January 26, 2022

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

Bob Mayer in the Tom and Jerry Nitemayer

The Tom and Jerry Nitemayer at Detroit

Bob Mayer and the Nitemayer Plymouth Duster Wakes Up The Chickens

Bob Mayer and the Tom and Jerry Nitemayer Plymouth Duster

The Virginia Car relied on a Donovan 417 resting in the frame rails of a Woody Gilmore chassis.

I assume the Nitemayer moniker is a salute to Driver Bob Mayer, although the car was actually owned by Tom Woodbridge and Jerry Baltes, who at one time tagged the car as simply the Tom and Jerry funny car.

You might think with a name like Nitemayer, the car would feature a dark and moody paint scheme. Living up to the Tom and Jerry theme, however, the Duster was painted in sunny yellow and white stripes.

Mayer was a Veteran Top Fuel Driver

Mayer was no stranger to nitromethane. Through most of the sixties, he could be found at the wheel of his own front-engined AA/FD Dragster. Known formally as the Speedmasters Dragster, I have also seen the Nitemayer nickname applied to the dragster.

Based in California, Mayer was very much a threat in the wild front-motor fuel wars in the ’60s. In addition to strong performances at west coast NHRA events, he also was in the thick of things at Bakersfield and the numerous California AA/FD shows.

By 1973, we find Mayer in Virginia, piloting the Bob Banning Dodge funny car. All of the floppers out of Banning’s stable were runners, but Mayer’s association with Banning ended that same year. Mayer soon began touring with the Tom and Jerry Duster.

Several hot shoes warmed up the seat of the Tom and Jerry car before Mayer assumed the role of driver. Joe Weis, Russell Long, Harlan Thompson, Tom Crevasse, and Fred Forkner all took a turn behind the wheel of the original Tom and Jerry Mustang AA/FC.

The Mustang was sold to Jim Wemett who ran it for the 1974 season. Woodbridge and Baltes took delivery of the new Woody Gilmore Duster and promptly installed Mayer in the driver’s seat.

The birth of the Tom and Jerry Nitemayer

Primarily running as a booked-in match-racer, Mayer did enter some NHRA National Events. It was at the ’74 Gatornationals that the Nitemayer gained its greatest claim to fame. Mayer skated sideways and destroyed the Christmas Tree in spectacular fashion. Even today, photos still surface regularly of that incident. The tree, broken in two pieces, hangs in the air while the Duster, covered in debris and broken bulbs, barrels through the background.

By July of 1974, the Duster was fully repaired and the car was a regular contender on the match race circuit. This photo was captured at a Tuesday night funny car show at Detroit Dragway.

Because of noise constraints, Mayer only had the opportunity to make one run that evening. The Nitemayer came up short with a 6.76 early shutoff at only 181.80mph. His opponent, Kenny Safford in the Grand Spaulding Dodge Charger, claimed the win at 6.68-219.50.

Mayer continued controlling the Tom and Jerry flopper into the 1975 season.

The return of Joe Weis

Joe Weis, who drove for the team in ’73, returned to pilot the Duster for 1976. After that, the trail runs cold. I can find no further information on Woodbridge, Baltes, or Mayer after the ’76 season.

Thus ends the tale of the Tom and Jerry Nitemayer.