PROVIDENCE, R.I. — “Modify: verb; from the Latin ‘to limit,’ to change partially in character, form, etc.”
That’s the definition found in Webster’s New World Dictionary for the term modify; or it its past tense, modified.
Read it again: “To change partially in character or form.”
Modifieds, of course, comprise the oldest division in NASCAR and are arguably the most popular race cars in the Northeast. Divisions around the country have been created that feature mods in various guises and forms as built for pavement or dirt.
Yet I look at that definition and see nothing modified about modifieds. They are thoroughbred race cars, as specialized and custom-engineered as any Formula 1 machine.
But I’m not here to complain. (Really, Thom? What’s changed?) I like mods as much as anyone. Indeed, some of my favorite memories have been of watching the modified race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on a NASCAR “Sponsor-Paid-Us-Millions Cup” race weekend outshine by 100 miles the action witnessed on Sunday.
And oh, by the way, that’s with the mods running restrictor-plates so they don’t embarrass the Cup guys even more.
But when I explore the origins of the modified — when I visit a place like Rhode Island’s Pro Nyne Museum and see the crude-but-effective devices built by guys like Lenny Boehler and Sonny Koszela with the likes of ‘58 Chevy chasssis and Ford rears — I wonder if a modified still could be … well, you know, modified.
Sure, it’d be tough. Rear-wheel drive continues to be the choice to push a race car around the track at maximum velocity. It’s now archaic on the street. Unibodies spell disaster, not only for the car builder but for any hope of tough and tight racing. High-revving four-cylinder motors don’t inspire drives on the outer cushion.
So finding a frame you can build a car up from, as well as a V8 powerplant and an actual driven rear end, is a task more daunting than finding an honest man.
Yet I wouldn’t have thought it would be impossible. There are pickups equipped both with ladder-frames and V8 motors. They’re rear-wheel drive, too. If you’ve seen Seekonk Speedway’s Sport Truck division, you’ve seen compact Chevy S10s with V8s installed. They might make a good starting point.
And bodies? There are tons that could be fitted that would look as sharp as any mid-thirties Chevy coupe.
Now, I’m not talking about cobbling such a contraption together to go race on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. What I had in mind was a new division at some weekly racetrack. It would be entry-level, both because of price and because they would be an obvious step down from regular mods, late models and even some streeters.
This division would allow some folks to get into racing without spending a ton, and more importantly, might teach some people not only that race cars are built as opposed to ordered, but how they’re built.
I pictured a bunch of funky mods with crate V8s and cut down sheet-metal from Ford Fiestas and Toyota Corollas.
Continued on the next page…