By Bill Duke and Danny White
The “Bronco Buster” was a loosely aligned Ford project for Doug Nash. Nash had previously raced an A/FX Comet for Mercury. The wild “Bronco Buster” featured a scary thin aluminum tube chassis that enabled the car and driver to weigh in the 1700-pound range. An injected 289 Ford small block was run at first in 1966. A supercharger was added by the end of the 1966 season.
The “Bronco Buster” was sometimes erratic, but it did run a few low 8-second runs. In fact, Draglist.com records show that the car ran 8.68 with injectors but 8.33, 181.45 with the supercharger. In 1967, Doug Nash received a death notice for the “Bronco Buster” from NHRA, which outlawed both pickup truck funny cars and aluminum frames. Doug left the driver’s seat to build his famed 5-speed transmission used by many sportsman racers. (Photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Racing Memories)
Dave Zachary dared to be different with his Cadillac Eldorado funny car. Zachary built the chassis for the car and transformed the heavy body into a one-piece flip-top shell. The chassis was built out of square tubing. Zachary himself built an injected Chevrolet engine for the car. The Eldo was not a great winner, nor did it put up big numbers. Draglist.com files show that the heavy car ran 9.71 at 144.51. Zachary was later killed when the car rolled, and the cage failed. (Photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Racing Memories)
The “Stinger” was the product of Adkins and Hardcastle. Pat Adkins had previously raced fuelers and used that experience on the “Stinger.” The “Stinger” was based on a Kellison kit featuring a dragster drive train with a direct drive 392 Chrysler Hemi. The team used the trick of splashing gas on the tires and igniting them as the car left the line, giving the appearance of raw horsepower.
There were two separate “Stinger” funny cars. The first was destroyed in a crash. Famed driver-for-hire Gary Southern was the car’s pilot of choice. Southern ran low 8’s at 190 plus on a good day. He ran an 8.50 in Stinger I but an 8.21 at 192.50 in Stinger II. The problem with the “Stinger” was that it was a kit car. The other teams did not like to race the little car. It was often banned from open fields and relegated to match races. (Photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Racing Memories)
Ron Pellegrini started with an altered wheelbase 392 Chrysler Mustang, then built a couple of Buicks. The “Beware” Buick Rivera featured a wild, narrowed body made by Pellegrini that lifted from the back. Romeo Palamides built the car’s chassis with several other tricks. It was a dragster-style chassis, so it lacked connecting uprights. This problem led to excessive chassis flexing and made the steering basically useless! The “Beware” Buick met its end at the famed Rockford Dragway, but a few scant years later, all funny cars were built similar to the “Beware.” Ron Pellegrini did run 7.70 at 190 before the accident. (Photo and info courtesy of Ron Pellegrini)
The “AMX-1” of Walker & Geary was another former altered converted for funny car racing. The short wheelbase “AMX-1” ran OK now and then but acted exactly like what it was: an ill-tempered altered with a car body. The car began life as a Fiat Topolino, but Walker & Geary saw that more money could be made in funny car racing. Several drivers fought the mean little funny car, which eventually ran best times in the sevens at 190 plus. Fuel altered veteran Tom Ferraro did the best in the “AMX-1” with a 7.35 at 193. Walker later partnered with Gary Densham on a Pinto in 72-73. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty)
The “Psycho” was another funny car with an altered past. The team of Snodgrass and Mahnken had raced a 427 SOHC-powered Fiat Topolino as an A/FA. The team got a sponsorship from Tom Sherlock Ford, enabling them to jump on the funny car bandwagon. A 1966 Ford Mustang body replaced the Fiat shell, and a 427 Ford wedge replaced the Cammer. The “Psycho” ran mid 8’s at best. Driver Larry Barker garnered a win in Comp Eliminator at the 1967 Hot Rod Magazine Championships, entering the car as an AA/FA. The team later bought the Gas Ronda Mustang but liked the old car better and brought it out of retirement. The “Psycho” Mustang was later sold to an Australian racer, and Pat Mahnken eventually bracket raced the old Gas Ronda Mustang. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty)
Eddie Pauling was never afraid to try something different. His first two funny cars were both of the rear-engine variety. Pauling experimented with wing placement and even drove a rear-engine sidewinder dragster. But we are here to cover the first Dodge Dart funny car. The “Ol’ Whine Maker,” as Pauling called it, was powered by a 392 Chrysler Hemi. The little Dart ran better than most rear-engine funny cars of the day, with best times in the mid-8s in the 180 mph range. Those times were not bad for 1966 and 1967. (Photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Racing Memories)
The Jeep funny cars all were one of a kind. Roger Wolford’s “Secret Weapon” Jeep was hit or miss when it came to performance. It either beat all the other racers, broke, or had handling problems. Wolford’s fortunes varied with the stretched Jeep, but there was never a dull moment with this car. Roger drove the car to a known best of 8.03 with a 392 Chrysler Hemi/Torqueflite combination. Rules eventually outlawed the Jeeps from sanctioned drag racing meets, but they could be seen at open races and match races until the turn of the decade. Wolford went on to fight the “Corvette Curse” with the “Mako Shark.” (Photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Race Memories)
Sheldon Konblett’s funny cars were never ordinary run-of-the-mill machines. The first one had to be the strangest. The “Peanuts” Galaxie was unique at best. Konblett built the chassis himself at the famed Service Center. The body had an interesting story behind it. The Ford Motor Company built the body out of fiberglass for a commercial shoot atop a mountain peak. Konblett bought the body and built the chassis to fit the car. The car never ran great numbers, but famed drivers like Gary Cochran took turns behind the wheel. (Photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Race Memories)
Junior Brogdon’s “Phony Pony” ran under various guises, including single and twin engines, both blown and unblown. The unruly car ran its best times of 8.36 at 165 with a single blown 289 Ford small block. Brogdon’s machine was met with general indifference from fans, other racers, and drag strip operators. Like the other dragsters with funny car bodies, the “Phony Pony” was culled from open drag meets. For the most part, Junior was forced to race one-off match races, which he often lost due to frequent breakage. Brogdon replaced the little car with a normal funny by 1970. He later left funny car racing altogether and joined the Pro Stock ranks with a Cleveland-powered Ford Pinto. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty)