By Danny White
Mike Burkhart was one of the largest funny car racers of all time, but he made up for the extra weight with extra horsepower. The Camaro in the photo was Burkhart’s second funny car. Mike teamed with Harry Schmidt in 1967 on this machine, which Don Hardy built in his Floydada, Texas shop. The car was raced with an injected engine in ’67. In 1968, in order to keep with the increasing pace of racing, a supercharger was added.
Dallas new car dealer, Doran Chevrolet, came on board as the team’s sponsor in 1968. The little Camaro ran times in the seven-second zone with a best of 7.69 at 180. By 1969, Burkhart and Schmidt split up with Burkhart still running Chevys. Schmidt had Don Hardy build the first “Blue Max” with a Ramchargers Hemi for power. (Leonard Maxwell photo; info from Draglist.com files)
The “CKC” funny car team was the most well-known fuel team to come out of San Antonio. “CKC” did not start in funny cars; they began in dragsters with Buddy Cortines driving the little small block Chevy powered dragster. J.E. Kristek did the tuning while Fritz Callier provided most of the money. The team jumped on the funny car wagon with a rare Bill Thomas built Nova in 1965 and Fritz Callier took over the driving. Cortines went on to drive other Texas Top Fuelers.
The “CKC” machine became one of the best match racers in the Texas area. In 1967, they ordered a new Camaro from famed chassis builder Don Hardy. The team joined the AHRA tour as one of its feature performers, running a best of 7.66 under Chevy power. The team had great success on the match race trail, as well. “CKC” later switched to Hemis and raced into the mid-seventies. (Leonard Maxwell photo; info from Draglist.com files)
Ronnie Runyan was a die-hard Chevy funny car racer. Runyan began his funny car career with a gasser style ’63 Corvette in Southern California. Ronnie kept updating the Corvette until it was time for a new car. He had Dick Fletcher build the “Blue Hell” Corvair, which was much lighter than his stock-based Corvette. Runyan raced on the West Coast and in match races, running both cars at some races! Success on the match race scene enabled Ronnie to move to Missouri. The move allowed him to be closer to more races and more money. The “Blue Hell” Corvair proved to be his best-known race car. It ran 7.83 at 187 before being replaced. (Leonard Maxwell photo; info from Draglist.com files)
Doug Thorley had a charmed racing season in 1967. A 7.69 elapsed time and a win at Indy set the wheels in motion for the 1968 season. Thorley sold the winning Corvair to Joe Pisano, then built two funny cars in 1968. One was a rear-engine Javelin sponsored by American Motors. Doug also built a new Corvair that was lighter than the original steel-bodied Chevy. Thorley concentrated on his growing header business and the Javelin, and Dick Bourgeois and Earl Wade took the new Corvair on tour.
Dick Bourgeois had raced blown gassers before getting into the funny car wars. Earl Wade was the legendary tuner for Don Nicholson. Bourgeois & Wade did not have the same success with the Corvair in 1968 that Thorley did in 1967. The team did okay in match races across the country. The team came back to California and took over Thorley’s AMC sponsorship, replacing the Corvair body with a Javelin. (Leonard Maxwell photo; info from Draglist.com files)
Roger Guzman was the premier funny car team owner in Colorado for almost twenty years. The pictured Corvair was his first funny car. Guzman and driver Art Ward had previously raced a very successful MG in the AA/MSP class. They built the Corvair in 1968. The Corvair, like all of Guzman’s machines, was well polished and clean, and the car’s performance matched its appearance. Guzman & Ward could outrun almost any team in the high elevation of the Rocky Mountains. The car ran 7.58 at 190 at sea level with Ward at the wheel, but John Dekker also drove the Corvair. (Leonard Maxwell photo; info from Draglist.com files)
Jim Maybeck entered the funny car scene in 1967. Maybeck purchased Bruce Larson’s all-fiberglass “USA-1” Chevelle and renamed it the “Patriot.” In 1968, Jim built an all-new Corvair funny car built to replace the outdated Chevelle. Maybeck kept Chevy power in the new funny car, and named it the “Screaming Eagle,” keeping the patriotic theme. The “Screaming Eagle” was a regular in AHRA events and match races, achieving moderate success. Jim may have had the quickest Corvair with a 7.32, 194 clocking to his credit. (Leonard Maxwell photo; info from Draglist.com files)
The late Gene Mooneyham moved from his Southern California home to Southern Louisiana. The reason for the move was to run the Car Shop Inc. business. In 1967, the Car Shop team built this little Camaro funny car with genuine Chevrolet power. The car’s trademark was its Charger style roof, making it stand out in a crowd and easy to identify. Frank Huff and Henry Garcia both drove the golden Camaro to mid-pack performances.
The team’s most famous run was at Detroit Dragway. Harry Garcia stood the car on its bumper and brought it back down safely. Thankfully, the car lived to race another day and ran a best of 7.51 at 189. The Car Shop, Inc. eventually went under. Mooneyham moved back to SoCal and opened his successful supercharger business. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty; info from Draglist.com files)
“Just 4 Chevy Lovers” was Tom Sturm’s calling card to drag racing. Sturm drove the cars himself or used a hired gun. The Sturm & Fischer “Just 4 Chevy Lovers” Corvair was no different, being handled by Clyde Morgan, Bob Smith, Mark Bullet, and Sturm himself. Driver Bullet had built the car, but it was Bob Smith who coaxed the best times out of it with a 7.68, 179 pass. Most runs were in the low 8-second range. A unique feature of this Corvair was that it sported a vinyl top! (Leonard Maxwell photo; info from Draglist.com files)
In 1969, Larry Christopherson came from Arizona obscurity to national prominence. He went on tour with a super sano Chevy Nova that could win car shows as well as drag races. The Nova was a prime example of the era’s psychedelic style paint jobs. Christopherson took Mike Hamby on tour. Hamby sometimes drove the Nova, as did famed “King Camaro” driver Dean LaPole. The Nova ran times in the seven-second range with a best of 7.49. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty; info from Draglist.com Files)
Nobody can argue that Randy Walls is not a true blue Chevy racer. This Nova was his third funny car and his first flip top. Bob Thomas built it to replace a crashed Corvair. The Nova ran a Chevy on 60 percent nitro with an automatic transmission. Randy took the yellow Nova on a national tour and ran times in the 7.50 range. Walls returned in the new millennium to race a vintage Chevy powered Nova on the Goodguys circuit. In fact, he was the 2004 series champion and the first to be crowned. Randy is said to have built an all-new Nova and it’s almost ready to race. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty: info from Draglist.com files)