Photography by Michael Fair, the Author, and the manufacturers
It’s easy to get caught up in the amount of power readily available in today’s automotive world. You’d have limited choices three decades ago to find a vehicle sporting 300 horsepower or more in as-delivered condition, whereas today’s 2020 models will boast that power rating in some four- and six-cylinder models. But all too often, the focus on power and creating more of it can cause enthusiasts to skip over the safety aspect of both street and track driving. Modern cars have better brakes, suspension, and air bags that as crash tests have proven, put them miles ahead of the muscle cars that spearheaded the movement over half a century ago.
In the drag racing world, the NHRA and IHRA sanctioning bodies take safety to the next level by combining their resources with the SFI Foundation, examining elapsed times and speeds with car designs, and determining when safety items like battery cutoff switches, roll cages, protective clothing, and advanced driver licenses must be required. As speed increases, so does the required list of safety equipment, and both the NHRA and IHRA require a single parachute at 150 miles-per-hour speeds on the quarter-mile distance. Even though the eighth-mile standard is becoming more popular, having upgraded safety equipment is never a bad idea.
When Boulevard Boost, our supercharged big-block Chevrolet engine project, got an upgrade to Procharger’s then-new D-1X unit in 2017, we made the jump from 140mph trap speeds to the speeds that get you a stern look from the track’s tech department, along with the ”you know you should have a parachute” reminder. With multiple options for parachutes, as well as the required mounts and accessories to control it from the driver’s seat, we did some homework on what would work best. After a few days of work, we decided to contact Stroud Safety to acquire one of the company’s parachutes.
Created from the ground up as a specific drag racing parachute, the Stroud Safety chute design allows the chute to open with a softer hit, as well as do so more reliably from pass to pass. Combined with a new rip-stop fabric that combats tearing and abrasions, and a bag that makes packing the parachute easier, it should last us for many seasons of racing. Since the ’70 Chevrolet Nova we are installing the parachute on doesn’t have a compressed air or CO2 system, we opted for a spring launcher design.
To get the parachute in the right spot, we turned to Rhodes Race Cars for one of the company’s single parachute mounting kits, plus a cable and handle kit. With goodies in hand, we made the short trip to Rollins Automotive Speed and Custom, where Jason Rollins got our parachute done in short order. Follow along for all the photos and details, including some high-speed testing shots from Gainesville Raceway.