70s Funny Cars Round 48
Text by Danny White
Tommy Smith got into racing funny cars in 1969 with a used Dodge Dart that Houston Platt and Smith both drove. In the middle of 1970 season Smith bought the seldom ran Biggers and Loo Duster and put his lettering on the car. The space frame chassis was powered by a 426 Chrysler Hemi backed by an automatic transmission. The Tommy Smith funny car was about to come to a fiery end not long after this shot was taken at Atlanta Speed Shop Dragstrip. The Duster in the photo burned to the ground and Smith retired from racing funny cars after the fire after escaping serious injury. (Photo by Dr. Marvin Smith, Courtesy of David Dilbeck and www.georgiadragracing.com; info from Draglist files)
Here is a rare jewel from the great photo collection of Big Bob Snyder. The Soul Intruder Camaro of Griffin & Jenkins was based out of Flint, Michigan. The Camaro was one of Malcolm Durham’s old Camaro with new lettering. Durham tutored many African-American funny car teams how to run nitromethane, you can expect that the Soul Intruders got some advice from Durham how to run the car. The car was built by Durham’s Super Car Engineering shop and retained the 427 Chevy for power. Ed Jenkins did the driving for the team that raced during the 1970 season. (Photo Courtesy of Big Bob Snyder, info from Dennis Doubleday and Draglist files)
Don Sargent was one of the last to run a full size funny cars and the Flower Power 69 Pontiac GTO was a large funny car. Sargent's funny was the former Leader Automotive GTO from Michigan. Sargent carried the AA/FC designation, but most likely running on alcohol only. Sargent raced the car with the UDRA funny car circuit as well as other match racing action across the Midwest. (Handout Courtesy of Jim White, info from Dennis Doubleday and Draglist files)
Pete Miner was a well-known chassis builder in the Southeast as well as a funny car driver. Miner took over the reins of the Florida based funny car of Bob Tallent from Tallent himself. The car was run with a 69 Camaro body under the Bob's Automotive banner that was replaced with a new 71 Pontiac Trans Am body. The car was also renamed the Prodigal. The team was a regular in N.H.R.A. Division 2 action as well as match races. The Prodigal was destroyed in a fire that prompted Pete Miner to write a testimonial about the safety equipment that saved his life. Bob Tallent retired from racing while Miner went on to drive other funny cars and dragsters. (Photo from the Big Dawg Collection, info from Draglist files)
The Canham & Harris funny car at the time this picture was shot was about to be destroyed in a crash at the original Mission Dragway in British Columbia, Canada. The car was bought from Ed McCullough and Art Whipple and had been built by Dick Fletcher. This was the second funny to be raced by Lyle Canham replacing an earlier Mustang. Canham and Harris built a 392 Chrysler Hemi for the car.
Bill Grant's Vega was an obscure match racer from the Northeast. The Vega was Grant's second funny car; the previous was the Wilkens & Grant Camaro. The Vega was built by Grant and raced on his own name and the Flexi-Flyer moniker. The Chevy powered funny car was driven by Howard Brown and Bill Grant in the New York area near Grant's home. (Photo courtesy of Ted Pappacena and www.dragracingimagery.com, info from Draglist files)
In the Seventies, James Brown had the fastest Anglia bodied racecar in the world. The infamous Anglia was neither fish nor foul. It was not a true funny car, but was not a true altered either. This was the third Anglia Brown raced. The car in the photo was built in 1973. Fellow Anglia racer Dennis Piranio built the chassis and James Brown and Ray Russell mounted the body. The car was built to race on the Texas Anglia Circuit. The group consisted of all kinds of Anglia’s. Brown’s Anglia was usually the favorite to win because of the performance advantage it had. Due to the short wheelbase of the Anglia, complete straight runs were not the norm! Brown sometimes ran a little nitro in the car after receiving a blower.
Brown sometimes raced the car in Texas Pro Comp shows against the dragsters and funny cars without much success. The car's best time was a reported 7.17 at 190 plus. Brown's car was featured in such magazines such as "Wacky Wheels" because of its uniqueness. By 1977, the Texas Pro Anglia circuit was dead. Brown started running the car with a Vega body in BB/FC races. James last ran the very popular Anglia in 1977. (Photo Courtesy of Jim White, info from Draglist files)
Lewis & Klampke made the big jump from Comp Eliminator into the nitro funny car wars in the late seventies. The team built a Vega to race in the tough Northwest action. Famed nitro pilot Mike Miller drove for the team at first and Dean Klampke took over the driver's seat. The team did not race for long retiring by the end of the decade. (Photo Courtesy of Herman Marchetti, info from Draglist files)
Gerry Steiner proclaimed himself the World's Fastest Austrian and who can argue with that! Gerry Steiner, after coming from Europe, drove Top Fuelers in the sixties and seventies. Steiner switched over to funny cars by the end of the decade. The Sparks and Steiner started out as a BB/FC as shown in the photo, but the car was soon swapped the Donovan over to nitro. Steiner ran the car with the body and without the body in Top Fuel on occasion. Gerry Steiner ran a known best of 6.56 with the car at Bakersfield before parking the car. Steiner would later become a star on the nostalgia circuit until an accident forced his retirement. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty, info from Flyin' Phil Elliot and Draglist files)
Dick Rosberg raced Top Gas dragsters before getting into funny car racing. Rosberg drove the Fighting Irish funny cars for Tim Beebe before Beebe retired from racing. Rosberg drove the Hallucination Top Fueler the next couple of years before returning to the funny car wars. Rosberg returned with the Fighting Irish name on a new Hemi powered Trans Am with new partners Novak and Bill McDaniel. The team raced the black Trans Am in NHRA, IHRA, and match races from 1977 to 1981. Rosberg ran a best of 6.11 241 before selling the car to Della Woods. The Rosberg-McDaniel-Novak built two jet cars in 1982 with backing from Stroh's Beer and Bill McDaniel driving the second car. Rosberg later became the jet inspector for IHRA. (Photo by Mike Beach, Courtesy of Curt Swartz, info from Draglist files)