I am thinking more like digger of the era. As much as it pains me to say
it, the digger of the "Century" would be Garlitsí copy of the
Kaiser Bros. rear engine dragster. Donít hit me, Mark... That single car
began and ended the respective eras, along with bringing extreme notoriety
to the sport as a whole.
BUT, to the mission at hand....
Digger of the century/era. Tough call. Process of elimination; that might
help. First off would be the "Bug," after all, itís where all
dragster DNA comes from. On the other hand, although it gave it life, the
Bug didnít define or refine the mark. For me and most of you, I would say
Fuller's first three-point round cage car would do that. Where Kraft gave us
DNA, Fuller gave us a soul and a skeleton that countless others formed into
their own idea of four wheeled nirvana.
Sorrell, Hanna, and Stuckey were the aluminum surgeons that gave the mark
its beauty and filled out the mental imagery that has haunted us all. In
those terms, we now have the S&H, the Crietz, the Magicar/ Vagabond/
Starlite, the (donít bitch, itís art) Fang, Ivo's stormers and wagon --
the list there is truly endless. With all this beauty and engineering, it
would really just be sculpture without power, and for that we have countless
garage wizards and a few grand wizards (no Klan remarks, even if they are
both colored names) Ė Ed Pink and Keith Black.
Finally, we have the front men, the personalities... the drivers. With
guys like (donít have enough time to type them all) where do you start?
The Hampshire Bros. surely have a place alongside a Prudhomme, no matter the
win/loss records. Thereís no shortage of talent or bravado, not even
mentioning those who have passed on or are just out there in "where are
they now"-ville. A very broad field for a very narrow choice... but
there can only be one, eh?
Combining all the areas that make a great "car" mentioned above, I
would have to say by elimination (kind of a neat drag tie-in, eh?) the title
goes to the Greer-Black-Prudhomme car in all its incarnations and with all
those affiliated with it. Call it a metal blarney stone if you will, to have
come from the hand and mind of Fuller, powered by Black, and wheeled by
Prudhomme (fill in the rest of the characters, but these are the biggest
reasons for the vote) it went through the California Southland like a White
Castle through a rookie trucker. Sometimes, everything comes together in one
shining moment, and this was it.
Honorable mention and a damn close second for digger of the century would be
the Surfers. Throwing out all the rules above seems fitting for the guys who
threw out all the rules to devastate the world of drag racing in a way never
seen before or since. Like I said above, sometimes things just come together
in a right place and a right time to leave a mark on everyone and everything
around them. The Surfers did just that.
Even if the field was expanded to include a top 10, I donít think it would
be much easier. Top 25, 50, or 100 maybe. With characters like a Greek or a
Zookeeper, the car didnít matter much. With cars like the S&H, would
it really have mattered who drove it for it to have been a very special car?
No. Did Sneaky Pete's Fords fly with or without him behind the butterfly? Oh
Itís beyond comprehension, really, when you think about it ... how much
talent and genius came through this sport in such a short period. Seems
everything stopped once Garlits made popular that infernal Kaiser/Williams
design. Even the last attempts like Hanna's wedges went by so fast, it was
as if to say to those who had a new idea, "Last one out, turn off the
lights," and they did.
God save Bonneville, the last outpost for freethinkers, individuals, and