Gas Rhonda was just old enough when World War II broke out, that he was able to join the Navy. He left the military service with a lot of practical “how-to” wisdom and with two Service Stars for his part in the action.
His first car was a 1929 Ford coupe powered by flathead V-8 engine. While he was a car enthusiast, it wasn’t until 1950 that he began racing as a hobby. His first act upon leaving the military was to become the owner and operator of a successful group of dance studios, which provided him with the financial ability to begin drag racing. Because he wanted to compete in something different than what everyone else was driving, his first “hobby” race car was a 1950 Hudson Hornet with a straight six-cylinder engine for power; that provided a good starting point for him. Not nearly as quick and fast as he wanted to go in 1954, he switched to a Buick Century. In 1960 he acquired a Corvette, with its highly competitive V-8 engine. But still wanting to go quicker and faster, in late 1960s he fielded a hardtop Ford Galaxy with a high-performance 360 hp V-8 under the hood.
Soon after obtaining the Galaxy, Gas met and became friends with Les Ritchey, who owned and operated Performance Associates, who was more than happy to help Gas squeeze more power out of the Fords he was involved with. In 1952, Gas moved to Southern California and went to work for Downtown Ford, which not only provided him with a job, it also was his first sponsor. On the weekends he raced under the Downtown Ford banner and during the week he sold cars for them.
With Ritchey’s help, Gas was able to be competitive with the Galaxy that was handicapped by its weight when compared to the lighter Chevy 409’s. However, in 1964 Ford gave him an original factory Ford Thunderbolt, which was based upon the lighter Fairlane and powered by the new 427 CID high-riser wedge engine. That same year Gas also moved from Downtown Ford to Russ Davis Ford and their long-lasting relationship was formed.
In 1966, Ford provided Gas with a stretched wheelbase Mustang funny car that was powered by supercharged Ford V-8 on nitro and was an immediate success. He began 1967 with a new tilt front end Mustang with an unblown injected Ford V-8 on nitro. By the end of the season the V-8 was sporting a supercharger as well. Four 1969 Gas went all out with a Mach 1 Mustang bodied, Logghe Brothers tube chassis car; that he drove to victory at the years Orange county Raceway Manufacture Championship event. Unfortunately, Gas suffered a disastrous engine explosion and fire in early 1970. He received severe burns and ended his driving career.
Among the many accolades’ Gas received over the years, the most memorable was his 1964 winning of the NHRA Top Stock World Championship, the 1969 Manufacture Championship, and in 1993 received the NHRA Lifetime Achievement Award.