It was almost 30 years ago, the fall of 1972. The NHRA Super Nationals,
now called the World Finals, was the final event of the season. It was
also the kick-off of the winter funny car match racing season on the left
This event always brought out all the heavy-hitters but imagine
everyone's surprise as a blue ramp truck with Jungle Jim's new Vega pulled
in the gate.
Now Jungle didn't run too many NHRA events at that time, but he wanted
to run his new car at the same track with everyone else and see how he
measured up. The crew consisted of "Lil'" Johnny Leshko (side of
car), Pete "White Peter" White (rear of car), and some guy named
"Berserko" Bob (driving the ramp truck.)
This is that car, my personal favorite of all the Jungle Jim cars.
Built by Romeo Palamides of jet car fame in Chicago, painted by Bob Gerdes
of Circus Custom Paint, then lettered by the infamous "Mr. J,"
it was a pretty trick piece at the time.
Previously, Jungle had bought cars from various builders and even built
a few himself at his shop in West Chester, Pennsylvania. This was Jungle's
first store-bought piece in a long time and he decided to take it out to
Ontario, California, for the 1972 NHRA SuperNationals.
I don't remember the exact numbers, but I do know that one pass that
weekend was Jungle's personal best at the time.
This car currently resides in Don Garlits' museum but not as you see it
here. Jungle sold the car to Nick Boninfante, who put a 1974 nose on it
and ran it as the "U.S. Male." It changed hands a few times and
was found in a field in Pennsylvania. Garlits bought it and restored it to
its original condition. By the way, "Mr. J" went to Florida to
re-letter the car after Garlits and his crew finished the car.
I've been in constant contact with Johnny, but am still looking for
Pete. Last I heard, he was living in Glen Alden, Pennsylvania, and was
working at the Philly Airport. Anybody out there who can help find him?
Berserko Bob Doerrer