July 24, 2021

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

Dick Harrell

Dick Harrell’s 1968 Funny Car Fleet

Dick Harrell's 1968 Camaro
This ’68 Camaro is likely Harrell’s very first flip-top funny car. At the end of the 1968 season, Harrell updated the car with a 1969 Camaro body and drove Jim Kirby’s similar ’68 flopper until the updates to this car were completed.

Unraveling the history of Dick Harrell’s 1968 season would task even Indiana Jones. Harrell took turns driving at least three funny cars during the season, and some suggest there was a fourth.

Harrell sold his 1967 steel bodied tube-frame car at the start of the season, after taking delivery of a Don Hardy flip-top ’68 Camaro. I belive this is the car he brought to Detroit Dragway for the rained out event I wrote about before.

Shortly after this, Harrell repossessed the steel racer after the purchaser failed to pay him for the car. The temporary buyer had repainted the car yellow, and Harrell decided to continue racing the steel car, making it the only Harrell funny car to deviate from a red color scheme. Harrell stuck one his blown Chevy rat motors in the car and used it for match races and kept the flip-top for AHRA points races.

Even that wasn’t enough to meet Harrell’s busy schedule, so he made arrangements with Jim Kirby to add Kirby’s flip-top Camaro to his stable. Kirby had contracted with Don Hardy to build a near-twin of Harrell’s own flip-top Camaro. Kirby ran the car with an injected Chevy, until Harrell made an offer to use the car. Harrell immediately dropped in a blown rat and shared driving the car with Kirby. Charlie Therwhanger got some seat time in the Camaro as well.

At some point, Harrell sold the steel car to a Michigan based racer named Brice Neff. Repainted red and named The Stroker, Neff ran the car for several years, despite it’s outdated design. Some claim Neff was the last driver to campaign a match-bash funny car.

Neff carried sponsorship from a radiator shop in Garden City, where I lived at the time. I saw the Stroker run numerous times at Detroit Dragway, never realizing the car was Dick Harrell’s old machine. I know I have some photos of the  Neff and the Stroker, but so far I have been unable to locate them.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Kirby Camaro still exists, and Bill Porterfield tours the car at cackelfests. Porterfield discovered the old Camaro after it came out of storage with the original 1968 paint. Some of the graphics have been freshened-up, but  the paint is original. This might be the most authentic 1968 era funny car in existence.

Filmmaker Eric Johnson has made a nice documentary on Bill Porterfield and the Kirby Camaro. The clip appears below: