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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Early Don Garlits Q&A

By Bill Pitts and Jim Hill

Let's take things into March of '65 and see how exact we can get things when it comes to the "Gar" juggernaut that hit "B" Town for the "Smoker's" Meet. Now is the "Swamp Rat IX" the same car that he won the "Fuel and Gas Championships" in? Don't forget that we've got "Starvin' Marvin" in a black car and Swingle in one as well. THEY ALL LOOKED ALIKE. Except that, I believe, that Swingle car had a rear suspension! 

So were they all dubbed "Swamp Rats"? Were they given a number in the line of "Rats" or were they not included. And did the "IX" car win the race? Or was it another of the line? Inquiring minds want to know.

Bill Pitts 

The '65 March Meet invasion of "rats" was all with the newer chassis, all of which had the three-point cages and the fiberglass formed rear body sections. Swingle's car had a quarter-elliptic leaf spring rear suspension, but it might have been removed and made "solid" by Bakersfield time. I saw this deal run at an old WW2 airfield in Valkaria, Florida, the "Dixie Drag Festival." Swingle was the mule car for the 426 "late model" motor while Don still ran the 392, as did Marvin. 

Swingle would rev up the motor, let out the clutch and the car would cough and almost stall-dead, then come back to life and kill the tires. Strange indeed. It took awhile for racers to "discover" that the 426 had to run with a bunch more spark lead. The initial "discovery" was by pure accident when a crewmember accidentally twisted in far more spark advance than was normally run in a 392. 

The result was the "late model" motors, which had pretty much been a failure on nitro, suddenly came alive, driving nails into the coffins of the venerable ol' 392s. This might have been part of Swingle's problems with the "lazy" 426 he ran in the rear-suspension car. 

I cannot say if Garlits called all these cars "Swamp Rats." He was somewhat inconsistent in this concept of dubbing his cars by Swamp Rat number. The IV car was the wedge Dodge gas car; the V car was a nitro car, as were VI and VII. 

Garlits' picture books (three volumes) probably would clear up this question. I provided the many of the photos for the first Garlits book, but I can't honestly remember which number now applies to which car exactly. 

By the way Mr. Pitts, I'm your Number One fan after all those wonderful "Cacklefest" exhibitions including the Grand Finale/Super Bowl at In-N-Out. 

If this counts for anything, I was sitting inside, eating and talking with Ed Iskenderian (My hero!) about how much fun the reunion was and the state of the cam business when both the Magicar and Vagabond fired up outside. Ed nearly choked jumping up and getting to the door to get outside to see the spectacle! Now, how many blown, fuel motors you guess Isky has seen and heard in his lifetime... yet he just couldn't get outside fast enough to check it out. A true racer entertained by the antics of the Pitts and Anderson crews, keepers of the flames and champions of the cackle. 

Jim Hill

 

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