A 60-Year History of Drag Racing’s Attempt to Harness the Wind
You’re traveling through another dimension-a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of atmosphere. It is an invisible dimension strong enough to make a vehicle fly or instantly turn left. Or right. When you launch a dragster through it, the atmosphere can push down, increasing traction, or spin you backward. Since drag racing is as much about punching through the atmosphere as generating power to increase the punch, racers have devised all kinds of ways to help fling a dragster through it more effortlessly. Many of their efforts are things of beauty.
Streamlining a dragster has been a pursuit forever, from using a flat, wooden board to artful bodies for air to flow over their surfaces like stroking a cat’s back. The downside has mostly been twofold: the beautiful bodies and structure necessary to support them add weight, and the seat-of-the-pants guessing game as to how the atmosphere will react has caused some scary moments-and sometimes much worse.
The streamline trend has died and come back more than a couple times as ideas, materials, and the need for speed have compelled builders to risk finding the magic. The trend really took hold in 1964, and by 1970 a new twist was the “wedge” dragster. Disappointing times-and, in most cases, spooky handling-gave builders and drivers second thoughts, killing the wedge idea.
We’ve assembled 40 examples-a thorough, though not complete-assemblage of many of the streamline dragsters that have come and gone to prove how imaginative, desperate, and resourceful drag racers have been trying to find the other side of the Twilight Zone.
Glass Slipper: 1957
Built by Ed and Roy Cortopassi from northern California, with workmanship on a par with the era’s nicest show cars, winning the title “America’s Most Beautiful Competition Car” at the 1957 Oakland Roadster Show. With an unblown small-block Chevy, it ran 168.85 mph in the standing kilometer at the FIA International Acceleration Records held at Riverside’s March Air Force Base in 1958. Later that year, it caught fire and was not seen until 1960, featuring a GMC blower with Hilborn injection. In this guise, it ran a best of 8.93 at 172 mph at Lodi and Vacaville in California. Retired a year later, it was restored in the 1990s.
Mickey Thompson Panorama City Special: 1955
Appearing at the first NHRA Nationals in 1955 at Great Bend, Kansas, Mickey Thompson’s dragster is thought to be the archetype for the slingshot chassis configuration. At a 97-inch wheelbase, it featured a complete body with enclosed cockpit and rear tires. In this image, the front bodywork is removed. At Great Bend it ran 142 mph when competition was just shy of the 150-mph mark. Later that year it went 151.26 mph, becoming the first single-engine dragster to top 150 mph.
Tognotti Goldfinger/Bushwacker: 1964
A NorCal effort to promote Tognotti’s Speed Shop in Sacramento, the 156-inch chassis was built by Pete Ogden with an aluminum body by Arnie Roberts. Christened originally as “Goldfinger,” it made its first appearance at the 1964 March Meet. With a Hemi built by Ron Welty and shoed by Lyle Kelly, low-8s at 196-plus mph were its early numbers. In 1965 Don Honstein repainted the body, then known as the “Bushwacker.” It ran at three March Meets and local tracks campaigned by Welty before being sold. It resurfaced in Oklahoma in the 2000s and was restored in 2006.
Mickey Thompson, Fritz Voigt Dragster: 1958
Originally intended for the quarter-mile, an impromptu stop at Bonneville during Speed Week resulted in Thompson and Voigt temporarily abandoning their drag-racing intentions to instead capitalize on the dragster’s off-the-trailer first run of 242 mph on the salt. Later that week Thompson hit a one-way best of 294.117, breaking a connecting rod during his backup attempt. The front 392 Hemi was placed backward powering the front axle, while the rear 392 was in a traditional configuration, powering the rear axle. Lessons learned on this car resulted in the four-engine “Challenger I” Bonneville car. Thompson did extensive tests with this dragster at Lions Drag Strip, which he built and operated. Hitting 149.50 mph in the high-9s sans body, the twin was slower than contemporary slingshots hitting mid-9s.
T.V. Tommy Ivo Videoliner: 1965
Another beautiful Steve Swaja design, Frank Huzar built the chassis and Bob Sorrell pounded out the aluminum body. This was the car Ivo planned on barnstorming around the country for 1965. Testing at Fremont, Ivo said the Videoliner wanted to swap ends in the lights, calling it a “reverse teardrop.” Besides handling woes, exhaust and burnt rubber channeled into the cockpit caused vision and breathing problems. Initially Ivo cut holes in the body above the slicks and vented the exhaust into the wheelwells, but pressure blew holes in the body panels. Yikes! Some of the body’s rear was sawed off, scalloping the fenders in an attempt to lessen the spooky handling. A best of 7.82 e.t. at 199 mph was achieved, but Ivo never sorted out the car’s evil handing, pulling the engine to use for the more conventional “Red Wing” dragster he soon built to replace the doomed ‘liner.
El Tigre/Shadoff Special: 1966
A repurposed Bonneville streamliner owned by Mal Hooper with a chassis by Carl Fleishmann and fiberglass body designed by Dean Batchelor, “El Tigre” was originally built in 1953 and raced as the “Shadoff Special,” setting 15 FIA International records between 1953 and 1960 with a best speed of 273.68 in 1960. By 1966 it was reconfigured as a mid-engine dragster by Ted Worobieff with Don Rackemann at the wheel.
Herm Petersen-Sam Fitz Can-Am Dragster: 1974
After a horrific 1973 crash at Orange County, Herm Petersen came back with his Can-Am Top Fuel dragster for 1974. A Woody chassis hid beneath the innovative blue-anodized body, running a Donovan 392ci Hemi when most had switched to the 426ci elephant. Mid-6-second times were far off of the low-6-second qualifying times needed. It only ran 19 times, the last run being at the 1974 Northwest National Open shoed by Harlan Thompson. Petersen claimed the body’s 200 extra pounds caused the disappointing times, as he otherwise praised handling and general car feel. He sold it and went back to a conventional Top Fuel dragster, winning Division 6 for 1974. In the 1980s he found the Can-Am car and restored it. The dragster can be seen at Garlits’ museum in Ocala, Florida.
Scrima, Bacilek, Milodon Scrimaliner: 1964
Designed by Ronnie Scrima, he built the “Scrimaliner” with George Bacilek, while Bob Sorrell made the aluminum body. Don Alderson of Milodon built the blown 392 Chrysler. The idea for the exposed engine was in case of an engine fire or blower explosion the shrapnel wouldn’t be trapped inside of the metalflake red body, possibly injuring the driver. Built stout for running rougher eastern tracks, the car weighted 1,600 pounds, making it one of the heavier dragsters at that time. It debuted at Lions in August 1964 with Roy “Goober” Tuller driving. With a best of 8.14 e.t. at 202 mph, Scrima attributed its good numbers compared to other ‘liners to the long tail and stiffer frame. Later Pat Foster got some seat time.
Lisa and Rossi Flying Doorstop: 1972
Built by Roy Fjastad at his Speed Products Engineering (SPE) shop with a Tom Hanna aluminum body, Fjastad hoped the inverted bellypan would create downforce for better traction while the body would push the dragster effortlessly through the wind. An in-house experiment, when Fred Farndon saw the car under construction, he purchased it. Just as quickly it was sold to Vince Rossi and money buddy Tommy Lisa. It set a series of records both by Billy Tidwell at Lions and Danny Ongais at the 1972 Supernationals with a 243.24-mph run and the first 5-second pass at Lions, which some dispute. When Rossi got out of racing in 1974, the car was sold and has not been seen, though rumors indicate it’s alive in Texas.
Gary Ormsby’s Castrol GTX Streamliner: 1986
Penske Racing’s lead engineer in the 1980s was Nigel Bennett, who drew some bar-napkin sketches for Ormsby crew chief Lee Beard. Beard took these crude “plans” to Pete Swingler to enter into a computer and simulate wind-tunnel tests. Eloisa Garza used vacuum forming to create the carbon-fiber and Kevlar composite body, resulting in a 130-pound body, much more lightweight than aluminum or fiberglass. In some respects the body resembled an elongated Indycar body. Early testing revealed chassis torque caused body contact to chassis and engine components, with the potential for damage. Debuting at the 1987 Winternationals, enough body problems existed that, in a last ditch effort to qualify, the body was removed and a disappointing 6.47 e.t. at 152.54 mph result was too slow to make the show. Continual problems, including headers burning the body and other technical gremlins, plagued the Top Fuel effort. Wanting to run sans body as the season progressed, part of Ormsby’s Castrol sponsorship required the full body emblazoned with the Castrol GTX billboard, so the body remained. The dragster’s best run was 263 mph when Garlits was hitting 275 mph.
Jocko Streamliner: 1958
Jocko Johnson’s rear-engine dragster debuted in July 1958 to mixed results. Then in May 1959 the Chrysler Hemi-powered streamliner started setting records, though this could also be attributed to his courage to tip the nitro can more-first at 60 percent, then 75 percent-running 8.80 e.t.’s when the fastest fuelers were in the mid-8s. Downforce shattered the fiberglass body soon after hitting 175 mph. Reproducing the body in aluminum (and with Allison V12 power this time), it was never faster than 175 mph, which Jocko attributed to the 3,200-pound weight. In the early 1970s the body returned for a short period campaigned by Garlits on one of his dragster chassis. He got spooked by its handling and handed the wheel to other drivers before soon abandoning it.
Breedlove Spirit II: 1964
Built by Craig Breedlove and Nye Frank, with aluminum bodywork by Indycar builder Quin Epperly, “Spirit II” debuted at the 1964 HOT ROD Magazine Championships. This was a busy time for Breedlove to be putting efforts into a dragster when he was also embarking on a land-speed-record car. Notable for its covered front wheel “pants,” the theory espoused that besides streamlining for an additional 10 mph by cutting drag generated behind conventional open front wheels, this would aid in steering at high speeds. Why you would need that in straight-line racing escapes us now. The beautifully built ‘liner ran 8.50 at 185 mph. Landing on the show circuit for a time, it now resides at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida.
Tony Nancy Gas Dragster: 1963
Tony Nancy’s AA/Gas “Wedge I” and similar “Wedge II” were penned by Steve Swaja, with Wayne Ewing and Emil Deidt pounding out the aluminum body over the RCS chassis. Powered by a wedge-head, 428ci Plymouth, Wedge I was said to “twitch” during runs. It flipped in the eyes in July 1964 at Sandusky, Ohio, doing an endo at more than 200 mph. Nancy was unhurt and concluded along with Swaja that pressure created by the slicks trapped air, lifting the rear of the dragster and flipping it. For Wedge II, elongated slots were added to the body above the slicks to aid air escaping-and the wheelbase was lengthened. Power came first from another stroked Plymouth wedge, then a blown Chrysler Hemi, and finally a blown Olds. At Monza in Italy Nancy set a record of 195 mph in 400-meter acceleration runs. He brought it back to the U.S., stored it, and built a conventional Top Fuel slingshot. Years later, he restored Wedge II.
Logghe-Steffey-Rupp/Logghe-Marsh-Rupp Dragster: 1964
The Logghe brothers’ unblown Chevy ‘liner made its maiden run at the NHRA Nationals in September 1964. Though it ran a respectable 8.10 e.t., driver Maynard Rupp fought spooky handling through the quarter-mile from the 1,000-pound, 136-inch wheelbase slingshot. Replacing the fuel Chevy with a Chrysler Hemi, times decreased to 7.93 at 191 mph, but handling remained scary. Determining low-pressure areas existed alongside of the fiberglass body, this explained the dragster’s habit of sudden lane changes without warning. Yeow! Soon it was retired and survives today at the Gartlis museum.
George Schreiber’s Yellow Fang: 1966
Schreiber had Jim Davis build a 153-inch dragster chassis in 1963, but Schreiber was down on bucks. At nights he worked at Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s, helping with fabrication that included Roth’s show cars. Over the years Roth workers threw loose change on the roof of a storage room, and it eventually collapsed from the weight. Knowing he needed money, Roth gave Schreiber all of the change and directed him to hit up Mickey Thompson for parts in exchange for the money he owed Roth for printing Thompson promotional T-shirts. This must have been enough because Schreiber contacted designer Steve Swaja, who came up with the basic design. Schreiber and Roth then tweaked it in a clay model they gave to Tom Hanna, who built the body-estimated to have cost $5,000. Roth painted it Diamond T Truck Yellow, christening it “Yellow Fang.” Bill Demerest built the 0.030-over 392 Chrysler, but soon Schreiber took over wrenching chores. Problems with the enclosed canopy in Connie Swingle’s shakedown runs resulted in removing the windshield, after which Schreiber piloted the Fang. Seeing an overseas campaign in Australia and a U.S. barnstorming tour in 1967 and 1968, Fang survives restored to its 1966 glory at the Garlits museum.
Pulsator Twin Engine Dragster: 1965
Built by Nye Frank, who had a hand in a number of streamline dragster and race-car builds, “Pulsator” was a copy of his Freight Train Top Gas dragster, but with a fiberglass body. Both were driven by Bob Muravez, aka Floyd Lippencott Jr. Two 900hp, 327ci Chevy engines stroked to 364 ci on nitro powered Pulsator, tied by a sprocket at the back of the front engine and another at the front of the rear, wrapped with a chain. Inexplicable problems arose. Swapping engines front to back and to the front again, the rear engine would always exhibit extremely poor performance. On the dyno, each engine ran 900 hp, but tied together, they put out a combined 950 hp. Single-engine Top Fuel dragsters were hitting 1,500 hp, so no aerodynamic advantage could overcome the mysterious 600hp deficit. Interference between the two magnetos and other theories were put forth and solutions tried, with no effect on the performance dilemma. Finally, Nye threw in the towel. The chassis hangs from Muravez’s garage rafters today, while the body found a second life as the “Ice Kutter” snowmobile dragster show car by George Barris.
Hank Vincent Top Banana Fueler: 1958
Over a period of five years, the team of Santos-Vincent-Govia campaigned Frank Vincent’s “Top Banana” B/ and C/Fuel dragster to national records in both classes. Hailing from Hayward, California, the red beauty was a staple at NorCal dragstrips running an Algon-injected small-block. It was considered so beautiful that it graced the October 1958 cover of Rod & Custom magazine. In May 1960 at Baylands in Fremont, California, Vincent was running through the eyes when the dragster veered off the track, launching into a 170-mph barrel roll. Vincent was impaled by the pushbar, killing him instantly, with witnesses saying he never lifted.
Hatfiled Brothers A/F Modified Roadster: 1964
Streamlining caught up with Modifieds, too. The Hatfiled brothers were building this 180-inch wheelbase Modified Roadster while helping on Manuel Gonzales’ “Californian” small-block dragster. Inspired by Holly Hedrich’s Speed Sport roadster, it was finished in November 1964. Unfortunately, it crashed in early 1965 at Lions, making images of it kind of rare. According to Doyle Hatfiled, the brothers decided not to rebuild.
Super Mustang: 1967
This “off-the-books” Ford effort was shoehorned into its drag-racing plans while taking a break in 1967 to pursue the Cobra Jet program debuting the next year. With a Logghe chassis running an injected Ford SOHC built by Tom Marsh and Connie Kalitta, an automatic transmission, independent rear end (that driver Tom McEwen said was merely a Jaguar unit), and a Ford-designed, wind-tunnel-tested body, it debuted at the 1967 NHRA Winternationals. With an incredibly tight cockpit and canopy that squashed driver Tom McEwen’s head, it was an uncomfortable ride at best. Times were never good, running mid-8s at 180 mph when dragsters ran in the low-7s in the 220-mph range. Running only a few events, the dragster was never sorted out and was unceremoniously parked after six months of runs. It was restored in the 2000s and sold at auction a few years ago for more than $150,000.
Prudhomme Flying Wedge: 1971
A body built by Quin Epperly and Nye Frank covered a 220-inch John Buttera chassis for Don Prudhomme’s 1971 Top Fueler. Its first win was Best Engineered Car in its maiden appearance at the Springnationals in Dallas, but it qualified only 17th. Initially the exhaust ran through the top of the body, so an early fix was Funny Car weed burners as it was thought the exhaust disrupted airflow over the body. With a best of 6.41 e.t., by the Summernationals Prudhomme and crew chief Bob Brandt decided to run without the body. This was futile as the chassis was still heavier than conventional dragsters. Soon after Prudhomme replaced the “Flying Wedge” with a superlight 1,200-pound Kent Fuller dragster, which hit 6.17 at the 1972 Grand American at Lions, permanently ending any chance Prudhomme would continue with the Wedge. The dragster’s enduring legacy may be its rendition as a Hot Wheels toy.
Leland Kolb “Polish Lotus” Wedge: 1971
Yet another wedge attempt was Leland Kolb’s Top Fuel dragster. The theory behind wedge dragsters was that by covering the slicks, dirty air disturbed around the slicks would be cleaned up, with a bonus that the body acts as a huge spoiler for added downforce and translating into better traction. Kolb was all-in with a Woody chassis and aluminum body by Nye Frank. Kolb had some success with his wedge, including getting into the quarterfinals at the Indy Nationals in 1971.
Masters Auto Supply Dragliner: 1956
Sponsored by Masters Auto Supply, this was the first joint effort by Jim Nelson and Dode Martin, later to join forces to be known as Dragmaster-with Jim’s brother Tom building engines. The Dragmaster name originated from this C/Gas dragster. The successful Fallbrook, California, shop built hundreds of dragster chassis over the years. Built in 1956 with a Ford flathead, that engine soon gave way to a Chevy small-block the next year. The gold body and nose are fiberglass, from plaster molds made by Dode. At the 1957 NHRA Nationals, it won Best Engineered. Returning in 1958, it won C Dragster Top Eliminator. Sold to fund other Dragmaster efforts, it eventually disappeared, but Dode built a recreation in 2010.
Roger Lindwall Re-Entry: 1966
Roger Lindwall’s Illinois-based “Re-Entry” was based on his experiences racing hydroplanes. With a mid-engine, 392ci Hemi enclosed within the swoopy aluminum body, it appeared to be a well-sorted dragster. Making its debut at the 1966 World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova Dragway in Illinois, Re-Entry hit 200 mph, which is considered the first 200-mph run for a mid/rear-engine dragster. The next week at Indy, driver Wayne Hill won a single round of eliminations before crashing. A 201.34-mph time was recorded as it tumbled through the lights with a 9.52. It was not rebuilt, and Lindwall did not return to drag racing.
Harry Lehman’s American Way: 1971
The 220-inch “American Way” streamliner was the brainchild of Harry Lehman from Fairfax, Virginia, back in 1971, with a chassis by Byron Blair and Tom Hanna aluminum body that included a full bellypan, at a purported cost of $25,000. A 392 Hemi with a 6-71 blower and Enderle injection combined with a direct-drive Lenco transmission to power American Way. After testing, Lehman switched to an aluminum 417 Donovan with a two-speed Lenco and lengthened the chassis to 235 inches. In the early days of corporate sponsorship, Lehman snagged some U.S. Navy Recruiting Command dough, becoming the “Go Navy” car, while Don Garlit’s dragster was the “Fly Navy” car under a similar arrangement. It ran a best of 232 mph at the 1973 Englishtown Summernationals. At Maple Grove in 1974, driver Chuck Turner hit a dip in the traps, lost control, and collided with Jim and Allison Lee’s Fueler, causing major damage to both. Neither Turner nor Tom Raley in the Lee car was hurt. The Lees rebuilt, but it was the end for both Lehman’s and American Way’s racing exploits.
Gary MacArthur Dragster: 1958
No, this is not the Top Banana dragster. This is Gary MacArthur’s 1958 rail from Oakland, California. Gary was a brave soul to buckle up inside that enclosed pill bottle of a dragster. Running an Algon-injected Olds, the aluminum body was the work of the Bay Area’s Jack Hagemann. It won the Oakland Roadster Show’s “Most Beautiful Competition Car” in 1960. MacArthur ran the dragster in the Bay area, and later converted it to a 4-71 blown small-block Chevy with zoomies. According to longtime NorCal drag racer Denny Forsberg, MacArthur is still around.
Shoed by both Dwight Salisbury and Roger Gates, the “Quicksilver” dragster was built by John Glaspey and Jim Moser in their Van Nuys, California, shop in 1972. Its Top Fuel dragster guise was fleeting due to a series of mechanical issues. It resurfaced in 1973 as the Boraxo Top Alcohol dragster, with a best of 7.19 at just shy of 200 mph.
Slam’n Sammy Miller Wedge: 1974
Slam’n Sammy was known primarily for his series of Funny Cars in the 1970s, his Vega Funny “Vanishing Point” rocket car in the 1980s, and the hydrogen-peroxide-fueled “Oxygen” ice dragster with a best of 247.78 mph in 500 feet in 1.6 seconds. Yeow! Supposedly fed up with Funny Car fires, he decided to try a wedge dragster in 1974. S&W Race Cars in Spring City, Pennsylvania, built the chassis with the unusual forward-mounted, mid-engine location. Sammy ran the car for the entire 1974 season with mixed results.
Kenney Goodell “Wynns Stormer” Wedge: 1972
“Action Man” Kenney Goodell ran his purple wedge dragster and his Funny Car at the same time in 1972. The “Wynns Stormer” featured a Woody chassis, contrary to some who say it was built by John Buttera. It is believed both the Prudhomme wedge and Goodell’s were built at Gilmore’s shop, but Buttera was working there, possibly causing the confusion. The wedge ran mostly in the 6.67 range for the quarter, which was about what Goodell ran with his Funny. It is believed at some point Goodell moved the exhaust to weed burners in an attempt to help manage airflow, with mixed results.
Chuck Tanko’s National Speed Products Researcher: 1971
The National Speed Products Researcher 1971 dragster was the product of Chuck Tanko, shoed by veteran driver Kenny Ellis, who also built the aluminum body. Seen here in March 1971, it was running at the same time that Garlits’ rear-engine car debuted. At a 254-inch wheelbase, the Race Car Specialties chassis was considered quite long for the time. In shakedown runs, it went 7.20 at 210 mph. With injected 465ci Hemis on gas, it qualified at the last NHRA Top Gas race ever held: the 1971 Supernationals in Ontario, California.
Dan Olson’s Wedge: 1972
A seldom-seen wedge also from Woody Gilmore was the Dan Olson Racing Products dragster out of NorCal. Driven by Rance McDaniel, after running a few events in 1972, the body came off and it picked up more than a tenth in the quarter. That was the end of the body.
Larry Shinoda “American Dragster” Concept: 1969
It seems that making the slingshot more aerodynamic tickled more than just hard-core drag racers. Larry Shinoda, credited with bringing the Chevy Stingray to production and conceiving the Boss Mustangs in his short time at Ford, started Rectrans with Simon Bunkie Knudsen after both were fired from Ford in 1968. Rectrans is known for the swoopy RV they manufactured-designed by Shinoda. Little is known about this dragster concept, but it was created during Shinoda’s time at Rectrans. Rectrans was experimenting with composites and plastics, and the RV’s body was a fiberglass composite. Of course, Shinoda raced cut-down roadsters in Los Angeles before and after WWII, so drag racing was always near and dear. We can only wonder what might have been had this become reality.
Tony Nancy T/F Dragster: 1971
At first glance, this looks like a typical full-body Top Fuel dragster, but note the cool rear winglet that, along with canards added later, were desperate attempts to help the front-engine dragster stay competitive against the rear-engine onslaught. This dragster was restored by Nancy years ago, so the next time it makes an appearance, check out the neat rear winglet.
Al Bergler’s More Aggravation III: 1966
With sponsorship from Gratiot Auto in Detroit, Al Bergler’s “More Aggravation III” was the product of Al and the Logghe Bros. dragster and Funny Car factory (also in Detroit). Bergler was the tin man for the operation, forming the inner tin for Funny Cars and shaping assorted dragster bodies over the years. This was his own car, featuring a 1923 Model T body and a 484ci Hemi on gas and direct drive, running in the AA/Comp Dragster class, with a best of 7.80 e.t. at 190 mph. At the 1967 NHRA Winternationals, Bergler won both his class and also Best Appearing Car honors. If you know where it is, Al is currently looking for it.
Barry Setzer Monocoque Streamliner: 1972
When chassis builder John Buttera hired Louie Teckenoff for aluminum fabrication in 1972, the two brainstormed on a monocoque dragster. Teckenoff had monocoque-building experience, so together they constructed this dragster from 0.050-inch magnesium sheets assembled with adhesives and more than 5,000 rivets. Build time was six months, as this was a shop project with no customer money behind it. With three internal bulkheads and high-density foam between the inner and outer body skins, the blown Hemi-powered machine was rigid. Nye Frank created both the front and rear wings, and the car was then sold to Barry Setzer for $15,000. What happened next is debated. During a test run at Orange County International Raceway with Pat Foster driving, the dragster did a scary wheelstand and munched itself landing. It was repaired, with some saying Buttera repositioned the engine forward to help launching manners, with eyewitnesses reporting that at three-quarter track things got real scary. After more adjustments, it was then reported the car wanted to fly. Others say it was repaired but never saw another track. Either way it sounds like a spook show. It now resides in the Garlits museum.
Jimmy Ige’s Sons of the Rising Sun Dragster: 1971
Culver City, California’s Jimmy Ige is more commonly known as a Jr. Fuel racer, but in late-1971 and into 1972, he drove this SPE dragster in Top Fuel called “Sons of the Rising Sun.” Looking similar to Chuck Tanko’s dragster, Ige switched it over to run in Pro Comp within a year
Kent Fuller Sidewinder III: 1969
There have been a number of “sidewinder” dragsters built over the years, including Jack Chrisman’s “Magwinder” and this Kent Fuller–built Sidewinder III of Hopkins, Thornhill, and Finicle, which is a lengthened version of the Magwinder. Seen here in 1971, the dragster featured a magnesium tube chassis at 123 inches and ran a blown 350ci Chevy in BB/GD. Chrisman also tried his hand at sidewinding a Mustang Funny Car in 1971, selling it to become the “Night Stalker,” which is the first Funny Car John Force drove.
Stan Johnson’s C Gas/Modified Silver Bullet: 1964
Johnson built this Modified in his Wisconsin garage, starting with a Lakewood chassis, opting for the then-new 273ci Dodge for power. He wanted mechanical injection, but with none available for the small block Mopar, he made his own. The handmade body is a combination of fiberglass and aluminum, and features wheel fairings covering the slicks and a canopy built into the tonneau cover. The “Silver Bullet” held the Drag News record for C/Modified at 142 mph, but Johnson would occasionally add nitro, upping the speeds to 162 mph. The car was sold and separated decades ago, but Johnson was able to get everything back and restored the Bullet to its 1965 glory in 2013.
Mooneyham-Ferguson-Jackson-Faust Dragster: 1965
This fiberglass body designed and built by Jocko Johnson actually ran on two completely different dragsters with the same results. Debuting at the 1965 March Meet as the Chrisman and Cannon “Hustler VI” on a Woody chassis, the team removed the body after weak passes. The next day on a checkout pass, the body-less dragster was destroyed. Johnson then talked the “Jungle Four” team of Gene Mooneyham, Wayne Ferguson, Jerry Jackson, and driver “Jungle Larry” Faust into giving the body a shot on their 354ci Chrysler-powered Woody chassis that just came off of a 7.53-e.t., 200-mph record run in A/FD. At Lions for test sessions Faust experienced extreme steering problems, smashing into the eyes and causing damage to the nose. Johnson made repairs overnight and the Jungle Four team was back at San Fernando, where the same thing happened on the first pass, causing the dragster to veer off the track. The team supposedly hired a NASA aerodynamicist, who concluded there was so much downforce on the covered front tires that steering could not overcome the pressure, rendering the car unsteerable. Its best time was 8.20 at 197.80 mph. The dragster survives today at the Garlits Museum.
Jack Williams-Ron Lowe Syndicate Scuderia Dragster: 1963
Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, the team of Williams-Devine-McDougall took Williams’ old dragster and reconstructed it into the “Scuderia” Gas dragster. With a blue Lexan canopy matching the metalflake blue aluminum body, it ran a 404ci Chrysler Hemi with a Potvin front-drive blower and in-and-out box. With Devine and McDougall out and Ron Lowe in, the two hauled the dragster to the 1963 Winternationals in Pomona, where an early record run of 8.83 at 169.17 could not be bested after mechanical gremlins killed the dragster’s chances. Still, it won a “Best Appearing” trophy. Later at Arlington it set a Top Gas record of 162.22. Retired in 1967, Williams dusted it off and participated in 1980s West Coast nostalgia meets; he crashed at Fremont, sustaining serious injuries. Undaunted, Williams repaired and restored the dragster in the early 1990s and celebrated his 70th birthday with a hammer-down pass at Sechelt, British Columbia, in Canada.
Bob Ellic Dragster: 1955
Even in drag racing’s earliest days, racers knew streamlining would help lower elapsed times. This 1955 shot of Bob Ellic’s dragster from Omaha, Nebraska, records his attempt at streamlining with a nose and bodywork, such as it was, covering the flathead Merc engine for better airflow. Weight for this dragster came in at 1,475 pounds.
Joe Amato Aero Experiments: 1991
Veteran Top Fuel champ Joe Amato experimented with a number of wings and things throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He introduced the tall, laid-back wing that almost immediately became the standard Top Fuel wing in 1984. In 1991 he tried this short wing/pod/tunnel experiment. A tunnel was fashioned between the slicks, while the canard-like appendage combined with the pods directed airflow over the slicks, sucking the car down at the same time. Amato tried this at a couple tracks, including here at Pomona in 1991, with the dragster running in the 5-0s. He used this setup with a wider wing-and no wing on one pass. Kenny Bernstein had a similar side-pod setup around this time, too. Amato’s ground effects Fueler ended up in Australia, where it was run both with and without the aero. It was eventually involved in a bad crash in Sydney, with Wayne Missingham luckily walking away from the carnage.
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