It seems like old times for Snake and me; between friendship and business we’ve been spending more time together as of late than since the Hot Wheels days. (more…)
Archive for the ‘The Mongoose Journals’ Category
Friends of the Goo$e, things have been really hoppin’ these past few weeks and I want to fill you in.
The Snake turned 70 recently and Don’s wife Lynn, daughters Donna and Lynn Rose wanted to do it up right–and they nailed it! (more…)
Faithful readers, I wish I could have teleported you all with me recently to Snake’s operation just north of San Diego. Ever since he finished the amazing restoration of his ‘67 Dodge D700 yellow Hot Wheels Funny Car hauler, he’s been gnawing on the idea of finding my similar red Hot Wheels rig. Don’s had been owned by Richard Petty, mine by Sox & Martin. These are the transporters we used during our Hot Wheels days in the early ‘70s. Keep in mind that it’s been 35 years since I sent it down the road. Very rarely do good things happen to obsolete race stuff. (more…)
I’d been wheeling Mopar-bodied Funny Cars since I got into that line of racing work. It all started with the infamous “Flying Fish,” the Southern California Plymouth Dealers’ rear-engine Barracuda. In quick succession came the ex-Candies & Hughes Barracuda then on to the Dusters from Hot Wheels through Beechnut, finally ending with the Navy/English Leather rides. Those Dusters were aerodynamic bricks, especially compared with all of the swoopy body styles the GM and Ford guys were sporting. Plus, Chrysler wasn’t digging deep into its corporate pockets to keep me on board. So, come 1977, it was time to move on. (more…)
In ’87, after the powerful Blue Max operation finally disbanded, D. Gantt joined my Coors Corvette team. One of his favorite expressions was, “these are the good old days.” Pretty good thought, I’d say. (more…)
Faithfull readers, this edition I have a special event to share with you. Very recently the famous Peterson Automotive Museum hosted a unique affair paying tribute to my old friend, business partner and teammate, “The Snake,” called An Evening with Don Prudhomme. It was held in conjunction with the opening of a major new exhibit commemorating 60 years of NHRA racing. Your old Goo$e was one of the honored guests. Besides all of the cars on display for the NHRA exhibit, there were half a dozen others, including the Greer Black and Prudhomme dragster that owner Bruce Meyer brought.
Who’s faster? The Mongoose or the Vietnam fighter jock?
Through the course of the ‘74 season, I did Navy recruiting displays almost weekly. Usually the officer would be a fighter jock who was rotating out of a tour in Vietnam.
I’d be sitting around week after week with these flyers. They were interesting guys and they all got off on the Funny Car, as most seemed to like anything that was fast and dangerous. All of ‘em wanted to make a pass, just like I wanted some seat time in a fighter plane. The pilots were quick to brag of hitting approximately 150 mph in 250 feet, but were a little sketchy on how quickly they got there.
I was positive in that sprint I could hand ‘em their heads. As these conversations continued throughout the year, I started thinking about how we could prove who was truly quicker and faster, my blown Nitro Funny Car, or a twin-engine jet Navy fighter plane. Could you imagine the press coverage and bragging rights I’d get by beating a jet fighter? My sponsors (and race track promoters) would eat it up.
So, how could we actually do it? How could I race a jet?
As the old saying goes, “Money can’t buy happiness,” but it can sure buy nitro — and snappy Coca-Cola pants to boot!
As drag racing matured, it became much more expensive to be competitive. Equipment manufacturers were building better parts, and now, the stuff was being designed specifically for drag racing. The science of nitro engine development, tuning and chassis design was making rapid advances. Crew chiefs were getting savvier. Drivers, many becoming full-time professionals, were constantly honing their skills.
All this was conspiring to radically improve the performance of Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars. This increase in performance came at a cost, though, literally. Racing was getting much more expensive. You could no longer get by on the parts deals doled out by traditional automotive-related sponsors.
This was the state of professional drag racing that brought about the “Hot Wheels Deal.” The whole deal kicked off in late ’69. I realized that if my racing career was going to continue to flourish, it was going to require a major injection of cash. To come up with the kind of money I needed, unconventional thinking (and funding) was required. After doing my homework, Mattel Toys and their highly successful Hot Wheels line of toy cars and accessories seemed like a natural target. The kids raced their cars in a straight line like we raced, and the parents, being about my age, were either already race fans, or at least potential fans. Throw in the Mongoo$e and Snake animals to use as advertising hooks, and it looked like a win-win situation.
Next: Can the Mongoose persuade the skeptical Snake to get on board with the deal? (more…)
Route 66 sees more action than the dragstrip in this wacky Mongoose adventure.
Hauling my D/Gas ’57 Chevy all the way from California to Oklahoma City for the ’57 NHRA Nationals was quite an adventure for me and my three friends. The race was exciting, but it was nothing compared to our journey home.
For the ’57 to make D/Gas class weight, we stacked a couple of hundred pounds of barbell weights in the trunk. The car raced, as was the hot set-up of the time, with its nose in the air. Prior to the trip home, we relocated the weights to the front floorboards, so it would tow easier, hitched it up to Jim Yander’s Chevy and headed west on Route 66.
I was asleep in the front seat of the ’57. We were heading up the grade just east of Albuquerque when Jim started to pass another vehicle. The race car swung wide, tearing loose from the tow bar with its locked rear end chattering. Instantly wide awake, I grabbed the steering wheel and yanked myself up just in time to see the race car pulling alongside the tow car. The gasser plowed into the center divider, careened across two lanes of traffic … (more…)
Can barracudas fly? The Mongoose takes a dive.
February 1965: The NHRA Winternationals turned into a much bigger show than I bargained when I debuted the Hemi-Cuda Funny Car, my first Funny Car ride.
Lou Baney, owner of the Yeakel Plymouth Top Fuel team I was driving for, was the consummate wheeler-dealer. He convinced the Southern California Plymouth Dealers Association to pony up for the construction and sponsorship of the famous (or maybe infamous), Hemi-Cuda I rear-engine Funny Car. The mission was to build a racer, not another Barracuda wheelstander like Hurst’s “Hemi Under Glass.”
Next: Mongoose remembers what the Hemi-Cuda’s engine … (more…)