Imagine seeing this ’55 Chevy Gasser leaping off the line with the front tires hanging in midair. No wonder Gassers have remained favorites in drag racing, and why the Gasser revival has lasted longer than the ’50s and ’60s Gasser Wars era that inspired it.
Gassers aren’t built for beauty, but their aggressive stance, stripped-down style, and defiant attitude are what make them as appealing as the earliest hot rods. Our “Drawn & Quartered” ’55, from the imagination of illustrator Jeff Norwell, shows off some of the components that make Gassers great.
After reviewing old photos for examples, we called Vic Young for info on period-correct Gasser anatomy. Young is a Gasser racer from way back, a contributor to Gasser magazine, and the past and present owner of several Gassers (including the Henry J featured in this issue on page 33).
Any lightweight body style could be built into a Gasser. Drawn & Quartered could’ve been an Anglia, Austin—or by the ’70s, a Corvette, Mustang, or Vega—but ’55 Chevys are more popular. Willys are even more popular, especially ’40s and ’41s. Racers chose them for their short wheelbase, light weight, and high center of gravity—perfect for front-to-rear weight transfer.
Gasser bodies are stripped to reduce weight. The heavy steel hood on our ’55 could be replaced with fiberglass, or a whole ’glass forward-tilt front. Frequently, grilles get replaced or eliminated. Rear wheelwells are radiused to fit slicks, and glass is often replaced with screw-in tinted plexiglass or Lexan. It’s rare to see a front bumper; rear bumpers are sometimes replaced with cylindrical pipe bumpers. Elaborate paintjobs are not as common as basic solid colors, but race decals (on the quarter windows) and lettering are pretty standard. Lettering on the doors would spell the team name or, as here, the car’s nickname (just don’t call it D ’n’ Q).
Chassis are purpose-built for straight-line acceleration, and front leaf springs and rear ladder bars are favorite suspension parts. Our straight-axle raises the front of the car (to shift weight) and makes room for fenderwell headers. Faster Gassers might have some type of wheelie bars, but this ’55, like many, doesn’t.
It’s a drag car, so it runs slicks in the back with front skinnies on 3- or 4-inch-wide wheels. Cragars, Americans, Ansens, and Halibrands are all popular wheels. Stick with five-spokes or kidney beans and you’ve got the look.
Engine options are wide—from big-blocks and Hemis to Oldsmobiles, Fords, and Chevy small-blocks. Blowers, carbs, and mechanical fuel injection with stacks all look right in a Gasser. Our transmission could be a Powerglide, C4, C6, Torqueflite, B&M Hydro Stick, or clutch Turbo 400. Those and others were frequently used.
The interior is drag car minimal, with rear seats removed. The factory bench seat might be replaced with upholstered ’glass race buckets. Our blown car, and cars with many ’glass panels, would require a rollbar to run. That rollbar provides a place to mount cushioned head pads. We’d add a column-mounted Sun tach and Stewart-Warner gauges below the dash, and replace our factory steering wheel and gas pedal with a metalflake wheel and a Moon “footprint” pedal. Either way would look correct, but our way could take a tenth off our elapsed time. That’s how we imagine it.