April 15, 2021

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

The Prussian Top Fuel Dragster

Maynard Rupp drove the Prussian AA/FD to the NHRA World Championship

The Prussian, Steffey and Rupp Top Fuel Dragster

World Champion Steffey and Rupp dragster on display at 1966 Autorama
World Champion Steffey and Rupp dragster on display at 1966 Autorama

Last time around, we looked at Maynard Rupp’s Chevoom Funny Car from 1966. Rupp was a busy guy in 1965, as he built the rear-engine funny car between stints of driving the feared Prussian Top Fuel dragster.

The Prussian was also on display at the 1966 Autorama. In 1965 the car won the NHRA World Championship with Rupp at the wheel.

There were only four NHRA national events in 1965, and the team of the Logghe Brothers, Roy Steffey and Maynard Rupp won two of them.

The car was originally known as Slot Racer II. Like the original Slot Racer, it relied on an injected small-block Chevy V-8 for power. The first Slot Racer enjoyed great success against the blown, Chrysler powered Top Fuel cars of the era, because tire-slippage siphoned off much of the horsepower of the supercharged, big block machines. The high-winding small block got the job done more efficiently, putting the higher-horsepower cars on the trailer.

By 1965, however, tire technology had improved to the point that the blown Hemis could hook up and power through the entire quarter-mile. The day of the competitive injected small-block in the Top Fuel ranks had come to an end.

So Logghe, Steffey and Rupp swapped in a supercharged 354ci Chrysler Hemi. Along with a new engine, the car also received a name change. The name Prussian was chosen because both Steffey and Rupp had German heritage and Crower Cams used the Iron Cross as a logo.

The team quickly proved that switching to a new power-plant didn’t require much of a learning curve. Rupp bested the best in the business at the NHRA Springnationals in Bristol Tennessee. For Top Eliminator, the Prussian defeated Connie Kalitta in a SOHC Ford powered machine.

The NHRA World Finals was conducted differently back in 1965. Instead of determining the championship title on points, the top cars in each of the seven NHRA divisions earned a place in the World Finals field. Having won their division, the Logghe, Steffey and Rupp team joined the other six division champions to contest the championship in Tulsa, OK.

Rupp earned the tile by driving around Don Westerlake in the Ramchargers AA/FD dragster, then he took out Danny Ongais in the “Mangler” top fuel entry. The final was anti-climatic, as “Red” Lang couldn’t fire, allowing the Prussian to take an easy single to win the championship.

Even while he was accepting the world championship trophy, however, Rupp had already started collecting the parts for his new ride, the Chevoom funny car.

Roy Steffey also moved on, as Lincoln-Mercury selected him to campaign one of the three flip-top funny cars the LM Division unleashed on the drag world in 1966. With “Fast” Eddie Schartman behind the wheel, the Steffey prepared “Air-Lift Rattler” compiled an envious win record over the next couple of seasons.

The Logghe Brothers, of course. became the premier funny car chassis builders, developing chassis and suspension systems for most of the top flopper teams.

Rupp and Steffey would reunite to campaign a STP sponsored SOHC Cougar AA/FC. As for the Prussian, I hear it has been in storage and is in “restorable” condition. Who knows? Maybe the former Slot Racer II will join the refurbished Chevoom in a 50 year reunion!

For a more detailed look at the Prussian, check out Nitro Geezer’s Roy Steffey profile..