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History What Took So Them So Long?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Speed Gems, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. Speed Gems
    Joined: Jul 17, 2012
    Posts: 2,740

    Speed Gems

    Here's a question i've had in my head for a while now so i thought i'd post it. If Bonneville racers had rear engine cars back in the 50's what took drag racers (and Don Garlits to lose part of his foot ) until the early 7o's to make the switch to rear engine cars? Was it the steering? Because i know that was an issue.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
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  2. Hombre
    Joined: Aug 22, 2008
    Posts: 1,032


    Actually drag racers were playing around rear engine cars in the 60,s. Bill and Dave Coleman of Maryland’s Coleman Bros Speed Shop ran this rear engine car right around 1960 or so. Why they didn't stay around might be a whole nuther question.
    rear engined dragster.jpg
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  3. Speed Gems
    Joined: Jul 17, 2012
    Posts: 2,740

    Speed Gems

    I guess it's more mid engine, but still behind the driver.[​IMG]
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  4. 6sally6
    Joined: Feb 16, 2014
    Posts: 1,264


    Prolly a combo of goofy handling/steering and a face full of burning nitromethane ...flaming hot oil AND flying debris when an engine grenaded! Discounting the boiling,blinding mask of tire smoke the entire trip down the quarter mile. Not to forget the violent unpredictable wheelstands and tire shake as they 'skated' from one side of their lane into the other guys lane who was doing the same thing!
    Other than that.............they were "pretty safe"!
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  5. GordonC
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 2,090


    Either heard or saw Don Garlits say they had a lot of problems with rear engine cars wanting to take a severe left halfway down the track and it took some doing to get it to stop doing that. If he had trouble getting a race car to go straight imagine the problems a regular dude would of had!
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  6. Bandit Billy
    Joined: Sep 16, 2014
    Posts: 6,873

    Bandit Billy

    Could be worse, it took 67 years for Corvette to figure it out. :cool:
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  7. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 27,530


    I'd say that the primary reason on Bonneville cars was getting weight back for traction and probably having a better all around weight bias in the process.
    Staying with the front engine diggers was probably more of a case of "we always" than safety or other reasons until Garlits made it work. I remember when he made the switch there were a lot of people who didn't like idea of the rear engine cars as far as those looking on went.
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  8. seb fontana
    Joined: Sep 1, 2005
    Posts: 6,602

    seb fontana
    from ct

    Didn't Garlits tear down his rear engine concept car for all to see how he did it? Was on front cover of Hot Rod Magazine after having built and debugged the car during the 1971 season..The main two things that were a problem was that the wheel base was too short and after they brought wheelbase out to 300" the steering had to be slowed down..Probably a few other things but Don explained it all..
  9. Speed Gems
    Joined: Jul 17, 2012
    Posts: 2,740

    Speed Gems

    That's what i'm saying, you'd think they'd take a que from the Bonneville guys and all the fire and debris would be behind them. Theirs no doubt the front engine cars DID look cooler though.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
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  10. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,298

    Rusty O'Toole

    Rear engine race cars were a thing in Europe as far back as the early thirties but the most successful ones were low powered jobs with 500cc engines. The Grand Prix Auto Unions with supercharged straight eights, were definitely squirrelly and hard to handle, in the end they hired motorcycle racers and taught them to drive a race car, experienced race car drivers couldn't handle them.

    By the early sixties weight distribution, suspension design etc had advanced a lot and rear engine cars were winning at Indianapolis as well as in Europe, but still relatively small engine, low powered cars compared to a fuel dragster.

    It was Garlits who got the rear engine design to work for dragsters but it took quite a bit of work and experimenting.

    He, and others, had tried the rear engine concept before but always went back to the front engine design when they couldn't get it to work.
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  11. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 4,073

    Ned Ludd


    That was about the time tyre treatments and traction compounds started to become a serious factor in drag racing – also in great measure due to Garlits. The amount of available hook increased, meaning that you want the centre of gravity lower and further forward.
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  12. KevKo
    Joined: Jun 25, 2009
    Posts: 441

    from Motown

    Actually, Woody Gilmore built a rear engine car before Garlits. Pat Foster crashed it and was banged up good. Woody figured out what went wrong and built a second car for Duane Ong. Ong won an AHRA event with it. But Garlits was better known (and funded) and ultimately more successful.
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  13. proartguy
    Joined: Apr 13, 2009
    Posts: 452

    from Sparks, NV

    The Shoehorn was a rear engine dragster built in the late ‘50s and campaigned in the early ‘60s. Owned by Warren Welsh and Bill Butler, the short wheelbase machine ran in the mid 8s at 180mph. Driven by Welsh, this pic shows an early iteration before bodywork.

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  14. proartguy
    Joined: Apr 13, 2009
    Posts: 452

    from Sparks, NV

    And another pic...

    Bill Butler, Warren Welsh, Ray Craft

  15. A lot of the allure to drag racing back in the 60's was the tires in the air and the awesome smoky tires as the dragsters barreled down the strip, Don Garlits accident ushered in a new way of thinking, and along with Don's rear engine design it pioneered a new way of thinking and speeds increased, then everyone followed his lead. HRP
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  16. RichFox
    Joined: Dec 3, 2006
    Posts: 9,950


    Actually, SCTA ruled out rear engine roadsters due to the several crashes of them. Lakesters and 'liners still ran rear engines. Only in more recent years have rear engine roadsters been allowed back, But these are much longer then cars used to be and hardly look like roadsters at all.
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  17. The Shift Wizard
    Joined: Jan 10, 2017
    Posts: 2,102

    The Shift Wizard

    It's usually the case with evolution; there are a number of dead ends before a new species becomes successful.
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  18. Dd dragsters actually move the engine position or just relocate the driver to the front?
    Seems to me the engine is still ahead of the rear end.

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  19. KevKo
    Joined: Jun 25, 2009
    Posts: 441

    from Motown

    If you mean the '70's, the engine was still in front of the rear axle, but how far varied. And so did angle.
  20. Bert Kollar
    Joined: Jan 10, 2007
    Posts: 967

    Bert Kollar

    Art Arfons first Green Monster that I saw in 1954 was rear engine
  21. studebakerjoe
    Joined: Jul 7, 2015
    Posts: 712


    owl1.jpg The Smokin White Owl believe it came out in 1954.
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  22. AHRA National Drags 1956 Curt R
    scan0024.jpg scan0049.jpg
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  23. Wisconsin and Illinois May 8, 1956 Curt R
    5-8-56.jpg EEL 3.jpg
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