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The Hill Files

'60s Fuel Dragster Technology

by Jim Hill - 12/2/1998

This really slick-looking car was the Logghe Bros. streamliner as it appeared at the 1966 (?) NHRA Nationals at Indy. This was powered by a very large (389 cu. in.), unblown small block Chevy running on 98% nitromethane! ("Really large" is hardly an exaggeration, especially since the largest production SBC at that time was the 327 engine, 4.00" x 3.25". The 4.00" x 3.48" 350 didn't appear until '67 model year. These "big" motors were typically overbored .030" to .060" and used a welded 3.750" stroker crank with Carillo chrome-vanadium steel rods)

Actually, this car was preceded by Logghe's well-known "Giant Killer" A/FD, a similar SBC unblown car with a conventional shorty body. They ran that car at Indy in '64 or 65. I can't remember if they qualified for the then 32-car field, but I seem to recall it ran 7.9's at 189-190 mph. Next year they brought the 'liner to the Nationals. Only a couple of decals and small lettering that read: "Logghe Stamping". I believe Ray Marsh drove both of these race cars.

I'm not sure, but my best guess is that Al Bergler had a lot to do with this body design, as several areas of the body looked a lot like his AA/C FE car, and he was sort of Logghe's unofficial "tin bender" for all the Funny Cars they turned out in the late 60's. I think this body was 'glass, but there's still a lot of Bergler's influence evident.

One of the really remarkable points of this unblown, small-block Chevy set-up is that optimum spark advance for these nitro motors was in the 68-70 degrees BTDC range! Since nitro burns slowly (kind of like using slow-burning smokeless powder for rifle barrels as opposed to the faster burning powder used in shorter-barreled handgun cartridges) the spark had to be introduced early! Piston and combustion chamber design of that day dictated a high "pop-up" dome (yielding about 14.0:1 c/r) that also needed a "fire-slot" machined through the dome's center, to provide a burn path for flame kernel travel. These factors all combined to create a situation in which extreme spark advance was necessary to fire the mixture. These guys ran Vertex magnetos, hardly the optimum in ignition spark energy. One could only wonder how much better they would run with today's high output electronic ignitions. Probably wouldn't need that much spark advance, either!

A racer in Hialeah, Florida, Ben Diener bought a Logghe chassis and built a big SBC motor for A/FD. Ran at Bristol, NHRA Springnationals in '66, taking A/FD class run-offs (remember when you had to win class to run the eliminator?) and going several rounds in Super Eliminator. Car ran 8.0's to 8-teens at 188-189, not bad! A couple years later Diener quit to pursue his Street Rod business building complete turn-key, high-buck street rods based on large sedans - '32 Caddys, Lincolns, etc. His company's name is Diener-Built of Davie, Florida, and is well known to street rodding fans of the high-end cars and for precision CNC machined billet aluminum accessories. Diener was always known for absolutely perfect craftsmanship. I first knew him when he ran a nailhead Buick powered B/Dragster, high 9's at 150+, in the early 60's.

Another Hialeah-based Logghe unblown A/FD car was built and run a couple years by George Sparks and Eddie Careccia. It was eventually lengthened and ran a blown big-block 427 Chevy that had various problems related to getting the fuel system "right". It banged and coughed so much that we nicknamed it "The Firebird". After lots of frustration, they sold all the Chevy stuff, called Ed Pink and bought a complete, injector hat down to oil pan, 392 Pink motor, ready to pour oil in and run! (I referred to this deal in earlier replies on "Pink's Cash Register") It first went into the lengthened Logghe car and they ran it a few times while waiting for a brand new car built by the late Lester Guillory. I believe Lester was from Baton Rouge or New Orleans, Louisiana. (For you Yankees, it's pronounced "Noo-Awe-Lins", "Loo-See-Anna"!)

This car, after they took delivery, had a nice full body, (not as elaborate as a Hanna gem, just a "regular" dragster body) professional lettering, etc. Eddie Careccia hired Sarge Arciero to drive, (Sarge was a busy shoe in the late 60's and through the 70's) and they won several Eastern races including one of the AHRA deals at Bristol, in '70 or so. Sparks dropped out of the partnership about '70, due to job commitments with IBM. Careccia today runs an IHRA Top Dragster with an unblown, nitrous big-block Chevy. He won an IHRA event this year and currently lives in North Carolina.

The unblown A/FD concept of running lightweight, unblown, small-block motors on lots of nitro against the big blown Hemis was close, but no cigar. The little cars were perilously light (under 950 lbs. and some even lighter!) and very quick for the first 500 feet until the big-inch power and blower caught up with car momentum and they started to fly towards the lights. If drag races were run on 1,000 ft. tracks there would have probably been a lot of cars such as these built and raced and many wins credited.

Of course, the lesson learned here is: "You can't beat cubic inches and a blower!"

This too opens a controversy of why TF used stroker motors (about 440 to 450 CID) in the late 50's, early 60's, then went back to stock-stroke 392's during much of the 60's when Zeuschel, KB and Pink dominated the motor wars of "The Golden Age". Then, like cycle dictates, long-stroke motors came back into vogue once again and now have "rested" at the 500" point (NHRA rules) for some time. My opinion, after having observed all this back-and-forth stuff is contained in a simple phrase: "Tires and clutches kept catching up to available power."

Jim Hill

 

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