It was almost 30 years ago, the fall of 1972. The NHRA Super
Nationals, now called the World Finals, was the final event of the
season. It was also the kick-off of the winter funny car match racing
season on the left coast.
This event always brought out all the heavy-hitters but imagine
everyone's surprise as a blue ramp truck with Jungle Jim's new Vega
pulled in the gate.
Now Jungle didn't run too many NHRA events at that time, but he
wanted to run his new car at the same track with everyone else and see
how he measured up. The crew consisted of "Lil'" Johnny Leshko
(side of car), Pete "White Peter" White (rear of car), and
some guy named "Berserko" Bob (driving the ramp truck.)
This is that car, my personal favorite of all the Jungle Jim cars.
Built by Romeo Palamides of jet car fame in Chicago, painted by Bob
Gerdes of Circus Custom Paint, then lettered by the infamous "Mr.
J," it was a pretty trick piece at the time.
Previously, Jungle had bought cars from various builders and even
built a few himself at his shop in West Chester, Pennsylvania. This was
Jungle's first store-bought piece in a long time and he decided to take
it out to Ontario, California, for the 1972 NHRA SuperNationals.
I don't remember the exact numbers, but I do know that one pass that
weekend was Jungle's personal best at the time.
This car currently resides in Don Garlits' museum but not as you see
it here. Jungle sold the car to Nick Boninfante, who put a 1974 nose on
it and ran it as the "U.S. Male." It changed hands a few times
and was found in a field in Pennsylvania. Garlits bought it and restored
it to its original condition. By the way, "Mr. J" went to
Florida to re-letter the car after Garlits and his crew finished the
I've been in constant contact with Johnny, but am still looking for
Pete. Last I heard, he was living in Glen Alden, Pennsylvania, and was
working at the Philly Airport. Anybody out there who can help find him?
Berserko Bob Doerrer