Tag Archives: Funny Car

Bill Shirey “The Professor” funny car | Detroit Dragway

Bill Shirey at Detroit Dragway, 1966
The Professor Plymouth funny car is pushed off after breaking at Detroit Dragway in 1966. Tom Bonner photo (Kodak Instamatic)

May 1966. Detroit Dragway. I finally got to witness live drag racing. Accompanied by my parents, three friends and I attended an “Invitational” event at the Ditch. I remember it was a blustery, cold day; coats were definitely required. It didn’t matter to us; after dreaming of funny cars for years, we were finally seeing the altered wheelbase machines in person.

Funny Cars on Gasoline?

The only problem was I didn’t know any of the drivers or recognize any of the cars. The midwest didn’t get much press in those days and gas funny cars didn’t rate exposure in any case. The Detroit area could boast a number of nationally-known nitro funny cars: the Ramchargers, Seaton’s Shaker, Roger Lindamood, Dick Jesse, Eddie Schartman (in Roy Steffey’s Comet) and others. The cars at this event, however, were running pump gas. The big racing magazines didn’t devote ink to gas funnies.

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Chevoom funny car: Maynard Rupp’s 1966 Chevelle

Maynard Rupps rear-engined Chevoom Chevelle funny car won the coveted Ridler Award at the 1966 Detroit Autorama.
Maynard Rupp's rear-engined Chevoom Chevelle funny car won the coveted Ridler Award at the 1966 Detroit Autorama.

In 1966, I attended my first Autorama, the huge ISCA car show held every year at Detroit’s Cobo Hall. Scattered among the hundreds of custom show cars were a number of interesting race cars. One that stood out was this bright yellow Chevelle.

On first impression, this car might look like an ordinary ’66 Chevelle Super Sport. Look closely, however, and you’ll notice the “hat” of a supercharger injector scoop pointing rearward in the back seat.

This is Chevoom, the rear engined funny car created by Top Fuel star Maynard Rupp. Many mid-sixties AA/FD teams were antagonistic toward funny cars, because tracks were scheduling big funny car shows, cutting deeply into match-race bookings for dragsters.

Instead of fighting against the funny car trend, Rupp jumped into the fray by stuffing a blown 402ci Chrysler hemi into the rear seat area of the midsize Chevy.
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