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Featured Hot Rods |
Peep Show Chopper show

Peep Show: The Story of a Custom Chopper

Recently I was told an amazing story by a man named Mike. The story he told me was about a Ridder who wanted to own the greatest and most beautiful chopper in More »

Stefan Boman Photography

The Phantom of the Ace: A Phantom of the Opera Chopper

A few ago weeks I did a two different articles on a pair of custom choppers, one known as the Purple Queen and the other a Sportster Chopper.  These choppers were built More »

Norm Grabowski with T-Bucket

Norm Grabowski Father of the T-Bucket

It has been a sad weekend in the hot rod world as many have recently found out that hot rod pioneer and legend Norm Grabowski has passed away. The news that he More »


The California Kid the Iconic 34 Ford

I have been wanting to do a post about the famous 34 Ford known as the California Kid for quite sometime now. I fell in love with the car when I saw More »

Peter Strom Purple Queen Bobber

Purple Queen Sportster Bobber

Here is another beautifully done, Harley-Davidson Sportster Bobber that was built by our friend Peter Ström with help from his friend Kenta Falkered  of Ace Performance. Peter built this custom bobber out More »

Category Archives: Featured Hot Rods

Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat

Swamp Rat March Meet Doug Peterson

The year was 1957, it was a time when Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis played out of car radios, beautiful tailfinned Chevy’s, Ford’s and Mopar’s flooded the road ways, Mickey Manlte was the best baseball player alive and Drag Racing was young and still in its infancy.

Big Daddy Don Garlits started making a name for himself in the drag racing world in 1957. It was the year that Don Garlits would make his debut in a slingshot in the young dragster class, he would make his debut in a slingshot that he nicknamed Swamp Rat. Swamp Rat was a project that Don began working on in 1956, she was a project that started out as nothing more than rails, wheels and a motor.

Swamp Rat at an event in 1959.

Swamp Rat at an event in 1959.

However, Swamp Rat would soon transform into the fastest Sling Shot in the world because Don would get serious about drag racing. In 1957 when Swamp Rat made her first pass when she was powered by nothing more than a naturally aspired early Hemi that had 8 carbs stacked on top of the motor. The Hemi was hooked up to a 2 speed transmission with a full rear end, and the best ET Don could get her to run was a time of 10.5 seconds at 145 miles per hour!

Swamp Rat ran in the 10′s for most of 1957, this would last unitl August when Don attended the ATAA World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova, IL. At the event Big Daddy would discover that his Swamp Rat wasn’t fast enough to compete with the other Dragsters. While his dragster ran in the 10′s most were breaking into the High 9′s! Don need some help, which luckily came his way. At the World Series of Drag Racing Don meet Emory Cook and Cliff Bedwell, these two gentlemen would help Don Improve Swamp Rats performance. Emory and Cliff helped Don with his tune up which allowed Swamp Rat to run almost 100% Nitro fuel in the engine which would shave a lot of time off of Don’s ET.

An early appearance of Don and Swamp Rat. Circa 1958.

An early appearance of Don and Swamp Rat. Circa 1958.

Both Emory’s and Cliff’s help really payed off at the world series because Don would beat both of them during the Elmination rounds. Swamp Rat was running the best she ever has and turned a then career best ET of 9.60 seconds at 155 MPH! However despite this vast improvement Big Daddy would lose to man by the name of Setto Postoian in the final round.

After Don returned home from IL, he made several changes to Swamp Rat using ideas that were inspired by the other dragsters at the event. He lowered the front of the car, had the engine lowered, replaced the transmission and installed a narrowed Olds rear end. He would also replace the front wheels with new wire spoke front wheels that he made and he would add a new Nosepiece to the front of the dragster which would help the Aerodynamics while racing.

All of his modifications would pay off because in November of 1957 Don would set the drag racing world on fire. Don was able to make a pass of 8.79 seconds at 176.40 MPH in Swamp Rat! Do to the success of the mods, Swamp Rat would remain in the same configuration until March of 1959. In 1959 Don attended the first ever Smokers March Meet in Bakersfield, California. Despite being a record holding Slingshot for the past two years Swamp Rat wasn’t able to keep up with the new dragsters because they were supercharged.

Don would stop by Iskenderian Cams to purchase a blower and have it installed. After his blower was installed he went off to Kingdom Dragstrip where he shut down the entire field! During this event Swamp Rat yet again set a new record!

Swamp Rat with the added Blower. Circa 1959

Swamp Rat with the added Blower. Circa 1959

Sadly, tradegy would strike on June 20th, 1959 at a race in Chester, South Carolina. While Don was making his first pass Swamp Rat’s blower exploded and Don was seriously burned! He was rushed to the hospital, he was alright but he vowed that he would never race again.

Don’s friend Art Malone would take over racing duties in his place.  Swamp Rat’s cockpit had to be extend since Art was taller than Don after this Modification was made, the dragster became known as Swamp Rat 1B. A couple more changes were also made to the car, the 8 Stromberg carburetors were replaced by a Hilborn fuel injectin system. The fuel injection system made the car much easier to tune and it allowed her performance to improve. On August 23, 1959 Art Malone would set a new speed record of 183.66 MPH all thanks to the improved tuning from the fuel injection.

Art Malone in the Cockpit and Don Garlits standing next to him and the dragster.

Art Malone in the Cockpit and Don Garlits standing next to him and the dragster.

Art would soon be on a record setting track because in September of the same year he would set a new ET record of 8.23 seconds at the AHRA Nationals in Great Bend, KS! At the next several drag racing events Swamp Rat ran better than she ever had before and Art Malone would go undefeated! His winning streak would last until the end of the year, because a Partnership of Chris Karamesines and Don Maynard would come along and beat Art Marlone in their dragster nicknamed the Chizler.

Don and Art’s partnership had only been arround for less than a year but in that short time span they became the most feared drag racing team in the world! They would race one more event in December of 1959 at Riverside Raceway in California. Art would be a race man with the same name; Art Chrisman (driver of Husler 1) in the final round with a solid but not record setting ET of 8.51 seconds at 181.81 MPH.

Don, and Art would start off the 1960 season with a bang! At the March Meet in Bakersfield, Art would set a new speed record of 185.56 MPH in Swamp Rat. The very next week Art would set another speed record of 187.10 MPH! It seemed like every week a picture of Swamp Rat was in the newspaper of the town they raced in! All over the United States fans loved Don, Art and Swamp Rat!

Fans drooling over Swamp Rat in Bakersfield.

Fans drooling over Swamp Rat in Bakersfield 1960.

On Memorial Day weekend in 1960 Don and Art attended a drag racing event in Union Grove. Promoter Bob Metzler was putting on the largest drag racing event he could and he invinted every fast car in the country including  Chris Karamesines’ and Don Maynard’s the Chizler.

Don and Art wanted to get their revenage on Chris Karamesines and Don Maynard for ending their winning streak last year. Art Malone and Swamp Rat were able to get their revenage from Chris Karamesines not just once but two different times at event! Art beat Chris once in a Match race then a second time during one of the Elmination rounds! At the end of the day Art would make it to the finals and win the event!

Art Racing at Great Bend in 1960. Look at all that Smoke!

Art Racing at Union Grove in 1960. Look at all that Smoke!

After the event at Union Grove Don couldn’t stand watch the races from the staging lanes any longer. He remodifed the cockpit of Swamp Rat to fit him and began to drive the slingshot dragster himself.

One day, while Don was working on Swamp Rat back at his shop in Florida he received a visit from his friend Smokey Yunick. Smokey was shocked to learn that Don was using a Passanger Sedan as a Tow Vechicle and not a truck! He told Don that he should get a truck but there was no room for one in Don’s budget.
After his talk with Smokey, a few days later Don got a call from the local Chevy dealership  telling him that “his” 59 GMC Carryall was there and he needed to come pick it up. Don didn’t own a GMC Carryall and tought it was a mistake! When he drove down over there he found out the the Carryall was bought for him through curitosity of Smokey! The Carryall would go on to become Don’s famous tow truck for the next several years.

The famous GMC Carryall pushing Swamp Rat with Don driving.

The famous GMC Carryall pushing Swamp Rat with Don driving.

1961 would be the last year that Garlits would run Swamp Rat I. Don would replace the Hilborn Fuel Injection system with a newer Enderle Barndoor injection which gave him even more control over Swamp Rats tuning. This would allow Don to set a speed record of 204.54 MPH and this record would make Don the first drag racing to reach 200 MPH in the Quarter Mile.

Don would retire Swamp Rat 1B in early 1961 before replacing her with Swamp Rat III. Even though Swamp Rat I was only used for, 4 short years it left beyond a huge legancy in the Drag Racing world. It was the first car to break the 180 and 200 Barriers and the car went undefeated for a while. Swamp Rat’s legency would be carried on by 32 other Swamp Rats.

Swamp Rat 1961

Norm Grabowski Father of the T-Bucket

Norm Grabowski with T-Bucket

It has been a sad weekend in the hot rod world as many have recently found out that hot rod pioneer and legend Norm Grabowski has passed away. The news that he had passed away was received by Norm’s  website Normsnews on yesterday morning October 12, 2012, he was 79 years old.

I had first heard of Norm several years ago, when I was just a kid. He had appeared on an episode of Jesse James’ Monster Garage, were he and a group of hot rod legends (including the late Dick Dean) built a sectioned and lowered yellow 54 Chevy. Little did I know at the time that Norm Grabowski was a hot rod legend who is famous for building the very first T-Bucket!

Norm Grabowski’s amazing T-Bucket! You gotta love the look of this car!

Norm Grabowski is known as the Father of the T-Bucket, he  invented the T-Bucket hot rod after he left Military service in 1952.His invention came about when moved to Southern California and started attending local car shows. While attending this car shows he became fascinated with the hot rods that he saw at these shows, he decided that he was going to build one of his own.

He soon purchased a Model A truck for $100 but the truck wasn’t in perfect condition, so he then purchased a 1922 Model T touring and placed it on the Model A frame. The next he did was he attached the bed from the Model A to the Model T’s body. The only thing he needed was an engine, he decided to borrow a 1952 Cadillac engine from his parents old car and he put a GMC 3-71 blower on top of it!

The Stromberg Carb’s that deliver fuel and air to the Mill!

The car was soon fired up for the first time, with the turn of the key it roared to life and the T-Bucket was born! The car was able to run be Norm found out that he had to make a few adjustments on the car.  There was a problem with the steering, steering which was from an old milk truck was backwords! The car would go the opposite direction of which way the wheel was turned!

The 52 supercharged Cadillac engine was eventually replaced with a 1956 Dodge engine that was equipped with a Horne intake manifold that held four Stromberg double-barrel carbs. The car was then giving it’s famous blue paintjob with the flames on the side and the pinstriping on the grill! The last detail of the car was the shifter, Norm loved to carve and create things out of wood. He wanted to create something that was unique and would stand out so he carved a skull to be used as a shift knob on the car!

A nice front side view of the car. Its a nice view for a look at the custom headers and the flame paintjob!

The car become such a hit in the local So-Cal scene that it ended getting it’s own part in the hit 1950′s TV show  77 Sunset Strip! The T-Bucket was driven by a character named Kookie, which is why his T-Bucket is nicknamed the Kookie Kar.

The car was not only known for it’s good looks but Norm use to drag raced the car as well! This lead to the car being featured on the cover of Hot Rod in 1955 as well as being featured in a story in Life magazine in 1957!

Norm working on the Kookie Kar from the 1857 Life Magazine issue.

The car was so influential that Norm came home one day to find then hot rodder/actor and later NHRA Drag racer TV Tommy Ivo in his garage getting the measurements of his T-Bucket. Tommy asked Norm several times if he could measure his car but Norm refused. So Tommy snuck in Norm’s, got the measurements himself and went on to build a T-Bucket of his own..The two of them would drag race their Hot Rods frequently, this was covered in life magazine.

In the late 1950′s one of the actors crashed Norms hot rod while film on set, this led to Norm wanting to drive his own car for appearances TV and movies, so he became a stunt driver. Norm also later became an actor where he made appearances in movies such as High School Confidential, Darby’s Rangers, Hooper, The Cannonball Run, and several others.

Norm Grabowski drag racing TV Tommy Ivo in life magazine!

Norm would continue to build custom Hot Rods, remaining a well known hot rod builder for the rest of his life. He would also continue his second passion of wood carving as well, carving several skull shift knobs, cars and other pieces of art all out of wood.

Norm Grabowski will be missed in the hot rod world but it is time for him to make Hot Rods for the good lord now.


The California Kid the Iconic 34 Ford


I have been wanting to do a post about the famous 34 Ford known as the California Kid for quite sometime now. I fell in love with the car when I saw it several places online, saw the car on Car Crazy and saw it in the Rodder’s Journal. You may be wondering, If I love the car so much what prevented me then why haven’t I written an article on it? Well the reason I have never written an article about the car was because I never saw the movie; The California Kid! (Before you old guys started asking How could I never have seen it. I am not from your Generation and it was an old TV movie so it is really hard to find). Luckily thanks to Youtube I was finally able to see the movie.

The California Kid was built by Pete Chapourious who is Pete of the famous Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Parts shop. Pete purchased a 34 Ford 3 Window body and frame for $250 in the early 1970′s. The first thing Pete did was drop in a Small Block Ford 302 engine in the car. The engine was 100 percent stock with the exception of a Holley Four-Barrel carburetor.

The 302 Motor was hooked up to a Ford FMX transmission which was taken out of one of Pete’s older cars. The Ford transmission was hooked up to a quick change rear end which was also taken out of one of his older cars. The next thing that happened in the build was Pete gave the California Kid it’s iconic look. Pete had his friend Manuel Reyes paint the Ford black and gave it it’s famous full body flames.  The black paint and full body flames would soon become an iconic symbol of American Hot Rods through out the world.

If you looked up the word Hot Rod in the Dictionary, the California Kid would pictured!

Pete happened to be friends with famous Hot Rod Magazine writer Gray Baskersville, Gray was impressed with Pete’s 34 Ford project while it was being built. He was so impressed with the car that he called a friend of his who went by the name of Jim “Jake” Jacobs who worked for Rod & Custom magazine. Jake happened to be building a 34 Ford of his own at the time and Gray decided to introduce the two of them. After Pete and Jake met the famous friendship had begun.

The two of them worked on their Hot Rods for the rest of 1973. After both of their Ford Hot Rods were complete they were placed on the cover of Rod & Custom Magazine in 1973. After both of their 34 Ford hot rods were featured in Rod & Custom, Pete and Jake decided to go into business together and start  the famous hot rod garage Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Parts.

The California Kid as it appeared in the movie.

In early 1973 the cover of Rod & Custom was seen by a Hollywood movie producer who, happened to see the cover on a table at a relatives house. After seeing the car he felt that it was the prefect car for the up coming TV movie. He contacted right away Rod & Custom, who was able got in touch with Pete.

Inorder for the 34 Ford to star in the movie A few changes had to be made. The first of these changes was that the name The California Kid was painted on the door. The second change was the Mag wheels that were originally on the car were swapped for red Steelie wheels and side pipes were  also added to the car to make it appear like it had more power.

The California Kid’s stock Ford 302. When the engine was shown in the movie a shot of a Chevy 327 from Milner’s Coupe in American Graffiti was shown instead. This was done because the 327 had more performance mods done to it.

After all of these changes were made, Pete’s 34 Ford was ready to star in The California Kid along side his Co-Star. His Co-Star was a man who would go on to become a famous actor; Martin Sheen. The 34 Ford was really the star of the movie because it did all of the Stunts! Since the movie was a TV movie it didn’t have the budget for stunt cars, so the 34 Ford did all of the car chases and high speed driving that is shown in the movie!

A true Hot Rod Legend, the California Kid.

The California Kid would premiere in 1974 and it became a hit for a TV movie! The movie would make the older gearheads become re-interested in Hot Rodding and it would introduce Hot Rods to a new younger generation. It’s believed that the California Kid, along with George Lucas’ American Graffiti (released in 1973) helped spark a Hot Rod Revival in America in the 1970′s.

Thanks to the success of the movie Pete and Jake would use to the popularity of the car to help grow their shop, Pete & Jakes Hot Rods. Pete’s 34 Ford would be forever called by the name The California Kid and would for ever be an icon in the Hot Rod World.

Martin Sheen driving the California Kid

Mickey Thompson’s Challenger I

mickey thompson challenger 1960 bonneville

In 1959 Mickey Thompson was already well known in the Hot Rod world. He had built the first ever dragster in the early 50′s, and he was one of the first to build a twin engined dragster which was successful both in drag racing  and at setting a record at Bonneville.

However his  newest  challenge in 1959, was to  break John Cobb’s long standing Bonneville record of 394.19 MPH as well as to break the 400 MPH barrier.

The Beginning of the Challenger build. You can see All 4 Pontiac motors.

In order to break this record in early 1959, Mickey began construction of his Streamliner which he nicknamed Challenger I. The first thing that had to be done when constructing Challenger was finding tires that would be capable of handling speeds over 400 MPH. This ended up being much harder than he had originally thought!  Most of the major tire  manufacturers had no interest in sponsoring Mickey or producing tires for his Bonneville record attempt.

Here is Mickey sitting in Challenger. Everything had to be as compact as Possible.

However when Mickey went to the Goodyear Tire company, the executives listened to his proposal, figured it would be a great marketing deal and sponsor him and make his tires when they said “Ok, we’ll build them.”

Finding tires wasn’t the last challenge for building he had to face while building Challenger. The next challenge was finding the right engines that would be capable enough to make enough power to reach 400 MPH on land.

Challenger I at Bonneville in 1959

M/T would find four Pontiac 415 C.I. engines which were hooked up to four 1937 Cadillac transmissions. All four of the transmissions were controlled by a single lever system. The front engines were faced backwards to power the front wheels, while the rear engines were faced normal to power the rear wheels.

The body was next part of the build that had to be done. To ensure maximum aerodynamics the body had to be as streamlined as possible, to ensure this the  Body was given sweeping curves.

Challenger was soon completed and ready to make a pass at Bonneville. However, Mickey did not want to head out to the salt flats with her untested. In the early days of the Summer of 1959 Goodyear tires was able set up a test for M/T at Edwards Air Force Base. During this test Mickey would reach 250 MPH before spinning out on the runway.

Challenger I at Bonneville in 1959.

However, Goodyear would continue to support him and on October 6, 1959 the long awaited day had finally come. M/T and his team drove Challenger out to Bonneville on an open trailer that was hitched to his 59′ Pontiac.

M/T was ready to make the run of his life and get Challenger to push the envelope and break not just the 400 MPH barrier but John Cobb’s long stand 394 MPH record as well!

Disappointingly, 1959 would not be Mickey’s year to achieve this feat. Sadly the fastest Challenger was able to go was 363.48 MPH which did set a record in the A/BFS class that would stand until 1990. However, this was not the 400 MPH goal that he wanted to reach.

Mickey making his first record at Bonneville in 1959.

He wasn’t ready to give up on his goal of 400 MPH and his plan was to try again in 1960. During the next year he would make several changes to the car including dramatically redesigning the nose and tail to reduce drag and make the car even more aerodynamic than before.

He also realized that he would need more horsepower if he was going to reach 400 MPH. He would add a 6-71 GMC supercharger to each of the Pontiac motors which brought the horsepower up to 750 per engine!  Since the engines were now supercharged hood scopes had to be added to the body, which had to be as aerodynamic as possible since they would disrupt some of the aerodynamics in the body.

Look how much lower the Nose was in 1960 compared to the 1959 photo Above.

On September 9th, 1960 it was time for Mickey Thompson to make his faithful run for 400 MPH on the salt flats. He and Challenger were ready to go down in the Hot Rod and Landspeed record books. On his daring run he would not only break the 400 MPH barrier but he would be able to carry Challenger I to a speed of 406.6 miles per hour!

Challenger on the Historic day at Bonneville in 1960.

Sadly, mechanical troubles prevented him from making the return run that is required to get the official record. However, on that September day in Bonneville Utah, Mickey Thompson may have only set an unofficial record but he did go faster than any hot rodder in the world and faster than any man on Earth!

His accomplishment would inspire a new generation of American Hot Rods such as Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove to push the envelope even further and set goals such as 5 and 600 MPH! I bet if you ask any Hot Rod today they well say that Mickey did set the 406 MPH record on that September day.

Mickey and Challenger I making their 406 MPH run on the salt! There is something about Challenger I When I look at these pictures if it the car looks so majestic and it always looks like it is moving. I can’t explain it in words but it looks as if Challenger has a soul!






Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins’ Grumpy’s Toy

Bill Grumpy Jenkins 66 Chevy II

As most of you know Drag Racing Legend Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins’ passed away back in March of this Year. Grumpy Jenkins was probably by far the most Innovative Pro Stock Drag Racer of all time! Even more Innovative than the Professor himself; Warren Johnson! He helped pioneer several innovations in the motorsport creating things such as the kick oil pan, strut front suspension, cool cans, electric water pump fans, slick shift manual transmissions and his biggest innovation of all was probably his Gas Ported Pistons.

He was nicknamed Grumpy for his “no nonsense” attitude at the strip and his Mannerisms of always keeping a straight face, always wearing shades and Puffing a Cigar while making every single pass.

Grumpy puffing his Cigar at the 1966 NHRA Winter Nationals

Jenkins was also known for having quite a hive of cars and all of them were appropriately  nicknamed “Grumpy’s Toy” though these machines were anything but toys. They were the most innovative and well engineered machines to stage on the drag strip. The first Grumpy’s Toy was a 1966 Chevy II L-79 that was painted Regal Red and powered by a 327 SBC.

Da Grumpy staging his “Toy” at the Winter Nationals

Jenkins raced the Chevy II in the A/Stock class, a class that was dominated by the mighty Mopar HEMI’s back in 1966. Jenkins strongly believe that even though he had a smaller engine due to his Innovations and his light weight he would have the faster car.

Grumpy’s Toy in the Pits. Just look at all the details on the car, all of the writing is hand painting on and not stickers.

Jenkins managed to squeeze out 420 horsepower out of the little 327 and he used every ounce of it, along with his lighter car to beat the mighty Mopars.The 327 had forged pistons which were gas ported and fitted with Dyke’s Piston rings.

The heads on the small block were milled to allow minimum chamber volume which brought the compression up to 11.6:1. The cylinder heads that Jenkins originally used 461 numbered castings. Grumpy’s Toy used a 550 flat- tappet camshaft with a 108-degree center-line and Crane Rockers.

A Cigar puffing burnout for Da Grump

Fuel and air delivery was inhaled by an Edelbrock high-rise intake manifold and a modified Holley 585-CFM Carb. The exhaust originally was exhaled through a set of Doug Thorley’s Tri-Y headers but  Da Grump later switched to Hooker when they became his first paying sponsor.

All of this power was hooked up to the famous Muncie M21 4 speed transmission. Jenkins shifted the 4 gears using custom Hurst 3 speed shifter that he had modified himself. Grumpy was known for being excellent at drag racing with a manual that he once made 250 straight passes with out missing a gear! The Chevy II raced with 4.88:1 rear gears.

The Chevy II getting ready to make one of it’s faithful passes at the 1966 Indy Nationals.

Jenkins had lots of success with Grumpy’s Toy I he set a record in 1966 by making a pass of 11.66 which was the fastest pass in Super Stock at the time. Grumpy’s Toy was able to consecutively turn times in the 11 second range.

Grumpy’s Toy making the pass in the Legendary Finals at the 1966 NHRA Indy Nationals

Sadly Grumpy’s Toy I was short after finishing 2nd at the NHRA Nationals in the final round against Jere Stahl where Jenkins lost because he Red Lighted at the start, the Chevy II was destroyed in a toying accident on the way home from the Nationals.

Crew Member Bruce Tucker passed out while driving the tow rig and caused the Chevy II to crash. The car except for the drivetrain was totaled (which was salvaged) and Grumpy’s Toy was sent to its final resting place at a Junkyark where it was recycled after 20 years.

Not sure if this is the last picture taken of Grumpy’s Toy or not but it seems to fit the setting of the accident pretty well.




Don Prudhomme’s Pepsi Challenger

Don Prudhomme Pepsi Challenger race

30 Years Ago on May 29, 1982 at the NHRA Cajun Nationals Don “The Snake” Prudhomme in his Pepsi Challenger Funny Car set a new NHRA record during qualifying by being the first Funny Car to reach 250 MPH in the Quarter Mile! This historic qualifying pass was made against Raymond Beadle who was in the other lane in his Blue Max funny car.

Later that year on September 4, 1982 at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis Don Prudhomme ran the Challenger in what has been considered by fans and the NHRA the greatest Funny Car Pass in History! Don Prudhomme pushed his Funny Car to the limits and ran an E/T of 5.63 which was 2/10 of a second quicker than any other pass at the time! However during this run because Don pushed his car to the limit the engine’s internals suffered huge damage. After this pass he said on TV “If I hadn’t of been there myself to see it, done it myself. I don’t know if I would of believed it!”

Here is a Great shot of the Pepsi Challenger! If you look closely you can see all of the smoke in the cockpit.

Through it’s years of racing the Pepsi Challenger remained very dominate, but like any other funny car it was not with out its problems. Break downs happened, engines had there problems but overall the Funny Car was very dominate especially in its early years.

What made the car so Dominate? Well according to “The Snake” himself reason was because the funny car’s body was based off of the 1982 Pontiac Trans Am. The Trans Am had a very smooth body style, it was a very Aerodynamic design which helped the car run quicker and fast times in the quarter mile.

The Pepsi Challenger performing a burnout before on of it’s amazing runs!

While developing the body of the car Prudhomme and his team where factory backed by Pontiac, so they had access to Pontiac’s Wind tunnel which really helped them out.Due to the testing in the wind tunnel Prudhomme and his team got all of the bumps out of the front end and made sure the Car was smooth all around. According to Don “Aero wise, the car was the best package out in drag racing at the time.”

The other major factor that contributed to the Pepsi Challenger’s dominance was it’s monster power plant. The funny car was powered by 484 Cubic Inch, All-Aluminum Hemi Engine one of the first All Aluminum engines drag racing. The engine was built by the legendary and famed engine builder Keith Black. The Hemi was hooked up to two speed drag racing transmission. The engine, transmission and body are all mounted on to a Hand Made chrome-molly tubular chassis.

Don Prudhomme at Tulsa Raceway in the early circa 1982. Not sure who is in the far lane.

On May 19, 2012 almost 30 years to day of Don Prudhomme’s historic pass at the Cajun Nationals the Pepsi Challenger sold for $250,000 to a lucky drag racing fan at the Mecum Auction. Hopefully this piece of drag racing history remains in good hands, so generations of drag racing fans to come can see an amazing part of its past.

1963 Nova Surf Wagon

1963 Nova Surf Rod

This is a 1963 Nova Wagon owned by Dennis Marshall and Jonna Marshall in Xenia,OH.

I bought the car at a swap meet back in May of 2011, while looking I was told that the car had been sitting in a old barn for the past 12 years. I ended buying the car because I loved the wagon look and thought it would be neat to do a wagon in the rat rod style.

It may have looked rough, but the Nova had potential

Once I started tearing into the car I had to put in all of the new floor pans. The Nova was originally a 3 speed on the column but I moved it and bought a new Mr.Gasket floor shifter. The set up is now three on the floor! The motor powering the Nova is the original factory 194 Inline 6 which has been overhauled.

She may only be an Inline 6 but she gets the job done! She is all original from the Factory.

When I first got the wagon there was hardly any interior left in inside! Since then I have had all of the seats re-padded and recovered. I am still working on a few things in the interior such as the door panels and getting the carpet but I am getting to them slowly but surely.

For paint I always wanted to do a flat paint job on the car to give the car that rat rod look. What I did was use Hot Rod Flats-Aqua with a white shiny top.The car was painted by my father Gary Stollings. The wheels have been sandblasted and painted to match that car. The Nova has 13 inch tires that are wide white walls.I wanted to give the car a unique surf rod look, so I found a surfboard to set it off,(which I might add surfboards are very hard to find in Ohio).

The Nova cruising on the way to Surf City!

The Nova has been lowered 3 inches and all the chrome has been powder coated to a chrome finish. All the work has been done by my father Gary Stollings, my son Ty Marshall and myself.  This has been one of many cars i have restored/built. There’s nothing like a old Hot Rod!!!!

Makes me want to jump in and blast Bleeding Heart by the Johnnys while driving!


A clean Nova all around! The car looks great, the paint is great and it drives great!

For info on Holiday Car rentals check  here!

Mickey Thompson’s Big Red

Mickey Thompson Big Red

In honor of  the 2012 Baja 500 I am going to go a little off topic by doing an article about Mickey Thompson’s legendary Baja truck Big Red! Mickey Thompson’s Big Red is a kind of a special car for Mickey since it was the truck he had his best finish in the Baja 500 (2nd place) and was the only truck that he raced for more than one season!

Originally Mickey’s first truck was a 1972 Chevy C10 that he used for Off Road racing.  However, the C10 couldn’t take the punishment that M/T put it through so he decided on a bigger truck for next season. The truck he chose: a 1973 Chevy C20 Truck which became Big Red.

The Test of Big Red before the Mexican 1000.

Big Red is powered by a 454 Big Block Chevy which was estimated to have over 600 horsepower! The 454 was hooked up to a modified Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission which was modified by B&M. The transmission was fitted with two transmission coolers, which was done do to the extra weight and the high power to keep the transmission from overheating in the desert.

M/T and Danny Thompson getting ready for the start of the Baja 500

Big Red has a 55 Gallon fuel cell which is mounted in the bed (One of the first off road trucks to do this I believe). The 55 gallon tank had a fill on both sides to make in-race refilling much faster. For extra strength in the desert M/T made the roll cage and the front bumper of the truck out of titanium. However this did add to the overall weight of the truck which ended up being 5600 pounds!

During his past few racing Experiences in the desert Mickey encountered several problems. This included ignition not working, alternators breaking, and a few other problems. With the help of his son Danny, Mickey fixed this problems by making the sure the truck had 2 of everything! Two alternators, two separate and independent brake master cylinders as well as a dual ignition system that could be switched by the driver and the co driver while the truck was driving!

Mickey and Danny Thompson racing in the Baja 500!

The suspension and rear end of the truck was completely customized and fabricated as well. All of the brakes on the truck were converted to disc brakes, there were also three shocks for each wheel on the truck.  The rear end had a custom built full-floating rear axle, the rear end itself was built to hold extra fluid and had a new innovative system to help keep the fluid cool during a long race.

Another idea M/T came up with was to use aircraft hoses for all of the hoses on the truck. This was done to prevent oil from leaking in case of a roll over.

Using its 600 plus horsepower Big Red had a top speed of around 165 MPH while Off Road. During the Baja 500 and the Mexican 1000 Mickey averaged a race speed of 109 MPH!

A great photo of Big Red soaring through the Desert!

Mickey’s first race using Big Red was in November of 1972, he raced in the Mexican 1000. During the Mexican 1000 Big Red was strong for the first few legs of the race, sadly M/T had a few problems including losing the hood and Big Red broke down and had to be towed a way. Mickey ended up with a DNF for the Mexican 1000. He later went on to race the Baja 500 where Mickey earned his best finish in the 500 with a  Second place! The truck would race Baja one more time in 1974 which again would result in a DNF.

Big Red getting ready to race the Mexican 1000. In 1972 the Mexican 1000 was just four years old! M/T was ready to make a new name for himself in the world of Off Road Racing.

I have to say I am really impressed with Big Red. I have always been a fan of Mickey Thompson and his innovative hot rods and trucks but I have to say Big Red is one of the best. It really shows off the innovative talent Mickey had. Coming up with some of the systems that I mentioned above that are still used in the Trophy Trucks today! Big Red is a one of a kind truck that is currently sitting in a shop in Eugene, Oregon completely untouched since it’s last race.

Mickey was really ahead of his time, the Cockpit of Big Red looks more like the cockpit of a Cessna Aircraft than a truck!

This is how Big Red looked after its last race in 1975, it has sat in Oregon for over 35 years. The Truck is a peace of Baja and Off Road racing history. Prehaps one day this Off Road Relic will drive again.

The Phony Pony Funny Car

The fake funny car, the Phony Pony

The Phony Pony Funny Car was both a real funny car and a real “phony” car! The car was built by drag racer Junior Brogdon back in the late 1960′s.  It was a Ford and was based off of the Mustang, hence the “pony” in its name. Bordgon built the car to get into funny car racing after he had great success racing Super Stock in the AHRA. However when he built Phony Pony the car ended up being funny in a different way. A different way than just being a drag car with an altered wheel based and a flip top. It was funny because it was more like a dragster with a car body on top of it!

The Phony Pony was a slingshot dragster with a Mustang body on top of it (now you know why it’s phony) with it Brogdon would run a few different set ups, the most common set up was two Ford 289 HIPO motors. The 289s would sometimes be carbureted other times both would Injected. Other set ups he would run would just be a single injected 289, a single blown 289 or just a single 289.

When the Phony Pony debuted the NHRA would not consider it a real funny car so Brodgon always had to run it at Match races only. Even at Match Races most of the fans and spectators didn’t want to see it, they weren’t huge fans of the fake funny cars and didn’t want to see a dragster with a car body. (Weird because I think its cool as hell!)

The best time Phony Pony ever ran was 8.36 seconds @ 165.


Mike Ness’ 54 Chevy


This 54 Chevy is that I want to take for a cruise up the coast and then on to Highway 101! It is owned by the original Sick Boy himself Mike Ness! For my readers that may not know Mike Ness is the lead singer and guitarist of the Punk/Rock N Roll band Social Distortion!  A band which has long had an outlaw, rock n roll sound.  You can describe their sound as Johnny Cash meets the Clash with a hint of the Rolling Stones and a bit of Dillinger (yes the 1930s Bank Robber) and Mike Ness and Social Distortion’s outlaw image has always gone hand in hand with Hot Rods and customs!

Who wouldn't want to sit and pray in this 54 Chevrolet! Photo property of Dan Gilday.

Mike Ness’ 54 Chevy was built by Cole Foster and the Salinas Boys. Mike Ness  would also stop by and help work on the car himself while it was in the Salinas Boys shop.

“Ness slept at my shop, for weeks at a time, we tortured him Bob Seger , made him do the worst BS, he got dirty, cut, and was one of the guys, bought lunch, and he has a good eye and a sense of humor. He has been a good friend for a long time.”- Cole Foster

Look at the rear of the 54 Chevy in Cole Foster's Garage.

The 54 Chevy top is chopped four inches, the rear glass and window is from a 1950 Plymouth coupe, and the hubcaps are from a 1951 Desoto. The interior has custom leopard print upholstery and Ness’ 54 Chevy is powered by a Small Block Chevy which is hooked up to TH350 transmission.

The Small Block Chevy that powers the 54.

Mike has an interesting taste in interior, but he doesn't let it drag him down.

Mike Ness had the 54 Chevy built for nights when he gets those cold feelings and he just needs to cruise or when he has the Machine Gun blues and needs to cross the state line to escape the police. (If he gets caught, its too the outskirts of town by the railroad tracks, where the country moon shines).

Cole Foster testing out the Chevy at the drive in. Photo property of Cole Foster.

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