Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car, will be one of the many celebrities appearing at the 2014 St. Louis Auto Show this weekend. Hight will be signing autographs and talking to fans on Saturday, Jan. 25, from noon until 2 p.m. in the Auto Club booth. In addition to the 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion’s one-day appearance, the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car on display for the full event.
“I love coming to the St. Louis Auto Show,” said Hight. “We have a ton of NHRA fans in the St. Louis area and the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park is one of our favorite races. The season is about to start so getting everyone revved up and supporting Auto Club makes for a great time.
The 2014 St. Louis Auto Show is the largest automobile event in the St. Louis area, featuring more than 500 new cars, trucks, SUVs and luxury vehicles from over 25 manufacturers all under one roof. The auto show runs from Thursday, Jan. 23 - Sunday, Jan. 26, at the America's Center and Edward Jones Dome (701 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101). For more information visit http://www.saintlouisautoshow.com.
Former Top Fuel world champion Shirley Muldowney and Doug Herbert, along with a cast of high-performance supporters, are teaming up to bring Muldowney’s 1940 Plymouth Sedan—the “Grocery Getter”—to the auction block in 2014. The proceeds from the sale of the two-tone pink hot rod will be donated to B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe), the 501(c)3 organization founded by Herbert, that teaches young drivers greater levels of skill and concentration when behind the wheel.
Muldowney’s son, John, was responsible for fabricating the custom chassis and handling the initial build for the unique machine. The final construction of the Grocery Getter will be performed by Loren Harris and his crew at Blue Ridge Hot Rods in Staunton, Va., who are donating their time and talents toward the completion of the project.
“This is going to be a major undertaking by everyone,” said Herbert, who also owns and operates the Herbert Performance Parts Center in Concord, N.C. “We’re planning on having the car completed by summer of this year and to take it on a show car tour around the country. Shirley and I have even talked about taking it on the Hot Rod Power Tour. We hope to see six-figure bidding for such a quality hot rod with Shirley Muldowney’s name on the title.”
“The job that Doug has done with B.R.A.K.E.S. helping kids to become such better drivers makes me even prouder to be his friend,” says Shirley. “I’m hoping the proceeds from the sale of the 'Grocery Getter’ will make it possible for even more young drivers to stay safe and avoid making a serious mistake out on the roads.”
For more information on B.R.A.K.E.S. or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.putonthebrakes.com.
Former NHRA Pro Stock and blown gasser driver Ken Dondero died Jan. 17 after a brief illness. He was 74.
Dondero became involved in drag racing in Northern California in the early 1960s with a ’52 Chevy, and the skills he displayed there led to a number of offers from car owners. It wasn’t long before Dondero’s talents caught the eye of Bob Panella, who was campaigning an injected B/Gas Anglia. Panella first requested assistance with selecting parts, then asked him to take over as driver in late 1967.
Together they won Super eliminator at the Winternationals and Hot Rod magazine race in 1969 and came back for a Winternationals runner-up and Bakersfield March Meet win in 1970. Dondero’s four-speed skills soon produced offers from many teams in the newly created Pro Stock category, and after driving for Dick Landy in 1971, he was hired to drive Nicholson’s Ford Maverick in 1972. The fuel crunch at the end of 1973 made it difficult for Nicholson to match race from his shop in Orange, Calif., so Dondero relocated to Pennsylvania and began driving for Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins.
With Larry Lombardo designated to drive at NHRA national events, Dondero ran AHRA events and dominated by winning nine of 11 races in 1975 and 11 of 13 in 1976.
Dondero spent the last season of his first stint in Pro Stock with the Gapp & Roush team in 1977, then retired. After several years, he was called back into action by Panella, who wanted to put together a Pro Stock team for the 1984 season. Dondero informed him that Jenkins was selling a lot of his equipment, so Panella bought Jenkins’ Pro Stock Camaro and a few engines.
Pro Stock had switched from the weight-break engines to the larger and more powerful 500-cid powerplants, but Dondero adapted very quickly, and the Panella team quickly became competitive. By the time that Dondero decided to retire for good in mid-1986, the operation had performed well enough to earn much-coveted factory backing from Oldsmobile.
He is survived by his son, Rick; daughter Cheryl; brothers Wayne and Richard; sisters Audrey Hodges and Valarie Seymore; and his longtime companion, Rozetta Dawes.
Rico Paris, a former Top Gas and Top Fuel racer in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, died Dec. 21. He was 76.
Paris and his brother, Peter, learned their automotive skills at the knee of their father, Dom, who opened Dom Paris & Sons Collision Center, a Winnebago, Ill.-based auto body shop in 1958, which was the home base for the creation of the dragsters built by the brothers.
With Paris as the driver, they raced across the United States during the 1950s and 1960s and eventually ended up in the competitive Top Gas class, where two-engine slingshots were the norm. The Paris brothers took that one step further by unveiling the first rear-engine, twice-motored Top Gas dragster.
Unfortunately, NHRA discontinued the class not long after, and, following a brief foray into Top Fuel, Paris was forced to retire after suffering a stroke when he was 40 after continued exposure to paint fumes. Told he probably would never walk again, his determination and persistence proved all the doctors wrong. Within a year and a half, he had picked himself up and was moving on with his life. Prior to his stroke, Paris loved bowling, hunting, trap shooting, and, of course, drag racing, and in spite of his disability, later in life he developed a love of golf. He played most of the links in the area and many out-of-state locations.
Paris is survived by his wife, Marilynn; son Dom; daughters Laura (Bucky) Ihlenfeldt and Lindsey (Mike) Vanderhouter; grandchildren Jake, Mia, and Sam Ihlenfeldt; brother Peter as well as nieces; great-nephews; godsons; stepchildren; stepgreat-grandchildren; and a stepgreat-great-granddaughter.