September 15, 2021

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

Gary Bolger and the Gold Digger at Detroit

Don't let the stock appearance fool you, Gary Bolger was the real deal.

Gary Bolger and the Gold Digger Funny Car

The longer I look at this photo, the more it brings to mind those Saturday night funny car shows at Detroit Dragway.

Gary Bolger and the Gold Digger Barracuda Funny Car.

To me, this photo symbolizes “the way it was” at Detroit Dragway in 1970. The freshly unloaded car sits waiting for the evening’s race. Note the plastic stuffed around the headers and the liquid under the car.

The sun goes down, the nitro flames come out

The sun is going down in the west, causing a subtle glow along the side and wheels of the car. This was a common occurence at Detroit; the first round was usually at 8 pm and there would always be a moment of hushed anticipation as the sun went down before the program began.

Gary Bolger should be familiar to most readers of this site. His driving career encompassed an amazing run from the early 1960s to 1997. Most of that time was spent wheeling various funny cars, first teamed with Bud Richter and later driving for Dale Creasy.

The start of the Gold Digger legacy

Bolger and Richter campaigned a series of Gold Digger floppers, of which this is one of the first. It might not look all that special, but he had all the good stuff: Logghe Chassis, Blown Hemi, Magnesium Halibrands. Make no mistake, this was a fast hot rod.

I remember when I took this photo being impressed by how factory the car looked. At a glance, the average person could be forgiven for assuming this was just another Barracuda fresh from the showroom floor. Aside from the wheels, tires, and the zoomie headers, this thing looks bone stock. Closer inspection would reveal the roll cage, aluminum interior and the bug catcher under the windshield. Still, most people would think nothing of it if they found this parked next to them at the local shopping mall.

A question of engines

I found is some discrepancies when I researched this version of the Gold Digger. Draglist reports: “’70 Plymouth Cuda by an Unknown chassis builder | Powered by Supercharged Nitro 392 Chrysler Hemi with 3 speed3-speed transmission.”

Sounds straightforward enough. But writing a Draglist Yesterday’s Heroes story Bud De Boer states “…Bolger again teamed up with Bud Richter, this time driving a Logghe chassised, Plymouth bodied racer called ‘Gold Digger.’ With a 426 blown 426 Hemi for power….”

Bud De Boer was a long-time enthusiast writer and podcaster and certainly knew his race cars. But Draglist takes great pains to compile accurate information about the cars it profiles. Who are you going to believe? I probably knew what was between the frame rails in 1970, but I no longer remember in 2021.

In the end, it probably doesn’t matter all that much. The engine was either an early Hemi or a newer 426 Hemi. Bolger consistently ran in the low seven-second range at over 210mph. For that era, those were pretty good numbers.

Some Photos Unleash Fantastic Memories

The longer I look at this photo, the more it brings to mind those Saturday night funny car shows at Detroit. It is a time that will never be again, an age that can never be recreated. But for those of us who lived it, the memories will last forever.