John’s Drag Blog – Old Fuelers Never Die!

Story Submitted by John C. Hill or MoparMagic

Old Fuelers Never Die!! (They just become “killer” bracket cars)

Many of you that were spectators at drag races during the late 60’s, the 70’s and early 80’s probably remember a lot of the fantastic Top Fuel and Funny Cars that used to compete. Some of these cars may have been favorites of yours, but have you ever wondered what became of these ultimate drag race machines? It’s not like you could take the pink slip and sell it to your neighbor after the racing season was over. These were special built cars with only one purpose in mind: go fast and do it quickly!

Don Garlits Drag racing MuseumA lot of these cars ended up out behind the garage as scrap, or perhaps pushed over in the corner of the garage and covered with a tarp, never to be raced again. Some of them ended up in museums such as Don Garlit’s Drag Race Museum in Ocala, Florida. If you have ever been to his museum you would be amazed at the number and quality of Top Fuelers and Funny Cars on display there. This includes every one of Don’s Top Fuel cars from his career, including the rebuilt car that sawed part of his foot off in a clutch explosion in 1969. If you are a true drag race fan, a visit to his museum is an absolute must see.

There are a few cars that have lived to race again! Because of the recent popularity of Nostalgia Racing, many associations have been started with the purpose of racing the old cars once again. NHRA holds several Nostalgia Racing meets throughout the year which are becoming more and more popular with the fans. The “Kackle Fest” is most impressive with all the front engine dragsters firing up at once to make some incredible noise! The “Nitro Funny Car Association” is running strong with some of the most famous cars of the era including the “Blue Max”, “Plueger and Gyger”, “Pisano and Matsubara” and many others. I recently saw these guys run at Firebird Raceway this fall, and they hold nothing back. It’s just like the good old days when cubic dollars wasn’t necessary to build and race a competitive car.

Nostalgia Funny Car poster

Then there are guys like me, who find and purchase old cars to turn them into bracket racers. I have been racing a 440 powered 1970 Cuda at Firebird Raceway since 1994. But like every other drag racer, I wanted to go quicker and faster, without spending huge amounts of money. To me, the plan was simple, find an old rear engine dragster and update it to a killer bracket car. I was unaware of just how lucky I would be when I answered an advertisement for a rear engine “roller” for sale in my area. The car was a 225 inch rear engine dragster that was run briefly in the 90s as a NHRA Super Comp class car. The owner was selling it as is, frame, wheels and tires, Ford 9 inch rear end, and body panels with fuel tank. That’s it. For $5,500, it was mine, and it was up to me to build all the rest. As I started to tow it home, the owner gave me a copy of the history of the car. I was very surprised as I read the contents…

The dragster was originally built by Eddie Delarno of Eddies Engineering of Tucson in the mid 70’s. It was built for Red Greth and Lyle Fisher of Speed Sport Automotive fame. It was originally built for a Hemi engine and was to see Top Fuel action. They never fielded the car and it sat in their garage for several years. It was brought back to Eddie for an updating after it was sold in the early 80’s. In the early 90’s the car was updated by Tom Yancer with a new roll cage and back half. The wheelbase was also shortened from 250 inches to 225 inches and a modern tripod front suspension was installed. The entire car was updated to “advanced ET” status and was run as a Super Comp car with Bruce Kenyon at the controls. The Mark Williams prepped Ford 9 inch rear end sported 4.56 gears and is a Top Fuel setup with 35 spline axles. A Strange Engineering pinion support and aluminum third member completed the rear end.

A car like this is built to run in the 6’s at over 200mph. Since I didn’t have a lot of money, I purchased a 360 cubic inch magnum, 380 horsepower “crate motor” directly from Mopar Performance for $3,500. The space for the transmission was tiny, so I went with a “shorty” 727 Torqueflite out of a motorhome, prepped by Hughes Performance for another $550. I did all the rest of the work myself including plumbing all the lines, the electrical system, the cooling system, the brakes, the safety requirements, and even a few dollars for “rattle can” black, yellow and fluorescent orange paint! Hey, if it doesn’t make it go faster, I don’t spend a lot of money on it! Grand total for an awesome bracket car: less than $10,000!! Since I do not run any “electronics” of any sort, I could run in the “Pro” class at Firebird Raceway.

John Hill with his Mopar Magic DragsterAs it turns out the choice of the motor for this 1,650 pound car was perfect. The car runs consistently at 10.00 seconds at 134 mph. NHRA rules state that cars that run quicker than 9.99 seconds or faster than 135 mph must comply with much stricter (and expensive) safety rules. I didn’t have to have all this extra safety equipment, and that saved me huge amounts of extra money. I’d like to say it was planned, but how lucky was that? And running 10 flat at 134 mph is still a maximum rush as you can imagine! And, it also makes me one of the quickest cars in the “Pro” class which means my opponents almost always have to leave first, and potentially red light!John Hill with his Mopar Magic Dragster

As I’m writing this I have plans to bring the car home so that I can start prepping it for the 2009 “Team Firebird” bracket racing season. Our first race should be in February, and we race at least once a month all year after that. Stayed tuned to my blogs as I fill you in on all of our results, race by race this year. I’ll tell you who we run, what our dial in and tune up strategy is, how we won or lost races, and all the maintenance and costs we encounter to run the whole season. Essentially, you will become a member of our crew you’ll be with us race by race as we plan to win the “Pro” class in NHRA “Team Firebird” bracket race action this year. Shoot, we’ll even run an Episode of “Pinks All Out” if they come to a track in the southwest this year! As a fringe benefit, the NHRA Division 7 Championship Finals will be held at Firebird Raceway this year. We plan on finishing in the top 10 (if not winning our class) in Pro this year, which will qualify us for that race against the West Coast’s best bracket racers for Divison 7 honors. So stay tuned, the thrill is about to begin!!