Historic fiberglass drag racers at SEMA
The 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show featured a couple of historic fiberglass drag racing cars which the author photographed.
The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Museum booth featured the 1970 “LA Challenger” a restored example of the AA/FC “Funny Car” class from the era when fans could easily recognize the manufacturer and model of the various entries. This car was originally part of the 1969 “Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Funny Cars” tour driven by Fred Goeske with a replica Plymouth Road Runner body. At the end of the season the car was sold less engine and transmission to the owner of the Fiberglass Trends ‘Funny Car’ body manufacturer Marvin Eldridge, who built this 1970 fiberglass Dodge Challenger replica body.
In 1965 Eldridge built a A/MSP (modified sports production) Cheetah sports car for the drag strip known as “Instant Motion” powered by a twin four-barrel carbureted 426-cubic inch ‘wedge” engine supplied by the Ramchargers team. Later Eldridge’s stable included a pair of candy-apple red ‘Funny Cars’ - a roadster Corvette and a Javelin
The 392-cubic inch supercharged “LA Challenger” was part of the eight-car 1970 “Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Funny Cars” tour. To include each of the manufacturer, the field included Goeske’s 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner, Bobby Wood’s Chevy II, Kelly Chadwick’s Chevrolet Camaro and Dick Bourgeois in the ‘Doug’s Headers’ American Motors Javelin.
To round out the field there were two Ford Mustang ‘Funny Cars,’ the first, owned by the legendary team of Stone Woods & Cook was driven by Dee Keaton and the other owned by Mickey Thompson was driven by Texan Johnny Wright. The eight-car field was completed with header manufacturer Jess Tyree’s Pontiac Firebird-bodied Funny Car.
In late 1970, Eldridge died following a little-publicized drag racing accident in Hawaii while driving an Anglia ‘gasser’ and the “LA Challenger” was sold to Bob Taylor who renamed it the “Time Machine.” After many different owners and guises through the years, the car was purchased and restored by John Robertson who donated it to the NHRA Museum in Pomona California.
The Quarter Mile Foundation booth in Las Vegas displayed a good example of a classic Fuel Altered car which harkened back to the glory days of the sport. With names such as ‘Nanook,’ ‘Pure Heaven,’ ’Havoc,’ ‘Pure Hell’ and ‘Winged Express’ the cars in the short-lived NHRA Fuel Altered (AA/FA) class were high-horsepower (supercharged with nitromethane fuel) short wheelbase (approximately 90 inches) unpredictable racing machines. Initially a California phenomenon the Fuel Altered class eventually became overshadowed by ‘Funny Cars’ and the NHRA eventually dropped the class from event competition in 1976.
The car displayed known as the “Rat Trap” is represented as an exact reproduction (with safety upgrades) of the third “Rat Trap” machine built in 1968 and first raced in 1969. The car powered by a supercharged, nitromethane-fueled Chrysler 392 cubic inch engine and cloaked in a fiberglass replica of a nineteen thirties Austin Bantam roadster body shell is owned and driven in exhibitions by Ron Hope.