In the world of straight-line racing, it doesn't get more badass than the Top Fuel and Funny Cars. Top fuel dragsters are the fastest class of dragsters, and Funny cars are basically Top Fuel dragsters with a body over the chassis. As a result, Funny Cars are usually a tad bit slower than the top fuelers, but at this level, the acceleration and top speed is insane no matter which class you're looking at.
NHRA-sanctioned drag racing dates to 1953. Front-engine Top Fuel dragsters were common until the early 1970s when rear-engine versions debuted to improve driver safety. So in that respect, it's fair to say that Funny Cars possess more of a drag race heritage than the Top Fuel cars, seeing as they are still running a front-engined layout.
20 Funny Cars Origin
Funny cars appeared around 1964 when drag racers began using Dodge and Plymouth cars with radically altered wheelbases. Racing teams reduced the Funny car’s weight by about 200 pounds by chemically milling the body and replacing the steel bodywork with fiberglass. Allegedly, an NHRA track announcer noted the vehicles were “funny-looking,” and the moniker not only stuck, but became an official NHRA category.
19 Powerful Stuff
There aren't any dynos that can get an accurate reading of these ultra-high-powered engines, so the horsepower numbers for Funny Cars and Top Fuel Dragsters are just mere estimations. Horsepower claims vary widely - from 6,978 to 8,897 - but are probably around 8,000 HP. Supercharged, nitromethane-fueled motors of this type also have a very high torque, which is estimated at about 7,000 ft-lbf/9,500 Nm.
18 Put In Perspective
One Funny Car's Hemi engine actually makes more horsepower than the first 8 rows at Daytona. If you still find it difficult to comprehend how powerful these things are; One cylinder out of the eight cylinders of a Top Fuel dragster or a Funny Car produces an equal amount of horsepower to the entire output of a NASCAR engine.
17 Incredible Amounts Of Fuel
Under full throttle, a Funny Car engine consumes 1.5 gallons of nitromethane per second; a fully loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate with 25% less energy being produced. That is just abysmal gas mileage! For a complete pass, including the burnout, back up to the starting line, and quarter-mile run, Funny Cars use between 10 and 12 gallons of fuel.
16 Not Your Average Fuel System
The fuel pump alone requires more horsepower to turn than the average street car produces and delivers 65 gallons of fuel per minute, equivalent to eight bathroom showers running at the same time. The fuel-line pressure for Funny Cars is between 400 and 500 pounds, with 3000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into a near-solid form before ignition.
15 Hot Stuff
At the starting line, drivers rev their engines and those flames we see shooting out of the exhaust burn at a scorching 7050 degrees Fahrenheit - or around 3900 degrees Celsius. You definitely don't want to stand too close to these things when they fire up - literally. This is all made possible due to the incredible engineering and build quality.
Funny cars are characterized by having tilt-up fiberglass or carbon fiber automotive bodies over a custom-fabricated chassis, giving them an appearance that vaguely resembles manufacturers' showroom models. A single carbon fiber body can cost US$70,000, These "fake" body shells are not just cosmetic or for show either, they also serve an important aerodynamic purpose.
13 Cost Of Doing Business
Assuming all the equipment is paid off, the crew worked for free, and for once, nothing blows up, each run costs an estimated $1,000 per second. The cost of fielding a Funny Car team is usually somewhere between $2.6 and $3 million. We're talking about a lot of money for what is essentially only a few seconds worth of fun.
12 0-300 mph
Top Fuel and Funny Cars cross the finish line in less than 5 seconds, at a speed exceeding 300 mph. In order to put that into perspective; the Dodge Demon quarter-mile time is just a hair below 10 seconds and many of today's fancy sports cars take around 4 seconds just to get to 60 mph.
11 Entirely Rebuilt
Top Fuel Engines only turn approximately 540 revolutions from light to light! Including the burnout, the engine must only survive 900 revolutions under load. They only survive about 80% of the time. The engine is entirely rebuilt every run - or every 900 revolutions. New pistons and rings, new rods, new rod bearings. Sometimes a new crank. The crew does this in about two hours between rounds.
10 Several Gs
In order to exceed 300 mph in 4.5 seconds, Funny Cars must accelerate at an average of over 4 Gs. In order to reach 200 mph well before half-track, the launch acceleration approaches 8G's. That's not all though - when it's time to stop, the driver will deploy the chutes and undergo 7 Gs! That is like a rollercoaster on steroids.
9 Supercharging Is The Way To Go
Superchargers are restricted to a basic Roots type. It takes some serious power to turn one of those bad boys - a stock Dodge Hemi V8 engine doesn't even produce enough power to drive the supercharger found in Top Fuel and Funny Car dragsters. Imagine the incredible forces that are in effect when a dragster rockets off the line.
8 Feeling Deflated
In order to put all that power to the ground, Funny Cars need as much grip as possible. Slick tires are needed in order to get the most grip and the biggest contact patch with the track. The tires will be inflated just enough to get the friction right, and that's why we can see the sidewalls flex when the light turns green.
7 We've Got Lift-Off
It is imperative that the cars stay as close to the road as possible or else it can get quite dangerous for the driver and the crowd. Newer dragsters are adopting the technology of lowering the front splitters as much as possible to create negative pressure or a vacuum under the car which in turn will make the whole vehicle stick to the ground.
6 It's All About The Acceleration
We certainly wouldn't blame anyone for thinking drag racing is about top speed, however, that's not the case. The quarter-mile race is already over long before they can reach the end of the engine’s performance. The challenge is to get to the top speed as quickly as possible before crossing the finish line - and to do this, break-neck acceleration is more important than sheer speed.
5 Safety First
Many safety rules are in place to protect the driver and spectators. The more visible safety devices are the twin parachutes to help stabilize and decelerate after crossing the finish line. Less visible precautions include roll cages and fire extinguishers. During safety evaluations in the wake of the fatal crash of Scott Kalitta in 2008, the NHRA reduced the distance of Top Fuel and Funny Car races to 1,000 feet.
4 The First Dedicated Funny Car Class
The first of the "funny-looking cars" were a trio of 1964 Dodge 330 Max Wedges which debuted in 1964 at San Diego Raceway. Funny Cars started as stockers and were pure exhibition cars. NHRA treated them like a passing fad, and tried to "legislate them out of existence." A dedicated funny car class was tried by NHRA at one 1966 national event, and at two in 1968, before Funny Car Eliminator was created in 1969.
3 Nostalgia Races
In recent years, a resurgence of interest in vintage drag cars has created many new "nostalgia" funny cars - mostly newly made vintage-style funny car bodies mounted on modern funny car frames or. These "Nostalgia Funny Cars" often compete in various nostalgia drag racing events, such as the NHRA Heritage Hot Rod Racing Series, which includes the National Hot Rod Reunion and the California Hot Rod Reunion.
2 Sponsorships Changed The Sport
Major corporate sponsorship money came to Funny Car starting in 1997, leading to significant changes in the sport. Multi-car teams, with several tuners each, became commonplace, and single car teams "had a very slim chance of winning an NHRA World Championship." To this day, Funny Car is dominated by multi-car teams, with only a handful of teams maintaining the traditional one-car operation.
1 Eventually, It Will Blow Up
Even with the engine only having to survive 900 revolutions under load, they only make it about 80% of the time. With such extreme levels of power and parts that are living right on the edge of what's possible, it's no wonder that things will eventually go pear-shaped and end in a fireball flying down the strip.