A Little Ditty 'Bout Tony and Diane...
By Tony Butera
Here's a picture of our car in 1971 at Utica-Rome Speedway.
Original owner Ron Walsh is at the wheel. Photographer unknown
Here's the story of our funny car and how we came to acquire it. A few people owned the car, but never ran it. Our funny
was owned and driven first by Ron Walsh of Utica, NY. It was originally painted Panther Pink and Pearl White (as seen above). Ron built the car using a Pete Tropeano chassis and a 1971 Dodge Challenger body from "Fiber Glass Ltd." The motor was a 6-71 blown 427 Big Block Chevy built for him by Bruce Larson. The car
ran a few times on Alcohol before finally switching to Nitro. Ron ran the car primarily at Utica-Rome Speedway (in Vernon, NY) and
at ESTA Safety Park Drag Strip (in Cicero, NY). Ron ran low 7s @ over 200 mph several times.
Ron sold the car, turnkey, for $2,500 to Joe Peluso, who ran it for a few years. It then was sold to Mike Jacobs (Utica, NY). Mike painted it Purple and White. He ran the car,
then sold it to Robbie Marshall (Pratts Hollow, NY) who changed the motor location and ran
it as an A/G (on alcohol). Robbie painted it Maroon and Black (it was still painted that way when I got it). Robbie sold it to
Art White, who parked it in his garage. Art wanted to use the body on a street car (I don't know why). Art then sold it to
Frank Cotrupe. A year later Frank sold it back to Art.
A year later, while working in a hobby shop, I was thinking about purchasing the "Ram Rod" Challenger Funny Car kit by Johan. A customer (Frank, who was unknown to me at the time) said that he "had one of those." I thought he meant the kit. I asked him how it was, and he told me he meant that he had a "REAL" Challenger funny car. WELL, I never knew anyone who had a "REAL" funny car before, so I asked him questions for the next hour. He told me that he
had bought it from Art and then sold it back to him. He also said that Art would never sell it for any price.
Fast-forward to about a year later. I decided finally to BUILD the Challenger model kit. Art's name popped into my head. I just had to call him about his Funny Car. I found his telephone number and asked him about it. He said that he WOULD possibly sell it. He asked if I would like to come and see it. I was at his house (45 miles away) before he hung up the phone
(LOL)! My fiancée' Diane went with me and she said that I became a little kid again -- wide eyed and giddy. I was even "petting" the funny car (which I didn't know I was doing at the time). Art told me after my visit that a few other people were interested in the funny. One person (who drives an NHRA fuel funny car now) wanted to part it out. He had an Alky car at the time and wanted the rear end out of the car. He had the cash to buy it. I, on the other hand, did not.
A week went by and dreams of funny cars still danced through my head when the phone rings. It's Art. He tells me that he has heard from the "other" buyer and that he wants to sell the car.
But he said that since I was "petting" the car, he wanted me to be the one who got it. He worked out a payment plan and a year later, Diane and I took possession of the funny car. Here's where the story gets a little stranger.
Art, Frank, and Robbie, when approached for photos, ALL said that I would want to get pictures of it when it was the Custom Body Mini-Challenger. They all thought it was the "Custom Body" car. After all, how many FUEL Funny Cars could there possibly be in Utica, NY? Well... actually, there were THREE (that I know of).
While we were making payments on the funny, Diane got a new next-door neighbor named Jim. Being a motorhead, he took an interest in our 9.5-second Vega Panel Wagon when we would work on it in the driveway. Jim told me of a funny car that he worked on when his friend had it in the early '70s. He even found a picture of him holding up
the body. A year later, when the car was delivered to Diane's house, Jim saw it coming up the street from his window and ran out of his house. It was the SAME funny car he had worked on 23 years before! He then told me his friend's name was Ron Walsh. We met Ron and he supplied me with photos and info regarding the other owners.
We are gong to restore this funny car to greatness. Stay tuned for restoration photos in the next few months.
Come on by and visit us at one or all of our websites listed below.
Tony and Diane's 1971 Dodge Challenger Funny Car - http://community.webtv.net/mr392/FC
Nostalgia Funny Car Registry - http://community.webtv.net/NFCOA/NostalgiaFunnyCar
Mr. 392's website - http://community.webtv.net/mr392/mr392sHomePage
3825's website - http://community.webtv.net/mr392/3825sHomePage