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What are Funny Cars?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Image By: John Heard
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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Funny cars, also called "floppers," are a professional class of drag racing vehicle. Drag racing is a form of car racing in which cars travel in a straight line, usually from a stationary start, and the first to cross the finish line wins. Floppers feature forward-mounted engines and a car body resembling manufacturer's showroom models. Funny cars get their name because they look like regular stock cars, but with over-sized back wheels placed more forward than usual in order to improve their racing performance.

Drag racing originated in the United States after World War II. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), which has been the major governing body of drag racing throughout the sport's history, was founded in California in 1951 by Wally Parks. The second largest governing body, the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), was founded in 1970 by Tennessee businessman Larry Carrier, and is now owned by Feld Entertainment.

The first funny cars were created in the 1960s by altering regular cars to make them suitable for drag racing. Some of the original models are still raced today in Heritage Hot Rod races. Popular models include the Chevy Impala, Dodge Charger, and Ford Mustang. In addition to their altered wheel configuration, and fuel systems, floppers have twin parachutes to ensure the safety of the driver and fans by helping the car to decelerate and stabilize after a race.

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Both the NHRA and the IHRA have a funny car class. According to NHRA guidelines, funny cars must have V-8 engines displacing a maximum of 500 cubic inches (1,270 square cm) and only two valves per cylinder and a single crankshaft. The cars are further classified depending on the type of fuel they use, either Top Fuel or Top Alcohol. Both fuel classes use a combination of nitromethane and methanol alcohol as fuel, but those in the Top Fuel class are allowed a greater concentration of nitromethane, up to 90%. Funny car races are currently limited to a maximum distance of 1,000 feet (305 meters) by the NHRA.

The power of funny cars is largely due to their fuel systems, as nitromethane fuel allows cars to drive extremely fast. Funny cars are the second fastest class of car in drag racing, following the dragsters or "diggers." Funny cars have around 8,000 horsepower, and can accelerate from zero to 100 mph (161 km/h) in under one second.

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