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.
Although flip-top funny cars started to appear in 1966, Chevoom was no flopper. The car features a fiberglass Chevelle body mounted on a custom frame. As you can see from the photo, Rupp got in an out of the car using the opening side door.
Rupp went to extra lengths to make Chevoom look like a stock Chevelle. All the chrome trim is there in the factory locations. Even the headers are concealed to help create the illusion that this car was assembled in a Chevrolet factory.
Actually, the car rides on a tube frame, with the engine mounted in a subframe. While many funny cars of the era used a simple roll bar, Rupp chose a full roll cage for safety.
Although the body is fiberglass, it is not one piece. The doors, hood and trunk open, just like a real Chevelle. Unlike most funny cars, which moved the wheel wells forward for traction, the rear wheels on Chevoom are shifted toward the rear bumper to allow room for the engine and transmission.
Generally, when it comes to trophies at ISCA shows like Autorama, race cars don’t fare too well. Competition cars are built to race and little attention is paid to the factors that usually win car shows. Chevoom was so well engineered and detailed, however, that the car was awarded the 1966 Ridler award for the most outstanding car shown for the first time.
Chevoom was one of the most successful rear-engined funny car of all time. The popular Dart Charger, a creation of Dick Branstner and driven by Jay Howell, was a similar blown, fuel-burning rear-engine funny car that made headlines wherever it raced. In 1965, Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen got behind the wheel of a rear-engine Barracuda, which promptly went airborne and crashed. Most of the other experiments with placing the engine behind the driver in a funny car failed to live up to expectations.
Rupp ran the Chevelle successfully for a couple of seasons, then jumped behind the wheel of the more conventional flip-top Steffey and Rupp Mercury Cougar.
In preparing this post I discovered that the old Chevoom still exists. Although it appears considerably worse for wear, this photo on Flickr shows the former Rupp Chevelle as it looked in 2006. Apparently it was in storage somewhere for a long time.
I have seen various accounts that Chevoom is either undergoing restoration or has been completely restored. I have yet to learn any details or to see any photos of the refurbished funny car. I am curious to know if the car will race again or if the restoration will result in a static show car. Either way, it is good to know that this colorful piece of drag racing history is still around.