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Drag King

<< Back to Robb Report, Robb Report July 2014

The Greer, Black & Prudhomme is perhaps the most famous top-fuel front-engine dragster of all time and certainly the most successful. It placed first in its debut competition in June 1962 in Pomona, Calif., and by the time the trio of team owner Tom Greer, engine builder Keith Black, and driver Don Prudhomme disbanded in 1964, the lanky rail had amassed 230 victories while suffering only seven defeats.

Running mainly on nitromethane (the top fuel designation refers to the fuel mixture used to power the cars in this racing class), Black’s supercharged Chrysler 392 Hemi V-8 engine pumped out 830 hp. The engine—combined with Prudhomme’s quick starting-line reflexes, which earned him the nickname “The Snake”—enabled the dragster to complete a quarter-mile race in as little as 7.77 seconds while reaching upwards of 190 mph.

As race teams pushed their machines to 230 mph and beyond in the late 1960s, front-engine dragsters became increasingly dangerous. Drivers were seated slightly aft of the rear axle and directly behind the engine—a perilous place to be when extreme strain caused the engine or transmission to fail catastrophically. In a 1970 race, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits’s transmission exploded, splitting his dragster in two and severing part of his right foot. While recovering, he conceived a rear-engine design that made the front-engine dragster obsolete. 

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