The Evolution of the Swamp Rat Drag Racing Car

1

Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.
Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.

2

Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.
Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.

3

The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.
The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.

4

Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.
Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.

5

Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.
Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.

6

Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.
Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.

7

Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.
Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.

8

SR 8

9

Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.
Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.

10

Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi.  In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.
Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi. In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.

11

In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee.  Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.
In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee. Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.

12

Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.
Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.

13

Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop.  This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.
Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop. This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.

14

Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster.  Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida.  Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.
Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster. Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida. Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.

15

Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family.  Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history.  Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.
Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family. Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history. Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.

16

Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe.  In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.
Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe. In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.

17

The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.
The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.

18

Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.
Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.

19

The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.
The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.

20

SR 21

21

Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T.  This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.
Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T. This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.

22

An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy.  The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”.  Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.
An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy. The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”. Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.

23

SR 23

24

SR 24

25

Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982.  It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.
Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982. It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.

26

Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.
Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.

27

Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.
Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.

28

Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.
Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.

29

Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy.  On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway.  Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.
Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy. On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway. Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.

30

“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987.  Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra.  On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.
“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987. Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra. On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.

31

SR 32

32

SR 33

33

The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point.  This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority.  Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.
The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point. This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority. Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.

34

SR-37-scaled-landscape

35

SR 35

36

SR 36

37

SR 38

The Evolution of the Swamp Rat Drag Racing Car

 1

Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.
Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.

 2

Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.
Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.

 3

The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.
The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.

 4

Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.
Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.

 7

Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.
Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.

 10

Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi.  In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.
Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi. In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.

 13

Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop.  This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.
Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop. This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.

 16

Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe.  In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.
Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe. In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.

 19

The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.
The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.

23

SR 23

26

Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982.  It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.
Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982. It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.

29

Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy.  On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway.  Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.
Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy. On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway. Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.

32

SR 32

35

SR 35

38

SR 38

 5

Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.
Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.

 8

SR 8

 11

In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee.  Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.
In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee. Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.

 14

Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster.  Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida.  Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.
Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster. Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida. Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.

 17

The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.
The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.

21

SR 21

24

SR 24

27

Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.
Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.

30

Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.
Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.

33

SR 33

36

SR 36

 6

Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.
Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.

 9

Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.
Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.

 12

Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.
Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.

 15

Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family.  Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history.  Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.
Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family. Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history. Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.

 18

Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.
Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.

22

Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T.  This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.
Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T. This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.

25

An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy.  The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”.  Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.
An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy. The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”. Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.

28

Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.
Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.

31

“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987.  Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra.  On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.
“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987. Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra. On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.

34

The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point.  This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority.  Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.
The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point. This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority. Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.

37

Big Daddy Don Garlits performs a burnout before  breaking  the standing record for the electric dragster of 156.00 mph with ET of  7.95 with a new record time of 184.01 ET 7.25 on April 30, 2014 at Bradenton Motosports Park in Bradenton Florida. Lisa Crigar Photography

The Evolution of the Swamp Rat Drag Racing Car

 1

Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.
Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.

 2

Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.
Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.

 3

The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.
The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.

 4

Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.
Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.

 5

Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.
Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.

 6

Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.
Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.

 7

Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.

 8

SR 8

 9

Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.

 10

Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi.  In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.

 11

In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee.  Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.

 12

Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.

 13

Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop.  This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.

 14

Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster.  Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida.  Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.

 15

Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family.  Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history.  Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.

 16

Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe.  In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.

 17

The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.

 18

Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.

 19

The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.

 20

SR 21

 21

Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T.  This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.

 22

SR 23

 23

SR 24

 24

An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy.  The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”.  Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.

 25

Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982.  It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.

 26

Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.

 27

Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.

 28

Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy.  On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway.  Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.

 29

Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.

 30

“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987.  Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra.  On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.

 31

SR 32

 32

SR 33

 33

The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point.  This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority.  Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.

 34

SR 35

 35

SR 36

 36

SR-37-scaled-landscape

 37

SR 38

The Evolution of the Swamp Rat Drag Racing Car

 1

Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.
Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.

 2

Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.
Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.

 3

The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.
The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.

 4

Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.
Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.

 5

Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.
Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.

 6

Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.
Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.

 7

Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.

 8

SR 8

 9

Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.

 10

Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi.  In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.

 11

In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee.  Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.

 12

Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.

 13

Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop.  This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.

 14

Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster.  Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida.  Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.

 15

Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family.  Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history.  Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.

 16

Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe.  In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.

 17

The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.

 18

Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.

 19

The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.

 20

SR 21

 21

Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T.  This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.

 22

SR 23

 23

SR 24

 24

An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy.  The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”.  Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.

 25

Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982.  It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.

 26

Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.

 27

Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.

 28

Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy.  On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway.  Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.

 29

Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.

 30

“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987.  Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra.  On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.

 31

SR 32

 32

SR 33

 33

The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point.  This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority.  Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.

 34

SR 35

 35

SR 36

 36

SR-37-scaled-landscape

 37

SR 38

The Evolution of the Swamp Rat Drag Racing Car

 1

Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.
Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.

 2

Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.
Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.

 3

The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.
The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.

 4

Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.
Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.

 5

Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.
Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.

 6

Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.
Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.

 7

Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.

 8

SR 8

 9

Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.

 10

Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi.  In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.

 11

In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee.  Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.

 12

Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.

 13

Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop.  This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.

 14

Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster.  Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida.  Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.

 15

Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family.  Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history.  Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.

 16

Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe.  In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.

 17

The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.

 18

Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.

 19

The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.

 20

SR 21

 21

Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T.  This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.

 22

SR 23

 23

SR 24

 24

An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy.  The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”.  Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.

 25

Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982.  It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.

 26

Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.

 27

Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.

 28

Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy.  On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway.  Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.

 29

Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.

 30

“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987.  Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra.  On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.

 31

SR 32

 32

SR 33

 33

The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point.  This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority.  Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.

 34

SR 35

 35

SR 36

 36

SR-37-scaled-landscape

 37

SR 38

The Evolution of the Swamp Rat Drag Racing Car

 1

Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.
Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.

 2

Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.
Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.

 3

The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.
The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.

 4

Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.
Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.

 5

Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.
Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.

 6

Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.
Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.

 7

Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.

 8

SR 8

 9

Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.

 10

Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi.  In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.

 11

In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee.  Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.

 12

Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.

 13

Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop.  This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.

 14

Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster.  Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida.  Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.

 15

Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family.  Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history.  Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.

 16

Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe.  In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.

 17

The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.

 18

Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.

 19

The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.

 20

SR 21

 21

Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T.  This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.

 22

SR 23

 23

SR 24

 24

An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy.  The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”.  Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.

 25

Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982.  It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.

 26

Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.

 27

Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.

 28

Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy.  On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway.  Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.

 29

Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.

 30

“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987.  Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra.  On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.

 31

SR 32

 32

SR 33

 33

The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point.  This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority.  Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.

 34

SR 35

 35

SR 36

 36

SR-37-scaled-landscape

 37

SR 38

The Evolution of the Swamp Rat Drag Racing Car

 1

Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.
Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.

 2

Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.
Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.

 3

The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.
The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.

 4

Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.
Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.

 5

Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.
Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.

 6

Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.
Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.

 7

Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.

 8

SR 8

 9

Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.

 10

Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi.  In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.

 11

In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee.  Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.

 12

Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.

 13

Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop.  This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.

 14

Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster.  Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida.  Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.

 15

Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family.  Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history.  Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.

 16

Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe.  In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.

 17

The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.

 18

Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.

 19

The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.

 20

SR 21

 21

Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T.  This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.

 22

SR 23

 23

SR 24

 24

An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy.  The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”.  Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.

 25

Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982.  It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.

 26

Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.

 27

Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.

 28

Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy.  On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway.  Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.

 29

Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.

 30

“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987.  Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra.  On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.

 31

SR 32

 32

SR 33

 33

The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point.  This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority.  Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.

 34

SR 35

 35

SR 36

 36

SR-37-scaled-landscape

 37

SR 38

The Evolution of the Swamp Rat Drag Racing Car

 1

Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.
Built by Don Garlits in his home garage in Tampa, FL. Swamp Rat I would let Don set his first World Record at Brooksville, FL November 10, 1957 at 176.40 MPH and an ET of 8.79 seconds. Don would win his first National Championship in SR I in Great Bend, Kansas, in September of 1958. SR I would go on to have a top speed of 180.00 MPH and an ET of 8.23 seconds during its career.

 2

Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.
Driven by Ed Garlits, Don’s brother. Because Don was the original Swamp Rat, all cars driven by Ed were known as Swamp Rat Toos. Ed Garlits was very successful in the gas ranks. He was the Florida State Champion in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961. Ed would win the AHRA Gas Championship in 1961.

 3

The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.
The first aircraft tubing car to come out of Garlits’ Automotive. Big Daddy built the frame for Swamp Rat III, and Connie Swingle began manufacturing them for customers for the whopping sum of $300.00 each. Swingle, who was from Bixby, Oklahoma, put the Swamp Rat III into the record books at Thompson, Ohio at 198.66 MPH and 7.88 seconds ET at Columbia, SC. Then on a fantastic run at Emporia, Virginia, the chute failed, and Swingle hit the pine trees at the end and destroyed the car, breaking several of his ribs in the process.

 4

Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.
Don Garlits built Swamp Rat IV to race at the US Nationals in 1962. Due to the NHRA fuel ban of nitromethane, the car would run on gasoline and be powered by a Dodge 413 CID Max-Wedge. It was at this very event that the nickname “Big Daddy” was first used. Don was runner-upper to Jack Chrisman for the Overall Top Eliminator title.

 5

Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.
Connie Swingle and Don Garlits built Swamp Rat 5 in the summer of 1962 as a gas dragster. The new lightweight dragster was to replace the very successful Swamp Rat IV. However, Don received a “Challenge” for his Number 1 spot on the Drag News 1320 list from Vance Hunt. The decision was made to accept the challenge with the new Swamp Rat. Don won the race and then decided that he would leave the little car on fuel for the first time since 1956. The car tended to smoke the tires down the course, so Bruce Crower suggested the installation of a wing over the engine for the NHRA Winternationals. Don Garlits won the race and set the NHRA record, at 186.32 MHP, in the process. Swamp Rat V was the first dragster in drag racing to have a wing for downforce.

 6

Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.
Built in 1964, it was the first Garlits car to have a “Swoopy Tail,” and SR VI would accomplish several things. On Aug. 1, 1964 in Great Meadows, NJ, it set the official NHRA record of 201 MPH with a 7.78 sec. ET. In September 1964, the car would win the prestigious NHRA Nationals. September through October 1964, Swamp Rat VI would compete on the U.S Drag Team in the British Drag Festival, winning the event and setting a new British land speed Record of 197.00 MPH. Swamp Rat VI was successful in the top fuel ranks until the chute failed and causing a bad crash. During it’s time, Swamp Rat VI would have a top speed of 206.42 MPH and an ET of 7.76 seconds.

 7

Built for Connie Swingle in the early 60’s this was one of the most beautiful dragsters to come out of Garlits Automotive Inc. In 1964, during a match race at US-30 Dragstrip in Gary Indiana, Swingle flipped Swamp Rat VII. Swamp Rat VII had a top speed of 201.88 MPH and an ET of 8.01 seconds.

 8

SR 8

 9

Built in Troy, Mich. By Emery Cook and Don Garlits for Dodge. Was the first plastic bodied, steel tubing funny car to exceed 200 MPH in a quarter mile. Swamp Rat 9 was outlawed by NHRA in late 1966 due to the body not being a true Funny War and weighing considerably less than other cars in the class.

 10

Built and driven by Connie Swingle Swamp Rat X was the first Garlits car to use the 1964 426 cubic inch Dodge Hemi.  In 1966 the wheel base was lengthened to 175”. Emery Cook began driving the car in 1967.

 11

In 1967 Big Daddy, Bob Taaffe, Lynn Marrone and Don’s wife, Pat, built, Swamp Rat 11 in 72 hours in Seffner, Florida after not qualifying at the prestigious NHRA Springnationals held at Bristol, Tennessee.  Still having performance issues throughout the season Big Daddy grew a beard and vowed not to shave until the car broke into the sixes (Elapsed Time). Don would end those performance issues winning the US Nationals later that year, running 220 MPH and turning 6.77 seconds E.T. This led to the famous historical moment in US Nationals history when Don returned to the starting line and shaved off his beard surrounded by hundreds of racing fans.

 12

Built in the spring of 1968 by Don Garlits and Bob Taaffe at Seffner, Florida. Swamp Rat 12 became the first dragster over 240 MPH at Alton, Illinois. Later in the year Swamp Rat 12 won the “Springnationals” in Englishtown, NJ and the prestigious US Nationals in Indianapolis. During the Fall of 1968 Swamp Rat 12 was fitted with a Trick Tom Hanna body and paint by Carter. Swamp Rat 12 would have a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.80 second ET.

 13

Built in early 1969 at Seffner by Garlits Chassis Shop.  This was the first dragster to successfully employ a planetary two – speed transmission reaching a top speed of 240 MPH and 6.51 second ET. Unfortunately, this success, nearly cost Don his life. In a freak transmission explosion at Long Beach, California on March 8,1970 Don lost part of his right foot and inured a spectator. It was this accident that led to the development of the rear engine car.

 14

Built in 1970 following Don’s racing accident in Long Beach, California in which he lost part of his right foot in a slingshot dragster.  Don, Connie Swingle and Tom Lemons built this famous Swamp Rat car at Seffner, Florida.  Don was ridiculed, called crazy, and drivers refused to qualify next to the car when it was debuted, at the same race on year later, in Long Beach. Don would have the last laugh as the car won 6 national events, including the NHRA opening event WInternationals. Swamp Rat 14 would lead to the extinction of the Slingshot dragster by the end of 1972. Swamp Rat 14 had a top speed of 244 MPH and a 6.21 ET.

 15

Swamp Rat 15 was built during the testing of Swamp Rat 14 which was having problems going straight. It was built so Don could start competing during the 1971 season and earn money to support his family.  Pat Garlits came into the shop and saw Swamp Rat 15 and got on to Don knowing that the car was not for a customer. After an inspirational speech, from Pat, Don and the crew got back to work on Swamp Rat 14 and the rest is history.  Swamp Rat 15 was the last “Slingshot” built by Don and never run.

 16

Built in the fall of 1971 by “Big Daddy”, Connie Swingle, and Tommy “TC” Lemons Swamp Rat 16 debuted at the AHRA World Finals in Fremont, California. Swamp Rat 16 won its first outing by beating the team of Warren, Coburn, Miller, and Wiebe.  In 1972 at the NHRA Gatornationals Swamp Rat 16 would set a top speed of 243.24 MPH and 6.05 second ET. It would go on to win the 1972 AHRA World Championship.

 17

The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for “Big Daddy”. Connie Swingle, TC Lemons and Don built the chassis. Butch Maas drove the “Liner” to a speed of 185 MHP at Orange County International Raceway in 1973, encountering handling problems and mechanical failure. Later in the year, Big Daddy drove the “Liner” to a speed of 167 MPH shutting off when the vehicle became “airborne”. Don Cook, known as the “Mad Dog”, then made several attempts in the car to no avail and Swamp Rat 17 was retired. Swamp Rat 17 did reach top speed of 185 MPH and a 7.00 second ET.

 18

Garlits built “Shorty” in 1972 to test the short wheelbase that would have to be used in the future streamliner, Swamp Rat 17, debuted later that year.

 19

The first Garlits car constructed at the Hi-Performance World in Tampa, FL. Gary Werner had just joined the Garlits camp and it was he and Big Daddy who built the famous car. Swamp Rat 19 was the first Garlits car to employ the B&J two speed gear box, and the Aluminum Milodon 426 block. In October 1973 Swamp Rat 19 set both ends of the NHRA record at 247.25 MPH and 5.78 second ET.

 20

SR 21

 21

Built in the spring of 1975 by Don Cook and Big Daddy, this car became the most feared top fuel dragster of all time. It consistently ran in the high 240 MPH mark and 5.70 ET bracket. It won Don’s first NHRA World Championship, beating out the likes of Beck, Muldowney and a host of other fine competitors. It became the first top fuel dragster over 250 MPH at Ontario, California on Oct. 12, 1975 with a 5.63 E.T.  This record stood for seven full years. It was retired in the fall of 75’ and then put back in service for a brief period in 1977 to win the Gatornationals.

 22

SR 23

 23

SR 24

 24

An attempt at ground effects – the body was built by Sikora Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, the chassis by the late Lester Guillory Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At 1700lbs the car was too heavy.  The experiment was not entirely successful; however, Don won the 1980 AHRA World Championship with “Godzilla”.  Swamp Rat 25 had a top speed of 251.39 MPH and a 5.75 second ET.

 25

Built, in 1981, entirely by Don Garlits in Seffner, Florida with the assistance of Tommy Lemons. The car was constructed to compete in the AHRA. It set the AHRA World Record of 260.49 MPH at Chicago, Illinois in 1982.  It won the AHRA World Championship in 1982 and 1983. Swamp Rat 26 was brought out of retirement in 1984 when Don went back to the US Nationals and won the event and mark Don’s return to NHRA competition.

 26

Built in 1981 by Big Daddy & “SCS” Gearbox of Bellevue, Ohio. SR 27 was powered by a 454 cubic inch Dodge Hemi, supercharged by an 8.71 Mooney Ham Blower, and fuel injected burning Nitromethane at $40.00 a gallon producing 2700 HP. The engine was mounted sideways to take advantage of the engine torque to cause the rear wheels to have more traction. Its best MPH was 230 with an ET of 6.20 seconds.

 27

Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons built this car in Seffner, FL. It is powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine, developing 1400 HP running on Kerosene. The engine turns 22,000 RPMs which drives the rear wheels. It was an experimental car with Craig Arfons doing the engine work. Swamp Rat 28 had a top speed of 219 MPH and 6.46 seconds.

 28

Swamp Rat 29 was the first top fuel dragster with major sponsorship for Big Daddy.  On its fourth run, in Arizona, at a blistering 259 MPH and 5.45 seconds ET the wing collapsed. “Big” took drag racing’s fastest tumble at Fire Bird Raceway.  Unhurt, Don, Herb Parks, Eddie and Billy Garlits put Swamp Rat 29 back together and went on to win many events including the 1985 US Nationals, Don’s second straight US Nationals Championship, and the 1985 NHRA World Championship; Don’s second NHRA World Championship. Swamp Rat 29 had a top speed of 268.01 MPH and 5.436 second ET.

 29

Built in 1986 this was Don’s first successful streamliner. Don debuted Swamp Rat 30 at the NHRA Gatornationals and got everyone’s attention when he unloaded Swamp Rat 30 from the trailer. But unlike the debuting of Swamp Rat 14 no one was laughing. Even with the trouble the front wheels were having throwing off the rubber belts at the finish line Swamp Rat 30 became the first car to go over 270 MPH in the semi-final round at the Gatornationals going 272.56 MPH. Swamp Rat 30 was also the first top fuel dragster to flip over backwards at the Summernationals in Englishtown. Swamp Rat 30 led Don to his third straight US Nationals Championship, and his back to back NHRA World Championship. In 1987 Swamp Rat 30 was retired and inducted into the Smithsonian Institute to be permanently displayed.

 30

“Big Daddy” and Herb Parks spent the first six months of 1987 building the prettiest and most equipped Swamp Rat ever, only to see it flip over backwards on its sixth run at Spokane, WA on August 21, 1987.  Don walked away a little shaken and with two broken ribs and a cracked vertebra.  On the crash run, Swamp Rat 31 turned a 5.51 ET at 215 MHP, (upside down, backwards, and on fire) setting Low E.T. of the event.

 31

SR 32

 32

SR 33

 33

The most advanced design Top Fuel dragster ever designed, built by Murf McKinney and Garlits in 1992, SR 34 was campaigned from 1993-1994 with Bruce Larsen and Richard Langson driving. SR 34 was stored till 2002, brought out of retirement, refurbished with a new engine and drive train and campaigned in 2002 and 2003 with Big Daddy driving. Don drove a blistering quarter mile at 323.04 MPH at the NHRA 2003 Gatornationals, a 318.54 at the 2002 US Nationals and a 319 MPH at 4.73 seconds at the 2003 NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. SR 34 gained more MPH from the 1/8th mile to finish line on the 323.04 run than any other top fuel dragster had up to that point.  This proved beyond a show of a doubt, SR 34 aerodynamics superiority.  Of course, NHRA was in the process of slowing the top fuel cars down, so they did not want any of the Mono-Wing cars to be campaigned by the other top fuel teams. SR 34 has enclosed cockpit, extra narrow rear and the aerodynamic “T” tail section, (Mono-Wing). These three things make the car most advanced T/F Dragster ever built.

 34

SR 35

 35

SR 36

 36

SR-37-scaled-landscape

 37

SR 38