Swamp Rat 14: While I was in the Pacific Coast Hospital in Long Beach CA recuperating from injuries sustained in the tranny explosion in SR 13, I laid out the plans for the Rear Engine Top Fuel Dragster, Swamp Rat 14. From my wheelchair in Seffner, I made parts for this new car. Swingle, Lemons and me completed the car in October and testing began. Run after run I drove off the strip at the Orlando Speedworld and after 3 months we parked the little RE Car in the back of the Seffner shop and the three of us built Swamp Rat 15, a slingshot for the 1971 Season. My wife Pat saw what we were doing and went ballistic, she wanted to know why would I give up on the project? She told the three of us in no uncertain terms to get back on the RE Project! We did, determined that the steering was too fast and the rest is history. Swamp Rat 14 set the all time quickest ET at Indy, a blistering 6.21 Seconds and ran over 240 most of the time. It was retired in the fall of 1971 – as we had learned a lot and were already building Swamp Rat 16. SR 14 was sold to Carl Casper for his show car circuit and later retrieved when the Museum was formed. It is still totally original and on display here at the Drag Racing Museum.
Swamp Rat 13: While at Naperville during a match race, the frame on SR 12-B was damaged, TC and I rushed back to Seffner to build a new car, Swamp Rat 13. As we pulled into the gate, Swingle was leaving, we explained the problem, but Swingle said that he couldn’t help out this time as the “King fish were running!” TC and I tried to build a car in a few days for the 1969 NHRA Springnationals at Dallas, but just plain ran out of time. SR 13 was a good car, won the 1969 Smokers US Fuel and Gas Championship at Long Island’s New York National Speedway and it was there that TC and I decided to install a two speed tranny. The tranny worked well, winning many races, but was soon to be a major problem. At long Beach CA for the 1970 AHRA Grand American, in the final against Richard Tharpe, the tranny exploded, cutting the car in two and severing my right foot. I sold the wreckage to TC and Connie Swingle, who repaired the car while I was recuperating. They took #13 on tour and I joined them at Bristol TN for the AHRA Spring Nationals. I made one run in the car for them, setting Top Time and Low ET in the process and I was back! I drove for TC for the rest of the year on percentage! During the fall of 1970, TC sold the car to Art Malone, who later sold it to a Bracket Racer. I spied it at Bradenton a few years later, purchased it and TC and I restored the old girl back to “the way she was” in 1970, the day of the “Accident”. It is on display in the Drag Racing Museum.
Swamp Rat 12-B: After the Winter Tour in CA with the short wheelbase SR 12-A, Bob Taaffe, Jim Marrone and I built the SR 12-B car. This 215″ wheelbase car was an instant winner – she won the 1968 NHRA Spring nationals at Englishtown and the prestigious 1968 US Nationals at Indy. During the Summer, at a match race with Tommy Ivo, SR 12-B broke the 240 speed barrier, turning 240.00, with a backup of 238 MPH. We took SR 12-B to CA for the Doug Kruse PDA Championships and won the 3 race series. Tom Hanna then installed a new full body and TC Lemons and I toured the #12-B car till June of 1969. The car was sold to Wynn’s International and shipped to Europe. When we moved the museum to Ocala, I started looking for SR 12-B, found it in a warehouse in Holland, got Wynns to return the car to us and we restored it back to original. It is on display here at the Drag Racing Museum and is the prettiest Slingshot dragster I ever owned.
Swamp Rat 12-A: was built in Seffner by Bob Taaffe, Jim Marrone and me in the fall of 1967, right after Schiefer Clutches had purchased Swamp Rat 11. Bob wanted to build a long wheelbase car, but I had the final say and we built an experimental 137″ car. It was a total failure and as soon as I returned from the Winter Tour in CA, the three of us built Swamp Rat 12-B, 215″ wheelbase and this was a winner. SR 12-A was sold to some bracket racers and they had it till 1976, crashed, brought it to me to be repaired and I took it in on trade for a new chassis. In 1987, I had Mark Buchanan repair the car while he was here in Ocala building SR 31. Then SR 12-A sat in “Don’s Garage” for 20 years till one day in 2007, Mopar called me to see if I would like to build a 6.4, late model Hemi blown fuel engine. I did and installed it into Swamp Rat 12-A.
I use the car for shows and cacklefests and with the big flames the old girl is a big hit!
Swamp Rat 11: was built by Bob Taaffe, Jim Marone and me in 72 hours from scratch! The Fuel Cars were in the sixes at the NHRA Springnationals and Swamp Rat 10 was struggling to turn a 7.50 ET. First time out for #11, in a match race, we beat the famed Roland Leong Hawaiian at Muncie Indiana. Then we won the 1967 US Nationals and shaved my beard in front of the cameras. Late in 1967, Schiefer Manufacturing purchased the car for display, Schiefer was taken over by Hurst, then Hurst by Sunbeam and the car was loaned to a Museum in LA. When it closed we got the car back and have had it in the Museum ever since, totally original.
Swamp Rat X: was a remake from Swamp Rat VIII and we did the job in my shop at Troy Michigan. George Delorean was working for me then and he was one super craftsman. We cut off the front half of SR 8, a 140″ wheelbase car, added a new front half making the car 175″ wheelbase. George and I fabricated a new front aluminum nose piece and I headed West for a match race with Don “The Snake” Prudhomme for the Drag Racer #1 Spot at Half Moon Bay Dragstrip in Northern CA. The car was black with silver letters. I then had Tom Hanna build a new body for the whole car and “Cerney” the painter made the car red. I was not successful with #10, but did discover that the 426 needed at least 50 degrees spark lead to run properly. I painted the car red and black for the 1967 season, had Emery Cook drive it a few times, but decided during the NHRA Springnationals at Bristol TN we needed a new car. SR 10 was retired and a dummy engine installed and loaned to Bill Tuthill’s Museum of Speed in Daytona Beach during the fall of 1968, after the tour. Many years later when Mr. Tuthill passed away, the car was returned and it is still in its original condition, on display here at the Museum of Drag Racing.
Swamp Rat 9: was the Roadster Dart, built by Emery Cook and myself after the steel bodied Dart blew over at Detroit in 1966. We took the old Marvin Schwartz “Garlits Chassis Special”, shortened the chassis, raised the driver cage and “presto”, we had a tubing chassis Funny Car, the first one. The car was an instant winner, being the first F/C over 200 MPH at St Petersburg Florida. NHRA then outlawed the tubing chassis in Funny Car and we parked the car in the woods in back of the Seffner Shop. When we formed the Drag Racing Museum, the car was brought inside and freshened up. It is on display in the Museum today, totally original.
Swamp Rat 8: was built in the fall of 1964 with the brand new Dodge 426 Hemi engine. This was the first car out of Garlits Automotive Inc. using the new Chrysler Hemi. Connie Swingle ran it at the 1965 US Fuel and Gas Championships, held at Bakersfield CA with a torsion bar rear suspension by Bruce Crower. When we returned to Tampa after the Winter Series, Dodge demanded I take over the car as my primary ride, as they didn’t build 392’s anymore. I removed the rear suspension and went on the 65 tour with SR 8, but I had a very bad year with the car as I was trying to tune it like the 392. This engine needed lots of spark lead and when I finally discovered this the engine came to life, but not before we cut the front half off of old SR 8 and renamed the car Swamp Rat 10. Then in 2005 I decided to recreate the #8 car from an old crashed rear section I had hanging around the garage for many years along with an original “Garlits” tail section. By 2006 the project was finished and we took the car to the NHRA Reunion in Bowling Green KY. The car is now on display in the Drag Racing Museum.
Connie Swingle built Swamp Rat 7-A in the Fall of 1963, right after we got the tubing bender. He only ran the car a few times before crashing at US 30 in Gary Indiana. Swingle just took the drive train and torsion bar out of the car and left the body and frame there at US 30 to make sure I wouldn’t make him use some of the wrecked parts for his new car, Swamp Rat 7-B. In the early nineties, I was attending a Goodguys event at IRP and a man came over and asked me if I wanted the cage from a car of mine that crashed at US 30 in 1964? He told me, as a young boy, he watched Swingle leave the bent chassis there at the dumpster and he sawed the back half off after he left, he said he had kept the cage in his bedroom for 30 years! I brought the cage back to Ocala and Jim Hunnewell and I rebuilt the SR 7-A back to a running car. It is on display in the Drag Racing Museum.
Swamp Rat 6B: Art Malone was not happy with his new 1964 Garlits “Swoopy Tail” car, it was the first one built from scratch and he thought we might have found out a few secrets while on the West Coast tour with the rebuilt SR 6’A car. Meanwhile Spencer Krumholts had purchased SR 6-A, leaving me with a bare chassis just off the jig. Malone saw this and figured this was the new “trick” car and he wanted it. I traded Art the new bare chassis for his complete car and body. This car became Swamp Rat 6-B, one super car, in August, it set the NHRA National Fuel Record at Great Meadows NJ at 201.34 in 7.78 seconds, then won the 1964 US Nationals at Indy. We then did the British Drag Festival and set the British Land Speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Then in March of 1965 Swamp Rat 6-B won the US Fuel and Gas Championships at Bakersfield CA. When I returned to Tampa I sold the car to some Eastern racers, but I had one more match race to attend at Great Meadows NJ. Unfortunately I flipped the car over the railroad tracks at the end of the track when the parachute failed. This damaged the frame and body and the new owners wanted their money back. I returned their deposit and stored the bent chassis in the loft. In 1986, Herb Parks and I restored Swamp Rat 6-B back to running condition and it has appeared at the NHRA Nationals, the CHRR, the NHRA Reunion at Bowling Green and was in the NHRA Museum in Pomona for many years. It is now on display in the Drag Racing Museum.