All of the pictures on this page were taken by Lawrie Gatehouse,
I am indebted to him for making them available for us all to enjoy.

Click on any image to get the bigger picture

 

Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme was without doubt the dominant funny car racer of the mid to late 1970s.  He was the AHRA champion in 1974 and followed this up with NHRA titles in 1975, '76, '77 and '78.  In 1976 he won seven NHRA events in a row.
He was also the first man to officially clock a five in a flopper when he carded a 5.98 at Ontario in 1975 and, to further underline his dominance, he still held the NHRA record at 5.95 seconds at the end of the decade.

 

 

Ed 'The Ace' McCulloch was another legendary funny car shoe of the 1970s.  The top two pictures, taken in 1975, show his Revell-sponsored 'Revellution' which had been highly successful earlier in the decade.

 

The remaining shots show 'The Ace' driving his Plymouth Arrow in 1977 racing Tom McEwen's Corvette.
These days 'The Ace' is the highly successful Crew Chief on Ron Capps' flopper.

 

 

 

Tom 'The Mongoo$e' McEwen was the team mate of Don Prudhomme in the Hot Wheels/Wildlife Racing Team of the early 1970s.  It is fair to say that he did not have the same success as 'The Snake' but he nevertheless had a large fan-base and did triumph over him with a then career best of 6.05/235 at the 1978 NHRA Nationals.  McEwen was the 1975 AHRA Funny Car Champion.  He could also be described as the founding father of the nostalgia funny car movement by fielding a '57 Chevy-bodied car as far back as the 1980s.  These two pictures date from 1977.

 

 

Gene Snow ran a succession of funny cars throughout the 1970s and at one time he had a second car and a top fueller driven by various drivers.  He had the distinction of winning both the NHRA and AHRA funny car championships in 1970.  By the time these pictures were taken in 1975 he was down to just this Vega.  Snow made a huge contribution to Funny Cars in the late 1960’s by virtue of his research and development with Crowerglide, pioneering the slipping clutch when everyone else was running automatic transmissions.  Again in the late 1980’s it was Snow’s work with AFT’s Bob Brooks on direct-drive technology that made 4 second Top Fuel runs attainable and give us the multi-stage, multi-disc clutches we take for granted today.

 

 

Drag racing has always produced larger than life characters and none more so than 'TV' Tommy Ivo who somehow combined drag racing with acting.  He gave up 20 years of dragster racing to field a funny car in 1976 and promptly ran 6.77 seconds on his first ever pass in the car!
Ivo's best result in a flopper came in 1978, a year after this picture was taken, when he reached the final of the NHRA Winternationals against Don Prudhomme only to split the block on the start line.  He is best remembered for his showmanship which included a four-engined four wheel drive dragster, a glass sided transporter for his two fuellers in the 1960s complete with matching Corvette tow car parked on the roof, and finally a jet dragster.

 

 

Gordie Bonin was an unknown Canadian racer until he burst on to the US scene in 1972 when he was runner up to Ed 'The Ace' McCulloch at the NHRA Nationals.  In 1975 (when the top two pictures were taken) he secured Bubble Up sponsorship and he won the Division 6 funny car title which incredibly he defended successfully for the remainder of the 1970s.
He had to wait for his first NHRA national event win until the Gatornationals in 1977 the year he was nicknamed '240 Gordie' because of his consistent 240mph terminal speeds.  His best season was 1979 with three NHRA national wins including the Nationals, he ran a 5.97 at Indianapolis, and finished third overall in the NHRA points.

 

 

This last picture shows Gordie at the OMS World Finals where he was the victor over Don Prudhomme.  The Bubble Up Firebird had led the 1977 Winston Points chase at one stage but despite Gordie’s event win, Prudhomme took the Winston Championship title for the 3rd year in a row.  30 years on, a reproduction of this Firebird appeared at the 2008 Winternationals with Terry Capp driving and Roland Leong tuning and ran a 5.90 at 236mph.
This regular on the Nostalgia Funny Car circuit is financed by Gordie’s old business partner Ron Hodgson.

 

 

Monza versus Monza?  Not quite.  While the Chevy Monza was the body of choice in the mid '70s, as seen on Tom Hoover's Showtime, Steve Leach’s car on the left was painted to resemble a Buick Starfire. Hoover already had 16 years of drag racing under his belt but 1977 (as seen here) was a significant year as he won his first NHRA title at the Grandnationals.  The ’76 built Showtime was a Jaime Sarté creation from Sarté Pro Cars of LA.
Kenny Youngblood's paint design was applied by Bill Carter while ‘Blood' himself did the lettering.  Tom’s father George tuned the 480 inch Keith Black motor.  Tom was inducted as the 5th member of the Cragar Five Second Club with a 5.95 second blast at the 1981 Gatornationals and continued racing Funny Cars until he retired in the late 1990s.  Steve Leach’s involvement with drag racing continues to this day thanks to his Race Car Dynamics Engineering and he was working with Steve Plueger and Dale Pulde on an innovative single magneto and gigantic fuel pump engine combo until NHRA rules stymied the imaginative project in 2005.

 

 

The Powers Steel car appeared upon the scene in the late 1970s and was an immediate threat largely due to Dan Geare who took over the tuning after his previous car had been destroyed in 1974.  Tripp Shumake is driving in this picture but then Chris Lane took over briefly before Denny Savage got the seat.  Savage went on to win the 1978 IHRA title in this car uniquely using a B&J three speed transmission.

 

This is Billy Meyer driving his SMI Motivator Camaro in 1977 the year he won the NHRA Fallnationals in Seattle.  Meyer began funny car racing in 1972 but sold up in 1975 to concentrate on a land speed record attempt with Bill Fredericks which aimed to beat Gary Gabelich's 622 mph record.  This came to nothing so it was back to this flopper in 1976.
Although Meyer did not get into the Cragar Five Second Club he did run 5.99 seconds at NED's Grande American Championship in 1978.

 

 

Tim Kushi began Funny Car racing in 1971 with a Dodge Challenger backed by his own Kushi Racing Enterprises business, out of Massachusetts. Adopting the name of 'Yankee Sizzler' Kushi campaigned a series of floppers under this name for the next 8 years, primarily on the east coast circuit. Kushi was driving a red version of this Monza when he collided with Tommy Ivo’s Arrow during a match race at Epping’s New England Dragway in 1978. While Kushi rebuilt and attempted to carry on in Funny Car for another couple of years, Ivo switched to a jet dragster to continue his match race touring.  Citing that crash as an end to an era, one-time NED photographer Garry Sansoucie says “Today, I don't think there's a nitro-burning Funny Car left in New England.”  A sad state of affairs if that is true.

 

 

The 'Super Rat' Monza was originally owned by Colorado resident Ron Kerchal using, unsurprisingly, Chevy power.  Despite spending plenty of money he could never get it to run competitively so when he teamed up with Roger Guzman a change to hemi power was made.  Rob Williams did the driving and won the NHRA Division 5 title in 1977.  The car was then sold to Clint Miller who ran it as the 'Mountain Monza.

 

 

Kenny Safford had become the regular driver of 'Mr. Norm’s Super Charger' by the early 1970s after Gary Dyer had stepped down from the rigours of match racing and touring.  Dyer had introduced Norman Kraus – the Norm in 'Mr.Norm’s' – to the wonders of drag racing back when Funny Cars were those funny-looking cars called Super Stocks.  Racing such stars of the day as Don Gay, Arnie Beswick and Dick Harrell, Kraus soon benefited from the dictum “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” and the family gas station on the junction of Grand and Spaulding in Chicago grew into the largest Dodge dealership in the USA.  Today Kraus has attained almost mythical status amongst muscle car enthusiasts and has been inducted into too many Halls of Fame to list here, but whether it be in drag racing or with Mopar fans, Mr. Norm’s place in automotive history is assured.

 

 

One time Willys gasser racer and shoe for several top flight Funny Car owners, Tom Prock teamed up with Roberto 'Poncho' Rendon and Lindsay Duzon to debut the 'Detroit Tiger' Monza in 1977.  With a Logghe Stamping Company chassis, filled with 480 inches of Keith Black, topped with a Kevin Murray Frame-Up body and trimmed with Al Bergler tin, the trio were regular racers on the NHRA and IHRA circuit.  Prock had earlier enjoyed success with the Castronovo Brothers 'Custom Body' flopper out of New York, while Rendon had the unique distinction as builder of both the dragster that Connie Kalitta famously crashed at Indy in 1971, and the car that Shirley Muldowney used to obtain her Top Fuel licence in 1972.  Duzon came to the team after wrenching on the 'Chi-Town Hustler' and Dennis Fowler’s 'Sundance' Funny Car.  Sadly Rendon passed away in 2005, aged 62, after a long battle with cancer, while at the present Tom’s son Jimmy Prock is a key figure at John Force Racing.

 

 

Randy Lackey was a cotton farmer from Texas.  He started funny car racing in Pro Comp and later switched to nitro initially with a Chevy motor but then upgraded to a hemi.  Andy Barrack has unearthed a little anecdote which post-dates this photo (which was taken in 1977) but which is well worth adding.  Lackey was up against Tripp Schumake in Johnny Loper’s Arrow in the first round at the 1978 AHRA Springnationals.  After the burnouts Lackey couldn’t get reverse, so proceeded to do a U-turn (permissible under AHRA rules back then) and drive back to the startline.  With Schumake calmly waiting to stage, Lackey then performed another U-turn to bring his Monza back to face the right way and then had the temerity to leave Schumake waiting nearly another minute while the Texan tried to psych him out.  The upshot?  Schumake never batted an eyelid and streaked to victory while at the green Lackey coughed and spluttered and idled down the track to the derision of the crowd.

 

 

Another team with its beginnings in the Gasser Wars was the Hartsoe brothers out of North Carolina.  With Funny Car becoming the class where everyone wanted to race by the early '70s, Elmer and Gwynn Hartsoe transplanted their Chevy motor into this Vega.  Employing Charles Lee as driver, the Hartsoes gained respect and a reputation on the east coast and mid-south, at such tracks as Bristol seen here and gone-but-not-forgotten Elgin’s Blaney Drag Strip in South Carolina.  The Vega was later replaced by a Monza and Donnie Plunkett became the driver, although the Chevy motor remained the same.  For those who hark back to the days when drag racing was simpler and more fun, Plunkett’s comment that they “. . . never pulled the heads or checked the plugs (and still won races)” should bring a smile to any old timer’s face.  In 2006 Gwynn Hartsoe was inducted into the East Coast Drag Racing Hall of Fame and the brothers’ Anglia is regularly seen on the nostalgia circuit.

 

 

He might not have been able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but when Jim Nicoll walked away after vaulting the Indy guardrail at 225mph in what remained of his slingshot dragster, the nickname 'Superman' was born.  Although he briefly returned to Top Fuel with a rear engined dragster, sitting with the engine in front of him and the clutch between his feet held no fear for Nicoll and he concentrated on funny cars from there on.  With sponsorship from Speed Equipment World and Revell the Vega raced all across the USA in the mid '70s.  The car was a combination of California’s finest eg. Buttera chassis, Ed Pink engine, Don Kirby body but also featured trimmings such as chrome and paint from Nicol’s home town of Dallas, Texas.

 

 

DuWayne Engness built and drove the 'Hot Sauce' Monza.  He owned the Taco Shop restaurants serving Mexican food and developed his own line of hot sauce which inspired the name for the car.  After two years he gave up driving and Ray Motes (who is driving in this 1977 picture) took over for the next three years before it was sold to Roger Guzman in 1979.

 

 

The unmistakable Pontiac Grand-Am of Mickey Thompson (left) was nicknamed 'Thompson's Torpedo' for reasons which elude me. The car was probably being driven by Dale Pulde in this 'chutes-out shot with Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme.  Thompson was a real funny car innovator and is credited with the introduction of dragster-style chassis, zoomie headers, etc.  Some of his ideas weren't quite so successful such as his 1970 monocoque chassis Mustang, the titanium chassis on his 1971 Pinto and his faith in the Boss 429 engine.  This picture was also published on the front page of 'Drag Racer' magazine, click here to see this.

 

 

 

And speaking of 'Drag Racer' magazine, here is another front page picture showing Pat Foster's 'Chicago Patrol' flopper which was sponsored, incredibly, by the Chicago Police Department.  Fortunately I don't have to waffle on about this car because Lawrie wrote an entire article on it, click here to read all about it.

 

 

I am most grateful to Danny White for permission to use information from the 70s Funny Cars website which he edits.
Funny car fanatics everywhere will be very pleased to know that Danny also maintains the 60s Funny Cars and 80s Funny Cars sites.

I am also indebted to long-time Acceleration Archive supporter and contributor Andy Barrack for providing yet more information.

 

All material on this site is copyright and should not be reproduced without permission

   

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