NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Your X-ray submissions

21 Jun 2013
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor

If this X-ray thread continues much further, I’m going to have to hand out lead-filled vests to the readers who continue to increase the read-iation factor with a series of submissions of their favorite see-through photos and drawings, presented below. Their transparent plans for five minutes of Insider fame have come to fruition.

You've been suitably warned; continue at your own peril.

What became apparent very quickly is that the X-ray/see-through photo was a popular choice for the editors of Hot Rod magazine in the early 1970s, according to the book Hot Rod Magazine: All The Covers, which had a lot more examples.

The earliest I could find was in 1966, with a top-down look at the wild Hurst Hairy Olds for the May 1966 issue. The text in the book reads, “In the days before digital photography and PhotoShop, a see-through photo (or, as Hot Rod called it, a ‘phantom’ shot) was a complex, painstaking, and time-intensive piece of work.”

It took a few more years for them to go “phantom” crazy, and fortunately for us, it almost always seemed to involve drag racing cars, including twice in 1971.

Good buddy and longtime photog Tom Schiltz clued me in on the Mike Brenner-shot image above right, which appeared on the cover of the March 1971 issue of Hot Rod. It shows the Huff & Sanders Vega Funny Car appearing to leave the starting line. “I think it was actually a triple exposure,” he wrote. “One of the body, one of the chassis, and one where the engine was running and the car was pulled backwards, so the final shot looked like the car was moving forward.”

Rick Voegelin reminded me that Jack Chrisman’s rear-engine sidewinder also was on the cover that year (November). You may remember I covered the mysterious story of this car — which ultimately became John Force’s first Funny Car, the Night Stalker — in the rear-engine Funny Car thread back in December 2011 (Stalking the Night Stalker). I’m not sure who took the cover photo — my guess would be Brenner — but Insider regulars say that Brenner for sure shot this phantom of Don Schumacher’s ultra-trick Wonder Wagon that appeared on the Hot Rod cover two years later, November 1973.

Maybe it was just a passing fad for the editors, or maybe their bosses told them enough was enough or no one wanted to see an X-ray photo of a van, but I didn’t see another phantom photo in the book after that, which covered through 2009. You would think that as it got easier (relatively, as you will see) with digital photography and PhotoShop they might be able to use it more but nope.

Ken Hamer sent in this X-ray pic he found of the Condit Brothers Plymouth Arrow Funny Car that they ran in the late 1970s. No photo credit was available.

Ed O’Connell sent in this photo of Whit Bazemore’s Fast Orange Funny Car that appeared in the debut issue of short-lived American Drag Racing back in 1994. Photo credit to Dick Bryant.

And the multi-talented Bazemore was on the other end of the camera for this great shot of Dale Pulde's '82 War Eagle Trans Am that was used as the team's handout. It was sent in by Dave Ferrin.


David Dunlevy submitted this image he took of Steve Fox’s Florida-based Top Alcohol Funny Car back in 1990 when he was the crew chief and official photographer for the team. “We had little time before we were chased away from this pristine site,” he remembered. “This is one of two double-exposure images made that day. First image, body on/body off. Second image, body off/body on. I don't recall which image this was, but it was the better of the two. Technical details are somewhat fuzzy at this point except this was done with my Nikon F3 tripod mounted, of course.”

Chris Stinson sent in this PhotoShopped pic of his McLaws Motorsports Top Alcohol Funny Car, photographed in 2008. He also passed along this link to even more X-ray drawings and photos, including some you’ve seen here.


Drag photog Dave Milcarek, who has generously sent along photos for our use here before, shared a couple of his X-ray works with me, photos he created out of his love for the old imagery we’re sharing here.

“I loved the X-ray pix that the forefather photographers of my youth did,” he wrote. “Those photos as well as the imagination that went in to doing car features back in those days were all part of that culture that made me as a young racing fan go to the newsstand every month to see the cars I watched at the track in some great magazine spreads, and trust me, I still have all of them.

“PhotoShop has made it so much easier to do the X-ray, as well as everything else, but the image still brings back the memories of seeing the stars of the sport in a way I couldn’t at the track. These samples show how I still try to emulate the masters like [Steve] Reyes with some of the nostalgia FCs around here.

“These pix are all digital, but like the days of film, it still takes two exposures,” he explained. “I put the camera on a tripod and shoot the chassis with three flashes, then put the body on and move the flashes around to get a different look in the lighting to have a contrast in the body vs. chassis to make them standout from each other.

"Then I shoot the shot with the body on, overlap the two images, and slowly erase to the desired effect — simmered in with some great stories and just a touch of tequila is my recopy for X-ray nirvana.”

Another frequent Insider contributor, artist John Bell, took on the X-ray challenge without a camera with these two great drawings he did as a teenager.


“Seeing the cutaways/X-ray images reminded me how blown away I was when I saw them in magazines when I was young. I thought, 'I've gotta give one of these a shot.' I'm sharing two of several 'cutaways' I did as a teenager. John Luna was done when I was 15 and Al Hanna's car when I was 16. They were fun, but a bear to sort them out, drawing from memory and whatever photos I could find in magazines. Even though I had to hand-draw the ellipses for the wheels and use magic markers and colored pencils, they were good enough that the drivers bought them. Maybe they felt some pity for all of my efforts. At a Funny Car reunion in Englishtown back in 2003, a guy came up to me holding the Hanna drawing! It survived all of those years. I was tipped over. He had me sign it for him. Pretty nutty.”



And finally (so far), there’s this cutaway drawing of Joe Amato’s Top Fueler, which graced the cover of his 1994 press kit. Longtime alcohol and nitro crewman Terry Morrow, who was a part of the magical career of Pat Austin back in the mid-1980s and early 1990s and today does engine- and fuel-system tech and sales for Alan Johnson Performance Engineering, sent it in.


All of the trips down the Photography Memory Lane inspired me to begin to resurrect my collection of Drag Racing USA magazines from the early 1970s. I had them all (or most of them), but for one reason or another, only a few followed me from my childhood home through a series of apartments and into adulthood. Seeing the great Reyes pics had me pining to relive those days, so I began my search at the most logical place, the awesome memorabilia collection of Mike Goyda.

Mike was able to hook me up with more than two dozens of those issues and had them to my door almost before I could finish writing the check. Yeah, I got nothing else done that day after they arrived. I'm still well short of a complete collection, but Mike will keep a lookout for me to fill the gaps. It's already been the best birthday present I've ever given myself.

Speaking of Mike Goyda, he could use the help of the collective brain and collections of the Insider Nation.
“I am working on an article regarding the 1970 and 1971 NHRA [souvenir] programs, or lack thereof,” he wrote. “I’m wondering if any of your readers could provide a photo of the 1970 Gatornationals and Springnationals entry lists or an actual program from 1971 for the Winters, Gators, Spring, Summer, and Nationals? I am sure the entry lists exist but am doubtful about the ‘71 programs themselves. Even though I have been told all of them exist, no one can provide an example.”

How ‘bout it readers?