The very name of these cars indicates small, and that's exactly what these Dwarf cars are. Actually, they are 5/8-scale models of '28-'48 vintage American Stock cars, both in coupe and sedan, and even pickup styles. And more recently, sub-scale modified-bodied Dwarf cars called Mod Lites have been developed.

Dwarf car racing is popular across the U.S., with both dirt and pavement racing. There is, however, no formal national sanctioning body for the cars, so rules vary slightly in different locations. The biggest rule differences occur in the engines, but for the most part, the cars are standard everywhere.

These are sturdy little haulers with steel rollcages and frames, along with heavy sheetmetal bodies. A complete five-point racing belt system and approved helmet and fire suit are always required. Even with their ultra-compact sizes, these cars are safe to race. There are currently about a dozen car builders.

Dwarf cars started in the late '70s in Arizona. Executive Editor Glen Grissom recalls seeing them race in the mid-'80s in southern New Mexico and Arizona, when they were typically the support class to Street Stocks, and Late Models were the featured show. They were quite a novelty at the time, but passed from that stage rather quickly.

In 1987 two Phoenix area Dwarf car builders, John Cain and John Proctor, started the Dwarf Car Company, which was the first national Dwarf car manufacturer. Cain also established the first official sanctioning body for Dwarf cars, Dwarf Car U.S.A. The little cars spread across the U.S. and even appeared on ESPN's Saturday Night Thunder.


We're talking motorcycle power, the most popular engines being Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Honda engines, with capabilities of up to the 200hp range. The engines range in size from 1,000 to 1,250 cc and are both air- and water-cooled, depending on the manufacturer. Also, both gasoline and alcohol are used for fuel.

Dwarf cars are different in that they do not use a typical chaindrive powertrain (although the first ones did), but instead contain a normal automotive-style powertrain setup with a five/six-speed motorcycle transmission, and a modified Toyota automotive rearend.

These little hummers also sport a racing-style suspension system, which consists of coilover shocks on all four corners and a three-link rear setup, which enables 100-mph capability on the straightaways of some longer tracks.

These racers provide valuable setup experience for the beginning racer. One might be surprised to learn that at many of the smaller tracks, the Dwarfs run as fast as the headline classes.

NOT Legend Cars

Before going further, it must be noted that these Dwarf cars are not to be confused with the other type of small vintage Stock cars: the Legend cars. There are many similarities between the two types, but the major difference is external, where the Legend cars have the stock-style fenders, omitted on the Dwarfs, and the Legend bodies are fabricated of fiberglass.

You might conclude that the Dwarfs have an appearance more like that of an early Modified-type race car. As you can see by looking at the overall Dwarf chassis design, it is truly an open-wheel racing machine. But large nerf bars between the front and rear wheels, and a large rear tube bumper help prevent jumping-the-tire-type accidents.

Dwarf cars use hard-compound, 13-inch diameter x 8-inch-wide tires (or in some cases even street tires) and normally run on oval tracks that are 1/5 to 3/8 miles in length. The tires last a long time rolling under these 1,000-pound (without driver) machines. Put the driver in the seat, and the minimum weight goes up to about 1,240 pounds. The wheelbase has to be 73 inches, with the maximum width being 60 inches.

With only slight changes, the same car can be modified to run on either dirt or pavement. The change normally involves not much more than changing the tires and making suspension tweaks. This is certainly a more economical situation than other types of racing that require two different cars for dirt and pavement racing.

For many drivers, this is an excellent second step on the way up to full-size race cars. Many Dwarf car drivers come from the Kart ranks. As Karts have no suspension systems, these cars provide a valuable learning tool for mastering chassis technology and how to tune it. For other drivers, this is their first experience with racing, many having watched the cars from the stands and then deciding to give them a try.

Cost Advantage

A huge advantage of Dwarf car racing is that it's high-performance racing on the cheap. In a racing world of spiraling upward costs, this type of racing is still within the reach of most.

A new car, minus the engine, can be acquired for about $6,500 and up. But if that's a little steep for you, a used roller can be bought for $3,000-$5,000. New engines can cost in the $2,000-$3,000 category, while used engines can be acquired for one-third to half that of a new engine.

A minimal amount of tools are required, but recall that you'll need both metric (engines) and regular (cars) sets. Hauling these cars is an economical situation, requiring a small trailer, one that a small vehicle can pull.

More Info

The Western States Dwarf Car Association (WSDCA), which oversees a number of western Dwarf car groups, is one organizing body. In the Eastern U.S., there is the Team USA organization. At and, there is a wealth of information on the subject. The Dwarf Car Company (602/495-9341) can also provide technical assistance. In addition, the Internet can be of help in locating Dwarf car tracks in your state. Finally, there is a pure Dwarf car magazine, Final Lap, which can be ordered by calling Jim Brunner at 615/217-9799.

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