Then there was the day Bateman's "lightweight" Cuda crashed
... one of the most impressive explosions and crashes that I have ever seen. And Collins
was back at the track later that evening. Still remember the sound of the motor winding
past the lights. Standing there with the other photographers sort of pulling your head in
to cover because you knew it was going to blow. After that one, I knew that John Collins
was going to live forever.
|Tom West on the
dangers of drag photography and the seeming invincibility of funny car drivers, 1/99|
The cars Fuller built were for the driver: I took over for the Mongoose in Donovan's
Fuller car. He is much shorter than me. You kind of folded into the driving position. Some
drivers even went to sleep sitting in the staging lanes (and at the start line too). I had
been driving the car for a couple of weeks and was having handling problems about 3/4
track. Lost a couple of races and Donovan's ready to fire me and Fuller comes up and says
your legs are too long. The problem was when I let the clutch out (we manually engaged the
clutch) my left knee hit the butterfly and caused the car to start going to the right.
Fuller moved the butterfly back two inches and it went straight as an arrow. Fuller could
tell you more about the driving of one of those cars than most who drove.
|Wayne King on big
drivers, little cockpits, and the talents of Kent Fuller, 1/99|
This is a shot
of one of my favorite funny cars. Foster built it down at Woodie's, running it for a
while, until our other new Hot Shoe, O'Donnell, jumped in. I understand there were some
politics involved later with this car, but I will not go into that since I have no idea
what the deal was. This was the first time the car turned a tire, down at OCIR. Took off
work from the GM plant around 11, after making arrangements for two weeks, and having the
approval rescinded at the last minute. Finally got down to the track, with last minute
preparations taking place.
Remember Foster walking around the car and commenting that it
was the best looking car that he ever drove, which was bothering him. Said that it didn't
look like a race car like that, so got a small piece of 200MPH tape and stuck it around
the fuel tank breather, saying essentially, there, that's more like it. Took the car to
the line, fired and did the first burnout, which you see in the attached picture. Pat had
a guy with him to help, plus the guys that were there with Don Cook. They started to back
the car up, and looked like semaphore practice. Had the car swerving back and forth across
the lane as they kept changing the lineup point. Foster finally just stopped and waved his
arms to get everyone out of the way. Backed up and came up to the line on his own.
Couldn't hold it on the line and went on down track without fully staging. I remember
something about breaking the caliper brackets so the brakes wouldn't hold.
One of the
funniest things of the whole deal (if I can be a bit politically incorrect) was Don Cook
coming over trying to swear, but not quite being able to get it out ... ended up with
"F-F-F-F ... C-C-C-C.... S-S-S-S ... What a b-b-b-b-buncha shit!!!!!" This was
the parting line as he headed to the truck. We did the rest of the shots, including the
second thing that I will send, and finished the deal for the day. As an aside, I got to
work on Monday and found out that my boss had tried to get me fired for leaving without
permission to do this shoot. Long story, but he wasn't able to do it and was even more
pissed. Anyway, was really a beautiful car.
|Tom West on the debut
of Don Cook's pristine "Damn Yankee" AA/FC, 1/99|
Yes, the Damn Yankee was one of the best lookers ever (and ran good too). We did the
paint and lettering at Kirby's. I know that Pat wanted to build the lowest car out there
and pulled it off (note how high the injector is). I think they were #2 qualifier at Indy
that year, if Pat won't step up and tell the story I will (Pat, I'm giving you first
option.. remember.. the rods coming out.. Shirley's comment.. defending Bergler from
attack.. do you want to tell it or should I?) [This comes later...keep reading! bp/drl]
I still get to do a little bit of what I enjoyed doing so much: painting the headlights
and taillights on the F/Cs that come out of Seiver's paint shop (Force, Cruz, Dunn), but I
wish they still had "grills" like that Cuda did, it was fun stuff!