something special and is surely making a healthy profit on the sale, but I’d dare to say the price is fair for the car. Sure, the Corvette will appeal to a smaller market given is gasser-era past, but its price is marked down $10,000 from comparable stock-Vette projects. And this thing just oozes nostalgia. With the car’s mechanicals in order, you’ll have an instant pass to any nostalgic drag event in the country. I’d love to see the car cleaned up and read for the strip, but it’s almost more exciting to see it right now, in as-found condition. So hats-off to the seller for skipping the pressure washer for now. 

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