A Talk With Big Daddy
Text by Perry Wyatt, Jr. ~ Photo by Big Bob Snyder
This is a conversation between me, Perry S. Wyatt, Jr., and Don Garlits!
Perry: This is said to be Don Garlits in this Big Bob Snyder photo. This was taken at the National Event that Dwane won at New York National in August of 1970. Garlits was all over this car!
Don: That is I, in fact, and I was all over the car and I even sat in it! However, I hadn't blown off my right foot in a slingshot yet, so I didn't build one. Laying in the hospital in intense pain got me thinking, why not rear engine? Hell, they go around a track at Indy at over 200 MPH in traffic, what the Hell was wrong with us drag racers that we couldn't go straight for 1320 feet with a rear engine? So I got on the project, remembering the problems I had with my first RE car in 1957, an Oldsmobile powered Gas dragster that wouldn't go straight. I remembered the Pawnbroker, but I wanted a simpler drive train. Perhaps had Woody built Ong's car with a conventional drive train, history would be different, but he didn't and all the Facebook posting in the world will never change what happened in California in the winter of 1971!
Perry: OMG... Thank You Big Daddy! Confirmation from the man himself! You are correct Big. Nothing will change what happened in 1971! But all this Facebooking lets people know all that went into it! I just called Dwane Ong. He says you are exactly correct Don! Dwane says "Hi" and hopes you are doing well!
Don: Thanks Perry, but sometimes I get the feeling that there are bad feelings from the Ong fans. I didn't stop Ong from making his car the first RE car that won consistently in NHRA competition, Hell, he had over a year head start. I loved his car and the visibility it gave the driver. But change comes slowly and I was riding a winning horse at the time. I just didn't know the horse was going to bite me!
Perry: Don, please remember you ARE DRAG RACING... Number 1 We who know Dwane just have that "underdog" thing going on! YOU have ALL the RESPECT in the world from ME! Dwane wants me to save this and he will sign it and says to get you to sign it! What an historic document and photo!
Don: I would be honored to sign the picture and please say hello to Dwane for me. I haven't seen him in years. Dwane ought to attend the NHRA Reunion at Bowling Green this year; everyone would love to see him. He is a true Pioneer in our sport. Where is the Pawnbroker RE Car? It should be in the Don Garlits Museum for all the world to enjoy instead of some garage, hidden from the Drag Racing world, never to see the light of day!
Perry: Rumor is the car has been restored, but not confirmed. We have our fingers crossed!
Don: Let's hope it is out there somewhere. It should be in a museum! While I was recovering in Seffner, I sold the remains of Swamp Rat 13 to TC Lemons. He and Swingle repaired the car and went on tour. Marvin Schwartz was doing my contracts until I was healed up. We were starting to build the RE Car in the Seffner shop. I went to Bristol to the AHRA Spring Nationals just to watch. Swingle was having trouble getting qualified so I put on his fire suit and drove the SR 13 car to Top Time and Low ET! I then handed to gloves and suit back to Swingle and he lost in the first round. However, the strips went wild, they wanted me back in the car for the contracts. I went to driving for TC Lemons for 40%, the only time in my career that I drove on percentage for someone. I finished the year on the same engine, came home and finished the RE car and began testing. The rest is history.