January 27, 2023


Still car-crazy after all these years

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.

Kalitta was also on the receiving end of the Ford deal, and he made it well worth Ford’s sponsorship by winning the 1967 NHRA, AHRA and NASCAR Winternationals with the ‘cammer powered rail. The Ford powered version of the Bounty-Hunter continued to rack-up match race wins a well, making the Bounty Hunter name feared from coast to coast.

Besides being quite simple, notice the rear slicks on this car. Compared to the monstrous tires used on current top fuel dragsters, these slicks look fairly tame, but they were state-of-the-art in ’68.

Kalitta, of course, would go on to further fame and fortune, and he is still active as a team owner today. He no longer drives, and his current rear-engine dragsters are a far cry from this spartan rail from 1968. One thing hasn’t changed however. The Bounty Hunter is still collecting bounties.

Tom Bonner