by Ben Griffin
When I got my first funny car, the Plymouth Barracuda A/FC, I knew that showmanship was going to be a big factor for match race bookings. There were going to be the 2 out of 3 format events as well as 4-car shows. I was used to doing long burnouts with the A/FD’s that I had driven but that was mostly for traction to win races. I was a fan of Jungle Jim Lieberman (and Jungle Pam Hardy, of course) and many others that did long, smoky burnouts. Witnessing the crowd’s reaction to them, I decided I needed to do the same, if possible.
My car had a Clutchflite 3-speed transmission and I was told to use second gear for burnouts. It worked pretty good but my films revealed that our group as a whole, including me, could not begin to approach what Jungle Jim, Blue Max or any other stout AA/FC could do. My engine was a stock-stroke 426 hemi on 80% nitro and second gear for burnouts wasn’t getting the job done. We all did the best we could with what we had.
Then in 1972 Woody Gilmore built me a ’72 Mustang. Had a Keith Black 470 cu. in. stroker in it with a Lenco 2-speed. Did the burnouts in high gear, stepped up the nitro into the 90% range. Now I had the power and the right equipment to do the long smoky burnouts to bring the crowds to their feet!
Technique was next. I found that the Chrysler valve train was strong enough to withstand burnouts at full throttle, unlike the Chevys which would send pushrods and lifters flying everywhere if they tried the same thing. And with the right air pressure in the Goodyear slicks I could do the really good burnouts and still have plenty of traction to win races.
I LOVED doing the burnouts! Wouldn’t quit till the cabin was so full of smoke that I couldn’t see out the windshield. When I stopped and put it in reverse I could look out the side windows and see the fans on their feet cheering. Back then we had no escape hatch in the roof to use for a fan by the crew like they have now so I just had to back up slowly, looking out the side window until the smoke cleared.
Sometimes we did dry hops on the starting line to see if the car was glued in or not. Mine always was. The fans seemed to like those too. But the long smoky burnouts are still what brings the crowds to their feet, clapping, whistling, fist-pumping, cheering and hollering for more.
<<<PREVIOUS PAGE NEXT PAGE>>>
Nostalgia Drag World - by Ben Griffin; photos courtesy of Ben Griffin