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Book Review: ‘Drag Racing in the 1960s’ by Doug Boyce

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Few periods are as pivotal in automotive history as the 1960s. This short but significant era propelled the industry to greater speeds, both on the track and on showroom floors. The innovations made by enthusiasts and manufacturers lifted souped-up street racers and magnificent muscle cars from niche hobbies to national crazes.

It’s a fascinating decade that often draws the attention of gearhead historians — and for good reason. It had a substantial impact on the trajectories of vehicle engineering and motorsports.

An indisputable expert on drag racing history, Doug Boyce tackles an entire decade of the sport’s past — arguably the most momentous — in his new book, Drag Racing in the 1960s. He dives into the history of drag racing’s golden age, not just of its participants but of the vehicles themselves, which were often more iconic than the people who drove them.

Buckle your seatbelts for this storied sprint through a truly American period of drag racing history.

Drag Racing in the 1960s:
The Evolution in Race Car Technology
by Doug Boyce

Product Details: Softcover, 176 pages
Retail Price: $36.95
Size: 8.5″ x 11″
Publication Date: June 2021
ISBN: 9781613255827
Publisher: CarTech Books

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Summary of the book’s contents

Drag Racing in the 1960s guides readers through the Swinging Sixties from the perspective of someone who’s been deeply entrenched in drag racing culture his whole life. Boyce’s personal familiarity with working on cars and following the sport’s evolution is clear from the onset.

The tome is divided into 11 chapters, each one spotlighting a single year during that period from 1961 to 1970, with the final chapter serving as a short coda that ties up a few loose ends and ensuing circumstances in the years to follow.

As the subtitle of the book suggests, Boyce focuses less on the interpersonal drama occurring during the time and more on the technical evolution of the altereds, gassers, and fuel dragsters tearing up the tracks throughout that decade. More than a mere roster of participants and outcomes, Boyce brings up the engineering enhancements and technical specifications that contributed to victories and made these creations so noteworthy.

Moving through summaries of the outcomes of NHRA and AHRA seasons to the noteworthy (and sometimes dangerous) innovations competitors brought to the track, Drag Racing in the 1960s maintains a brisk pace throughout its 176-page length. It’s so much to chronicle that Boyd often takes a birds’ eye view of the events, which allows him to present a clearer through-line of the sport’s golden age.

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Evaluation: Is this a thorough chronicle of drag racing’s biggest decade?

Amply documenting this pivotal era was a massive undertaking, and Boyce doesn’t hold back when it comes to ensuring all the major players and products are included in this detailed chronicle. Each page is packed with information from numerous NHRA and AHRA competitions, where home-built chassis and powertrains outclassed the OEM creations of the time.

Drag Racing in the 1960s is by no means a casual introduction for newcomers hoping to learn about the sport. Following the events outlined from page to page relies on having sufficient familiarity with important names, organizations, technical components, and trade jargon. This background knowledge is vital for connecting the dots as Boyce weaves together multiple intersecting threads to depict all the shifting trends and influences.

I found the book most engaging with it zooms in on the drama surrounding certain pivotal events, bringing those moments to life to evoke their perception at the time and resulting impact. I also appreciated the asides that encapsulated points of interest like the evolution of chasses and utilization of GMC blowers.

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Final thoughts

While Drag Racing in the 1960s might not be an engrossing read for those unfamiliar with the sport’s history, even the unacquainted will marvel at the abundance of archival photographs that depict incredible homespun dragsters.

If you’re an avid fan of drag racing history, picking up Drag Racing in the 1960s is a no-brainer. Even if you’re well-versed in the annals of motorsports history, Boyce’s latest book is bound to hold interesting perspectives that you won’t find elsewhere. He draws from the first-hand accounts of participants and personal contacts of his that imbue the book with more of an on-the-ground perspective than most books I’ve read on the subject.

Drag Racing in the 1960s is available through the publisher’s websiteAmazon, and other book retailers.

Product provided for review by the publisher.

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