Round 38: Featuring
Division 4 floppers, including Kenny Bernstein, Jack Robbins, Bob Harris, the Cook, Lander, and Moffitt "Drag-On Vega," Charlie Smith, the "Smokey Bear," Buddy Warren, Roy Doyan, Keedy & Poucher's "Bandit," and Rice & Tryon's "Saturday Night Fever."
Kenny Bernstein’s first funny car ride was not a world-beater. It was not a lack of money or
experience, but the Ray Alley owned "Engine Masters" Cougar was
too outdated when it debuted in 1969. Gilmore built the chassis, but he
thought the chassis just held up the wheels. The car’s space frame and
extensive aluminum work made the car too heavy to compete with Snow,
Goldstein, and other racers running in the six-second range. The car was
good for mid-sevens on an average day with a known best of 7.54 at La
Place, Louisiana. The "Engine Masters" Cougar was parked by the
end of the 1970 season. Bernstein took over the team’s Charger in 1971.
(Photo courtesy of Drag Racing Memories, info from Dennis Doubleday and
Jack Robbins was one
of the first funny car racers in Texas. He began as the owner of the Texas
Bandit Chevy II in 1966. Over the next decade, he owned and drove various
cars such as the Texas Bandit, Wild Thing, Cowtown Hustler, and the Time
Bandit. These cars were all injected nitro or blown alcohol powered funny
cars. Jack Robbins’ last funny was this Hemi powered Monza. The car was
raced on straight alcohol. In 1977 at the mostly forgotten AHRA Fall
Nationals, Jim Tice put up $10,000 to win for the 16-car funny car field.
Tice allowed BB/FCs to race for the extra money as long as they ran at
least 50% nitro. Jack Robbins was one of those BB/FC racers who entered
the class. On alcohol, the car ran a best of 7.17 at Green Valley. Robbins
retired by the middle of the 1978 season. (Photo provided by Jim White;
info from Jack Robbins, Bret Kepner, and Draglist.com files)
Bob Harris began his
funny car career in a Barracuda in 1967. In 1969, he debuted the
"Super Shaker" Corvette. In 1970, he got a sponsor from the
"Vette Shop" in Houston. The renamed "Vette Shop"
machine suffered the "Corvette Curse" like many other Corvette
funny cars of the era. The Corvette burned to the ground at Houston
International Dragway. Harris went on to drive the "Dodge Fever"
as a hired driver in 1971, and then retired at the end of that season.
(Photo courtesy of David Ray; info from Draglist.com files)
In the mid-seventies,
NHRA still raced AA/Funny Cars at the divisional races. The problem was
that they did not always have full fields at these races. Enterprising
BB/FC racers jumped on the chance to make a few extra dollars by leaving
Pro Comp to race their big brothers. Frank Cook raced AA/FC with his BB/FC
car and almost won the Division 4 title. Cook got the "Drag-On"
Vega through Jim Robbs, who owned Racing Fuels, Inc.
The Cook, Lander, and
Moffitt "Drag-On Vega" was trick for the day. It was a Ken Cox
chassis with a late model Keith Black aluminum hemi. Chuck Lander was the
car crew chief and tuner. Cook finished number 2 in 1976 due to short
fields, his ability to make runs every time, and great blown alcohol
performance. In 1977, Cook raced in Pro Comp, and in 1978, helped form the
All-American Funny Car Circuit. Cook also won a few more championships
with the Drag- On Vega. (Handout courtesy of Gary Osborn; info by Danny
Charlie Smith was one
of the best racers in the country in the 1960s. The Oklahoma based
"Plain Vanilla" A/Altered was a winner week in and week out no
matter where he raced. One of the few racers that could beat him was his
brother Fred Smith in his A/C machine. By the time Charlie Smith switched
to AA/Altered in the late sixties, his winning ways had slowed. In 1971,
Smith and his partner decided to switch to nitro funny car. Charlie Smith
finished his driving career in the beautiful "Plain Vanilla"
Challenger. The seven-second runner was a middle of the pack performer.
Smith retired from driving by the end of 1972. (Photo courtesy of Drag
Bear" cop car series of BB/FC machines was one of most popular series
of cars in Texas during the late seventies and early eighties. Crowds
loved the car’s theme and the flashing lights. The Wasson Bros. built
the first "Smokey Bear" in their Arlington, Texas shop. Beaver
Wasson built engines to support his racing habit. Wasson built a 515 C.I.
Donovan for the "Smokey Bear" Satellite. Gary Cochran was chosen
to drive the machine. This was not the infamous " Mr. C" Gary
Cochran but a different one.
Bear" was usually a BB/FC, but added nitro for the above mentioned
Fall Nationals. The "Smokey Bear " lasted to the semi finals of
the race. The car was converted back to the blown alcohol setup
afterwards. The "Smokey Bear" funny car series continues to run
to this day, although with a series of different owners and drivers.
(Handout photo provided by Gary Osborn; info provided by Gary Osborn, Gary
"Mr. C" Cochran, Bret Kepner, the late Alden Swinford, and
Buddy Warren was a
dragster guy, but he made a short foray into funny car racing in 1974.
Warren was a chassis builder and machinist by day. He raced the
"Thrashing Machine" front-engine AA/Fuel Dragster with the Texas
Top Fuel Circuit in the late 60s. In 1974, Warren built this Chevrolet
Vega called "The Streaker" after that popular seventies fad. The
car had 392 Chrysler Hemi for power. Warren made it into the top five in
Division 4 standings in 1974. He made it to the finals at the only
Division 4 race held at Greater Southwest Dragway, a converted airport
track near Dallas. Draglist.com files show that "The Streaker"
ran in the seven-second range at over 200 mph. In 1975, the Vega was sold
to Don Sosenka. Buddy Warren retired from driving but returned to drive
Kurt Flack’s Top Fueler in 1984 and 1985. (Handout and info courtesy of
Roy Doyan began his
funny career with the ex-CKC Chevy II in the sixties. He raced the much
altered "Freak Out" fastback into the 1969 season. The "Old
Glory" Camaro replaced the way outdated Chevy II. The San Antonio
native was a regular in Texas match races "Old Glory." The
Camaro ran sevens on a good day. Doyan traveled nationwide, but with
little success. A new Mustang was reported to have replaced this Camaro.
(Photo from the Kong Collection; info from Draglist.com files)
The practice of
filling short AA/FC funny car fields with BB/Funny Cars was a common
practice during the seventies at divisional events and match races. It was
not unusual for the alcohol BB/FCs to give the nitro AA/FCs a run for
their money. The Rodeck Chevrolet powered "Bandit" 1977 Pontiac
Trans Am BB/FC was owned by Andy Keedy and Ralph Poucher of Dallas, Texas.
According to the car's tuner, crew chief, truck driver, and jack of all
trades, John Dearmore, the team was asked to fill out a short AA/FC field
at an Amarillo WCS race after a rain out had wiped out the original race.
"Bandit" was the former "War Eagle" Trans Am of Mike
Hamby & Dale Pulde. The car was named the "Bandit" after the
movie "Smokey & the Bandit" and mainly to build up match
race action between it and the "Smokey Bear" Arrow BB/FC.
Dearmore said the car was built with a cast-iron Chevy, which was replaced
by the larger 540 C.I. Rodeck Chevy for more cubic inches and durability.
He also added that the car was always about two-tenths off the fastest
Hemi BB/FCs of the day. The best times for the car were in the 6.80s. The
Trans Am was a regular on the All-American Funny Car Circuit based out of
Texas. In the photo, the driver was co-owner Andy Keedy at Amarillo. Keedy
later retired and was replaced by Mike Savage out of Arizona. (Photo from
JW Last files; info from John Dearmore)
Some AA/FCs never
made it to the track. The Oklahoma based "Saturday Night Fever"
of Ron Rice and Steve Tryon is an example. Both Rice and Tryon had
injected nitro experience before buying Larry Rogers’ Satellite. Rice
had an A/FD and Tryon had an A/FC Vega. On the ‘Fever car, Rice owned
the chassis and Tryon owned the Hemi engine. The partnership split before
they could race the car. Ron Rice converted it back to an A/FC with his
injected nitro Chevrolet. Tryon went on to own his own funny cars and
moved backed to Arizona. Today, Ron Rice drives the ‘Seminole
Shaker" TA/FC. Steve Tryon has taken recent rides in AA/Fuel
Altereds, nostalgia funny cars, and CIFCA alcohol floppers. (Photo &
info courtesy of Ron Rice)
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