May 12, 2021

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

Mr. Unswitchable Pontiac GTO

Mr. Unswitchable Pontiac GTO

Dick Jesse’s Mr. Unswitchable Pontiac GTO Funny Car

By 1967, most Pontiac funny cars had moved to Chevy or Chrysler engines to remain competitive. Dick Jesse bucked that trend with a blown Pontiac 421 in a steel GTO.
Dick Jesse's Mr. Unswitchable GTO
Dick Jesse was not about to switch, so he relied on a blown Pontiac 421 to keep up with the hemis and rat motors. Tom Bonner photo (Instamatic 126)

If you call yourself “Mister Unswitchable,” you can’t very well change to another brand of car or power-plant. So Dick Jesse started with Pontiac, and remained with Pontiac long after most indian-head funny car racers switched to Chevy or Chrysler engines under Poncho sheet metal.

Jesse’s GTO was another funny car that captured plenty of attention at the 1967 Detroit Autorama. Unfortunately, there are signs and advertising banners plastered over most of the car, but we can still glean some interesting info from this image.

The car is mostly original steel GTO, as you can see from the metal cowl in front of the windshield. If you look closely, you can also see a factory push lock button on the driver’s door. If you were installing a fiberglass door panel, would you bother to install the factory door lock mechanism?


Next, look at the gap between the hood and cowl. Like many match-bash funny cars, this GTO has the front fenders lengthened to accommodate moving the front wheels forward. Apparently Jesse lengthened the front fenders but didn’t bother extending the hood to match.

The secret of Jesse’s success with the mostly original Pontiac can be seen under that chrome “rat-fink” helmet. To allow the big GTO to run with lighter fiberglass, tube framed funny cars, Jesse bolted a supercharger to his fuel burning Pontiac 421 engine. After Jesse solved some oil-starvation issues, the Pontiac mill was more than sufficient to push Jesse to a number of match race victories.

Jesse managed to remain competitive through the ’67 season with the blown Pontiac, before upgrading to a radical chopped-top GTO in 1968.