1950s
The Early Years

Who Were the First?

The 1950s was the early pioneering era of experimentation in drag racing. Some racers tried putting the engine behind the driver. These photos show a sampling of some of those cars. By necessity, jet and rocket cars had their engines behind the driver.


Bronson Special and The Stinger

ca. 1948-late 1950s

Tipton, Indiana. Bronson Special (left) was built by Bill Bronson and the Lilly family, circa 1948-49. It was originally flathead-powered, but a Chrysler hemi was installed in 1958. The Lilly family, working out of Lilly's Garage, built the "Stinger" shortly after the Bronson Special was built.


Cleveland Clipper

ca. 1953?

Cleveland, Ohio. Chrysler-powered car owned by Duane DePuy and Joe Scarpelli.


Green Monster No. 2

1954-55

6-wheeled Allison V12-engined dragster built by Art, Walt, and Dale Arfons. 132.35 mph top speed



Bob Chaney

1955

Mattoon, Illinois. Mercury-engined dragster, 14.2 ET


Rice's Auto Parts

ca. 1955?

California. Ford 4-cylinder engine, Cragar head, Willys hood for nose. Driven/owned by Bill Sanders.


Lynn Garrison

1955

Ogden, Utah. 113 mph top speed


Green Monster No. 4

1955-56

Arfons brothers' 6-cylinder Ranger aircraft engine dragster




Coupe De Ville

1955

 Owner/driver unknown. Southern California. C/CC, photo taken at Colton Drag Strip.


Jimmy Bryan

1955

Phoenix, Arizona; Chrysler-powered dragster



Ray Harrelson/Houston Hope

ca. 1955-56

San Antonio, Texas. Owned by Bob Saunders. Mercury-engined belly tank racer. A. J. Foyt (bottom photo) once drove it. 135 mph top speed


Paul Schieffer/Bob "Red" Henslee

1955-56

Phoenix, Arizona/San Diego, California. Mercury-engined modified roadster. According to Dave Sorenson, Paul Schieffer owned it first with a front engine, Then he put the engine in the rear, after which Henslee and Emery Cook ran it. Drivers were Bob Sanders (1955), Emery Cook (1956). The car was destroyed at Paradise Mesa. 157.15 mph top speed


Lord's Speed Shop Special

1955

Bakersfield, California. Belly-tank lakester. Lloyd Newmeyer, driver. 123.28 mph top speed


Jack Weber

1955

Chicago, Illinois. Belly tank dragster. 111 mph top speed


Emmett Cull

1955-56

Alameda, California. Dual-engine dragster: Ford and Chevrolet flatheads. 140 mph top speed


Gary Cagle

mid-1950s

Los Angeles. "Half Fast" Chrysler-powered dragster built by Cagle and Don Hampton. 121.57 mph top speed


B & B Construction Company Special

1956

San Bernardino, California. Chrysler-powered dragster. Driven by Dud Stauffacher. Owned by Chuck Raymond. Dave Sorenson wrote that this was once the Scotty's Muffler Ardun tank. 133 mph top speed.


Ugly Duckling/Dan Willard

1956

Spring City, Pennsylvania. Ford flathead. B Open Gas. 100 mph.


Manuel Cohelo

1956

California. Twin-engine, four-wheel drive dragster. Switched off between Ford engine, then two Chryslers. Top speed 152 mph and 9.79 ET


Bean Bandits

ca. 1956-ca. 1964?

San Diego, California. Chrysler engine.


Fred Larsen

1956

Culver City, California. Chrysler-powered modified roadster. He had bought the car from Ak Miller, who had run an Olds in it. Fred later rolled it at Bonneville, but recovering from his injuries to continue racing. 


Green Monster No. 7

1956-57

Arfons brothers' "Boloney Slicer" dragster. 166.97 mph top speed


Don Jensen

1956-57

Hayward, California. Dual Cadillac-engined dragster. 155 mph top speed


"The Shoehorn"/Lee's Auto Body Shop Special

1956-62

Reno, Nevada. Car owned and built by Brent Tyler and Warren Welsh (driver). Mercury-engined dragster, 126.3 mph top speed (1956). Changed to Chrysler engine in 1958, 150 mph top speed. Ran as Custom Auto Glass Special in 1960, under ownership of Bill Butler and Warren Welsh, with a blown Chevy engine. Top speed 172 mph. Gary Wade wrote that he spent seven years looking for this car, until learning that "it had been crushed in a junkyard in California."


Kessler & Gammill

1956

Mattoon, Illinois. Bert Kessler and Dean Gammill. Olds-engined Crosley.


Unidentified

1957

Dragster competed at the 1957 Nationals


Ed and Don Garlits

1957

Olds-powered dragster


Cannonball Express

1957

Bay Shore, Long Island, New York. Dual engined dragster.


Loren Ross

1957

Richmond, California. Cadillac-engined belly tank racer


Stan Lomolino

1957-58

Virden, Illinois. Dragster powered by two blown Ford flatheads.


Gents Car Club

1957-59

Swoyerville, Pennsylvania. Buick-engined dragster. Driven by Dave Edwards. 128 mph top speed



Green Monster No. 10

1957

Arfons brothers' 12-cylinder Ranger aircraft-engined dragster


Green Monster No. 11

1957-58

Arfons brothers' Rolls Royce aircraft-engined dragster. 161.87 mph top speed


Paul Nicolini and Harry Duncan

1957-60

Driven by Jack Chrisman to a best top speed of 151.51 mph on gas. Nicolini and Duncan sold it to Joe Mailliard, Churck Jones, and Reed in about 1958. They dubbed it "Sidewinder I," replacing the Chevy with a blown Hemi Chrysler.  It was named the "5 Cycle Special" in 1959. With Chrisman driving, it lost in the final round at 1959 Nationals at Detroit. It was sold in 1960 to Ronnie and Jeep Hampshire and George Bolthoff who rechristened it "Me Too," taking out the Chrysler and putting in a Chevy engine and running in B/GD with a best top speed of 168 mph. Click here to see 8mm footage of the Sidewinder at Lions in 1959; (1) begins at 0:52 mark and goes to 0:58 mark, and (2) begins at 8:37 mark and goes to 8:56 mark, and (3) begins at 9:58 mark and goes to 10:22 mark of the video.  Click here to see 8mm movie showing the Sidewinder at Lions in 1959; (1) begins at 4:54 mark and goes to 5:05 mark, and (2) begins at 5:38 mark and goes to 5:47 mark of the video.  Click here to see video footage of Jack Chrisman driving the Sidewinder taken at Riverside in 1959; begins at 7:54 mark and goes to 8:01 mark of the video.


Crossfire

1957

Pennsylvania. First owned/driven by Lowell Lister, then sold to Bill Miller. 156 mph top speed.


Ruddy & Weinstein

1957-58

Ardun Merc-motored modified roadster. 138 mph top speed. Replaced with a Chrysler in late 1958, turning a best of 10.13 at 152 mph


Merle Brennan

1958

Reno, Nevada. Flathead. 131 mph in 11 seconds for quarter mile; 134 mph in half-mile.


Oscar Taylor

1958

Drumright, Oklahoma. Chevy-engined A Dragster.


Cagle & Callahan

1958-59

San Diego, California. Red Case, of Bakersfield, drove Clark Cagle's Chrysler-engined dragster. 163 mph top time. Streamlined body mounted in spring 1959. Case died in 1959 from injuries received while driving the streamlined version of the dragster at Vaca Valley Raceway.


Jocko-Liner

1958-59

Owned by Jim Nelson, built by Robert "Jocko" Johnson. Driven by Emery Cook, clocking the quickest elapsed time (up to that point) of 8.35 seconds at Riverside. Unfortunately the fiberglass body came apart on the back-up run. Then Jocko built an aluminum-bodied version of the car and campaigned it with an Allison V12 engine. In the early 1970s, Don Garlits mounted the aluminum body on one of his dragster chassis, but handling difficulties scared him into retiring the car.


Bob's Muffler Shop

1958-59

Bakersfield, California. B/GD built by Bob Crowe, Roger Coburn, and cousins James and Kennard Warren. In late 1959, the team parted ways. The dragster donated its drivetrain and most other components to the new Warren, Coburn, and Crowe twin-engine dragster which debuted in 1960. This dragster has been recreated and is part of the collection of the Museum of Speed in Wilsonville, Oregon.


Bill Friedman/Saugstad Special

1959-60

Roseville and Citrus Heights, California. 156 mph Ford-engined B/FD. Sponsored by O. E. Saugstad Ford Company.


Jeep Hampshire's "Platypus"

1959

Rear-engined modified coupe. Took two years to build, beginning in 1957. Destroyed in crash while car was being towed to Bakersfield in 1959.


No Cam Special

1959

Fontana, California. Owned by Ed Rannberg and driven by G. R. Hardin. 100 c.i. McCulloch drone engine in X dragster class.


Creighton Hunter "Slice of Pie"

1950s

Southern California. Competition roadster powered by a sidewinder flathead.


Al Bergler "The Exterminator"

1950s?

Crosley station wagon altered competition coupe


Harry "Butch" Lehman

1950s

Chevy-engined dragster


Pape Bros.

1950s

Southern California. Flathead-motored Modified Roadster


Reinhardt Bros.

1950s

Southern California. A consistent winner at San Fernando, running in the low 13s and 107 mph range. Mercury-engined dragster was driven by Stanley Hill


Hollish Bros. "Miscalculation 1"

1950s

Akron, Ohio. Driven by Jiggs Shamblin


Vineland Villians

1950s

New Jersey. Regular competitors at Vineland Speedway.


Unidentified

1950s?

Buick-powered A/FD. Photo courtesy of Dennis Friend


Unidentified

1950s

Modified roadster.


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s?

Roadster competed at San Fernando.


Unidentified

1950s

Southern California. Modified roadster. Competed at Pomona


Unidentified

1950s

Photo courtesy of Ted Sitterley


Unidentified

1950s

Photo courtesy of Ted Sitterley


Unidentified

1950s

Photo courtesy of Ted Sitterley


Al's Speed Shop

1950s?

Midwest. Blown Chevy in Chassis Research TE-440


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s


Unidentified

1950s

East Coast area. Raced at Sanford, Maine (see photo)


Unidentified

1950s?

Modified roadster