Blue Oval Bad Boys!
Ford Powered Fuel Altereds
By Danny White
In drag racing, Ford powered fuel cars are rare indeed and even rarer are Ford powered AA/Fuel Altereds. When drag racing began, the Ford flathead was king but as the '50s ended the 392 Chrysler became the most popular fuel racing engine. When the fuel altered craze kicked in, the Chrysler was king there also. But some drag racers being purists or wanting to be different walked to the beat of a different drummer. These are the ones I want to cover in this story about the handful of Ford powered AA/Fuel Altereds that once raced on the drag strips across the world. The few cars that ran the Ford were gearhead's dreams - running everything from wedge head 427s, SOHC 427s (the only production engine made for racing), and even rarer, Hemi heads built for the 427 wedge block.
The first fuel altered to run a non-flathead Ford block had to be Dick Stahl's 23 T from California. Dick Stahl and Walt Stevens drove this evil handling beast during the 1964 season. Dick Stahl drove at first when the car had the blown 427 wedge head engine. According to Don Montgomery's book, "Those Wild, Wild Fuel Altereds," Stahl ran 10.00, 159 elapsed times until he blew the motor and crashed at Lions in Long Beach, California. The altered then was fitted with a rare set of Hemi heads made for the Ford wedge block by Mickey Thompson. Walt Stevens took over the driver's seat for Stahl and car now was sponsored by High Performance Auto. Walt told Jim Sorenson that the car was unpredictable. It would not do the same thing from run to run, but was exciting to drive nonetheless. Walt got the M/T Hemi headed car to run 9.58, 165.13 before Stahl went dragster racing and forsook the Ford engine.
The next car was not what most people think of as a real fuel altered, but did run as an NHRA legal AA/FA. The car was the gorgeous Psycho '67 Mustang of Snodgrass and Manken. The car started out as an injected gas Fiat with the Ford Single Overhead Cam engine made just for racing. The Pat Manken driven machine did manage to win one four-car fuel altered event at Lions with a good 9.43, 160.14 run. According to Don Montgomery's book, this win was due to the inconsistent nature of the other fuel altereds. Then in 1967, the team decided to capitalize on the growing funny car craze and got a new Mustang body to put on the car in place of the Fiat. The Tom Sherlock Ford sponsored beauty also got a new engine -- a wedge head 427 Ford on fuel. Larry Barker now drove the all yellow car to nine-second runs until 1969. The car managed to win the 1967 Hot Rod Magazine Competition eliminator category in the AA/FA class, the car's career highlight. Pat Manken would become one of the first professional bracket racers with an another Mustang funny car. According to nearby neighbor Bill Duke, he raced for a living after losing his regular job.
The Ford powered fuel altered seemed to be dead until a Texan stepped up to the plate with a Hemi Ford powered car. Bob Bohannen with driver Bobby Dean ran the red, white, and blue All-American Bantam from 1971 to 1978. The car rarely ran outside of the annual Tucson Fuel Altered Nationals. What made this car unique is that besides being one of the rare fuel altereds outside of the southwest, it had a set of the rare M/T Hemi heads for the Ford. The car ran known best times of at least eight seconds but most likely ran better than that.
The tough running Sheepherder SOHC 23T came from Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1975. The car was owned and driven by sheep farmer John Aleman in the beginning. In 1976, he got fuel altered vet Henry Harrison to drive for him. Harrison also drove fuel dragsters and funny cars very successfully, but had weaned his fuel driving career in the Crazy Horse AA/FA Fiat and the Beaver Hunter AA/FA 23T. John Aleman also went out and got Ford fuel guru Amos
Satterlee to tune the potent SOHC 23T. Harrison, Satterlee, and Aleman got the car to run an excellent 6.82, 215 in 1976. The team ran the cammer for only a couple of years when Aleman replaced the SOHC with a more dependable Milodon Hemi. The beautiful Sheepherder ran until '78 and was parked until 1985. After a complete rebuild in 1986, it was dusted off and ran until 1990. It is said that Aleman still has his SOHC collection in his shop.
England had its very own Ford powered AA/FA during the seventies. The Aardvark was not a world-beater by any means but it was there anyway. The car was usually the fourth AA/FA in a four-car AA/FA country. Freeman Rogers, a United States Air Force serviceman, drove the car. The car had the Ford wedge 427 engine for power. We have no ETs on the car nor do we know what the car is based on. The body looked somewhat like a Bantam but was slightly different.
The last Ford powered AA/FA was the wedge headed Nightmare run by dry lakes racer Van Heskett. The car debuted at the Phoenix AA/FA race in 1987 with Jim Holtz at the wheel. Dave Rifkin would take over from Holtz to become the regular driver of the pretty blue Nightmare until 1990. The car did not set the world on fire as far as ETs go, but was very consistent with high six second times and known best of 6.70 at 208. Van Heskett made a one of a kind billet Hemi heads for the car. This car was completely built by Heskett and was a candidate for best appearing and best engineered car wherever it went. This car was a regular at most AA/FA shows in the late eighties.
The Ford powered AA/FA might be gone forever, but with outlaw style racers coming out with new fuel altereds every day, you can never count them out by any means. I surely hope not.