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
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.
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
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
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.