Wheels-up launches, tire-frying burnouts and super-straight sheetmetal were everywhere at the 1997 Ames Perfor-mance Pontiac Nationals. From a vintage Pontiac-powered Funny Car to the new '98 Firebird, the Ames Nationals had it all.
Now, the name might be new to you, and that's because this show used to be known as the Tri-Power Nationals, which was held the second weekend of every August. Ames doesn't plan on altering the original Nationals, except maybe to make it more participant-friendly.
"Ours is somewhat of a departure from the way events are usually handled. We look to make the event more participant-oriented and to show them our appreciation by offering them more hospitality. We offer a complimentary breakfast and supper and we also gave away 100 tickets for free entry into the suites located in the tower on the starting line. At most events, those air-conditioned rooms are reserved for the big-name sponsors and such, but not at ours," stated Steve Ames of Ames Performance.
Hospitality aside, the Nationals were where you wanted to be to see all types of good ol' Pontiac iron. There were specialty vehicles and one-offs, like a '69 Royal Bobcat-tuned Grand Prix, complete with the optional Royal paint scheme. There was even a '72 Grand Prix that were changed into a convertible, an option Pontiac should have offered.
There were plenty of custom creations on hand, including a '96 Grand Prix that was tubbed and equipped with a blown Poncho mill. If you're into the late-model thing, there were more than enough third- and fourth-generation F-bodies for all to see. The Firehawk Association of America had an abundance of fourth-generation Firehawks in attendance, convertibles and hardtops alike. David Gray even had his one-of-one '92 Teal Green Firehawk at the Nationals and made several passes down the track, showing the crowd what the original Firehawk was all about.
But, it was the eighth-mile-long burnouts and 7-second ETs of Arnie Beswick's Tameless Tiger that really got the fans on their feet, especially when he lined it up against The Bag Boys' Grocery Getter-replica Tempest wagon. Arnie was the victor in the match race, but who's counting?
Pontiac brought down several of its more potent Ponchos. Not only was the lightweight Mongoose Formula on parade, but a couple of new '98 Firebirds were parked alongside it, one even being a pre-production WS6 version. The new Ram Air Bird got rave reviews from the crowd.
Jim Wangers brought his usual entourage with him, including his Ponte Carlo, '69 Judge and '74 Trans Am. All of the Indians were running tip-top. And wowing the crowd with sub-10-second ETs was the big-bore '74.
Linda Vaughn pulled up in the '97 Hurst/ Lingenfelter Firebird, where she was greeted by her fans with much enthusiasm. She was her usual cheerful self and signed too many autographs to even try and keep count of.
One of the hottest races of the day, however, was between a jet-powered dragster and an alcohol-injected Funny Car. Unfortunately, the Pontiac-headed, corporate-powered Funny Car lost all of the match races, but nevertheless, it was a great form of entertainment. Also sharing the spotlight was Jim Trettle and his Rock & Roll GTO ("Nostalgia Trip," Feb. '98). Jim was able to shift the 455-motivated beast to a best-ever 9.86 pass.
Ames claims 1998's event will be just as good as, if not better than, the previous year's showing. It will be a hard feat to beat, as the Nationals for '97 held some of the best Pontiac iron ever produced. The event also had an incredible attendance figure, with over 400 cars registered. This number made the '97 Nationals one of the biggest Pontiac shows of the year, and you can bet we'll be there this year to see some new faces and phenomenal Pontiacs. So keep August 8-9 open, as you won't want to miss the 1998 Ames Pontiac Performance Nationals, once again held on the grounds of Norwalk Raceway Park.
Best Of Show Winners
Larry Bond, '65 Bonneville
Betsy Thomas, '67 Firebird
Barry Caucci, '67 GTO
Pete Rust, '77 Trans Am
Pro Eliminator and King of the Hill
Super Pro Eliminator
||FH '92-94 (tie)
|Dan & Karen Cregar
||Villa Hills, KY
|Steven W. Dorris
|Chris & Tracie Avenmarg
||Mayfield Hts., OH