Swamp Rat 24: Don Cook and I built Swamp Rat 24 during the summer of 1977 for use with the Donovan 417 aluminum engine. Originally it had a B & J three speed tranny and was a two piece car! This didn’t work, so we went back to the two speed and welded the two pieces together for the rest of the season. The car was originally black, but we painted it blue and white for the 1977 season for the US Navy as they were going to sponsor me to the tune of $50,000.00. However I painted a “Cross” on the cowl with “God Is Love” written on the cross and the Navy changed their mind about the sponsorship when the LA Times made fun of me for having the “Cross” on the car. Over the two year period, the blue and white car never had a major sponsor but won 24 out of 30 National event starts and total winnings were a whopping 600K! Seems like I didn’t need the Navy money after all! I retired the car at the end of the 1979 season, SR 24 had been in service for two years, had two back halves, one front half, but always the same body! It is in the Drag Racing Museum, totally original, the way we like em!
Swamp Rat 23: was built by Glen Blakely and me to compete in the IHRA series in 1976, I had chosen to sit out the 1976 NHRA series because of the “raw” deal NHRA gave me in 1975, plus Larry Carrier gave me 100K not to run their races in 1976! I won the IHRA Championships with the car, then installed a Donovan engine for 1977, testing for Ed Donovan. Retired the car in mid season when we built Swamp Rat 24. Put the car on display in the Motorsports Museum in Talladega Alabama for many years, then moved it to the office of the Martin 131 Dragstrip and then to George Schreiber’s Museum in MO. It will be there for about 5 years.
Swamp Rat 22: was built by Don “Mad Dog” Cook, Tom Lemons and me in the summer of 1975 to replace Swamp Rat 21. #21 had a large cockpit, built for “Jungle Jim”, but ended up mine. #22 won the 1975 NHRA World Championship, setting the all time high MPH, 250.69 and Low Elapsed Time, 5.63 Seconds at Ontario California during the NHRA Finals. Both records stood for 7 years. When we built Swamp Rat 23, SR 22 was retired, but never out of my possession. Today is on display in the Drag Racing Museum, totally original, one of my most prized possessions!
Swamp Rat 21: Originally built for Jungle Jim, but when the car was finished, he didn’t want it. I returned Jim’s deposit and painted the car black, campaigned it for six months while Don Cook and I built Swamp Rat 22. SR 21 won the 1975 NHRA Winternationals, beating Don Ewald in the final, which gave me just enough points to win the 1975 NHRA World Championships. The car was sold to Santa Pod Raceway in England and I drove it to a British Land Speed Record of 232 MPH in 1977. I bought the car back later for the Drag Racing Museum and currently it is loaned to the Cars of Yesterday Museum in Sarasota Florida.
Swamp Rat 20-A: was built for Bill Harrah for his museum, he wanted a Top Fuel car from me and I didn’t have one at the time. However I was having a car built by Glen Blakely for the 1975 season that was almost finished. I called Bill and he said this car would be fine. I had my friend Harry Schwartz in Pensacola Florida build the body, same as he had built for Swamp Rat 19, I did the paint the same and we had Swamp Rat 20-A. Bill’s transporter picked up the car in Seffner and it is still on display in Reno Nevada.
Swamp Rat 19: After the adventure with SR 17, the Liner and SR 18, Shorty, I was ready for a normal T/F car, something like the very successful Swamp Rat 16. Swingle, Lemons and I snapped together Swamp Rat 19 and this car was an instant success! I had installed the very light B & J Two Speed tranny and this helped a lot. Right off the bat at the 1973 NHRA Winternationals, I had Top Time and Low ET, plus I won the event. Later that year at Ontario, the NHRA Supernationals, I set both ends of the NHRA record, 247.25 MPH in 5.78 Seconds. The really big 1973 win was at the PRO National Challenge in Tulsa where I picked up $25,000.00, my biggest payday to date. Then in 1974 at the AHRA Winter Nationals in Phoenix AZ, I set both ends of the AHRA record, an incredible 247.25 MPH in 5.78 seconds! The only time any car has ever set both associations records to the exact hundredth! In the fall of 1974 we built Swamp Rat 20 and sold the #19 to Graham Withers of Melbourne Australia. My family traveled to Australia and ran the car for Graham and then returned home. Then in the late 80s, I contacted Graham and made a deal to have #19 returned to the Museum. I restored the car to its 1973 “look” and it is on display in the Drag Racing Museum.
Swamp Rat 18: Connie Swingle and I built Shorty, (175″ wheelbase) prior to fielding Swamp Rat 17, the “WynnsLiner”. This was to give me a feel for the short wheelbase car. I ran Shorty at Bristol, Tulsa and Orange County Raceway, qualified at all events, but had no wins. The car was hard to drive and did not have enough weight on the rear tires. Jocko said the weight of the streamlined body and it’s aerodynamic down force would take care of that problem. I sold the car to some young fellows and they made a gas dragster out of Shorty. It was many years before I saw an ad in National Dragster that the car was for sale. I purchased Shorty and Jim Hunnewell and I restored it back to original in running condition. It is in the Drag Racing Museum on display.
Swamp Rat 17: When Robert “Jocko” Johnson saw that I was having success with the RE Car, SR 14, he called me and asked if I would like for him to build a streamliner body for one of my RE chassis. I said yes and the project was underway. Jocko built a very nice fiberglass body and Swingle built the frame and by the end of 1972 we were ready to test. I debuted the car at the AHRA Grand American at OCIR and Butch Mass drove the beast to 180 MPH, far off the highly touted 275 MPH! We brought the car home and tested the next time at Lakeland DS, outside of Tampa and Don “Mad Dog” Cook was at the controls. Still no real good runs. I then decided to drive the car myself and to my surprise at about 180 MPH the motor revved up and I lifted. We returned to the pits to find nothing was wrong! What had happened was; at about 180 MPH, the whole car became airborne and as the rear wheels cleared the pavement, the engine would reeve up. I pulled the plug on the project and sold the car to Russell Mendez, who was killed later at Gainesville in his rocket car. His partner, Ramon Alverez got the car and I bought it back when we got the Museum going in 1976. Willie Wild and I restored the car and it is on display in the Drag Racing Museum.
Swamp Rat 16: the first RE car built by Connie Swingle, Tom Lemons and me after the prototype RE car, SR 14. This was a super car and was nearly destroyed when the wing collapsed at the Gatornationals in 1972. We won that race beating out Clayton Harris in the final. The car was famous for its “Fire burnouts” that Tom Lemons perfected. When retired, #16 was loaned to the Florida Sports Hall of Fame then located at Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven Florida. When this HOF closed we got the car back. It was recently loaned to Bristol Motor Speedway, but since has been moved to the Gilmore Museum in Michigan for a Drag Racing display. Swamp Rat 16 will return to the Drag Racing Museum in Ocala sometime in 2010.
Swamp Rat 15: was constructed by Connie Swingle, Tom Lemons and me in December 1970, when I decided that the Rear Engine car was not going to work. My wife convinced me to stay with the RE project and we did get it to work. I then sold #15 to Goodyear Tire and Rubber for display. They used the car till the 80s and it was damaged in transit from LA to Indy, then they gave it back to me. TC and I repaired the car and loaned it to the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in Lake City Florida.