They feel the need for speed
They are brought together because of a common love.
They like to go fast. Real fast.
“It is definitely a big-time rush,” says Blue Earth resident Rick Lawrence, owner of Fine-Line Frame Straightening.
Lawrence is referring to strapping himself into his super-charged, 1,800 horsepower, dragster funny car and going from 0 to 203 miles-per-hour in 6.7 seconds.
“People always ask me what it is like, how it feels,” he says. “I tell them it is just like if you were sitting in your car at a stop light and a semi-truck comes and plows into you from behind doing 70 miles an hour. Your head snaps back as you fly forward – fast.”
Lawrence is not the only person who has an interest in driving a classic dragster. In fact, there is a club in Minnesota called the ‘Nostalgic Superchargers.’
Last month they held one of their quarterly gatherings in Lawrence’s shop, the former showroom of the old L & M Motors building in downtown Blue Earth.
“We are just a bunch of guys with a common interest – old supercharged dragsters,” Lawrence says.
One of the other members of the group is another Blue Earth man, Paul Vossen.
“We enjoy getting together and talking about drag racing – and any other topic that comes up,” Vossen says.
But, the group of men does a lotmore than just talk about racing, they actually get out and do it.
“We like to go to drag strips and race down the quarter mile,” Vossen says. “We don’t actually race, we are more of an exhibition of how dragsters were in the 1960s and 70s.”
Modern dragsters, which cost millions of dollars, will do an incredible 280 miles an hour in just seconds – in an eighth of a mile, half the distance it takes the vintage racers to get to 200 mph.
“These guys will be doing a hundred miles an hour in eight-tenths of a second,” Vossen says.
His personal best is just 160 miles an hour in the quarter mile strip, taking 8.4 seconds to do it.
“That is pretty slow,” he admits. “The other guys in the group have called me some unflattering names, and they remind me that their wives or girl friends have driven faster.”
Vossen did go fast enough one day to blow up his engine. It was only his eighth run in his dragster.
“That was two summers ago and I never got it fixed last summer,” he says. “It was pretty tough to watch the other guys drive, while I couldn’t.”
He says he plans to have it ready to run by Memorial Day, when the group will head to Thunder Valley by Sioux Falls to take their dragsters out for a spin.
“But, maybe it won’t be until July 4th,” he adds. “I would also like to get it painted up and air-brush the name ‘Grandpa’s Toy’ on it.”
Both Lawrence and Vossen say driving the dragsters is just one part of it. The other aspect is the comradery.
“We have all become good friends,” Vossen says. “There isn’t anything any of us wouldn’t do for the others.”
That includes finding parts, helping each other work on their machines, even building them for each other.
Lawrence is constructing a dragster in his shop that is for the son of one of the founding fathers of the Nostalgic Superchargers. While the dragsters resemble nostalgic racers, they may be newly manufactured.
While their vehicles don’t cost the millions the modern dragsters do, it still can be an expensive hobby.
“Some of the guys have a lot of money tied up, especially in engines,” Vossen says.
Then there is the cost of trailering the dragster to strips in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota – or Kentucky, Indiana and Florida.
While the members of Nostalgic Superchargers have only been getting together for five years, some of the group have been involved with drag racing for many years.
Lawrence has been at it nearly 14, Vossen five.
“It is a little bit of an unusual hobby,” Lawrence admits. “But sure is fun.”
If you think fun is strapping yourself into a metal bucket seat that is bolted directly to the rear differential. In a vehicle that isn’t much more than two fat tires in the back, two bicycle tires in the front – and a big supercharged engine in the middle.
Lawrence admits it can be a little scary, especially when the dragster starts hitting speeds over 200 miles an hour.
“You can almost tell how fast you are going by the scream of the engine,” he says. “You have to fight the tendency to let up on the gas when you start hitting the upper speeds.”
After the quarter mile run is over – in less than seven seconds – it is time to deploy the chute to slow down.
Then, the rush is over, and it is time to start thinking about the next chance you might have to race the strip.
“It is a lot of money and effort for a few short seconds of excitement,” Vossen admits.
He tells about some of the professional drivers who have made hundreds of trips down the strip in their careers.
Because their ‘trip’ only lasts a few seconds, most of them have never logged an hour total of actually pressing down the gas pedal. Even if they have spent years at the sport.
“It is a short trip, but one you won’t forget,” Lawrence says. “I’m looking forward to Memorial Day weekend, seeing the gang, and getting in the driver’s seat.”
At 200 miles an hour.