Seaton’s Super Shaker Nova funny car was another headliner at the 1969 AHRA Grand Nationals, with Terry Hedrick at the controls. When I got this photo back from the processor in 1969, I was disappointed to see all the shadows superimposed on the side of the car. Now, almost 45 years later, I really like the story those shadows tell. It symbolizes how popular funny cars were back then, and it demonstrates the low-hanging western light that characterized most of the evening shows at Detroit Dragway. I wonder if anyone will recognize themselves in those silhouettes?
I was pleased to hear from Jay Howell, who set the record straight regarding the steel Corvair, as well as a fun tidbit about Hedrick’s fuel license. Thanks for clarifying the story, Jay!
Hey Tom: Just a slight correction on the Seaton Shaker story. I did drive the car (the steel bodied Corvair) with the supercharged engine. In fact, I built the engine and set the track record at Detroit at 180. I had to give up the seat due to my management position at Logghe’s. Another tidbit of info. Terry didn’t have a fuel license when he started driving it. I found out years later that he raced using my name until he got licensed! LOL!
Seaton’s Shaker is Back!
I featured the Seaton’s Shaker Chevelle in an earlier post. Del Heinelt was the principal driver for the Seaton’s Shaker Chevelle. Seaton’s next effort was an injected steel bodied Corvair, driven by Jay Howell. Seaton added a supercharger to the steel bodied car and renamed it Seaton’s Super Shaker. Young Terry Hedrick replaced Howell (update: see above) in the original Corvair and continued as the shoe for Seaton’s first flip-top fuel funny car, a blown fiberglass Corvair. The Corvair flopper was a stand out performer, and suited Hedrick’s aggressive driving style.
In spring of ’69 Seaton and Hedrick showed up at Detroit Dragway with this new Nova funny car, still known as Seaton’s Super Shaker.
The Man Who Never Lifts
I can’t locate my photos of Seaton’s flip-top Corvair, but I still hope to find them someday. Hedrick’s exploits with the Corvair at Detroit Dragway are legendary. Among my friends, Hedrick was known as “the man who never lifts.”
The late Dale Earnhardt (senior) is famous for the “pass in the grass.” He stayed in front of Bill Elliot at the 1987 Winston Stock Car race by driving through the edge of the infield at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Observers still speak in awe of the way Earnhardt was able to stay in control as he drove off the pavement, through the grass and then back on to the track at full speed. It remains an impressive maneuver, but Earnhardt had nothing on Hedrick. Twice during the 1968 season, I watched Hedrick drive the Corvair into the ditch at Detroit Dragway.
By itself, that wouldn’t be noteworthy, I saw numerous drivers end up in the ditch that lined both sides of the track. But Hedrick was different. Any other driver would have lifted once he left the asphalt. Not Hedrick.
Full Speed Ahead: In the Ditch at Detroit Dragway
The Corvair sped down beside the track, throwing up great rooster tails of dirt, as Hedrick made like the world’s fastest sand dragger. It was obvious that Hedrick intentionally kept the hammer down, because the tone of the engine never wavered. The first time we saw this, we watched in amazement as Hedrick deftly drove back on the track at the top end, still without lifting. When the win light came on in Hedrick’s lane the crowd went nuts. Off the track, through the ditch and back on track again and he still defeated his opponent!
A few months later, it as a deju vu moment as Hedrick once again went into
the ditch and kept the hammer down for the rest of the quarter-mile. This time, however, Hedrick couldn’t gather the Corvair up in time and ran over the top end lights. The Corvair wasn’t seriously wounded, but the clocks were out of commission in that lane for the rest of the night.
Lest you think the Corvair was an ill-handling beast, Hedrick did very well with the car at match races and national events. The Corvair made a semi-final appearance at the US Nationals at Indianapolis in 1968, in a field composed of many of the best funny cars in the country. He made his presence felt on the AHRA circuit as well and was a strong contender at many of the independent funny car events on the west coast.
I am sorry to report that the Corvair didn’t last long after Hedrick vacated the saddle. Seaton sold the ‘Vair to the team of Petrocelli & Haskett, who renamed the car Super Twister. Shortly afterwards, the car lived up to its new name and went squirrely at mid-track at Cecil County Dragway. Unlike Detroit, there was no wide apron along side of the track, and Joe Petrocelli went into the guardrail at speed. Fortunately, Petrocelli was okay, but the Corvair was twisted beyond repair.
Thus ends the story of the Seaton’s Super Shaker Corvair.
As for the Nova, it proved even more competitive than the Corvair, and Hedrick enjoyed great success on the AHRA circuit in ’69. I’m not sure if the Nova handled better or if Hedrick just matured as a driver. Maybe circumstances like oil on the track caused the Corvair to misbehave. Whatever, I never saw the Nova leave the asphalt. The new car ran hot, straight and true.
I’ll have more to say about Hedrick and the Super Shaker Nova funny car in a future post.
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