60s Funny Cars

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Round 9: The Fords

Text by Danny White, Bill Duke, and Steve DeTar

Gas Ronda’s Russ Davis Ford Mustang funny cars were some of the best-known and most popular funny cars on the West Coast. The pictured car was Ronda’s last funny car. Dick Fletcher built the car and Ed Pink built the 427 SOHC Ford powered engine. The ‘69 Mustang suffered a severe fire at the AHRA Winternationals in 1970. It won the ‘69 Manufacturers Championships at OCIR and cracked 200 several times at low 7.40s. A fire suit that was too old contributed to Ronda’s burns. A new one from Deist was on the way, but only the facemask had been delivered. This accounted for the lack burns along the neck and face area. Ronda was seriously toying with the idea of building a Maverick Pro Stocker for the same reasons Nicholson and Schartman had left the class: FIRE! Ronda hired Dick Poll to drive the car for a while after the fire, then quit racing in 1970. (Leonard Maxwell photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Race Memories; info and additional text courtesy of Bill Duke)

Gerry Schwartz was a very young man when he began racing in 1968. Schwartz, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, bought the chassis from Logghe Stamping Company and Roy Steffey built the SOHC engine. Schwartz raced the car in 1967, achieving moderate success. In ‘69, Schwartz replaced the cammer with a 427 Chevy rat and changed the name to "Ratty Cat.” Unfortunately, Schwartz died after a collision with Pat Foster at the NHRA Springnationals in Dallas. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty)

Kenz & Leslie was one of Colorado’s best-known race teams. The pair had successes in many forms of racing, including land speed cars, Pike’s Peak, and oval track racing. Ron Leslie was the member of the team that loved drag racing. He raced AA/Fuel Dragsters before building his first funny car. The dragsters, like the later funny cars, all were Ford powered. Kenz & Leslie had connections at the Ford Motor Company that allowed them to get the newest parts from the factory. The team used Logghe chassis and 427 SOHC Fords for power. The High Country Cougar was a seven-second car that frequently raced the "Assassination" cars of Roger Guzman for the right to be considered the best AA/FC from Colorado. (Photo by Leonard Maxwell courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Race Memories; additional text from Bill Duke)

Dee Keaton raced Jack Chrisman’s "Chrisman’s Comet" after Chrisman had replaced it with one of the Logghe Comets. The car had become a little outdated in spite of many updates by Keaton. It was a Dick Fletcher chassis car with an injected SOHC 427 Ford. Keaton was well skilled in tuning a SOHC. The car raced through ‘69, albeit later with a blower and Cougar shell. The Comet ran 8.30s at 170 on injectors. The "Keaton’s Komet" was a regular in Southern California races in 1967. The 427 SOHC powered Fairlane was backed by automatic transmission like most cars of the era. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty)

Larry Fullerton’s first funny car was this beautiful ‘67 Mustang. This is the car second paint job and the first with the "Trojan Horse" fully emblazoned on the side. In 1967, the Ring-Free Oil Company was the main sponsor of the car. The "Trojan Horse" had an injected Ford cammer engine at this time. Partner Keith Doheny arrived on scene in ‘69 with lots of money. His family owned all the real estate on famed Doheny Drive. This "Trojan Horse" ran through the end of 1970 with a Ford Maverick body. With injectors the car, the team went 8.40s. When they added a blower, they hit mid-sevens at 185 plus. The car was runner up to Danny Ongais in the Mickey Thompson car at the ‘69 PDA event held at OCIR. (Leonard Maxwell photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Race Memories)

There were two versions of the "Psycho" funny car. The first debuted in late ‘66 and was based on the team's blown Fiat altered. The Mustang was powered by a 427 Ford Wedge. The team simply replaced the Fiat shell with a Mustang and voila! -- Instant funny car! Using direct drive, the "Psycho" smoked the tires ala Jack Chrisman and managed high eights. Times improved as the tires and tweaking refined it a bit, but mid eights were the best numbers in memory. The car did win the Super Eliminator title (a form of Comp Eliminator) at the ‘67 Hot Rod Magazine meet at Riverside. "Psycho II" was the ‘66 Gas Ronda car powered by a blown SOHC. This car replaced the altered version after the first car was sent to Australia where it received a 392 Hemi. Performance numbers for the "Psycho II" will require a little more research. The car was kept in the family for many years, eventually running as a very competitive bracket car for both husband and wife. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty; text by Bill Duke)

Dick Poll began racing funny cars in 1969 with the former Gas Ronda Mustang. The Southern Californian renamed the Mustang "Comanche" and began racing the open shows at OCIR and Irwindale. The problem with the "Comanche" was that it was too heavy to compete with the newer 1969 funny cars. With tuning help from Amos Satterlee, the car did provide Poll a good training vehicle. The "Comanche" ran times in the sevens as the top funny cars were headed for the sixes. Poll would take over for Gas Ronda in 1970 after Ronda’s fire. (Leonard Maxwell photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Race Memories)

Larry Coleman and the "Coleman’s Super Torino" was one of a handful of Torino funny cars. These had to be the biggest funny cars of all time. After driving his own cars in Louisiana, Coleman moved to Memphis to join the scene that included "Super Cuda,” "King Fish,” Joe Lunati, and others. Larry hired Sidney Foster to rive the behemoth in 1968. The big Torino had SOHC power and an automatic transmission, but it could run! According to Foster’s daughter, her father ran 7.02 at 202 mph in the car. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty)

Another massive Ford Torino, here is Ted DeTar's last effort before being killed in Florida in December 1968. The car was one of three ‘68 Torino GTs, joining Phil Bonner and Coleman & Taylor. It was built to replace Ted’s ‘65 all steel AWB Falcon that had been destroyed. DeTar and Garlan Smith of Wichita, Kansas, designed and built the chassis, and Ted built a Chrysler hemi backed by a 727 automatic and Dana 60 rear to get the power to the ground. Terry Ivey bought the car even before DeTar was finished sorting it out. Ivey ran it through two paint jobs before selling it himself. (Photo courtesy of Mike Ditty; text by Steve DeTar)

An engineer by trade, Dick Loehr is remembered as one of the top Ford drag racers. He started racing funny cars with a ‘66 Mustang, first on Ford power, then with a Chrysler. In 1969, Dick switched back to Ford power with a 427 SOHC. Fellow Michigan residents Logghe Stamping built the chassis for the Chapman Performance Products machine. Loehr ran a best of 7.35 at 202 in 1969, but that would be his last year in a funny car. Like many other ‘60s funny car racers, Dick switched to Pro Stock. (Photo courtesy by Mike Ditty)

 

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