What are stock cars?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I've read your interesting column about cars and admire your in-depth knowledge. I have a question that has concerned me for a long time about "stock" cars as driven in "stock" car races such as the Daytona 500. These cars are referred to as Buicks, Chevrolets, and other well known brands with the implication that these are the same cars that come out of "stock" off the dealer's show room floor. I say the only resemblance of these race cars to the cars that the public buys is in the name and outward appearance of the body shell. What do "stock cars" and cars that are "in stock" at dealerships have in common?

TOM: You're right, Clyde. Not much. In NASCAR races like the Daytona 500, the only "stock" piece of equipment I know of is the windshield.

RAY: These cars have racing engines, racing tubular frames, a common chassis (based on the 1964 Ford Galaxie), and cosmetic body panels that give the car a passing visual resemblance to a showroom car. But you'd never see a Monroney sticker on the back window of one of these babies.

TOM: Stock car racing USED to mean that the cars were actually "stock" versions of those cars. But over the years, NASCAR allowed more and more modification, to the point now where the phrase is really an anachronism, if not a complete joke.

RAY: There are still some bonafide stock car races taking place. SCCA (Sports Car Club of American) runs a series called Showroom Stock, and IMSA (the International Motor Sports Association) runs a series called the Street Stock series, both of which feature cars that must have the same "factory equipped" parts listed in the car's shop manual.

TOM: Obviously, they add safety equipment, like a roll bar and better seat belts. But unlike Daytona 500 cars, you can race these cars around the track for five hours, and then drive them down to the drug store and pick up some Preparation H to soothe yourself on your way home.

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