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Daily history for 6/19/12 - Don Garlits


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#1 Lone Wolf

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 08:54 AM

More of a story than history but I would still like to share it. Back in '91 Don Garlits came to Long Island for a big car show. I had to go meet him. I was there at the Summer nationals when he flipped and it was amazing. Anyway, I brought some stuff for him to autograph. A friend of mines Uncle had a Speed Shop in Islip L.I. in the 60's. The guy put away one of every magazine from that era totally untouched. Just in perfect condition. Many obscure titles that hadn't seen light in 30 plus years. I traded him a bunch of model kits for them. When I got up to Don for an autograph I asked him to sign a couple for me. One was Hot Rod Parts Illustrated from '65 with him on the cover. The first thing he did was call his Wife over. Look at this he said to her. Where did you get this he said so I told him. It seems they did not know it existed. They wanted it for the Museum. Would you be interested in parting with it? If you want it's yours I said. You would have thought I gave them a Million dollars. He signed a couple extra things for me. About a hour later I see him roaming under the tables in the swap meet. He introduced me to his Brother and I followed them around a while just talking cars. Just great down to earth people.

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#2 The Bugman

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 09:17 AM

BIG DADDY;
he was/is my fav drag racer,actually got to meet and have him sign a t-shirt for me when i was 15, :sun_bespectacled:
Bakersfield,Calif,,Drag Meet 1965,wish i still had that damn t-shirt too :wacko2:
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#3 Michael Rigsby

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 09:51 AM

Though a bit of a hard butt in his early years, Don was always ready to greet his fans and was a great supporter of drag racing. He got to the top by a lot of hard work, determination, and being able to see designs in his head on how to make things better. A true innovator in the world of racing. Have met him a few times and been to the museum a few times. Like you said, good down to earth people.

Thank you very much for sharing that story.
"... a good and wholesome thing is a little harmless fun in this world; it tones a body up and keeps him human and prevents him from souring." - Mark Twain

#4 John Streisguth

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 10:09 AM

Definitely one of the icons of motor racing, to me on par with Shelby and Jim Hall.
"Whatever..."

#5 Gator Bob

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 12:01 PM

"Big' was the first to top 200 mph in the 1/4 mile.

Where and when?
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#6 John Streisguth

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 02:49 PM

1964, at Island Dragway Great Meadows NJ My older brother used to race there, in the 50's

Unlike many other tracks, this one has actually survived (although it doesn't hold the big events like RAceway PArk does)
"Whatever..."

#7 Gator Bob

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 03:32 PM

Winner !!! Way to go Johnny VW!

Flash back Feb 1987
I Interviewed for a job with Don and wife Pat in their office to be the cylinder head specialist for the Swamp Rat's 1987 season to defend his 86 championship run. Spent a great day with them and the rest of the team at the shop.

Well,.... I didn't get the job but Don autographed/certified/dated one of the pistons from that first 200 mile pass.
Yes! :shok: from that engine, from that day, from that pass.

Don sucked a valve on that first 200 pass , it sure beat the top of this Hemi slug up pretty good, It looks perfect :D

One of my most (if not the most) prized motorsports collectible I have. :heart: :good:
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#8 slotbaker

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 07:51 PM

Great stuff. :good:

My first awareness of Big Daddy was as a kid when my uncle gave me a model kit of 'Wynns Jammer' for Christmas.
If I remember correctly, it had a clear injection moulded body.

I've been a fan ever since.
:)
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#9 NSwanberg

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 05:29 AM

Did you know Don Garlits is an Eagle Scout? I have had Eagle Scouts ask for an acknowledgement letter from him and he always obliged.

NS

#10 Lone Wolf

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 07:55 AM

Wow, this stirred up some good memories all around.
1. Oscar, I am jealous as Hell! If I could go back in time that would be my dream. Bakersfield Smokers :heart: Must have been a great time to be alive in California.
2. Michael, I have been to the Museum too. Looks like he never threw anything away! He has so much of his original stuff. Definately worth the trip.
3. John, Yes Island is still alive and well. My Nephews and their friends sometimes rent the track for a weekday. 10 guys X $150 each. It's a bargain. You can run til you break it.
4. Bob, Cylinder head development ! I am damn impressed. Are you hiding a special automotive past?
5. Steve, My friends older brother had that clear body rail beautifully built on a shelf when I was a kid. You could look but not touch. Super cool kit.

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#11 The Bugman

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 10:30 AM

Great stuff. :good:

My first awareness of Big Daddy was as a kid when my uncle gave me a model kit of 'Wynns Jammer' for Christmas.
If I remember correctly, it had a clear injection moulded body.

I've been a fan ever since.
:)

that kit now is worth well over $100.,,when i was a model builder/collector a few years back,
i traded an Original Beverly Hill Billies model for that kit,then couldnt bear opening it,,
so when i sold them all(had over 400 original kits from 60-70's) it was in the lot.
ive been a Big Daddy fan since the 60's,,,
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#12 Gator Bob

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 09:57 AM

Before I forget ... (see entry above)

IMG_1784 s.JPG
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#13 Michael Rigsby

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 07:02 AM

I remember going to a drag race in West Palm Beach with my brother probably back in '67 when he was home on leave from the Air Force before going to Viet Nam. Had several big names there. Big Daddy, Hoover, quite a few top name cars, and a little old junk pile from Florida driven by a guy named R.L. Peyton.

Bob and I went to the pits before everything started and I got to ask Big Daddy who he thought his competition would be for this meet. His words were, " That crazy &(&(^)*&& Peyton is the guy you gotta watch out for". You see, Peyton had already run a meet in Gainesville earlier in year and trumped everyone, but he was running Hydrazene (rocket fuel). It would literally melt the headers and tires off the car.

Sure enough, after marching through the field of big names, the final two were Big Daddy and R.L. Peyton. Well, Big Daddy "tipped the can" and was running well over 90% nitro mix, and RL came to the line, and you could smell the oddball smell that the Hydrazene left in the air. It was a show to beat all shows.

They left the line together, and 7.4 seconds later, RL got the win lite by the narrowest of margins, with both with almost identical et's. The only thing was, RL's car was not spotted coming back up the return road. He had melted the headers and tires off the car and it was stuck in the swamp at the end of the race course, having blown past the safety area when the chute didn't stop it in time.

The great old days of drag racing, and one of the few times I ever saw Big Daddy get beat, but it was one heck of a show.
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"... a good and wholesome thing is a little harmless fun in this world; it tones a body up and keeps him human and prevents him from souring." - Mark Twain

#14 Gator Bob

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 08:01 AM

"Big Daddy" makes big memories. Glad you got that one Mike.

Was Florida low-buck local "Starvin Marvin" running with them that day?

Now we got "Go Daddy" ...lol
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#15 Michael Rigsby

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 11:35 AM

Hmmm....Don't remember a Starvin' Marvin from back then. Peyton was from Daytona. One of the guys that used to run in the NHRA "Gasser" class back then was a guy from Melbourne named Ron Hassle. Ran a Silver 37 Anglia with a corvette motor in it. Was the "C" gas national champion at the time. We used to joke that Ron could eat a peanut butter sandwich and shift that four speed and not blink an eye or lose a race and the front wheels would carry off the ground the whole length of the track till he backed out and hit the chute.

Now there was another guy from Florida that ran top fuel rails back then, but I can't remember his name, but I don't recall ever hardly seeing him at many of the major races in the south when I used to travel the race circuit.
"... a good and wholesome thing is a little harmless fun in this world; it tones a body up and keeps him human and prevents him from souring." - Mark Twain

#16 Gator Bob

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 12:33 PM

He owned the Starvin Marvin gas station chain here in Fl. Last one I remember was at YeeHaw Junction. They were bought up by Speedway LLC.

Last time I saw him race was at the Summernationals in 1974 or 75. Super low budget team, Don helped him out.

Not to be confused with the South Park character.

“STARVIN” MARVIN SCHWARTZ
The Largo, Florida, driver is best known as the No. 2 team driver on Don Garlits’ team in 1964, but he accomplished much more than that. In 1963, he ran a 7.97 to become the first Ford fuel driver in the sevens. In 1965, he won (actually Garlits drove the final) the Sunday half to the Bakersfield March Meet for the right to meet and lose to Garlits in the overall finale. In 1973, he had a very good year, winning the Union Grove Olympics, taking runner-up at the Garlits PDA Meet, and winning the IHRA Springnationals. Schwartz, a near pro level tennis player, was killed in a qualifying wreck at the AHRA Winternationals.
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#17 Michael Rigsby

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 01:58 PM

OK....now I remember him, as soon as you said Yehaw Junction. He was a pretty good driver, but like Peyton, always ran on the low budget end of things. I remember his gas stations in Yeehaw Junction, he had one coming into Yeehaw on RT 60 from Vero, and one going out of town towards Tampa. He wanted to make sure you stopped.

Back in those days, with drag strips in Bithlo, West Palm and Miami, Florida had a lot of good drag racers that ran at a national performance level. There was another fellow out of Central/South Florida that ran the big meets in AF/X when it was a going class. Bought an old Sox and Martin car, got his Hemi's from Big Daddy, and did pretty good. Car was a white 66 Dodge Polara called "The Saint". When his chute's popped they said "Powered by Big Daddy Hemis". He used to show up and shut the big names down, Larsen, Ronnie Sox, Landy....he could get them all.
"... a good and wholesome thing is a little harmless fun in this world; it tones a body up and keeps him human and prevents him from souring." - Mark Twain

#18 Howie Ursaner

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 04:40 PM

The first time i was at a drag strip was in 1964. I went with Bob Emott and was too young to get in the pits so i climbed into the trunk and hopped out when we were in. Don Garlits was there that day for and exhibition/match race. I am not sure if this was the first run to 200 but on that day his chute did not open and he went off the end of the track into the sand trap. I have always been a huge Garlits fan.
In 1970 or 71 i went to the Indy nats with fellow slot racers Bruce Clark and "uncle Fred Correnti" to run Bruce's Top Fueler. Fred was the driver and it was pretty scary. Here was a group from NY that did not have much of a handle on the whole Fueler thing. Fred ran 227 mph and missed qualifying by a hair.We were pitted next to Don and it was great.
In 1989 i had a factory lightweight 1967 Hemi Belvedere race car. I wrote Don Garlits a letter with pics and i got a phone call from him.He said he wanted to fly into Madison to buy the car. His museum committee vetoed the car in favor of a sox and martin machine but i was thrilled to talk to him.
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#19 Gator Bob

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 06:36 PM

Great stories, and priceless memories ..... We are very lucky to have enjoyed those years of growth and raw ingenuity in racing.

When I told Don that as a kid in NJ building all his "jammers" kept me out of trouble and in a safety/comfort zone.

"Did you know that NJ was the first place I went over 200"
"jeez, no Don I spent my paper route money on models and slot cars and only skimmed the magazines till i got kicked out of the candy store.
"It wasn't that big of news as it didn't count as a record.... it was an un-sanctioned race".... "come here, let me show you this"
"Whoa.. that so is cool to hold, what a hunk of history"
"It's yours, give me it I'll make it official"

He had it as his own keepsake from 8/1/64 till Feb of 1987 then gave it to me. I almost fell on the floor. Had no idea how to thank him, even said no "that's yours" I think I will again.

What a great man, a total hero of mine since as far back as I can remember. Hall, Shelby, Smokey, Petty all great heroes but there is only one "Big Daddy".
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#20 Uncle Fred

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 09:15 AM

Having been a big drag racing fan and driving a top fuel car for 2 yrs, I have several stories about Don Garlits to tell....... In 1970,at NY National Speedway, Garlits was there for a big meet but only as a spectator. He was recuperating from the infamous transmission explosion that had cut his car half taking some toes with it. I was standing next to Garlits admiring Bernie Schacers rear engine top full car. I was there with fellow slot car racer and med student Lew Kanerek who asked Don if he could see his foot where the toes had been severed. Garlits slid his foot out of his loafer and started talking metetarsals and such. Then Don asked Bernie if he could sit in his car. Garlits liked it. The rest is history. In 1971, at the Summer Nationals we were waiting to qualify for Top Fuel when it started to rain. Don jumped into our tow car with me to wait out the delay. With us was my girl friend and Bruce's girl friend. Don proceeded to talk about how he like the sport...........no not drag racing but the women! He later asked my girl friend if she wanted to ride in his tow car when he ran which led to a huge fight with my girl friend and me! Later that year, at the AHRA Nationals he asked her again and I went over to his pits and made it VERY clear that she was not riding with him! True story.
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#21 Uncle Fred

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 09:33 AM

"Big' was the first to top 200 mph in the 1/4 mile.

Where and when?


Both Karamasines and Kallita make the same claim!
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#22 sub006

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 11:15 PM

Same story with ETs.  AFAIK Tommy Ivo was the first to run in the fives with his top fueler.  But it was not at an NHRA strip, so Petersen Publishing magazines would not print any mention of TV's achievement, recognizing another driver a few months later.  So the record remains muddled.

 

Anybody have further info or clarification?


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#23 gas

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Posted 04 August 2013 - 08:43 AM

In 1974 three young airmen walked into a speed shop in Tampa. One of them (me) was dumbfounded to see one of the guys behind the counter.The other two airmen looked around at the parts on the shelves. One said lets go, pulled on my sleeve. We were in the car before I could talk, when I told them that Don Garlits was behind the counter. One guy said who, the other looked confused until I said Big Daddy. No we did not go back, wish we had.


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#24 Gator Bob

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 07:38 PM

Sorry to say but his wife Pat recently passed.

 

Don did have a minor stroke a couple of years ago but is doing OK with that. I'm sure loosing Pat is very tough on him.


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#25 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 08 February 2016 - 01:20 PM

So I went looking for a good picture for this thread and look what I found!

 

Don%20Garlits_zpscsmvidqj.jpg

 

:sun_bespectacled:


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#26 Gary Adams

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Posted 08 February 2016 - 07:42 PM

Sweet! How great would it be to have that on a t-shirt!


Straights are for fast cars. Turns are for fast drivers.


#27 tonyp

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 08:08 AM

I'd wear that. Cool.

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#28 Brian Cochrane

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 08:41 AM

Great Stuff!



#29 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 04:13 PM

Here's a tough looking "Big Daddy" Don Garlits from the days when he still had hair:

 

Don%20Garlits%201967_zps0pfzredi.jpg

 

His Swamp Rat top fuel dragster:

 

don-garlits-vintage_zpsujmxom3r.jpg

 

Don performing a fierce flame burnout in the sixteenth edition of the Swamp Rat::

 

Don%20Garlits4_zpsyqwvcvch.jpg

 

I imagine a fellow might intimidate his fellow contestants performing one of these prior to the big race at his local slot car track. The track owner though might have a hemorrhage....

 

:shok:


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#30 Howie Ursaner

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 04:38 PM

Don Garlits is one of my all time hero's. Bob Emott took me to my first drag race. It was 1964 and we were at island dragway in nj  when Big Daddy went 200 mph. I remember on one run his chute did not open and he ran off the end of the track. I snuck into the pits in the trunk because i was too young to be there. I was at indy when Don showed up in the first rear engine dragster. say no more.  In 1990, i had a Hemi dart original drag car that i needed to sell. I sent a  letter to Don asking him if he would be interested in it for his museum . A week later i got an early morning phone call and to my great shock it was Don on the phone asking me how he could get to Madison Wi. to buy the car.  In the end he did not buy it because his museum committee wanted the Sox and Martin car instead. 


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#31 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 07:05 PM

Cool story! So did you manage to sell the car anyway?

 

:)

 


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#32 Howie Ursaner

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 09:49 PM

Cool story! So did you manage to sell the car anyway?

 

Back then, i was ahead of my time with the race cars.. Very few people were tuned into the old drag cars. I had to have this one but they were hard to sell. This was one of the original 78 factory lightweight Darts built in 1968. It was sold as a race car to teams that would race them.This one ran 9.40's I took it to the Mopar Nats and met the guy who wanted it. I wound up trading the Dart for 2 multi grand national champion Buick GS's. There was a 1970 GSX that was retired from concours competition after winning the nats 6 times. it came with 40 magazines with it on the cover and a box of Monogram  1/24 GSX kits that were this actual car. He wanted to race the Dart in the nostalgia race series. The other was a 1970 GS. Both of these cars were restored to breathtaking  #1 standard , near perfection and nicer than any other.  I sold both of  them in one day and basically broke even on the Dart.   


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#33 grooverunner

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 09:29 PM

When I was a kid in the 80's I lived near Tampa we use to go to the Gator Nationals, saw Don there.But the time I went to his Museum of Drag Racing for the first time in 1987 and the day before I went there I got the National Dragster for the Top Fuel Champion. So I brought it with me hoping to meet him,and as I was leaving he was at he front desk talking to his Daughter. He said hello, and I asked him for his autograph.. I pulled out the National Dragster and handed it to him. He said WOW! The National  Dragster for the Top Fuel Champion no less! I haven't even got my copy yet,and I'm the Top Fuel Champion! So he pulled out a pen and signed the cover!  What really gets me is that years later I went to the Museum for a Mopar car show and Don was there riding around in a replica of his first race car a flat head T rail. He stop to talk to a guy I was talking to and he looked over at me while talking to my friend and asked me if I still had the National Dragster. I was floored! how does  he remember a 10 min meeting 7 years prior. I said yes I do. He said good.


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#34 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 16 February 2016 - 04:13 PM

...he looked over at me while talking to my friend and asked me if I still had the National Dragster. I was floored! how does  he remember a 10 min meeting 7 years prior.

 

 

 

Very cool! The really good ones are like that!

 

 

:)


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