In a year, a lot of stuff moves in and out of my e-mail box: photos, stories, Web site links, and I collect it all and store it like an animal preparing for hibernation, my own little collection of nuts and berries to get me through the winter. There's an amazing thread of photos on the H.A.M.B. forum that's nearly 400 pages and filled with great old shots like these; I only made it about a fourth of the way through before my finger (and my brain) went numb.
Below is a series of images that I found cool, interesting, or just weird (author estimate only; your taste may differ), along with my notes and thoughts.
Back in the day, anything was possible. How about an Offy with a side-mounted blower on Ed Donovan's dragster?
Nothing says drag racing like way too big of an engine stuffed into too little car; reminds me of the models I used to imagineer as a kid.
Rear slicks churning, front tires grabbing air, and, an acrobatic flagman.
Uhhh, dude? I don't think you asked for a big enough head start.
A wheelstander with everything but the kitchen sink.
Who said snakes can't fly?
Prudhomme gets air in the lights in Seattle.
Hard to believe that today's Top Fuelers evolved from this; from its whitewall tires to its Rat Fink-like shifter placement, I really dig this car.
(Above) So you still think that Don Garlits invented the rear-engine dragster, do ya? (Below) Donnie and Gene Bowman's flathead-powered Vineland Villain wasn't pretty, but it sure looked crude. Back then, functionality trumped almost everything.
I love this shot, taken in the pits at Lions. No, not the neat old flip-top panel wagon -- the lady, dressed in skirt and heels. Priceless.
Again, it's the people who make this shot. The clown, second from left, doing his "Take the picture already" pose and the other guy still slipping on (or off?) his coat, who's clearly not ready for the shot. And that dragster? Not much traction in those rear meats.
Kinda funny, too, but for a different reason is Surfers pilot Mike Sorokin almost having his helmet sucked off at speed (center).
And speaking of in-car cameras, I just love this shot from Jess Sturgeon's car.
This is a great shot, too, taken from the cockpit of one of Scotty Fenn's legendary Chassis Research chassis that revolutionized the sport. I took some Photoshop liberties with the original to blur the background as the El Camino tow vehicle was a distraction. Love that steering wheel and big ol' brake handle. (Below) This is Fenn's workshop. That's Fenn at far left overseeing work on some of his K-88 and TE-448 chassis.
Another vintage chassis on this cool twin. Always amazing to me to see how primitive the early driver-protection devices were.
Okay, if you don't like this photo, you can hardly consider yourself a drag fan. Classic Lions stuff.
Here's how those early dragsters got their nickname; the driver sat behind the rear tires like a rock in a slingshot.
A couple of engines, four tires, a little extra tubing, a welder, and there's little that early drag racers couldn't -- and didn't -- try.
I looooooooove this shot. The photographer did such a great job of exposing it and allowing you to see every detail, nut, and bolt on the blower. Arthur Trim tells me that this is Connie Kalitta's Logghe-chassised Ford-powered digger, photographed on a chassis dyno in one of Ford's labs/
Indy is a place where magical things happen. Look closely, and you can see that "Big John's" battle-scarred 'Cuda has all four tires off the ground.
Not all new ideas were good ones; Exhibit A is Noel Black's two-engine, four-wheel-drive Top Fueler from 1967.
Call me an astute observer, but I reckon that "Big Jim" Dunn was pretty much done for this run at Lions in the rainbow-hued Dunn & Reath digger.
Who says you need four wheels?
"I'll take Scary Fast Tricycles for $500, Alex."
In the same vein, who says you even need four wheels or three wheels? The famed Leffler-Coburn Iron Mistress coupe had six! In a true example of the sum of the parts not being equal to the whole, Neil Leffler and Bill Coburn each took the fuel-burning Hemis from their competition coupes and paired them for this interesting experiment. It wasn't real fast, but it was spectacular.
We've seen lead weights and tubes filled with lead shot as front-end ballast, but a rock? I kid you not. Clearly, the Red Mountain Boys knew how to rock.
I think we've all seen the classic photo of Don Garlits' career-changing transmission explosion at Lions, but here is Jon Asher's less-seldom-seen but equally-breathtaking downtrack angle. I'm not sure who circled the fan in the stands or why, but that's how this image was posted.
I've never seen this car before, but it can't be any mistake that the names on its side are Capp and Fedderly, as in future Top Fuel partners (and Indy winners) Terry Capp and Bernie Fedderly. Both are still at it years later, Capp in nostalgia racing and Fedderly as Austin Coil's alter ego on the John Force team.
The first rule of running against a jet dragster: Always leave first.
Herman Munster, far lane, and Grandpa dueled at Lions in a ghoulish go that was featured on the popular television show.
The driver's reaction in this photo is classic after his blown Fiat puked all over the Lions starting line.