Front Engine Top Fuel - Plus: A Gallery
In the summer of 1968, a large field of Top Fuelers came to Dragway 42 for an elimination match race. #130: This is not a burnout! It's the way Top Fuelers launched in 1968, just hazing the tires, driver squeezing the throttle gently, and hoping the thing would finally hook up. This "Blue Angels" team terrorized the Top Fuel ranks in the 60's and could beat anybody, laying down quick times and big speeds. In this photograph we see the loose dragster thundering by the primitive starting lights on another strong pass. Notice how light the frame rails are. This Top Fueler was a no nonsense, stripped down race car.
#142: A cropped version from the same negative. This beautifully panned teleohoto image was taken from the roof of the Dragway 42 timing tower.
This is the full bodied front engined Top Fuel Dragster "Probe," run by Lou Smith. It was captured at Dragway 42 (West Salem, Ohio) in the summer of 1968. In this photograph we see the loose dragster streaking by the primitive starting lights and the Dragway 42 sign. Notice the sponsors name "Northtown Balancing." This was grass roots "Hot Roding" in the classic sense, way before big dollar corporate involvement. Lou Smith was just another nitro piston head spending a Sunday afternoon trying to go a little quicker and faster.
This car (with engines) is still around and is currently being restored to it's original condition.
#158. 1968: The Goodman & Gray Top Fueler -Smoky Launch
Here is a hand made reproduction grade 8 inch by 10 inch RC silver print picturing the black and beautiful front engined Top Fuel Dragster fielded by the team of Goodman & Gray. It was captured at Dragway 42 (West Salem, Ohio) in the summer of 1968. A large field of Top Fuelers came to Dragway 42 for an elimination match race. This is a Garlits chassis with much attention to detail. Notice the little polished wing and the polished blower. Guess they weren't planing on blowing it up. This is a typical launch of the time, tires just wisping with smoke. It took real finesse. Notice the lack of sponsorship. Goodman & Gray were just a couple of grass roots piston heads on Nitro. Those where the days.
#159. 1968: The "Tahitian," Top Fueler - Out Of The Groove
Here's the beautiful front engined Top Fuel Dragster "Tahitian." It was also captured at Dragway 42 (West Salem, Ohio) in the summer of 1968. This is not a burnout! It's the way Top Fuelers launched in 1968, just hazing the tires, driver squeezing the throttle gently, hoping the thing would finally hook up.
This car was a little longer than most. Top fuel cars have slowly gotten longer and longer. In this photograph we see the car getting out of the grove and inching close to the guard rail. Notice the primitive starting lights in the other lanes. At that point, Dragway 42 was a four lane track, slower cars racing in the two lanes on the other side of the guard rail.
Here's a great shot captured at Dragway 42 (West Salem, Ohio) in the summer of 1968. Its Jim Walther's Top Fueler as it leaves the line, out of shape with the left rear smoking hard. Jim is instantly correcting for the loose condition but the front wheels are off the ground. Somehow he managed to drive out of this situation and make a full pass. Jim Walther was an exellent Top Fuel driver.
#324. 1969 T/F: Jim Walther Launching The "Special Edition"
On May 4, 1969, Jim Walther (an Ohio boy) showed up at Thompson to test a new slipper clutch set up on his beautiful digger "Special Edition," sponcered by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He must have figured it out because he was a major player in the Top Fuel wars and went on to become the 1972 NHRA Top Fuel National Champion.
Nitro fans: Here's a rare one picturing Ron Potter's quick, fast and beautiful Junior Fueler. It was captured at Thompson Drag Raceway on May 11, 1969. Jr. Fuel was an NHRA dragster class (now long defunct) designed for naturally aspired engines on Nitro. Here we see Ronnys Junior Fueler at speed, just past the finish line, bouncing and slightly out of shape, the drag shoot just about to pop. Note: the tire speed on the right rear is definitely higher than the left rear. Also notice the huge Nitro injectors. This car was nationally competitive in the class and could run well under the NHRA records for both E.T. and M.PH. It weighed less than 1000 pounds, wet.
We asked the artist about this image: I loved the Junior Fuel Class. There is nothing like the super crisp sound of a well tuned, high-winding small block on Nitro . . . especially when it whistles by you at 200 M.P.H. Yes, It was pretty scary. The hard part was trying to stay calm enough to get a sharp and centered image. In1969, there where no guard rails on the Big End and I was only standing a few feet off the track. I did some pretty crazy things back then . . . always trying to get the HOT SHOT.
#160. 1970 T/F: Ron Potter Launching The "Golden Nugget"
This is the beautiful front engined (Dodge) Top Fuel dragster "Golden Nugget," driven by Ron Potter. It was captured at Thompson Drag Raceway on April 12, 1970. These were the days before rear engines and big wings. The team was nationally competitive and was at Thompson testing clutch set ups for the next big National meet. At that point in Drag Racing history, slipping clutches were just beginning to really work and Ron Potter and the crew of the "Golden Nugget" had a hot combination. The print clearly shows black clutch dust starting to pour out the bottom of the car.
In this photograph we see Ron as he drops the hammer on another quick pass, tires distorting, throttle wide open. Notice the simplicity, just two small down force plates at the front end of the car, open breathers on the valve covers, only one fuel line to the blower and one return line, magneto still at the back of the engine. Wow, things have really changed in 30 years. Ron Potter and his team also raced a very stout Fuel Funny car with the same name, "Golden Nugget."
#163. 1972: Experimental TF: The "American Way" Streamliner
We know, we know! This is not a front engined Top Fueler, but it's cool. This rare offering is an 8 inch by 10 inch RC Silver Print picturing the experimental Top Fuel streamliner "American Way," smoldering the slicks. It was captured at the 1972 IHRA Summer Nationals held at Dragway 42 (West Salem, Ohio) August 20, 1972. These guys where really serious about aerodynamics and created a really swoopy car. Even the front wheels were trick. The engine was completely covered and headers came out of the body, just in front of the slicks. The radical car began to show up in the drag papers and magazines in early 1972 and many people thought it marked the beginning of a new look in Top Fuel. Unfortunately, It never really ran competitive numbers and suddenly disappeared from the scene. The horse power was there but it was just too heavy. This Top Fueler is historically interesting.
Mike H. provided us with an interesting addition. He writes: "Here's some info on the American Way dragster. It was owned by Harry and Maxine Lehman of Alexandria, Va. It was crashed hard at Maple Grove Raceway and then sold. It went through a couple of hands and the chassis is still raced as a bracket car in Maryland. Hope that helps." Wow! Thanks Mike.
Prints in the Front Engine (Plus) Top Fuel Gallery