Stock Cars

I’ve been trying to find an answer to this question for a while, but none of the obvious web sites seem to have the info I’m looking for. So here goes, SDMB: does “stock car” merely mean that the chassis is from basic dealer stock (and not aerodynamically enhanced like IndyCar chassis are), but that engines might have been modified for racing purposes, or does it mean that the entire car, engine and all, are from basic dealer stock?

I know that NASCAR arose because racing fans felt like the Indy competition was getting to be too much about building a better car instead of about who is a better driver, but I’m not sure if that’s limited to the shape or if it refers to all parts of the car.

Originally – in the late 1940s and early 1950s – “stock cars” were just that, somewhat modified standard cars purchased from major manufacturers. (There are stories of people borrowing cars from dealer showrooms to “test drive them” who went and raced them on the weekends with minimal modifications).

Nowadays, “stock car” is a complete misnomer – these are now individually fabricated racing cars, that only superficially look like the cars you can get at a dealer. The main reason is safety – you can’t crash a passenger vehicle at 180 mph and expect to live. Nor could a real stock vehicle run 500 miles at that speed without falling apart.

I don’t think there is really much “stock” about the cars in NASCAR racing now. I am almost certain the engines are custom built. They might use a basic stock engine block but that is about it. All cars must have the same size engine too.

The 1 rule they do have is that you must use a basic body from a car that is available for sale to the public. But even that body is customized a lot and of course they add all kinds of safety features to the car. The interior of the car is basically totally stripped clean and then they only add back in what is necessary to drive the car and keep the driver safe.

It seems like normally they don’t use the term stock much anyway , they normally call it NASCAR racing or Winston Cup racing.

The only real stock car racing that exists anymore, apparently, is the grassroots kind at your neighborhood race track. My uncle and my former boss both run stock cars on dirt tracks, and the rules at their track define the stock cars as actual road-worthy dealer stock (although usually several years old; nobody nowadays would go out and buy a brand new Cavalier to race, and besides modern cars have Horribly Crushable Fiberglass instead of good old-fashioned sheet metal) with ineterior alterations all for safety (removable of flammable interior upholstery and headliner, installation of roll bars and racing seats, etc) and minimal motor alterations to make it more race-worthy and try to level out the field.

Actually, the idea that NASCAR Winston Cup cars are (heavily) modified production vehicles isn’t even really true. These things are built from the ground up as racing vehicles, and under the thin aluminum “shell” that covers up the frame they have nothing in common with their production “brothers.”

This page at (from a larger article that may be of interest) shows a “naked” stock car frame. No production sedan looks anything like that underneath the skin.

The “manufacturer” (i.e., Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet or Pontiac) supplies the hood, rear deck lid, and roof panel. These are the only parts on the entire car that are common to the production vehicle. The exterior of the car must fit (fairly precisely) templates provided by the manufacturer, but the actual making of the body panels is done by the racing team.

The engines are all V-8’s and I believe displacement is limited. I also believe that the blocks and heads are provided by the “manufacturer” and that the remaining engine components are dealt with by the team. The blocks are based on production engines, but like the car bodies they’re built for racing from the get-go.

The class of racing you see these days which most closely resembles the original “stock” car racing is probably showroom stock, but even that class has mutated far away from the showroom.

And whitetho’s rumors of racing test drives became a reality in the mid-1960s, with the Shelby Hertz GT 350. Sunday racers essentially forced Hertz to kill the rental program in 1967. (But no, the GT350H did not run in NASCAR-type races.)

I really wouldn’t say the best drivers are in Nascar either. NASCAR’s car type allows some error in touching other cars/walls. Any type of contact in an open wheel car almost assures that your race is over.

I would say that IRL drivers and NASCAR drivers are basically equal…most drivers in either series could move back and forth between and with some adjustment have success(this has been born out by several drivers who have made the switch).

I would put CART drivers ahead of IRL/NASCAR. I would also put World Rally drivers ahead, and F1 drivers at the very top.

When I was a kid back in the '50s and '60s, stock car racing was more tightly held to a production car standard. Some dream cars, that you’ll never find at a price you can afford, such as, say, a 1957 Chevy 2-door sedan with fuel-injection and a four-speed tranny were offered as production models just so the stockers could race 'em.

IIRC, the manufacturers had to actually produce and sell some minimal number (25? 50?) of the desired configuration for it to qualify. How many '58 Impalas really hit the road with triple dueces on a 348 driving a four-speed? Well, enough.

By the 1980s NASCAR “stockers” had long since become “from the ground up” race cars bearing little resemblance to production models. But I do remember a mid-'80s limited production model of the Chevy Monte Carlo that had a fastback backglass that I’d heard was available to meet a production requirement to allow NASCAR use of the body style. Anyone else remember that?

Thanks for a fun question, Chaim.

Yes, I do remember the Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe. The was also the Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2, of which only 1500 were made, but I still see them for sale fairly often, and for not a lot of money. The trunk opening was extremely small on both of these cars.

Here’s a picture of all the parts to change the car, including the long rear window.

Anyway, I’ve been an obsessed car nut my whole life, and I never even once had a moment’s interest in auto racing. The cars have virtually no similarity whatsoever to the things I drive, an no one in real life drives in a circle over and over.

If there were a race that was on a lifelike road, with lifelike obstacles… and a bunch of guys driving around in, say, '95 Chevy Luminas, there’s a race I’d watch.

from moonshine runners?

seems likely to me (raised in S. Indiana) - the game, IIRC, was to build a car that could out-run/out-maneuver the cops - can anyone confirm?

Well, that gets into the Thunder Road hypothesis of NASCAR beginnings. It makes for good storyland. I think we’ve addressed it here before, and if nobody digs it up before tomorrow, I’ll go for a swim and try to find it.

Stock car racing in general evolved from man’s natural desire to drive really fast. There was auto racing from the beginning of automobiles, and if there’d been no moonshine runners there would probably still be stock car racing in some form today.

Lots of the first NASCAR drivers learned their tricks from moonshine running, though. So it was definitely influenced by that, although that wasn’t the sole root source.