The Camstang…An Odd Racing Mashup

By David G. Firestone.

Editor’s Note: I’ve discussed my opinions on the weekends events on my other page, so I don’t feel that I need to discuss them here.

Racing and improvisation have always gone hand in hand. Race cars have, for generations built by hand, and as a result, builders will improvise new technologies in these cars. Some of these are within the letter of the law, others are not.

Mashups in racing are somewhat less common, but they can be successful. One such example is the Mosler Consulier GTP, which was a mish-mash of auto parts, but was so successful, it was banned by IMSA. One other mashup that had some success more recently was the “Camstang.” “What is a “Camstang?” you may be asking, well, let’s discuss it.

John Force is one of, if not the greatest drag racer of all time. To his name, John Force has16 Funny Car championships, 148 National Event wins, and over 100 different NHRA records, many of which will never be broken in my lifetime. His team has won almost 40% of all Funny Car races in the NHRA. He is one of the best owner-drivers in auto racing.

In 1996, Force made a switch from Pontiac Firebirds to Ford Mustangs. With Ford as a manufacturer, Force would win 13 championships,11 as a a driver, and two as an owner. He was very consistent, and knew he could count on Ford. Ford had more success in the NHRA than they did in NASCAR, yet in 2013, Ford made the announcement that after 2014, they would pull out of the NHRA. John was understandably upset, but he decided to press on. John didn’t seem to be concerned about time, and took his time working out a deal with a new manufacturer. His patience paid off, and after the 2014 season, announced that he had signed a deal with Chevrolet.

This lack of concern for time almost instantly came back to bite him. After signing the deal, he quickly realized that it would take a full year for Chevy to design a Funny Car body for the team. The deal was announced in January, with the season starting in the first week of February. This work was impossible to do in time, so John Force was in trouble, and he knew it. He couldn’t use Mustang bodies as he had a deal with Chevy. Chevy couldn’t build a new body in time, so what to do?

John’s solution would prove to be controversial, but effective. Somebody came up with the idea to take the old Mustang body, cut the nose off, and replace it with a Chevy Camaro nose, and re-decal the back to a Camaro design. Force asked both Ford and Chevy, who gave their blessing, and the NHRA approved it.

The new bodies were dubbed “Camstang” bodies, a portmanteau of Camaro and Mustang for these bodies, while fans of opposing teams stated that they felt that John Force had gotten special treatment. However, everything Force did was within the letter of the rules, and approved by all involved. John Force and Robert Hight had two wins each, and Courtney Force had some success, but didn’t win an event in 2015. By 2016, the new Camaro bodies had debuted, and the old ones were kept as backups, and eventually turned into show cars. The Camstang will forever remain as one of the best mashups in recent auto racing, and I can hope that lessons learned will help prevent this error in judgment from happening again.

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