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Drag Racing Stories
Dec 14, 2011


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60s Funny Cars: The Hemi Cudas

Text by Danny White


Bob Richter and Gary Bolger debut the first Gold Digger in 1969. This Barracuda replaced the Tension line of funny cars. The car was a staple of the Midwest match race scene as were the Gold Diggers that followed. The team replaced this body with a new Cuda in 1970. The lineage of Gold Digger funny cars extended into the early 1980s. Various drivers took the wheel, but Richter was the primary owner. (Information from Draglist.com; photo by Big Bob Snyder)


Prior to going funny racing, Cliff Brown was a Top Fuel pilot. In 1969, Brown and Keith Bush teamed up with the Speed Sport Team to build this Barracuda. The Speed Sport Cuda raced in 1969 and 1970, usually in match races. Fred Goeske rented the car for a time when he needed complete dates after burning his own Barracuda to the ground. In 1971, Cliff left to drive the Stone, Woods, Cook, and Keaton Mustang funny car on the Coca-Cola Circuit. Brown later was famous for his Chicago Kid series of AA/Funny Cars. (Information from Draglist.com; photo by Big Bob Snyder)


Harry Claster was part of a group of nitro racers that raced weekly at Midwest tracks like US 30, Union Grove, and others. The racers were able to maintain a busy race schedule without having to travel across the country. Claster raced early funny cars before moving into the Chicago Harry Barracuda, his most famous ride. Harry ran this car for only a short time. (Information from Draglist.com, David Ray, and Dennis Doubleday; photo by Mike Sopko)


Kenney Goodell, AKA The Action Man, had extensive and varying racing experience in the 1960s, spending time behind the wheel of Fuel Altereds, Fuel Dragsters, and Fuel Funny Cars. Goodell began racing funny cars in 1968 with a Mustang. He sold that car to Carol Yenter, and had Ron Scrima's Exhibition Engineering build this car in 1969. With a big hemi built by Columbia Racing Engines, Kenney raced competitively against hitters such as Jerry Ruth and Ed McCulloch. (Information from Draglist.com; photo by Patrick Lippy)


Herman Lesmeister named the Magical Mystery Tour Barracuda after the Beatles album and movie of the same name. Herman took the wildly painted car to one of the first 200 MPH slips, but it was highly questioned. Lesmeister mainly competed in match races, but was seen at occasional national events. Herman never did back up the outstanding time slip, but continued to race into the seventies with the series of Super 442 funny cars. (Information from Draglist.com; photo by Mike Ditty)


"Miss STP" Paula Murphy stepped up her funny car program when she replaced her dated Mustang with this Barracuda purchased from Larry Reyes. Larry had only raced the car a few times before accepting a driving job with Roland Leong. Paul sold the Mustang to the owner of Suffolk Dragway, who later sold it to Butch Kernodle. The new Barracuda was built by Don Hardy in late 1968 and powered by one of Fat Jack Bynum's 392 Chrysler Hemis. Murphy later updated the car with a new Duster body and 426 Hemi before selling it in 1970. (Information from Paula Murphy and Dennis Doubleday; photo by Ray Mann, courtesy of Quarter Milestones)


The Bear-A-Cuda was owned by the Missouri teams of the Sites Bros. and Biggers & Loo and was driven by Bob Manion. The teams were well-known funny car racers from the category's early days. The Logghe Stamping Company-built Barracuda ran a known best of 7.63 at 200.44 in 1969. The team competed at AHRA national events and Midwest match racing. By the end of 1969, the team had split up. Biggers & Loo went out on their own with a new funny car, and the Sites Bros. and Manion retired from racing. (Information from Draglist.com; photo by Dean Miller)


The "Shipman's Cuda" of Wendell Shipman was one of many low-buck funny cars racing in Southern California in the late sixties. The Barracuda was built in 1968 and was a regular at Lions, Irwindale, and Orange County for a couple of years. Shipman and Frank Pedregon took turns behind the wheel. Wendell eventually drove for Big John Mazmanian, Steve Plueger, and Nathan Valdez before hanging up his helmet. (Information from Draglist.com; photo by Mike Ditty)


The well-known team of Swensen & Lani entered the funny car wars with this entry. The wild looking purple Barracuda was built in 1969 to replace the team's blown altered. Arnie Swensen drove and Bob Lani tuned the car to known best of 7.93 at 203 at US 13 in Delmar, Delaware. The team continued to race funny cars through the mid-seventies, but none had as wild and memorable a paint job as this. (Information from Draglist.com; photo by Big Bob Snyder)


Pee Wee Wallace was already a legend on the East Coast by the time he built this Barracuda in 1969. The former Virginian machines had raced on gas and alcohol with success on the NHRA, NASCAR, and match race circuits. Pee Wee stepped up to nitro with this ride and did not miss a beat. The Virginian was tough in local NHRA action as well as in match races. Wallace continued to race into the seventies, continuing his Virginian series of cars and also racing as a hired gun for the Alabamian and Black Stang entries. (Information from Draglist.com; photo by Big Bob Snyder)

 

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