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Dick Jesse’s Mr. Unswitchable Pontiac GTO Funny Car

Dick Jesse's Mr. Unswitchable GTO

Dick Jesse was not about to switch, so he relied on a blown Pontiac 421 to keep up with the hemis and rat motors. Tom Bonner photo (Instamatic 126)

If you call yourself “Mister Unswitchable,” you can’t very well change to another brand of car or power-plant. So Dick Jesse started with Pontiac, and remained with Pontiac long after most indian-head funny car racers switched to Chevy or Chrysler engines under Poncho sheet metal.

Jesse’s GTO was another funny car that captured plenty of attention at the 1967 Detroit Autorama. Unfortunately, there are signs and advertising banners plastered over most of the car, but we can still glean some interesting info from this image.

The car is mostly original steel GTO, as you can see from the metal cowl in front of the windshield. If you look closely, you can also see a factory push lock button on the driver’s door. If you were installing a fiberglass door panel, would you bother to install the factory door lock mechanism?

Next, look at the gap between the hood and cowl. Like many match-bash funny cars, this GTO has the front fenders lengthened to accommodate moving the front wheels forward. Apparently Jesse lengthened the front fenders but didn’t bother extending the hood to match.

The secret of Jesse’s success with the mostly original Pontiac can be seen under that chrome “rat-fink” helmet. To allow the big GTO to run with lighter fiberglass, tube framed funny cars, Jesse bolted a supercharger to his fuel burning Pontiac 421 engine. After Jesse solved some oil-starvation issues, the Pontiac mill was more than sufficient to push Jesse to a number of match race victories.

Jesse managed to remain competitive through the ’67 season with the blown Pontiac, before upgrading to a radical chopped-top GTO in 1968.


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  1. Jim Davis
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    I knew Dick during this time, he was good friends with my best buddy, Nick Renzi, and by tagging along with Nick that is how I come to know him.
    He had a shop in Highland Park during part of that era.
    Also Jack McCormick was part of that group. I wish I could find those guys.


  2. Mark van
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I knew Dick well, used to hang out and he got me started in drag racing. Also worked with Dick at merrolis chevy in Detroit . B

  3. Chris Wagner
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Dick Jesse was my sister-in-law’s father. She never knew him. If you have any pictures or stories we would love to hear them. Thank you,

  4. Tom M.
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Purchased a 1965 Tiger Gold GTO Hdtp. from Dick at Royal Pontiac, had Doug’s headers and Bobcat kit installed, along with kpo kit for shifter. 4.30 axle ran car at Detroit& Motor city strips car ran high12 to low 13 seconds. won King of the compacts at D/Dragway many times that year. Mr.Jesse helped me immensely when ever needed that season. a good guy all around.

  5. Bill
    Posted October 20, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Hi guys…My name is Bill Walters. My brother, Clarence Walters, and a guy by the name of “Ham” built the original “Mr. Unswitchable”. It was NOT a GTO, it was a Pont. LeMans. It was built in my brothers shop at the corner of Hamilton & Monterrey in Highland Park and the unique thing about it was the “Automatic Transmission” that nobody seems to be talking about. Dick called it “Mr. Unswitchable” because he would not run anything but a Pontiac. I worked at GMAC at the time and I financed it for him. It turned the fastest time ever turned on the track and the time held until another automatic beat it 1 year later. Nobody would believe at that time that an “automatic” could be faster than a stick shift. My brother Clarence died in 83′ but my brother Jim worked on the car and was at all the races and knows everyone that was involved.

  6. Ted Miller
    Posted May 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    My name is Ted, back when both cars were built the 65 and the 67. I worked with Ham Park
    at Gurwins auto body who was the mastermind for the body work for both car’s.
    I used to go with him after work to Highland park transmission to work on the car. (65)
    I was involved in the 67 but went into the service in Jan 1967 so never got to see it in action
    except for a couple of times at Motor City while on leave. Ham has passed away a number of years ago, he was the best body man I ever met.
    I knew Dick J Clarence W Russ. Tom L and Ham

  7. Bill Walters
    Posted August 18, 2014 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Ted, if you knew Dick and my brother Clarence as well as Russ, Tom and Ham; you probably also knew Hal Miller. When you went into the service in ’67 I was working for GMAC and also knew Dick who was working for Royal Pontiac at the time. I financed the ’67 for him and it was NOT a GTO as many people have been saying. It was a LeMans with a .283 V8 engine that Russ and my brother bored and blew to 1500 hp. Jim Davis, above mentioned that Dick “had a shop in Highland Park” which is incorrect. The shop was owned by my brother Clarence and Russ who were both transmission specialists. So-o-o-o…I financed the car for Dick who talked my brother and Russ into building it and dropping the first Auto Trans ever matched against stick shifts into it. Ham then re-built the body into a GTO! (Note that Dick did not make any of the payments on the car until after it was converted! Once GMAC realized that it had been converted…and into a “funny car” they opted NOT to repossess it. Subsequent payments came from race proceeds! …and that is “The Rest Of The Story”

One Trackback

  • By Chevy Also Funny Car Match Racer | Vintage Nitro on October 4, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    […] after all these years Skip to content HomeContactAboutSite MapLinksSubscribe « Dick Jesse’s Mr. Unswitchable Pontiac GTO Funny Car When Funny Cars had Names […]

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