Dick Jesse’s Extreme Slant-Roof GTO Funny Car

Chopped top saw Dick Jesse's head poking through the roof of his GTO

Not many funny car drivers were positioned above the roof of their race cars, but that is exactly how Dick Jesse drove the 1967 version of his Mr. Unswitchable Pontiac GTO. In case anyone was wondering, the car was Pontiac powered.

Pay no attention to the man poking through this GTO’s roof. It’s just Dick Jesse and his “slightly” chopped Mr. Unswitchable extreme funny car.

When we last saw Jesse, he was running an altered wheelbase 1965 GTO, which was also known as Mr. Unswitchable. The ’65 edition was one of the earliest independent match racers and Jesse kept the heavy goat competitive as long as he could, adding a supercharger to the Pontiac 421.

Jesse built this ultra-radical GTO for the 1967 season. Starting with a brand-new 1967 GTO fresh from a Pontiac showroom, Jesse built a tube frame, altered the wheelbase and replaced the hood, front fenders and doors with light-weight fiberglass. The only sheet metal retained from the original GTO was the roof and rear quarter panels.
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Posted in 1968 | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Responses

The Buckpasser: B/G Willys Coupe

Buckpasser B/G Willys at 1968 Detroit Autorama

Pretty little B/G Willys Coupe: The Buckpasser appeared at the 1968 Detroit Autorama at Cobo Hall.

This trim little Willys coupe was on hand for the 1968 Detroit Autorama. Other than the Buckpasser name and the Shadowoods Auto Center lettering on the hood, this picture doesn’t provide much information on the little coupe.

Fortunately, Google is our friend. Typing “Buckpasser Willys” in the search field in Google resulted in a large page of gasser photos on the site called Gasser Madness.

There I found a photo of the Willys at National Trail Raceway, along with the information the car ran in the B/Gas category and was campaigned by “Tinney and Tignanelli.”
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Posted in 1968 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Responses

Connie Kalitta’s SOHC Ford Bounty Hunter Top Fuel Dragster

Connie Kalitta Bounty Hunter front engine dragster

Connie Kalitta's simple but fearsome front engine Ford powered dragster at the 1968 Autorama in Detroit.

Connie Kalitta had his Ford SOHC Top Fuel car on display at the 1968 Autorama. It’s amazing how simple this rig looks. Slingshot dragster chassis, with a minimum of body work and a huge Ford V-8 mounted in front of the driver.

This isn’t some cut-away display car, it is the complete dragster, ready to race. The chassis is from Logghe Stamping Company, and Kalitta carried the LSC sponsorship in 1968.

Kalitta was a Michigan native, and he gained fame (and fortune) campaigning his famous series of “Bounty Hunter” top fuel cars. Kalitta painted the names of all the big stars in the AA/FD ranks on the side of his cars. With great ceremony, he crossed the names off one-by-one after he defeated them in match races. This gimmick made him extremely popular with drag racing fans throughout the country.

Of course the Bounty-Hunter gig could only work if Kalitta could actually win against the drivers he displayed on his car. That wasn’t a problem, as Kalitta was a fairly consistent winner, both as a match-racer and in national event competition.

Like almost everyone else in the Top Fuel ranks, Kalitta started out running a 392 Chrysler power plant. Ford had originally created the SOHC V-8 to run in NASCAR stock cars. When NASCAR banned the big V-8 from the high-bank ovals, Ford had a surplus of ‘cammers available. Ford offered engines to several highly ranked dragster teams, including Greer-Black-Prudhomme and “Sneaky” Pete Robinson. Read More »

Posted in 1968 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Response

Dave Zackary’s Cadillac Eldorado Funny Car

Dave Zackary: The all steel, flip-top Eldorado Funny Car

It may look stock, but Dave Zackary campaigned this all steel, flip-top Eldorado Funny Car

Dave Zackary decided the drag racing world needed at least one Cadillac funny car. To that end, he created this one-of-a-kind Eldorado flopper.

Since no one offered a fiberglass Eldo body shell, Zackary created his own one-piece body by welding together stock Cadillac sheet metal components. The resulting body was said to be much heavier than the fiberglass shells decorating his competitors, but Zackary could still boast he ran the quickest and fastest Cadillac Eldorado in the world.

Zackary also built the chassis, utilizing square tubing. The chassis rails consisted of long, straight pieces of tubing, only interrupted by a small dragster-style roll bar.

For power, Zackary started with an injected Chevy “rat-motor.” The heavy, steel body rendered that set-up uncompetitive, so Zackary upgraded to a blower, eventually trading the Chevy for a full-tilt Keith-Black Hemi.

Zackary displayed the Caddy at the ’68 Detroit Autorama, where I shot these photos. As you can see the Eldorado looks completely stock, with the exception of the blower poking through the hood.

I’m not sure which engine Zackary was running at the time, as they never raised the body while I was around. In addition to the oddity of being a Cadillac flip-top with a steel shell, the car was also noteworthy because the body was hinged at the front and raised from the rear.

Sadly, we will never know if Zackary could have made the Eldorado competitive against the ‘glass Comets, Mustangs, Novas and Barracudas that dominated the funny car scene in 1968. In September of that year, Zackary was killed when the car went out of control on a full throttle run at Lexington, Kentucky.

According to Dragstripdeaths, the Eldorado barrel-rolled in the lights. Reportedly, the roll bar failed and Zachary did not survive the crash.

Thus ended the life of the colorful figure who conceived the idea of a steel bodied, fliptop Eledorado funny car.

Posted in 1968 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Paul Stefansky’s Boss Hoss Mustang Funny Car

Rare notchback Mustang funny car driven by Paul Stefansky

Funny cars with Mustang Notchback body shells are fairly rare, but Paul Stefansky chose a notchback for his Boss Hoss fuel funny car

Last time around I explored Another Mustang Funny Car Mystery, in which I looked at an under construction car that looked suspiciously like Paul Stefansky’s Notch-back Mustang flopper.

Thanks to input from Daryl Huffman, we now know the car in question belonged to Tom Stanke and that the bodies on both Stanke’s car and the Boss Hoss came from Ford Styling. Ford used fiberglass mockups to demo the Mustang before the actual metal cars were built. According to Huffman (who knows more than a little about 1960s-era Ford and Mercury funny cars) Stefanky purchased the body shell for the Boss Hoss directly from Lee Iacocca.

If you compare this 1968 Detroit Autorama photo of the Boss Hoss with that of Stanke’s car, you will see that while the body shells are similar, the chassis are very different.

The chassis of the Boss Hoss appears to be a Logghe Brothers ladder frame, or at least a similar design. Power comes from an injected Ford SOHC V-8, the same power-plant used by the dominant Mercury Comets of Don Nicholson and Eddie Schartman in 1968.

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Posted in 1968 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Responses

Another Mustang Funny Car Mystery

Mystery Mustang at North Brothers Ford in 1967

This Mustang appeared briefly at North Brother's Ford in 1967. Who built it and what became of it?

Note: additional photos at the bottom of the post

What is about Mustang funny cars? Not too long ago, with the help of several Vintage-Nitro readers, I explored and solved the Mystery of the Competition + Mustang, which I believe is the original flip-top Mustang funny car. Going through my photo archives, I have discovered another mysterious Mustang flopper. Hopefully a reader will step forward to provide the story behind the strange case of the North Brothers Mustang.

In the fall of 1967, I was relaxing after a day of High School when one of my friends came over with some tantalizing news: “My brother was just up at North Brothers Ford. They’re building a flip-top funny car in the service area!”
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Posted in 1967 | Tagged , , , , | 5 Responses

Ohio George Willys Gasser at The Henry Ford

Ohio George Willys Coupe at The Henry Ford

I was surprised to find the famous Ohio George Montgomery Willys gasser on display at the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.

Skip to the Photo Gallery >>

I spotted a curious sight during a recent stroll through the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn. There among the locomotives, historic airplanes and exotic antique cars, I spotted a powder-blue Willys Coupe.

This wasn’t just any Willys. The chopped top, fat tires and a fiberglass front clip identified the car as a Willys gasser. But this wasn’t just any Willys gasser. Even from a distance the unmistakable shape of the hood scoop told me this was Ohio George Montgomery’s nationals dominating ’33 Willys.

Historic Willys on display at the Henry Ford

How did a historic drag racing machine wind up in the Henry Ford? When I grew up nearby, the place was known as the Henry Ford Museum, and famous gas coupes did not appear among the huge array of vehicles assembled inside.
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Posted in 2011 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response

Larry Arnold and the Penetration Dodge Funny Car

Larry Arnold and the Penetration Dodge Charger

Dodge Charger's were plentiful at Detroit Dragway's 1967 Midwest Championships, Larry Arnold was on hand with the Penetration Dodge funny car.

Dodge Chargers were everywhere at the 1967 Midwest Championships. This somewhat ungainly looking glass charger was campaigned by Larry Arnold of Berkley, Michigan. Arnold would go on to much more competitive rides in the future, but for ’67, this radical long wheelbase Charger was a stand-out on the UDRA circuit.

The body was ‘glass, but I don’t think the car was a flopper. Unlike most funny cars of the era, there was no windshield or side glass. Arnold sat far back in the rear of the car, with an injected 426 Hemi occupying the area where a real Charger’s dashboard would be. If you look closely, you notice a forest of short injector stacks to the rear of the lengthened hood.

Draglist gives Jay Howell credit for building the car, which was painted a royal blue with a wide white stripe on it’s flanks.

After 1967, Arnold moved into the driver;s seat of the fearsome Super Cuda, where he enjoyed much success. He drove the Super Ford for Larry Coleman, before taking the controls of the Kingfish Cuda.  He drove briefly for Mickey Thompson, before Roland Leong tapped him to drive the famous Hawaiian Monza in the mid-seventies.

Arnold looked strong in the early rounds of Detroit Dragway’s midwest championships, but he fell to eventual winner Steve McKesson in the semi-finals.


Posted in 1967 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Response

Dick Mack’s Satisfaction Chevelle versus Bob DuBrock’s Mustang

Dick Mack's Chevelle defeats Bob DuBrock's Mustang

Dick Mack's ultra-short wheelbase Mash Basher takes on Bob DuBrock at Detroit Dragway

Yet another less than stellar photo from Detroit Dragway’s Midwest Championships. Hey what can I say, I was only a kid with an Instamatic back in 1967.

I wanted to include this photo, because it is the only one I have of fuel runner-up Dick Mack and his Satisfaction Chevelle. Take a minute to look at the wheelbase on the Chevelle (far lane.) It appears that Mack pushed the rear wheels forward nearly as much as Larry Swiatek’s Gray Ghost GTO. Unlike Swiatek, who also shifted the front wheels forward, Mack left the front axle in the stock location. Do the math. A 1965 Chevelle coupe had a wheelbase of 115 inches. It appears Mack reduced that number by at least 20 inches.

The result is a full bodied, A/FX funny car with a wheelbase approaching that of a fuel altered. Despite the truncated wheelbase, Mack managed to get down the track without incident, eventually claiming the runner-up slot to Steve McKesson’s Mustang flopper. Read More »

Posted in 1967 | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Responses

Limelight Dodge: the Jack-Knife Funny Car

Limelight Dodge funny car on the return road at Detroit Dragway

The Limelight Dodge funny car on the return road at Detroit Dragway in 1967 | 126 Instamatic image by Tom Bonner

One of my favorite images from Detroit’s Dragway’s Midwest Championships is this shot of Bill McKessson’s Limelight Dodge Charger funny car.

I’ve discussed Steve McKesson’s Mustang funny car at length in earlier posts. In 1965-66, brothers Bill and Steve McKesson campaigned an altered wheelbase Plymouth Fury funny car. It was typical of the early A/FX funny cars, with a steel body, altered wheelbase and an injected 426 Hemi. For 1967, the brothers split up. Steve built a flip-top Mustang, while Bill remained with Mopar and assembled the radical Dodge Charger funny car you see here.

The car was state of the art, with a full Logghe chassis and a injected, nitro-burning Hemi. I call it a jack-knife funny car, because of the way the body opened. The front clip tilted forward, gasser style. There is nothing very unusual about that; many early funny cars featured tilt front-ends. The rest of the car’s body however, was hinged at the rear and could be titlted up like a flopper. So when both front clip and the main body were titlted upward, the car opened up like a jack-knife.

To make things more interesting, the car had opening doors, which made quite a sight when the body was up, the front end was titled forward and both doors were wide open. I don’t remember seeing another funny car built in this fashion.

I have found several references to this car, including the usually reliable DragList, which claim the body of the Limelight was fiberglass. I’m sceptical about that, for two reasons. Read More »

Posted in 1967 | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Responses
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