The Vermonster on the Lawn

The Vermonster on the Lawn

The first time I saw the “Vermonster,” I didn’t know it as such. Instead, I only knew it as a bright red slingshot with an injected 327 Chevy sitting in somebody’s lawn. It was the focal point of an idyllic scene—a snapshot from anytime and anyplace with a lot happening as nothing was happening at all.

The first photo of the Vermonster I had ever seen

Looking beyond the dragster, the rest of the frame is offers a candid slice of Americana. There’s the almost-new ’62 Chevy, the single-axle trailer with plywood ramps in position, a Radio-Flyer wagon and the neighbors doing something with their ’56 Chevy. From the landscaping and the houses to the colors and the composition—the whole thing is visually rich.

I later discovered this was far from a generic scene from “Anytown, USA.” The homebuilt slingshot was the pride of John Keefer, a hot rodder and engine master from northeastern Vermont. Dubbed the Vermonster, the car was a hard-runner in the A/Fuel Dragster ranks with Frankie Woodward behind the butterfly wheel. At its peak, the rail was capable of elapsed times in the eights at more than 180mph. The Fueler’s reign of terror lasted until 1967, when it was sold, updated, raced and subsequently tucked away.

Luckily, Del Masse of South Burlington, Vermont, never forgot the Vermonster. Growing up, he watched the slingshot in action and eventually connected with Keefer and Woodward through work. When Masse had the chance to buy the original car, he jumped on the opportunity. With the help of the team who brought it to life more than half a century prior, the Vermonster was returned to its bright red livery in 2013. Best of all, it’s still in Vermont—exactly where it belongs.

—Joey Ukrop

 A note about the photos: The images used here all came from the Del Masse collection, which were posted on the Catamount Stadium website. The site itself is a great resource if you’re interested in Vermont hot rodding and especially Stock Car and Circle Track racing. You can check it out here.

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