Swamp Rat 34: After running SR 32 for one year, this was an experimental car, Murf McKinney and I built Swamp Rat 34, the most modern, aerodynamic Top Fuel dragster ever built, even to this day. It ran very well, even on my small budget. I never oiled the dragstrip, never sent a blower into the stands and the car ran 323,04 MPH in 4.76 Seconds. Had this design been accepted by the other teams with their large budgets, we would have had speeds of well over 340 MPH! But this was the problem, SR 34 came at a time in our sport when the NHRA was trying to slow the T/F cars down, so they politicked against the design. At Indy in 2003, I made my last run in #34 and in Top Fuel for that matter, 310.81 MPH and my wife asked me real nice, not to do it anymore, and I haven’t. Swamp Rat 34 is here on the Museum floor ready to “make one”, alive and well!
Swamp Rat 33: I had always wanted to go to Bonneville and run on the Salt Flats, but never had the time to build a car. So when Rich Venza called me and asked if I would pay to build a car, he oversee the project, borrow an engine and maybe I could get into the “200 MPH Club”. Rich said that there were several records right at 200 that were “soft”, so to speak. Rich and friends built the car, Pat and I flew to Salt Lake City, rented a car and drove to Wendover, Utah, home of the Bonneville Salt Flats. I made a couple of warm up runs, got my Streamliner license and then broke the record in FX/GS class.
The timed two way record was 217.947 and was set on August 18th 1988. I never had time to go back to the salt, even though I built a 300 CID Hemi to go 300 MPH in the car. Rich and the boys ran the car for several more years and then returned the car, less engine, to the Museum and we put it on display, sans the original blown flathead Ford engine that I set the record with in 1988. Then a few years later I secured the engine from its original owner and placed it in the booth with the “Saltliner”. It is an awesome display and I had the time of my life making the runs!
Swamp Rat 32: was built by Murf McKinney and I in 1991. I was going to try to break the 300 MPH barrier at Gainesville, but the NHRA would not approve the new rear wing. As soon as Kenny Bernstein broke the 300 MPH record at the 1992 Gators, the car was approved and I ran the NHRA race at Atlanta. Best speed for #32 was a strong 299.30, but the car never went 300. It is now on loan to Summit Racing in Ohio till 2012.
Swamp Rat 31: Mark Buchanan and I built Swamp Rat 31 during the spring of 1987 to replace Swamp Rat XXX, the car did not get into service till the NHRA race at Brainerd MN. We made several runs there, qualified and went up in smoke the first round. We arrived at the ADRA race in Spokane WA ready for battle. On the very first run the car did a blow over and I went through the timing traps at 215 MPH in 5.51 Seconds, upside down, backwards on fire! The 5.51 stood as Low Elapsed Time of the event! I never rebuilt the #31, but sent it on tour with the World of Wheels car show for several years. Swamp Rat 31 is now on display here at the Museum. It is a graphic example of how the proper construction of one of these very fast race cars allows the driver to survive a horrific accident!
Swamp Rat 30: Herb Parks and me built SR XXX in the Ocala shop in the fall of 1985, this was the last word in Top Fuel dragsters at the time, a very streamlined vehicle, even today, first time out at the 1986 Gatornationals I broke the 270 barrier with a blistering 272.56 MPH! While I was setting another record at Englishtown NJ, 5.34 Seconds, I flipped the car over backwards. Herb and I rebuilt the car and went on to win the 1986 NHRA World Championships. The Smithsonian Museum had contacted me while I was building the car and wanted it for their collection when I was through racing #30. In October of 1987 I donated Swamp Rat XXX to the Smithsonian and that is where it is today.
Swamp Rat 29: I personally built Swamp Rat 29 here at the Museum shop when I won the 1984 NHRA US Nationals and Finals, back to back. Supershops was my sponsor and I crashed the car on its first outing at Phoenix. I rebuilt the car, won the NHRA World Championships and set the NHRA all time Top Speed at the Finals in Pomona at 268.01! Retired the car and it is on display, totally original and ready to run.
Swamp Rat 28: was built by me as a conventional Top Fuel Car, except it was a “High Gear Only”, several years ahead of its time. The problem was; we didn’t have big enough fuel pumps to run a high gear car at the time, nor did we have 5 disk clutches. I had very bad tire shake at West Palm Beach International Raceway during the winter meet and hurt the back half of the chassis. As I was repairing the car Craig Arfons approached me to make the little light weight car into a fuel turbine car and I accepted. Craig assured me we could easily get 2200 HP from the helicopter engine and the car would only weigh 800 pounds! With a power to weight ratio like this, I would be very competitive in Top Fuel and the AHRA agreed to allow the engine in Top Fuel as the fuel cars were losing their appeal to the public However, we were never able to extract more than about 1,400 HP from the turbine, so the times were very disappointing, and there was no loud noise from the turbine exhaust. The people didn’t like the car, even with a :flame thrower: in the tailpipe. I ran the car at several events and them pulled the plug on the project. The car is in the museum, totally original as it last ran in Norwalk, Ohio.
Swamp Rat 27: the “Sidewinder” was built by Chuck and Mike Sage, two brothers in Bellevue Ohio. The body was by Al Bergler in Detroit. The Sage Bros. were big in tractor pulling and were quite familiar with transferring power through gears. They had done a little testing with their alky dragster and decided to go for the gold and put the gear box into a fuel car, so they gave me a call and I liked the idea. I tested the car at Miami Hollywood and all went well, but remember the track didn’t have the traction of the West Coast. My first event was OCIR in Santa Ana and I broke the gearbox, losing the match to Shirley. The Sage Bros. went back to the drawing board. By early spring, I had a new gearbox and tested at several match races, my last one was Rockford IL, where the Chi-Town Hustler beat me two straight as I ran 6.20s. That was the last straw, as the engine had just turned 252 MPH in 5.86 in SR 26. I called my engineering friend at South Florida University, gave him all the information on the gears and he told me I was losing at least 21% power through the gears and only 7% through the Dana rear. End of the project. The Sage Brothers were no convinced and took the car back to Ohio for more testing. About two years later I looked down the driveway and here comes Mike Sage with the “Sidewinder” in his pick-up truck. He said he had not been successful and maybe the Professor was right! We put the car back together and it is on display here at the Museum.
Swamp Rat 26: was built by me in Seffner, Florida in the fall of 1980 and it won the AHRA Winternationals first time out. The car won numerous AHRA events and was known as just “The Black Car” among the competitors. Retired in 1983 and put on display in the Drag Racing Museum, resurrected in the summer of 1984 with the financial help of my old friend, Art Malone and taken to the 1984 US Nationals. We set Top Speed of the meet and won the event. Art said, “Let’s go to the NHRA Finals in Pomona”, we did and won again, making it possible to secure a major sponsorship with Mr. Gasket, Supershops and Kendall Oil. I built then Swamp Rat 29 and won two more NHRA Championships. The “Black Car” brought me out of retirement!
Swamp Rat 25: Built by Lester Guillory in Baton Rouge LA during 1979, finished up by me and Larry Sikora in Seffner in December of 1979. DNQ at the 1980 NHRA Winternationals and won the match race with Shirley the following weekend at Fremont CA. Car was supposed to take advantage of ground effects, but was too heavy and not enough chassis flex, so Herb and I sawed the “Rick rack” out of the frame and installed some cables with turn buckles to give enough support to the weakened chassis. We then called it the KKK car, (Kendall Kable Kar). I started a new car at the end of the summer and by October was ready to run the new Swamp Rat 26. We installed a helicopter turbine in 25 for some testing, but it was not successful. The car was put back to its 1980 configuration and is on display here at the Drag Racing Museum.