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.


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. Willys 4-cylinder engine. Driven 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

ca. 1955-56

San Antonio, Texas. Mercury-engined belly tank racer. 135 mph top speed


Bob "Red" Henslee

1955-56

Phoenix, Arizona/San Diego, California. Mercury-engined modified roadster. Drivers were Bob Sanders (1955), Emory Cook (1956). 157.15 mph top speed


Houston Hope

1955

Bob Saunders (owner), belly tank lakester. 125.87 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-engined 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. 133 mph top speed.


Ugly Duckling/Dan Willard

1956

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


Bean Bandits

ca. 1956-ca. 1964?

San Diego, California. Chrysler engine.


Fred Larsen

1956

Culver City, California. Chevrolet-powered modified roadster


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.


Paul Schiefer

ca. 1956?

San Diego, California. A/MR.


Kessler & Gammill

1956

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


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


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

Sold to Joe Mailliard, who dubbed it "Sidewinder I," replacing the Chevy with a blown Hemi Chrysler. Driven by Jack Chrisman to a best top speed of 151.51 mph on gas. Sold in 1960 to Ronnie and Jeep Hampshire 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.


Merle Brennan

1958

Reno, Nevada. 134 mph in half-mile time.


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. Case died in 1959 from injuries received while driving this dragster at Vaca Valley Raceway.


Bill Friedman/Saugstad Special

1959-60

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


Jones, Reed & Maillard "5 Cycle Special"

1959

Driven by Jack Chrisman. Lost in final round at 1959 Nationals at Detroit. Blown Chrysler Hemi. 160 mph.


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.


Unidentified

1950s

Photo courtesy of Ted Sitterley


Unidentified

1950s

Photo courtesy of Ted Sitterley


Unidentified

1950s

Photo courtesy of Ted Sitterley


Unidentified

1950s

Photo courtesy of Ted Sitterley


Unidentified

1950s

Photo courtesy of Ted Sitterley