If it’s Friday, this must be Houston and leg two of back-to-back weekends on the tour. We got home from Charlotte Monday – fortunately no hassle with the flights despite the beginning of the sequestration-caused flight-controller shortage – and I spent a couple of days in the office before jumping back on another big bird and heading to Texas for this weekend’s race.
I didn’t want to go without a column this week but didn’t have enough time for a “big” piece – I have several cool ones in the works – but it occurred to me as I was trying to keep my email organized that in the last couple of months, I’ve hung on to a lot of stuff that I thought I could use as a basis of a future column, but it never turned out that way. Rather than let the stuff languish in my email and let slip the generous submissions of some readers, below is a sample of stuff that’s as cool as it is random.
Throughout the years, I’ve paid great homage to Don Prudhomme’s all-conquering Army Monza, winner of 13 of 16 national events in 1975-76. It’s the one car that “the Snake” has always said that he’s sorry he didn’t keep (he traded it for a Ferrari 308) and one that, when he was assembling his collection of cars (remember this wonderful column I did? All the Snake’s Horses
), he was most disappointed that he couldn’t get back. It still resides in the National Automobile Museum (The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nev., as photographed not long ago by Insider contributor Eric Watkins.
One “Snake” certainly deserves a matching “Mongoose,” and, at the risk of relaunching the ramp-truck thread, here’s a cool photo of one of Tom McEwen’s first Funny Cars on what looks like a rainy day at Maryland’s Capitol Raceway, courtesy of “the ‘Goose’s” friend Eric Gomez. DragList reports that McEwen bought this Logghe-built Barracuda from Candies & Hughes and qualified No. 1 with it at the 1969 Winternationals.
Reader Ed Eberlein was a regular California racegoer in the 1970s and has sent quite a collection of photos from his library throughout the years of cars from that era. I especially like this one of a young Rich Siroonian posed beside his uncle “Big John” Mazmanian’s 'Cuda during a match race at Sacramento Raceway. The legend is that when Uncle John found out that his young nephew was street racing, he got them both involved in legit dragstrip competition, starting with a brand-new street-legal ’61 Corvette, followed by the famed “football” Austin and, later, this Funny Car.
Longtime column fan Jay Phillips has and interesting addition to his collection of NHRA stuff. For years, he has had the 1970s NHRA duffel bag (sporting logos from the Winternationals, Springnationals, and World Finals), but a few months ago, he scored a rare find on eBay, the matching sheet set, which now adorns his bed. Some great old artwork there.
Last October, we had a pretty good little thread going about souvenirs of a different kind – the ones you get at the track after a team has had a rough outing. Lance Good has a nice keepsake: the nose off the famed Chi-Town Hustler. This was the Daytona version that Wayne Minick was driving when it went to pieces courtesy of a broken camshaft and blower explosion at Great Lakes Dragway during Labor Day weekend in 1989. “I have been a lifelong fan of the Chi-Town Hustler and have hundreds of Chi-Town pieces in my collection, but this is one of my most treasured items,” he noted.
No image of a happy, souvenir-collecting fan says as much as Steve Reyes’ timeless photo of one who couldn’t wait to get on the horn at Fremont Raceway to brag to his pals about snagging a piece of “Flash Gordon” Mineo’s shattered Funny Car body. (Did you catch the “Reyes’ Greatest Hits” photo feature in the recent issue of National Dragster
? Cool stuff, and not all crashes!).
Anyway, Steve sent this photo when the other thread was running and accompanied it with the following semi-related funny story: “I never really got into collecting that stuff -- Lord knows it was there for the taking – but in 1972, Joe Pisano was at Kirby’s shop looking at the damage that happened when Sush Matsubara said hello to the guardrail that Saturday evening at the Funny Car race at OCIR. I was standing there with my buddy and photographer Jeff Tinsley watching Pisano checking out his ‘hurt’ race car body. Joe looks up at us and asks, 'Do you want this piece of s**t?’ and, of course, we said yes. So here we are in Kirby’s lot with a crunched Funny Car body; what to do with our new prize? Well, let’s jump up and down on it and break it up! So here we are in Kirby’s lot jumping up and down on a bright yellow Pisano & Matsubara Vega Funny Car body. After our carnage, Jeff and I divided our broken fiberglass booty. Because this was one of the Revell-sponsored Funny Cars, I loaded my half and headed over to Revell in Venice, thinking maybe they would like a piece of one. Well, I was a big hit at Revell passing out pieces of the Vega body. I think every office there had a piece of Funny Car body displayed proudly where it could be seen by everyone.”
I can just picture that crazy scene. By the way, the My Favorite Fuelers column penned by yours truly this week on NationalDragster.net is all about the Pisano & Matsubara cars (including their star-crossed history). Check it out.
Art Martinez sent a couple of cool photos of “Big Daddy" Don Garlits match racing Frank “the Beard” Bradley in San Antonio in the 1980s. According to Martinez, Garlits was having problems keeping the front end down that weekend.
“In the first photo, he’s only lifting the front about 10 inches, but on the third run, he almost got to the point of no return but was able to bring her back down with minor damages,” he remembers.
I’m pretty certain this is Swamp Rat 26 in its earliest days. After his failed 1980 experiment with the porky “Godzilla” car (Swamp Rat 25), Garlits and crew chief Herb Parks built this car light and lean – even using black anodized body panels instead of paint – in 1981, but he ran mostly AHRA competition in protest of new NHRA rules that mandated a self-starting car (as opposed to push) and mandatory reversers.
This is the car in which Garlits later famously made his return to competition at the 1984 U.S. Nationals and won it all, leading to two seasons of Garlits domination that reminded everyone that even 10 years past his 1975 killer season, “the Old Man” still knew how to win.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from our pal across the pond, fuel-racing fanatic model builder Mark Gredzinski (see Model Citizen
), who is so detailed about his re-creations of 1970s drag cars that he handmakes his own parts to exacting detail. The picture above is his newest project, an attempt to re-create a Donovan engine to go with some of the 1/16th-scale early slingshots he’s working on.
“As can be seen, there is a smaller 1/25th-scale version alongside,” he wrote. “Both feature scratch-built gear drives and fuel-pump housings. Also can be seen an idler bracket and new resin Enderle hat and oil pan. The blower is Revell, but I'm doing my own later with better profiled casings. I'm doing Ed Pink, Bowers, Mooneyham, Danekas, Larkin, Vancharger, Hampton, Littlefield, and so on in both scales. Some modelers don't even know the difference, but I do! The task is sometimes monumental, but I know what I want and am determined to do whatever it takes to do the ultimate model that looks like it will fire up. Long way to go yet, but I learn more literally every day."
He wants to build the correct engine so that he can create the best model ever of the Kuhl & Olson dragster, and to that end, he asked for my help in contacting Carl Olson for details on the cars. What emerged from Olson’s end was a very interesting saga of all of the K&O cars: how they came to be, what happened to them, and more. It was so gripping (then again, I’m a bit of a nerd for '70s cars, too) that I’ve asked Carl for permission to reprint it here, which he has kindly granted, and he has a great collection of photos to illustrate what he’s going to put together. The Kuhl & Olson team had a rich and successful run in the '70s, so it’s a tale well worth sharing. Look for it in a future column.
OK, that’s it for today. If you’re an NHRA Member, I hope you’re following along with our live coverage on NationalDragster.net (and reading my Pisano & Matsubara column!) or, at the very least, are stoked about Sunday’s live television coverage on ESPN2.
My schedule quiets down for about a month after this, so I hope to dive into more meaty columns in the weeks ahead.
Darrell Gwynn threw out the first ball at the inaugural Darrell Gwynn Benefit Softball Challenge, held Sept. 13, 1990, in Reading.
I didn't land in Charlotte until last night and missed Thursday's charity softball game between NHRA and NASCAR drivers at CMC-NorthEast Stadium in Kannapolis, N.C. -- pretty much a rout by our boys -- but I'll never forget the first time we all got together to do this, in September 1990 in Reading, a magical night to benefit Darrell Gwynn and a game that was a whole heck of a lot closer.
The game took place during what was then the Keystone Nationals, about six months after Gwynn's Top Fuel career was tragically cut short in an accident during an exhibition pass in England on Easter Sunday.
Gwynn's career was still on the rise; he had just won his home-state Gatornationals a few weeks prior to his terrible accident. I remember vividly NHRA allowing me to fly twice to Florida to attend press conferences — pretty much unheard-of for us to do so back then — and seeing him at the second one, where he met the public for the first time since the accident, confined to a wheelchair and missing the lower part of his left arm but still exuding the manners of a champion.
Below is a recap of the wonderfully crazy evening that I wrote for this column more than five years ago.
The motorsports community as a whole pulled together for Gwynn, and the softball game, played on a cool evening at Reading Municipal Stadium Thursday night before the Keystone Nationals, was the capper. The 7,200-seat stadium, home to the Philadelphia Phillies' minor-league team, was packed to more than twice that number as the stars of NHRA battled the stars of NASCAR and raised more than $150,000 for Gwynn's recovery.
When I says stars, I mean it. Kenny Bernstein led the way, recruiting not just his quarter-mile peers but his many NASCAR buddies as well. NHRA and NASCAR gave KB a ton of support — he was even allowed to address a NASCAR driver's meeting at Watkins Glen Int'l earlier that year — as did the local paper, the Reading Eagle, whose photographer, Richard J. Patrick, snapped the above shot, which was sent by Gwynn to those like me who attended.
The NHRA lineup included Bernstein, John Force, Tommy Johnson Jr., Art Hendey, Dan Pastorini, Scott Kalitta, Kenny Koretsky, Dick LaHaie, Mark Oswald, Richard Hartman, Jim Head, Freddie Neely, Don Prudhomme, Tim Grose, and Darrell's father, Jerry. The NASCAR lineup featured Bill Elliott, Kyle Petty, Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan, Derrick Cope, Michael Waltrip, Sterling Marlin, Geoff and Brett Bodine, Rick Wilson, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte, Chad Little, and Ken Schrader. Both had an all-star "bench" (see box). A three-hour autograph session preceded the game.
Although he didn't have much range or strength in his right arm, Gwynn still gamely heaved the ball plateward a few feet to an enormous cheer that inspired his team.
NHRA jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning on the back of former NFL quarterback turned Top Fuel racer Pastorini, who showed that he was as good with a bat as a pigskin by walloping a home run to left center.
The NASCAR troops dinged Prudhomme for six runs in the second and two more each in the fourth and fifth while keeping the NHRA gang at four with Irvan's solid pitching and good fielding. The NHRA drivers came alive in the bottom of the fifth with a seven-run inning manufactured by singles and NASCAR fielding errors to forge ahead, 11-10.
NASCAR tied the score in the top of the sixth and added two more in the seventh and three more in the eighth, and things looked bleak again for the straight-liners, down 16-11 in the middle of the eighth.
Force, who had taken over catching for Papa Gwynn, got run over twice in the top of the eighth, by Allison and Little, but got his revenge, powering a homer to left center. Inspired, the NHRA troops again rallied and tied the score at 16. NASCAR, though, responded with a four-run top-of-the-ninth on Waltrip's grand slam to lead 20-16. Game over? Hardly.
Irvan was tiring. Force walked. After Bernstein flied out, T.J. singled. Hendey and Pastorini walked, Force scoring. Hartman singled in Johnson and Oswald (running for Hendey), Kalitta walked, loading the bases with the score 20-19 for NASCAR. Grose popped out for NHRA's second out.
Two outs, based loaded. It doesn't get any better than that. Koretsky, the home-state hero whose sponsor, Sunoco, was the Keystones sponsor, seized the hero's role, roping a single to left center, scoring Pastorini and Hartman and giving NHRA a dramatic 21-20 win.
Koretsky, T.J., and Pastorini all went 3 for 5 in the game — Pastorini had four RBIs, as did LaHaie — but everyone left a winner.
On a totally unrelated note, I had a great time last Friday with Don Gillespie, who’s putting together a video history of one of my old stomping grounds, Orange County Int’l Raceway. Gillespie interviewed me on camera at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum for about an hour, probing my memories of my first trip to the County, my favorite moments and drivers, and much more. He’s already interviewed the likes of OCIR founders Mike Jones, Larry Vaughan, and Bill White, as well as the irrepressible Bill Doner, and he’s just getting started.
Anyone who owns Gillespie’s magnificent three-DVD history of Lions Drag Strip knows the amount of detail and love that he puts into his projects, and I’m really looking forward to this one, which he expects should be ready in time for next year’s March Meet.
Like this column, images really make a difference, so he’s actively looking for anything unique that might be out there, especially film or video footage. Also, if you’re someone who competed there, he might be interested in your remembrances. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That's it from North Carolina. I hope to have time to put together a column early next week before heading off to Houston, but be forewarned that's based on a number of variables including travel and weather. Until then ...
“Bakersfield 1970. This was race/date where Chuck Johnson’s 50 percent became mine; Chuck wanted to get married and sold his interest to me for $2,000.” (Phil note: Although the car had the fabled injector scoop, it did not yet have the front body panels or the beautiful paint scheme for which it became known.)
It’s really gratifying when one of my columns develops into a multi-column thread that has a life all of its own. It has happened several times, with ramp trucks and wedge dragsters and my early favorite, “Growing Up Boy,” and the Keeling & Clayton saga has certainly joined that list.
Jerry Clayton himself has been enjoying it as much as the rest of us and is truly touched and honored by the outpouring of love and respect shown by the Insider Nation, so much so that he and his son, Frank, scanned a ton of photos from his extensive personal collection, captioned them, and asked that I share them. You can find them in the gallery at right; be sure to click on the Larger Image link to see them in greater detail. There are 26 of ‘em, and I’ve put them in a roughly chronological order, but you’ll want to go all the way through. Some great stuff in there.
I also have a lengthy and well-detailed report from Midwest drag racing authority Bret Kepner of Clayton’s drag racing career after the California Charger years, which includes interesting work in the Pro Stock classes that you might not have known about, and a few other fan-submitted images.
Terry Knickerbocker sent along the photo of the K&K Pinto in peril at Irwindale in either late 1971 or early 1972 after it lost the left rear tire. An 11-year-old Phil was at the event and remembers it well, but Clayton obviously remembers it better.
“This was very close to an extreme disaster,” he said. “The whole end of the axle broke off; I don't remember whose axles we were using, except I do know it wasn't Donovan’s; he had one-piece forged axles, and the others out there had end pieces welded on to a piece of shafting. Ours broke at the weld; this was around the same era when Herm Petersen broke one similar and had a bad crash/fire at OCIR. Shortly, everyone had to have full floater-type rears. The wheel/tire did bounce and hit a light pole at Irwindale -- we had just put upturned, zoomie headers on the Pinto. It was the first outing, so the pipes were strong and able to support the car as it slid along the track; before, we had kinda weed-burner pipes, but after that gigantic wheelstand we did, the upturned pipes.”
Reader Lance Peltier shared a link to an online gallery of photos of his love affair with the rear-engine California Charger, a very cool diorama of the team hard at work on the car. “I saw the model that you included and thought about the Keeling & Clayton pit scene that I built over 20 years ago for a model contest. I dusted it off and snapped a few pictures.
“I used to travel months at a time for my job, so I would build drag models in my hotel rooms instead of going out drinking. When I would get to a new city, I would find the hobby shops and find various parts for the scene. It took about three months off and on to complete it. “
Check this one out, fans. It’s very detailed. [Link]
And now, from the fertile memory of Mr. Kepner, it’s Keeling & Clayton, the later years. The photos embedded are also from Clayton’s collection.
“Your multi-chapter Keeling & Clayton feature was exceptional. As I watched each addition to the story, however, I was surprised to see it end with the 1977 season.
"I know the majority of casual NHRA fans believe John and Jerry dropped out of the sport after the last California Charger, but I think that same group would be interested to find both were heavily involved in drag racing for many years after the Trans Am Funny Car was gone.
“John Keeling became an integral part of the NHRA's Jet Car Committee; as an official NHRA inspector for all jet-powered machines, he was the liaison between the racers and the rules makers. He inspected and licensed every jet through the mid-1980s and was a close friend of virtually every driver who campaigned a thrust vehicle. His knowledge of jet powerplants was vast, but his greatest talent was an ability to explain the technical concerns of the jet fraternity to the many members of the NHRA hierarchy who knew little of those engines.
“Jerry Clayton, on the other hand, began an entirely new career in drag racing only a few years after leaving the fuel ranks. In 1980, Jerry jumped into the one position he avoided with the dragsters and floppers. He became a driver ... and an extremely good one, too.
“My Pro Stock Monza with me driving at Great Lakes Dragaway. Early hood scoop and spoiler; no control past about 140.”
“Teamed with the Royal Coach Auto Body shop in Chicago, Jerry created the Royal Coach Charger Monza Pro Stocker, which was every bit as gorgeous as the Keeling & Clayton rigs. It carried the legendary color scheme, (light blue, dark blue, spectacular lettering, and plenty of chrome), but, in true Jerry Clayton fashion, it was also a test bed for a bevy of ideas with which Jerry changed the sport.
“The Monza was built for the United Drag Racers Association Pro Stock Circuit, which, after 1977, had become a free-for-all with no rules to restrict even the wildest concepts. Jerry immediately immersed himself in the science of carbureted engines and was among the first to experiment with mountain motors. The Monza was built to be light, but Clayton made huge changes in the aerodynamics of Pro Stockers, which drastically improved the stability problems of the early ‘outlaw’ Pro Stockers. The Royal Coach Charger was notorious for debuting a radical new air-scoop design almost every week, and Jerry's scoops eventually evolved into a gigantic air ‘box,’ which became the car's trademark.
“The most amazing aspect of Jerry's Pro Stock career was his immediate rise to the top of the performance ranks. The Monza was one of the earliest to clock in the seven-second zone and nudged the 180-mph mark long before most of the ‘names.’ Most importantly, however, was Jerry's foray into nitrous-oxide injection. In the early '80s, several of the UDRA Unlimited Pro Stock teams began using nitrous systems, and, as many historians know, the UDRA became the proving ground for nitrous-injected big-block engines (the AHRA had already legalized nitrous for small-blocks). Jerry was one of the first to apply nitrous, and the Monza's legendary wheelstands on ‘the juice’ will never be forgotten by any witness.
"Charlie Hnatek's Camaro. I ended up driving this car for testing stuff; Charlie drove the Monza in the races. When necessary, we switched if something went wrong. [Bret] Kepner was always on us! One time, we did a three-way switch with Ed Grief, who also had an engine I had built, and his new car lost the hood on the first pass. I was qualified with Charlie’s car, switched Ed into it for the second qualifying session (he was tall -- had to move seat 6 inches); he didn't make the show, so it was back to me for first round. Kepner figured out a Naval signal flag deal so he could tell who was doing what.”
“In 1983, Jerry teamed with fellow Chicago UDRA Pro Stock racer Charlie Hnatek, with whom he created one of the few two-car Pro teams of the era. Although Jerry attended the full schedule of UDRA events, he incorporated Hnatek's '81 Camaro as a test bed for radical ideas through which he could gain twice the knowledge in one event. At any given UDRA race (and there were more than a dozen each season), the duo would swap engines, manifolds, nitrous systems, wings, scoops, and even driving duties between the two cars all in a quest for more information and better performance.
“Clayton (and a handful of his rivals) created a performance war among the UDRA teams, which led to amazing elapsed times and speeds. As many remember, these battles culminated in UDRA racer Bill Kuhlmann's first 200-mph speed by a passenger car in March of 1987, which was clocked in UDRA trim. Yet Jerry Clayton was at the forefront of doorslammer technology even before the advent of Top Sportsman, let alone Pro Modified!
“It should also be noted Jerry was active in political areas of the UDRA; Clayton was a board member of the association, which was run exclusively by racers. Along with multiple event titles, Clayton won most of the UDRA's major season awards, including Best Appearing and Best Engineered honors. By 1988, Hnatek had taken over the driving of the team's Royal Coach Charger Trans Am when the demand for duplicates of Jerry's powerplants became overwhelming enough to keep him out of the seat.
“I realize this is quite a diatribe, but I know Jerry well enough to realize he is far too humble to have brought up these facts in any conversations you may have shared. However, if you call him one more time and ask about his days as a driver, I'm sure he'll oblige with a few stories. I've always been amazed how many fans of the Keeling & Clayton cars never realized it was Jerry in that similar-looking Pro Stock Monza and, likewise, how many UDRA folks never made the connection from Jerry's cars to the California Chargers. While announcing all of the UDRA national and regional events in that era, I always made a point to mention his spectacular fuel racing career as well as the fact he is one of the few members of the drag racing fraternity to have been involved in all three premier divisions of competition.
"I still see Jerry on occasion, and he's still as down to earth and unassuming as ever. However, there is no mistaking the gleam of a brutal competitor in his eye and a hint of his brilliant technical mind in his discussions about his career.”
Thanks so much, Bret. That’s an awesome job chronicling something I love the most, the stories behind the stories.
Before I go, I wanted to mention that last week’s column about Gerry Glenn also raised a lot of interest, and I hope to hear from him next week to add another chapter to that tale.
I will be traveling next week to Charlotte for the four-wide event and the weekend after to Houston for that race, so I’m not sure when/how I’ll be updating next, but I promise I will do so at the first available opportunity.
Even though the main trunk of the Keeling & Clayton thread continues to grow, today I’m branching out a bit to address growing questions about a guy whose name has been part of the story even though he never drove for the team. I’m talking about Gerry “the Hunter” Glenn, who was inexorably tied to the team by two key races: the 1970 Supernationals, where K&C driver Rick Ramsey defeated him in the final for their lone national event victory, and the final round of the 1971 PDA event at Orange County, where the Schultz & Glenn dragster bested Ramsey in the final.
Glenn is a guy whom I’ve long wondered about but whose career I’d never had a chance to explore. Most folks know that he was the 1971 NHRA Top Fuel champ by virtue of his final-round victory over no less than “Big Daddy” Don Garlits at the 1971 World Finals in Amarillo, Texas, but to many, he is considered one of the great natural Top Fuel pilots.
Validation for that praise certainly comes due to a lengthy résumé of other triumphs beyond his world championship, but perhaps key is that he jumped right into a Top Fuel car in 1965 with no experience and immediately began getting noticed. His first ride was in Ron Winkle’s MagiCar (later Winkle, Trapp & Glenn), and within a month, he was standing in the winner’s circle after an event in Palmdale, Calif. A stunning 7.10 at Irwindale in early 1967 in the Andre, Trapp & Glenn machine brought him more raves, and he diversified into Top Gas with John Rasmussen later that year and racked up a series of big-name wins in that class, too.
In 1968, John Bateman hired him to wheel the Atlas Oil Tool Top Fueler, and together, they won the Division 7 championship. After Bateman opted to move to Funny Car, Glenn first teamed with two-time Top Gas championship tuner Bill Schultz in 1970 and drove in Top Fuel and Top Gas for him. In their first trip to Indy, they fell just short of upsetting the killer twin-engine Top Gas rail of Motes & Williams, then loaned their engine to Jack Jones, who beat Ray Motes in the final.
Don Garlits red-lighted against Gerry Glenn in the final round of the 1971 World Finals to make the Schultz & Glenn team the Top Fuel world champ.
The 1971 season, as mentioned, was a tour de force. In addition to running a pair of 6.41s at Lions – the quickest passes in history – and winning the PDA event, they famously beat Garlits in Amarillo. Garlits already had been crowned the AHRA champ and was looking to double up. He had lane choice for the final (6.60 to 6.72) and ran low e.t. in the final, 6.55, to Glenn’s 6.59, but red-lighted. According to Glenn, as told to National Dragster then, he and Schultz had noticed in qualifying that the Tree at Amarillo was a “slower Tree” and planned accordingly. Schultz and Glenn were the final Top Fuel champs to win it with a slingshot, and they never found the same success after joining the switch to a rear-engine configuration. They competed in Funny Car with Jim Glenn (of Shady Glenn fame) for a couple of seasons before opting out, but that ‘71 Top Fueler remains a memorable machine and perhaps a bit of a missing link in the slingshot-to-rear-engine evolution. You only have to look at the photos to see that the engine placement is not that of a standard slingshot.
It's obvious from this profile photo that the engine in the Schultz & Glenn Top Fueler was moved significantly farther ahead than its peers.
I was thrilled to hear from Dan Tuttle, whose famous father, Don, built that car in his California Chassis Engineering shop in SoCal’s San Fernando Valley.
“That car had everybody scratching their heads,” recalled his proud son. “It was vastly different from everything else out there. It incorporated all of Schultz's ideas. The wheelbase was unheard-of -- for single-engine cars anyway – and the engine was then moved out to about 46 inches from the then standard of around 32. This combined with the downward angle of the crank centerline necessitated the use of a dry-sump oiling system.
“Since this was in the middle of the first paradigm shift in Top Fuel racing, everybody was rushing back to the chassis shops, either to have their front-engine cars redone or to build rear-engine cars. I think we all know how that turned out.”
From left, race queen Carolyn Devore, Gerry and Sharon Glenn, and Bill Schultz in the 1971 PDA winner's circle at OCIR.
The 1970 Schultz Top Gas car also had a significant engine-location adjustment.
According to Tuttle, his father was “sort of a silent partner” with Schultz. “Bill would buy the car for a dollar, and when he was finished running it, my dad would give his dollar back. Cheap R&D when you think about it!
“Also, somewhere in the sea of people [in the photo] is my brother Dave, the current proprietor of California Chassis Engineering (now Dave Tuttle Race Cars), who was then 14 years old. Can you imagine being that age and getting to hang out with one of the baddest hot rods on the planet? I was 7 and sleeping in the back of the truck.”
I’ve been pals with Dave for decades, since my first years on the Dragster staff in the early 1980s, so I reached out to him at his popular place of business. As expected, he had the entire story and, as a chassis builder himself, knew the specs by heart. He also confirmed what I had found in other photos in Glenn’s file, that Schultz had a similarly configured gas dragster in 1970.
After Schultz and Jones had won the Top Gas championship [in 1969], [After the 1969 season,] Schultz turned that car in and got another one from my dad – for a dollar – that went from 175 inches [wheelbase] and the engine out 32 [inches] to 190 with the motor out 40. That set the stage for the Top Fueler. The standard for a Top Fueler then was 200 inches; the Schultz & Glenn car was 230 inches. The engine was indeed 46 inches out, and it really got everyone’s attention when we brought it out to Irwindale for the Grand Premiere.”
"The engine was so far out from the rear end that they had to use a driveshaft from a ’55 Chevy to span the distance (ironically, it was the thing that broke on the first run because the heat-treat was wrong on the coupler shaft), but after that, it was unstoppable. It won 21 races that season. People don’t realize that it was high-gear only and an iron block, and only a few people know that when we beat Keeling & Clayton to win the PDA event, we split the No. 1 cylinder wall and put a rod out, but no one knew because it had a dry-sump system.”
Dave’s familiarity with the specs of the car comes not only from his firsthand experience as a teenager living a dream, but also from running the car after getting it back in 1989 from Paul Gerber, who had bought it from Schultz. “I put all of my stuff into it and ran it for three years. I went to 14 events and made nine finals,” he recalled. “There was still some magic left in it. I was afraid to crash it because it really deserves to be in a museum.
“That car made every other front-engined dragster team out there move the motor out, move the rear end back, or stretch the wheelbase, or all of the above. Shame is that at the end of the year, they were all obsolete, and everyone went to rear-engined cars. That was a crazy time because there was so much progression going on.”
The 1972 rear-engine Schultz & Glenn dragster did not enjoy the success of its front-engine predecessor.
(Side note: Mickey Bryant and Todd Hutcheson, who exhaustively covered the front- to rear-engine transformation in their twin books about Garlits' revolutionary Swamp Rat 14, put together a great summary of the slingshot’s demise that they call “March to Oblivion” and was posted on Don Ewald’s amazing We Did It For Love site. Check it out here. [Note: Their graphic about the Schultz & Glenn car says that engine was moved forward 50 inches; that’s obviously a typo -- that would have put it at 82 inches out![)
Don Tuttle also built the rear-engine car for Schultz, but Glenn reportedly was never comfortable in it, and Schultz didn’t want to lean on the engine, so they only won one race that year. They never even came close to the success of the front-engine car in 1972 and even tried their hands at Funny Car but again didn't have a lot of success. After a several-year retirement, Schultz served as crew chief for Kelly Brown’s four-win (including Indy), second-place Top Fuel campaign in 1979 and as a crew chief or tuning consultant for a number of drivers, including Hall of Famers such as Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Shirley Muldowney, and Garlits. Glenn continued to run Top Fuel for a short time, then found another quality ride in the national-record-setting Plueger & Gyger Mustang.
Interesting times, interesting tales. It’s what makes our little world here go 'round and 'round.