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Drag Racing Stories
Aug 26, 2007

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70s Funny Cars Round 44

Text by Danny White

Mister T was a used car dealership in Southern California that specialized in the sale of muscle cars and hot rods. First Mister T sponsored the Steve Bovan Camaro in 1969, and then in 1970 they fielded their own car with transplanted Canadian Vic Morse behind the wheel. Fletcher did the chassis; the Corvette was adorned in one of the most intricate paint schemes ever by Bill Carter or Cerny. Like many Corvette funny cars, the machine was fraught with bad luck from day one. In its debut at 1970 Bakersfield March Meet, Morse crashed right off the line. The car was quickly repaired, but soon suffered a small fire. Eventually, the gremlins were laid to rest temporarily as the car managed a few decent times, hitting some 7.30s at 200 plus. Eventually Morse gave up the driving to Rusty Dwellings, who later crashed the car on Lions top end in late 1970. (Photo by L&M Photos courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Race Memories; text by Bill Duke)

Painted in a bright rainbow design on white by Nat Quick, the Gitthens and Allen 1970 Camaro was very easy to spot. The team consisted of the tuner Jerry Gitthens and driver Joe Allen and they were the most successful Oklahoma funny car of the era. Before racing funny cars, the team had raced fuel altereds and dragsters using the Chevrolet 348 W engine! This was the team’s second Camaro funny car -- the original 67 Camaro would not pass new SEMA chassis specs. The new Logghe built Camaro was run with a 427 Chevy in 1970. The team won the 1970 High Altitude Nationals at Continental Divide Raceway near Denver, Colorado. G&A put a new 426 Hemi in the car for the 1971 season and finally a Lenco. The team eventually built a new Vega, but soon after Joe Allen retired from racing to start a new business. Gitthens continued to race with new drivers Elvis Humphreys and later Jerry Jefferson. Gitthens retired from racing himself during the 1976 season. (Photo by Ray Mann courtesy of Geoff Stunkard and www.quartermilestones.com; info from Flyin' Phil Elliot and Draglist files)

The Red Turkey funny car had one of the shortest life spans of any funny car. Jim Boyd debuted the car at Lions Drag Strip and destroyed it on its maiden voyage down the famed Long Beach track. Boyd was and still is a true hot rodder and low buck racer’s racer. Jim had raced top fuelers in the sixties with moderate success and built this new Cuda funny in 1972 at his home. The Red Turkey made its debut at the Last Drag Race at Lions. On the first run it tossed a blower, destroying the new body and Boyd's funny car career. Boyd retired from racing only to return to become one of the pioneers of the emerging nostalgia Top fuel movement. Jim’s son Mike Boyd drives the famed Winged Express AA/FA and Mike Sullivan's late model AA/FA. (Photo courtesy of Tom West and Replicas West; info from Tom West, Bill Duke, and Draglist files)

Dale Armstrong is one of the greatest racers of all time, ranking number 10 on the NHRA Top 50 Racers list and as a great tuner of nitro engines. Armstrong drove many cars during the seventies, including the Armstrong, Hoover, & Larsen Cuda funny car. This is one of Armstrong's lesser known funny cars rides. It began as an injected machine in the popular Southern California injected funny car circuit. A blower was added and the team ventured as far east as Green Valley Race City for the AHRA Nationals in Texas and to the Great Northwest to visit Dale's old stomping grounds. The Chevy powered car ran a known best of 6.91, 221.00 at a Seattle match race. The team split rather quickly and Dale went on to the birth of the Pro Comp and national prominence as one of dominant racers in the class. Armstrong returned to driving fuel funny cars before he retired to become the crewchief for Kenny Bernstein. (Photo courtesy of Big Bob Snyder; info from Dennis Doubleday and Draglist files)

Here is a rare jewel from Big Bob Snyder, the Stud of Jerry Norman and Carl Bennett from Seminole, Texas. Many famed drivers took their turn at the wheel of Norman and Bennett machines, including Raymond Beadle, Charlie Therwhanger, Brian Teal, Joe Scott, and Bennett himself. Before joining forces, Bennett had raced the match bash Boomer Falcon. Norman had co-owned and tuned the Model Parts Top Fueler with Ray Whisnant with Joe Scott at the wheel. The best known Stud was the 70 Mustang, but here is the forgotten 72 Mustang, shot at a race in Colorado. Jerry Norman reported to the Draglist that he built the chassis for the Stud funny cars and they typically raced at the high altitude tracks in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Big Bob Snyder; info from Jerry Norman, Dennis Doubleday, and Draglist files)

Tony Olszko's Hemi Royale series of funny cars was one of the great Midwest match race names of the late-sixties and early-seventies. Olszko hailed from the Cleveland suburb of Walton Hills, Ohio. Tony began racing his 426 Hemi powered Barracuda in 1969. Olszko may be remembered best for his wild paint jobs. The pictured 1971 Dodge Charger was a new body on the old Barracuda chassis. You can tell that the body does not fit the chassis perfectly and some modifications were needed. Olszko ran times in the seven second range with the Charger. He replaced the Charger with a newer Camaro before retiring from racing. (Photo by Big Bob Snyder; info from the Olszko family and Draglist files)

The Desperado Cuda was Pancho Rendon’s first foray into funny car racing after the unfortunate death of Gene Domagalski at the wheel of Pancho's Frito Bandito Top Fueler and a short lived partnership with Dick LaHaie. The driver of the Desperado was fellow Michigander Bob Pacitto, who had driven Top Gas dragsters for the Logghe Bros. and funny cars for Connie Kalitta. The 426 Chrysler hemi powered machine ran a known best of 6.99 at 201. This Cuda was quickly replaced by a new Dart in 1976. In 1977, the team split when Pancho Rendon and Tom Prock teamed to raced the famed Detroit Tiger Monza. (Photo by Mike Beach courtesy of Curt Swartz; info from Draglist files)

Jim Grace made the jump from Top Fuel to drive the Jersey Jumper Monza. Grace had driven the Bratton, Honda & Peace dragster as well as the Pleasure Seekers mount. The New Jersey team of Rapaci & Casiere bought the Bluegrass Shaker from Turner & Coomes and named the Monza the Jersey Jumper. The team raced the Monza from 1977 to 1978, but swapped the name of the car in 1978 to the Equalizer. Grace ran a known best of 6.43, 212 in the Monza. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Nagy; info from Draglist files)

The Travel Agent of Pearson & DeLuca raced the former Rolling Thunder Monza purchased from Bob Barry. The team had one of the most famous funny crashes of the seventies. Driver Frank Mancuso was match racing Mike Evegens' Earthquake jet dragster at Englishtown. The Travel Agent crossed the centerline in front of the jet and the Monza was T-boned by the jet, destroying the car. Mancuso had been successful enough up to that point to hang on to win the Division 1 point title. The Travel Agent was later rebuilt and returned to the track running a best of 6.31, 220. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Nagy; info from Draglist files)

Steve Tryon and Bryon Ward teamed up on the beautiful Sun Devil Hustler in 1978. Tryon had previously raced injected funny cars, while Ward had raced fuel altereds. John Luna also drove for the team. The Sun Devil Hustler ran from 1978 until 1981. Steve Tryon ran a best of 6.67, 217.16 at Beeline Raceway near Phoenix in 1978. Ward retired from racing and Tryon moved to Oklahoma where he has since raced nostalgia funny cars and fuel altereds. There was even a short-lived revival of the Sun Devil Hustler as a new Satellite nostalgia flopper. In 2007, Steve Tryon took over the reigns of the famed Nanook AA/FA of Dave and Rick Hough. (Photo courtesy of Big Bob Snyder; info from Steve Tryon, Ron Rice, and Draglist files)


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