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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

R.L. Peyton Did it His Way

By Jim Hill

RL Peyton was a top fuel racer who did it HIS way. Photo by Jim Hill
R.L. Peyton was a top fuel racer who did it HIS way. Photo by Jim Hill

I know that California Top Fuel racers have legions of eccentric "characters," and thousands of legendary tales surrounding these unique types, but here in my next two pix is a genuine Florida odd-ball, Randy "R.L." Peyton.

R.L was from both Daytona Beach and Miami, whichever location was least likely to draw "heat" from the local gendarmes.

Peyton built and ran this ultra-long car (I believe it was originally an RCS car that R.L. savaged into the replica seen here) in '66-67, with 392 power.

Current chassis fashion of the day said "long and flexy." Peyton went one better by hacking off the tubing and gas welding on a bunch of wheelbase, unwelded upright braces, etc.  Running at Miami one night, I remember seeing sparks fly after every run he made, just past the lights.  Turns out, R.L. was grinding down the bottom of the oil pan soon as he pulled the chute ring, run after run!  His solution to this mechanical perplexity?  "Hell, I just stick another pan on her!"

Peyton debuted this car at the Springnationals, in Bristol, in '66. He tied (literally, with ropes!) the car to a single axle, open trailer, and drove to Bristol from Daytona, alone, in his beat-up '55 Ford F-100.

In Tech, his creation was met with immediate rejection, a scruffy, mongrel-like offering (the car, too!) that sent the buttoned-down NHRA tech guys recoiling from fear they might contract an incurable disease from Peyton and/or his race car.

He was told that since the car had no driver's windscreen, it was in violation of the rules and rejected, unable to run.  This rulebook ploy, the techies smugly thought, would surely chase away this abortion disguised as a dragster.

Hah!  Peyton said, "Wait one minute, will you guy, I'll be right back."

With this, he went to the truck, rooted around in the bed of the truck and found a tin-snip, came back and, as the NHRA guys watched, neatly clipped two slits vertically in the cowl.  Next, he took his fingers, bent the clipped section forward - forming a crude yet definable "windscreen" - and said:  "OK, I got a windscreen now!"

A hasty ref's conference was called, and the techs could find no word or phrase in the rulebook that said the windscreen had to be made of clear Plexiglas.  At that they threw up their hands and approved the ugly abomination, probably muttering to themselves as they walked away: "It's his butt strapped in that piece of shit.  If he wants to risk running it, OK by us!"

Peyton not only managed to qualify, he beat Tom Hoover's SOHC Ford, factory-backed, beautiful full bodied car in the first round, losing both front tires in the lights.  First thing Peyton does, as he hops out after beating Hoover, is to run over and borrow a pair of front tires and bum enough nitro to run the next round... from the guy he just beat with his mangy old sewer-car!

He didn't win the meet, and I think he lost next round, but ended up with second or third low ET for the race!

I know enough bizarre R.L. Peyton tales to literally fill a book. Stories of drag racing and legal as well as pseudo-legal activities that would curl your hair as well as bust your guts from laughing.

Peyton was one exotic creature!

RL Peyton at Indy in the mid '60s. Photo by Jim Hill
R.L. Peyton at Indy in the mid '60s. Photo by Jim Hill

Here's ol' R.L.'s car at Indy, 1966 or '67, in the pits. Note his '55 Ford F-100 push-truck/tool box. Peyton just threw all his tools (didn't have that many, so why sweat it!) in the bed of his truck, then rummaged through the bed to find what he needed.

Can you imagine this disaster went middle 7's at 215+?

P.S. First Peyton shot was running at Bristol, Tennessee, NHRA Springnationals, 1966 or '67. I can't recall which year.

He was crude, but did know what it took to go fast!

Jim Hill


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