NHRA Pro Stock icon Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, a master of the internal combustion engine and a legend among the Chevrolet faithful, died March 29. He was 81.
Jenkins, voted No. 8 among NHRA Drag Racing's greatest racers in a 2001 experts poll, scored just 13 NHRA national event wins but earned his well-deserved spot in drag racing's top 10 because no other individual has contributed more to the advancement of normally aspirated engines for drag racing competition than the legendary "Grump."
“Everyone at NHRA is saddened by the passing of Bill ‘Grumpy’ Jenkins, not only a pioneer in the sport, but also an iconic figure in NHRA Pro Stock racing,” said NHRA President Tom Compton. “He was there from the beginning, playing an integral role in the formation of Pro Stock, and remained involved in NHRA for decades. His presence and trademark gruff exterior and cigar will be missed but never forgotten at the starting line at NHRA Full Throttle events.”
Jenkins always took greater pride in his mechanical achievements than in his driving. Among his innovations are drag racing's first dry-sump oiling system, the first kickout oil pans and Pro Stock strut-style front suspension, and gas port pistons, slick-shift manual transmissions, cool cans, and the electric water-pump fan.
Though these accomplishments had long been noted by Jenkins' peers, it was his fielding of the sport's fastest Chevys that caught the attention of fans. When Chevrolet dropped out of racing in early 1963, Chevy owners needed a banner carrier, and Jenkins filled the void. He gained national prominence in 1966 with his 327-cid, 350-horsepower Chevy II that could outrun most of the 426-cid, 425-horsepower Dodge and Plymouth Street Hemis. He exploited the "giant killer" approach in 1972 when he won six of eight national events with his 331-cid small-block Pro Stock Vega.
Jenkins began competing at dragstrips in the late 1950s after studying mechanical engineering at New York's Cornell University. Concentrating primarily on Jr. Stock entries, he became an East Coast cult figure by the mid-1960s after having helped prepare more than 30 cars that set national records. In addition, Jenkins teamed with Dave Strickler to win Little Eliminator at the 1963 Nationals with an A/FX 427 '63 Chevy.
Following Chevrolet's exit from racing, Jenkins and Strickler ran a 1964 Nationals A/FX class-winning '64 Dodge, then Jenkins drove his own S/SA '65 Plymouth Black Arrow to the Stock win at the 1965 Winternationals. The unwillingness of Chrysler officials to meet Jenkins' terms in 1966 prompted Jenkins to campaign a Chevy independently that year.
Jenkins recorded Pro Stock's first nine-second run, a 9.98, at the 1970 Winternationals to defeat the Sox & Martin Plymouth Barracuda for NHRA's first national event Pro Stock title.
Said Jenkins, "I figured that a Chevy could be marketable if it was competitive enough, and I thought I could do the job with the L-79 package [a carbureted, hydraulic-lifter version of the solid lifter Corvette engine] in an A/S Chevy II. It fell into the same class as the Dodge and Plymouth 426-cid Street Hemis, and that looked like a pretty good gimmick at the time."
The "gimmick" worked beyond Jenkins' expectations, and he set a class record of 11.66. Only the Street Hemi driven by Jere Stahl, who held off "the Grump" in the finals of the 1966 Nationals and World Finals, was quicker.
"It was my first serious four-speed car; I used automatics with the Mopars," he said. "We applied a lot of slick-shift technology to the transmissions and made good use of the slapper bar style of traction device originally used by Stahl and Frank Sanders. By the end of the year, I could dump the clutch at 6,000 rpm when most of the other guys had to feather the throttle on the 7-inch tires that we were restricted to."
The Chevy II was the first in the popular series of Grumpy's Toys. Chevrolet's Vince Piggins added Jenkins to his payroll in 1967, though it was vigorously denied. Jenkins more than justified his compensation by driving his new 375-horsepower, 396-cid '67 Camaro in the expanded Super Stock category at the year's biggest race, the Nationals. For an encore, he entered four cars at the 1968 World Finals, scoring one win and two runner-ups.
As it is today, Super Stock was run on a handicap start to accommodate the variety of the day's muscle cars, but Jenkins and cohorts such as Ronnie Sox, Buddy Martin, and Don Nicholson created greater crowd appeal with their heads-up match race cars that were running nines. They proved so popular that NHRA adopted the format for its new Pro Stock category in 1970, and Jenkins began the year with back-to-back wins over Sox at the Winternationals and Gatornationals.
Bill Jenkins' 72 Vega revolutionized the Pro Stock class.
Formal factory backing and the sheer number of entries swung the pendulum to Chrysler's favor, and Jenkins was winless through the remainder of 1970 and all of 1971. Recognizing that the vast number of fans drove Chevrolets, NHRA reconfigured the rules to allow cars with small-block wedge engines to run at a lighter weight break. An untested short-wheelbase Vega that Jenkins built for the 1972 season was held to a subpar 9.90 to qualify a disappointing 17th for the 32-car field at the season-opening Winternationals. Last-minute suspension changes enabled Jenkins to improve to low 9.6s on race day, and he defeated five Chrysler Hemi entries for his most memorable victory.
Jenkins won six of NHRA's eight national events that year, and with his $35,000 win at the Professional Racers Association event in Oklahoma, an increase in manufacturer support, and an expanded match race schedule, Jenkins grossed $250,000 to match NBA star Wilt Chamberlain's salary as the highest paid pro athlete in the country, resulting in coverage in Time magazine, the first time a drag racer had been given mainstream recognition.
Still, Jenkins found reason to grunt, "The Vega cost me about three times as much to build as the first Pro Stock Camaro. I got some self-gratification over making almost 200 runs that year without missing a shift, but I had to hire a guy full time to maintain the transmissions and clutches, and that wasn't cheap."
Though Jenkins' '72 Vega was easily his most successful car, Grumpy's Toy XI, which he built in 1974, had the most lasting influence on Pro Stock chassis design. It was the first car to employ a McPherson strut front-suspension configuration, co-engineered with Roger Lamb, and introduced the first dry-sump oiling system for drag racing. Both innovations remain standard equipment.
Though Chevrolet had not officially participated in racing since 1963, the automaker collaborated with Jenkins in 1967, and "the Grump" rewarded Chevrolet with a Super Stock victory at that year's Nationals.
Jenkins, right, won the 1976 NHRA Pro Stock championship with driver Larry Lombardo. Jenkins' other driver, Ken Dondero, won the AHRA crown.
To spend more time on research and development, Jenkins hired Larry Lombardo and Ken Dondero. Lombardo, who replaced Jenkins in the cockpit at the second race of the 1976 schedule, overcame the initial points deficit to win the NHRA Pro Stock championship, and Dondero claimed the AHRA title.
The Lombardo/Jenkins tandem finished third in 1977 and second in 1978, and Lombardo left the team following a seventh-place effort in 1979. Reduced match race activity forced Jenkins to cut his operation in the early 1980s. He completed his final season as a Pro Stock team owner in 1983.
Jenkins' subsequent limited Pro Stock efforts were highlighted by Joe Lepone's victory at the 1985 Winternationals with a Jenkins engine, but "the Grump's" primary focus was on Comp engines, which helped propel Steve Johns, Bob Kaiser, and Garley Daniels to season titles. Working primarily with splayed-valve, six-cylinder powerplants, Jenkins developed enough technology through the mid-1990s to allow him to capitalize on the creation of the new Pro Stock Truck category in 1998.
Using the same splayed-valve technology on 358-cid small-block V-8s, Jenkins built the engine that Larry Kopp drove to the 1998 national championship and ones for national event winners Johns, Mark Osborne, Tim Freeman, Brad Jeter, Scott Perin, and Don Smith.
Jenkins remained active in engine building through the mid-2000s, involved in several contemporary Pro Stock efforts, most notably with Cagnazzi Racing, Jim Yates Racing, and Dave Northrop.
Jenkins earned many honors, including induction into the Don Garlits International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1993, the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich., in 1996, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2008. He was one of the more prolific honorees in Car Craft Magazine All-star Drag Racing Team balloting since winning three individual titles at the inaugural banquet in 1967.
On making NHRA's top 10, Jenkins briefly shed his gruff exterior in 2001 to say, "Since it seemed that the balloting was heavily weighted toward the more contemporary drivers and I haven't driven in 20 years, I was gratified to make it high on the list. Having so many of the people I've worked with show up at my [70th birthday] party in January meant a lot to me. I've always had a lot of personal satisfaction from the mechanical end of the sport."
FAN REACTIONS (Click to read latest)
Bill Jenkins’ passing is extremely sad to me as he was the one who got me interested in all things doorslammer. He was encouraging to me and a whole generation of racers, both personally and professionally, and when he spoke, it meant something, not a bunch of corporate and commercial crap. Mr. Jenkins will always be in my mind and my heart! Long live the king! -- Jerry Allen Hurd
Great driver. One of the best. -- Marie Cool
The man was a legend. Greatest Chevy builder on record in my book. -- Glenn Foster
I got to meet “Grumpy” on two different occasions, and he truly lived up to my expectations. The heartbeat was always safe with him at the helm. Love you “Grump”; you will be sorely missed. -- Darren Washen
This is a sad loss for Englishtown race fans and Pro Stock fans everywhere. A true pioneer of our sport has left us and will be greatly missed. Godspeed, good friend. -- David Napp, Raceway Park
I hope it won’t be for a while, but I can’t wait to run my old rail at Heaven Dragway. Damn … the company, and the people I’m going to see. So many times I saw you blast down Connecticut Dragway; seems like yesterday. See ya some Sunday down the road, “Grump.” -- Larry Neal
One of the most respected men in the sport. His knowledge of motors was worth the grump he gave. -- Carmine Napolitano
One of the great ones He will be missed I still have most of posters to this day. Put drag racing on map. -- Jim Neal
I have a large amount of vintage drag race film in my library and none better that this clip of Jenkins in his Pro Stock Vega. The burnouts, backups and door open action are classic “Grump.” The Jenkins segment is at the 8:00-minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70dmV6SoVqQ -- Jim Amos
A true pioneer of the sport. Guys like this come around once in a lifetime and we are better off that “Grumpy” was with us along the way. -- Steve Milovich
Another pioneer has left us with a great list of memories and friendship. He will be missed by all that every came in contact with him. RIP “Grumpy.” -- Glen Barrett
You were one of the best. You will be missed, Bill. Rest in peace. -- Chris Marks
I have all of Bill Jenkins’ diecast models displayed above my desk at home along with autographed shirt that he signed for me at the Gatornationals a few years back. I live in Florida but grew up in Long Island N.Y. Every time Bill raced in Englishtown, I was there to watch him. He came to Westhampton Drag Strip in the ‘80s to match race against “Big John” Coutaunt. “Big John” owned and operated the Bethpage Speed Shop in Bethpage, L.I. Bill and Dave Strickler came to the speed shop the day before the match race and did a Chevrolet Clinic. Bill Jenkins was my hero. I raced a 1967 Camaro in Modified Production back in 1970, ‘71 and ‘72. I will greatly miss the legend. -- Bob Davis
My absolute No. 1 Hero of all time in the drag racing world. Simply put: he was the man! Will miss him. -- Paul Munsey
The first day I worked at Raceway Park was in April 1974. The race was called "The Spring Funny Car Bonanza." Besides Funny Cars, Bill Jenkins was there with the Vega. My late father drove me to work and took photos from the grandstand; I have a grainy 8x10 with the Grumpy's Toy in the background; in the foreground was the Black Magic Vega Funny Car. It was a great time to be a kid and one lucky enough to get paid to go to the races. Bill was tough to get to know; I was just a kid with NO mechanical knowledge, but later in life we would talk about Pro Stock and drag racing in general. He is and was what I love about drag racing: taking the technology to the limit. RIP “Grump.” -- Lewis Bloom
Bill Jenkins was my all-time hero in the sport of drag racing. He raised the bar for engine builders like me. He understood every aspect of building a winning car, everything from picking the best class to the body and chassis, engine, transmission, and rear end, not to mention driving. His influence had a profound effect on the way we approached car- and engine-building and what inventive ideas we were lucky enough to know about taught us to think outside the box. I have made motorsports my life and career and I'm grateful for the opportunity to have known Bill and thankful for what he taught us. This coming weekend the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing in York Springs, Pa., is dedicating an expanded drag racing area and Bill was going to one of the guest dignitaries. This will be a trying time for us. I will miss my hero. -- Tony Feil
As most of us knew in the early days of Pro Stock, Bill Jenkins was always on the leading edge of innovation and development. He was a man of few words, but as a low budget Pro Stock racer, sometimes just a few words from him would help me a great deal. Someone once said about him that he was, "the kind of a guy who could haul a ton of hay out of a barn before anyone figured out that he was stealing wheelbarrows." I am very sorry to hear about his passing. I am sure his legend will live on. -- John White
Thoughts and prayers to the Jenkins family, and to “the Grump,” thanks for all the advice and taking time to explain things to me, and, of course, all the technology and innovations you left all of us through your constant R andD and passion for the sport of drag racing! I believe our mentors and heroes never leave us they stand alongside us for eternity. RIP “Grump,” you will be missed. -- Nick Georgitsos
We lost a great talent today; RIP “Grump.” We’ll miss you. -- R. Hackelton
One great person. Got to hang out with him at his race shop and downtown West Chester, Pa., and had one heck of a time, RIP “Grumpy.” – Rodney Gahm
I was lucky enough to see him race at the old Minnesota Dragways back in the ‘70s, and then meet and talk with him through some 1/18 diecast business in the ‘90s, right up until last month (Feb). In fact I just spoke to him the end of last month about shipping him some new product that arrived, and found it odd he only wanted one of each car, preferring a check for the royalty. Now I know why. It’s a sad day for me, for many, and may Bill RIP... he was one of a kind. -- Jim Thoren
Rest in peace, Bill Jenkins. I have been your fan since 1965 when you won Top Stock Eliminator at Pomona with your "Black Arrow" Plymouth. My son and I got a picture with you at Gateway International Dragstrip a few years ago and we have it on our "wall of fame," and it's even more special now. Rest easy “Grump.” We'll never forget you. -- Lou and Michael Kenkel
Bill was like “Jungle” [Jim Liberman] -- they each had their way of looking at the world. Yeah, he could be gruff but that was the way he could get you to leave him alone to think about what was on his mind. He would come over and sit by the pool to get away from the shop and ask Pam in his way, “What have you got to drink?” At his 70 birthday party we had for him I think he was amazed at the turnout. We were friends for 50 years and I will miss going in the back room and shutting off his computer in the middle of his solitaire game. Yes, he was a legend but I’m proud to have had him as a friend. We all will miss him for there was only one “grump.” --Fred Frey, Frantic Ford Racing
RIP Bill. You will be dearly missed in the drag racing world. Your legend lives on!! -- Bob Davis
I followed "Billie" my whole life. I'll never forget in 1974 at New England Dragway when Jenkins was in the staging lanes with the strut-suspension Vega. I contemplated asking all day asking him why he had so much fiberglass and epoxy wrap on the tunnel ran manifold. I was very nervous and finally walked up to him with the question. He stared right at me, almost taking me to my trembling knees and shouted “Because That's The Way We Do It." I think I passed out , and woke up realizing why they called him “Grumpy!” -- Christopher M. Mutti
Bill was an inspiration and one of the major driving forces to find the next level. The “Grump” created a new way of thinking and so often set the standard. Gruff? Sometimes. Thought provoking? Continually. He will be missed. -- Larry Olson
Bill Jenkins was noted for a lot of things but the one I remember most was "his" interpretation of the rule book. R.I.P. Bill Jenkins. – The Kenkels
He will be missed. He used to tune my dad’s Pontiac in 1965, Glad to have meet him in January at a motorsports show. -- Chris Kearns
Sad to hear about “Grump’s” death. He was truly the best thing to happen to Chevrolet and drag racing! ! had the pleasure to see him at Union Grove, Wis.., several times. What a great man, truly a legend in this sport. He will be missed. -- Jeff Kammes
Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins was a man ahead of his time and one of the greatest in the sport. He will be missed by many. I am glad that I had the chance to meet and talk with him over the years. May you Rest in Peace Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins. -- Bill Pewterbaugh
“The Grump” was an inspiration to all of us who marveled at his “Toys” when we were kids, knocking down the Hemis and big-block Fords and Chevys with that 331 was awesome. Heaven just got a whole lot faster people. “Grump,” thanks for the wonderful memories; you will always be alive in our hearts. Godspeed! – Douglas Dupper
Looks like the Lord needed a few more tenths in his tune-up. Godspeed, “Grumpy” Jenkins. -- Matt Cool
Sad day, even for a Ford guy like me. RIP "Grumpy." – John Meredyk
As a young kid moving to Berwyn, Pa., in 1965, seeing those Mopars that I had only seen in magazines outside Berwyn Sunoco was a highlight of my life. Through the years, getting to know Bill and many members of the "Super Crew" and having the opportunity to work with and learn from them taught me things that went way beyond drag racing. I feel very fortunate and lucky, indeed, to have had that experience to draw from, even today. The racing community, as a whole, has lost a valued friend and pioneer, who leaves a legacy that will be around as long as racing itself. -- Tom Pohorilla
I was a newspaper guy from New Jersey in the 1990s when, on a whim, I called “Grumpy's” shop in Malvern and asked him if I could do an interview for my paper. He literally gave me the run of the place. Yes, he was a little curt but completely honest about engines, his own ability as a driver, and his regrets at not being able to finish his studies at Cornell. There are few things I'm more grateful for than the time he gave me, and few things I'm prouder of than the story that resulted. I will miss him. -- Jim Donnelly
Back in the day when dad was working with Alban Gauthier’s Pro Stock team, he tells stories about sometimes being pitted near Joe Lepone’s team. Needless to say, anytime “Grumpy” came around, he always had some one-liner that would bring people to their knees laughing and thinking to themselves … did he really just say that? May all the Chevys in the sky run smoothly down the Big Man’s Dragstrip. -- Serge Michaud
This is truly a sad day for the automotive/drag racing world. I had the pleasure to meet Bill on two different occasions and spend a few minutes talking with him at PRI a few years ago. It was a privilege and I truly felt I was talking with one of the greatest minds in racing. He was one of my hero’s and will be greatly missed by me and so many others. Rest in peace, Bill. Godspeed. -- Barry Richardson
I was always a Mopar guy and attended many drag races as a boy at York U.S 30. Nothing beat Pro Stock .. Chevy vs. Mopar vs. Ford. “Grumpy” vs. Ronnie vs. “Dyno Don.” Although I always rooted against” the Grump,” he was the one guy who I feared the most. And I know Ronnie did as well. Everyone knew mechanically, Bill was in a class by himself. He was a genius. RIP Mr. Jenkins. -- Kim Hall
“Da Grump” was my drag racing Hero from my high school days to today. I watched him at my local track, among others, back then (Dover in Wingdale, N.Y.) and his Camaro's burnouts are forever etched in my mind! Many of this eras legends have passed recently and all I'll miss forever... but none more than Bill. My condolences to his family and close friends. -- Doug Fairbanks
The heartbeat of Chevrolet has skipped a beat but it was made stronger with his help. Amazing the skill he had as a driver as well as his skills engineering Chevrolet as a better product. I admired him and am sorrowed at his passing. -- Tim Heckman
Bill Jenkins was an icon in the world of NHRA. His grasp of the high-performance Chevrolet engines was second to none, and his passing marks the end of an era. He will be sorely missed by fans and competitors alike. His involvement made the golden era of Pro Stock a never-to-be-forgotten moment in time. Thank you “Grump” for all of the wonderful memories.-- Dave Gutierrez/Gutierrez Brothers Racing
“Grumpy” was my hero in the Super Stock ‘60s. He was a friend in my 60s. Rest in my peace my friend. -- Bill Corwin
The number of racers in Stock, Super Stock, and Modified who were inspired by Jenkins to achieve what they have done is countless. No greater tribute. Mr. Doorslammer! -- Dwight Southerland
I drove to Malvern, Pa., to see my hero in summer of 1976 and got there to find shop closed. I went to SRD across the street to talk to the guys I knew there and when” Grumpy” pulled up at SRD and I got to talk to him and he invited me to his shop and gave me full tour. I was in heaven; he even invited me to go match racing with him that night. It was great! He well be missed. Rest in peace “Grump”; there was no greater and never will be. -- Dennis McQuinn
I have followed Mr. Jenkins since the 1960s. What a wonderful career. I suspect “Grumpy “ was just a moniker. A true legend, he will be greatly missed. I wish I could have met him. -- Randy Schield
I remember Bill and that Vega and later on at the starting line with the other Pro Stock cars he powered. The famous stogie and his dedication to our sport will never be forgotten. RIP. -- Douglas Roberts
I am 59 years old and have going to drag races for 44 years and “Grumpy” has always been there, either as a driver, or owner, or just watching. He has always been a hero to me , as a Chevy racer back in the in the ‘70s. I live about a mile and a half from his shop here in Malvern, Pa., and went down to see him about three weeks ago to check on some work he was doing for us and talked to him for a few minutes . He said he has felt better. Going to miss seeing him around town and the track. Thanks for all you have done for drag racing. RIP “Grump.” -- Paul Marziani
It was this racing icon that set me on the path of building and racing Chevrolets. I bleed Chevy orange to this day. R.I.P. “Grumpy.” You will be greatly missed! -- Jim Gianguzzo
A very good friend in racing and business, I’ll will miss you a lot, Bill! This Saturday (3/31/2012) myself and Fred Henderson from 422 Motorsports were taking “the Grump” to the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing in York Springs, Pa., to be inducted into their new display on drag racing. Other inductees are Darwin Doll, Bruce Larson, and Ronnie Sox (Mrs. Ronnie Sox in his behalf). Sorry that I can’t get the opportunity to hang-out with you one last time Bill. -- on Ladley
So sorry to hear about the loss of a legend. He is one of the reasons that I am such a huge Chevy fan. I watched him every chance that I could throughout the years burning up the track. I will post an article about him on my website ( www.a1classiccar.com ) just to keep his memory alive and as a way to say thanks. So sad that I never had a chance to thank him in person before he left us! R.I.P. “Grump." -- Rich Figliolo
Wow, going to miss “Da Grump.” I have a lot of his cars in diecast. I proudly wear my Jenkins Competition T shirt all the time. Hits home I have a lot of good memories of him and his cars. What a legend; I saw him many times, at Island Dragway, Englishtown, and the York Muscle Car Madness. There will be a void that no one can fill. RIP "Grumpy," you'll be missed. -- Jerry Schlomer
I was born in 1970 in Western Pennsylvania and only saw Mr. Jenkins once in person, about 2007 is my guess at the Firebird Raceway in Phoenix where I now live. He was still working on some Pro Stock cars. I didn’t have the guts to speak with him as he was bigger than life to me. Why? I was named after him: William Tyler Edwards. Funny story is my mom thought my name was Timothy Martin Edwards until she saw the birth certificate and my dad named me after “Grumpy.” With what I knew and now know, he was a great pioneer to the sport of drag racing. My dad raced when I was young but don’t remember it and then he started back up when I was in college. When I got out he gave me a ’69 Camaro and he, too, had one. We went to the races and everyone knew the two of us. Great memories and friends were made at the track and those friendships have lasted through the years with my father’s friends. Heck, dad even had a ’72 Vega race car so he must of liked Mr. Jenkins. My condolences to his family. Little do they realize what a good man did to inspire others in his life. – Bill Edwards
I'm hanging my head in sadness. No one knew more about Chevy small-blocks and how to make them run faster than "Da Grump." Now he and Ronnie Sox can renew their great rivalry at the "Big Dragstrip In The Sky"! -- Mike "Paz" Pazdyk, former NHRA national event announcer
Went to Pomona with Jerry Haas one year and was very honored to find myself in the same trailer with such a legend. I was so nerve to introduce myself to a man that had forgotten more than I'll ever know that I was shaking and thought I might wet my pants when he shook my hand and grunted at me. Sorry to hear of his passing. -- Evan Rives
He was my hero, and I love Pro Stock, which he made. He will be missed forever every time I watch NHRA Pro Stock. -- Ed Begley Jr.
This is a tough day for our sport, but I’m really glad Bill chose drag racing as his career. He was there in the beginning of Pro Stock, and helped shape the class into a proud example (to this day) of true American ingenuity. -- Bill Zabbia
OK “Grump,” you, Ronnie Sox, and “Dyno Don” are match racin' to beat all getout at that great dragstrip in the sky. -- Gregory A Foreman
I'll never forget the first time I ever saw Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins and the Grumpy's Toy Vega. What an experience that was for me. Yes, back in the day even though we were off the beaten path (and still are) here in Colorado, every once and a while we would have a heavy hitter come through to race our Irv Beringhaus. “Grump,” you are missed.” -- Keith Dochterman
One more sad loss. “The Grump” was one of the best! May he be with the good Lord. -- Dan Moore
I saw “the Grump” win a two out of three match race against “Dyno Don” in Denver in ‘77. I guess “Dyno” and he can have at it again. We’ll all miss him. -- David "Mick" Michelsen
I grew up in Malvern but wasn't really aware of the drag racing scene until I became the motorsports writer for the Daily Local News in West Chester. A fellow reporter mentioned to me that I should interview Bill because he was a local drag racing professional that everybody in the area followed. Upon meeting him at his shop, he got right down to business and we started to chat and immediately I thought to myself, "I like this guy. He doesn't appear grumpy to me and he seems very, very smart." He discovered that I also knew a few things about mechanics and engines and he continued to be a great interview and story until the end of my writing career. He was a great guy and will be missed. -- Jim Aberts
To one of my best buds at the track or after the race: Bill, I'm hoistin' a Chivas toast to you right now. The greatest by far, thanks for all the great times and everything you shared with me. God bless you and I don't have to say Godspeed because he already knows you’re fast! -- Will Pennington
Bill Jenkins, along with the late Ronnie Sox, were my first two “real” drag racing superstars. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Bill a few times. The one time that totally stands out was at the 1976 US Nationals. Larry Lombardo was driving for Bill in NHRA that year, and I was the Indy for my “honeymoon.” I had just gotten married and that is where my new wife and I went the next weekend. That was my first U.S. Nationals. I introduced myself to Bill and introduced my wife to him. When he found out we had just gotten married and were attending the race on our honeymoon, he went to his tow vehicle and came back and offered me one of his cigars, and lit me up. I coughed for 15 minutes, and Bill was hysterical. I have the picture of him and my wife and myself, still red-faced from the coughing fit, on my mantle, with the remnant of the cigar right below it. It is my most prized of all memorabilia. My wife and Bill are both gone now, but that memory will always be precious to me. As I walk over the pit bridge this summer, at my 35th U.S. Nationals I will take a moment, and remember Bill. May God be with you, Bill. You were not just a drag racing legend, you were a caring man who loved people. -- Michael Jones
You will be sadly missed “Grumpy”; thanks for the memories. Go Chevy Go. -- Peter Kirby
I remember “the Grump” from many years (46 in fact) of drag racing. I am making a copy of a picture I have that I am going to send to Phil Burgess with Grumpy and Ronnie Sox. Two of the VERY BEST. God now has Grumpy to go with Ronnie and Dick Landy. God Bless You “Grump.” – Mike Miner
I met him once at K&G in Havertown, Pa., in the early ‘70s. “The Grump” has and always will be Mr. Chevrolet. I am almost finished with Johnny's Toy, a 1974 nostalgia-class Vega. God bless “the Grump!” -- John Haynal
This is a sad loss for the drag racing community. I remember and never will forget the time I saw Bill at New York National Speedway. Bill was tuning the Vega, Larry was the driver and I asked him if I could put the spark plugs in the motor. My heart skipped two beats when he said sure. We are going to miss you “Grumpy.” My prayers and thoughts go out to the family. – Sal Reino
The man, the myth, the legend! He will be greatly missed.-- Joe Frankel
I have been following drag racing since 1959,I have always been for Ford, but I always enjoyed watching Bill in car and later in the pit and starting line. He will be missed greatly. – Eugene Green
Bill was always very friendly to me and was very helpful especially when I started my NASCAR team in 1983 he helped me locate hard to find cylinder head castings along with Reher & Morrison. He was always a fixture at the SEMA show he is now with his buddies Dick Moroso and Buddy Morrison along with many more of his pals. RIP.” – Raymond Beadle
My condolences to the Jenkins family as well as Bill's "extended racing family." I did not know Bill well but did have the pleasure of hanging with him a few times. Each is a time I will not forget. He and my dad were good friends however, and he helped to make Moroso Performance the company it is today. Many of our existing products have roots directly back to Bill's innovative thoughts. He and my dad can now get back to their arguing over who has the better idea. He will be sorely missed by us all. Rest in Peace Bill. -- Rick Moroso
This is a very sad day for drag racing fans. He was one of the best in the ‘60s and ‘70s in Stock, Super Stock, and Pro Stock. He was my hero since high school days in the mid 1960s. No one knew more about the small block Chevy than "the Grump." My memories of him are when he was racing most weekends at Cecil County Dragway while I was at Aberdeen, Md., in the Army. I spent every weekend at the track and got to see him race a lot of races there in Super Stock and Pro Stock. I was there at Tulsa in 1972 and 1973 for the National Challenge Pro Races. He won Pro Stock both years. I will never forget those races. Probably the best I have ever seen to this day. I learned a lot about the small block Chevy watching him at those races and through his articles in Hot Rod and other magazines back in the day. I got to meet him at a couple of match races in Wichita, Kan., in the mid 1970s and talked with him about my engine. Luckily I have a couple of his autographed pictures. I still enjoy reading about all of his old cars in old magazine articles I have saved. He truly is a legend and will be missed. There will never be another "Grump." -- Michael Stangel
Had a chance to meet the man at his shop, a few years back when I was in the Philadelphia area. Still remember not seeing anything, no sign, nothing, until I looked real close and there it was, about the size of a postcard --Jenkins Competition, right beside the door. Hung out for a visit, had a cigar, and got a picture and a shirt. Something I won't soon forget. -- Aaron Robertson
I remember the first time I saw Bill Jenkins. I was a young teen in disbelief that the great “Grumpy” was running his legendary Vega at our tiny Youngstown Drag City! His ingenuity and determination inspired me all my life. Many years later I took my son to meet him at the Nationals in Brainerd. He posed for a picture with me and autographed my ball cap. Super individual, he will be missed. -- Bob Vidman
Another member of our drag racing family has left. So many great memories of “the Grump,” particularly in the ‘70s and ’80s at Atco and Englishtown. Rest in peace, Bill, you are greatly missed. -- Ken and Barb DeClement
This is a great loss to the NHRA, and racing in general. No one will ever talk about drag racing without mentioning the name Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins. Rest In Peace “Grumpy.” – Robert Fischer
Godspeed “Grump”; deepest condolences to all who loved him. May the memory of his greatness be everlasting.-- Joel Ruth
"The Grump" was THE man! Having lived in Jenkins country, his 1960s exploits at Vargo Dragway, Cecil County, York, and the ‘Grove were the best, with the open-door dry hops in the stick cars. I attended many "Jenkins Benefit" races where he won all the marbles. Rest in peace big guy. -- John Haring