Wayne Knuth, of Chicago. Originally powered by a Turbonique drag axle, but switched to a J-34 jet engine. First driven by Larry Kisha. Other drivers were Wayne Knuth, Aggi Hendriks, Toby Ehrmantraut, Billy Bartkus, and Tony Schumacher. 287 mph top speed. In 1979, Doug Brown bought the jet dragster from Knuth in 1980 and renamed it Wildfire 3. Click here to see video footage of it at the 1987 Jet Car Nationals at Englishtown. Click here to see video footage taken at Great Lakes Dragway in 1971, begins at 0:26 mark and goes to 0:56 mark of the video. Click here to see Aggi Hendriks at the wheel of the Odyssey at the 1995 Pro Jet Car Nationals at Atco. See Billy Bartkus at the wheel of the Odyssey at the 1995 Pro Jet Car Nationals at Atco.
Using a 1969 Chevy II Nova body, Walt Arfons built a jet funny car powered by a Westinghouse J-46 engine. Chuck Morris, of Arlington, Virginia, was the driver. 235 mph top speed. Morris was killed driving this car on August 28, 1970, at Dragway 42 in Ohio.
Jack McDonald/John Bell
Jack McDonald, of Melbourne, Australia, built a jet dragster powered by a Rolls Royce engine. The best time on the car was 185 mph while owned by McDonald. He sold it to John Bell in about late 1970. Bell changed the body and put in a larger Rolls Royce Nene engine than when McDonald owned it. After selling the car to Bell, McDonald then built a longer, sleeker jet dragster, which was demolished in about December 1970 at Surfer's Paradise drag strip in Australia. Click here to see video footage of McDonald driving the car at Calder Raceway.
One Step Ahead
Jerry Studnicka drove a '69 Camaro powered by a Turbonique drag axle.
Art Arfons built this jet-engined 1969 Corvette powered by a Westinghouse J-34 engine. 240 mph top speed. Garth Hardacre was killed on May 10, 1970, at Pittsburgh International Dragway while driving this car.
Walt Arfons built this 1969 Mustang jet car for Bob Tatroe. Jim Taylor was the driver. Taylor was driving in a match race against Garth Hardacre in the Jet Vette when Hardacre was killed. Powered by a J-46 Westinghouse jet engine.
Owned by Walt Arfons. It was driven by Bob Tatroe and Dave Corey, of Dayton, Ohio. Powered by a Westinghouse J-46 engine. While making a run at Walla Walla, Washington, Dave Corey's chute failed to open and he crashed off the end of the strip. He was transported to a hospital and appeared to be recovering, but a few days after the crash, he passed away from complications from the accident on August 21, 1972. Click here to see video footage taken at Great Lakes Dragway in 1971, (1) begins at 1:32 mark and goes to 1:50 mark, and (2) begins at 3:55 mark and goes to 4:08 of the video.
Built and driven by Mike Evegens, of Cape Coral, Florida. Designed by Walt Arfons. Westinghouse J-46 jet engine. At Englishtown on July 30, 1978, "Earthquake" was racing against Frank Mancuso's funny car. When Mancuso got crossed up and veered across the center line, Evegens T-boned him. The jet dragster was totally destroyed in the resulting crash, even the engine. 258 mph top speed.
E. J. Potter, the Michigan Madman, mounted a jet engine on a tricycle. In 1971, he was seriously injured when he was forced to jump from the trike at 120 mph when the chute failed to open. 144 mph known top speed.
Owned by the Studnicka brothers of Worth, Illinois. It was driven by Jim and Jerry Studnicka. Westinghouse J-46 engine. Click here to see video footage of Dragon Breath jet dragster taken at Great Lakes Dragway in 1971, (1) begins at 0:57 mark and goes to 1:16 mark, and (2) begins at 4:30 mark and goes to 4:50 mark of the video.
Courage of Australia
Bill Frederick, of Chatsworth, California, built a 44-foot long rocket car, owned by the Wynn Oil Company. He engaged an Australian geologist, Vic Wilson, to drive it. He turned 5.017 seconds at 311 mph at OCIR. From 1972-74, John Paxson was the driver.
Screaming Yellow Zonker
Craig Breedlove built a rocket-car, designed to be a prototype for another land speed record attempt. Powered by a TRW Energy Systems rocket motor producing 10,000 pounds of thrust. The car cost $150,000 to build. Outlawed by NHRA, but he raced it in Texas and the midwest.
Ky Michaelson, of Bloomington, Minnesota, and Tony Fox of Minneapolis were the owners of this rocket dragster built by Bill Frederick and Dick Keller. The rocket was run at Union Grove before going to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where it set some records with Dave Anderson and Paula Murphy driving in 1972. The first rocket car to be run under NHRA sanction, Anderson turned 283 mph at the 1973 Winternationals. Dave Anderson was killed while driving this dragster at the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the IHRA Southern Nationals on March 30, 1974.
Owned and built by Fred Sibley. J-46 Westinghouse jet-engined 1927 Model T Ford. Driven by Butch Orand. 261 mph top speed. Orand was killed while driving the Maxi Taxi at State Capitol Dragway in Louisiana on July 7, 1973.
Owned by the Studnicka brothers of Chicago. They campaigned Compulsion I, II, and III, beginning in 1972. They were driven by Jim and Jerry Studnicka. Studnicka's Compulsion III J-46 engined dragster, on left in the accompanying photo, is seen racing Bob Motz in his Wildfire dragster. 253 mph top speed. Jerry Studnicka was killed on June 15, 1977, at Englishtown while driving Compulsion III.
Arvil Porter built two rocket engines for Larry Welch, of Hyattsville, Maryland, to power his '72 Harley-Davidson.
Steve and Lesley Evans, of Arcadia, California, co-owned a rocket dragster with John Paxson, who did the driving. In 1974, the dragster garnered sponsorship from Armor All. 336 mph known top speed.
This Ky Michaelson/Tony Fox rocket dragster reportedly debuted at Great Lakes Dragway on Labor Day 1973, with Paula Murphy driving. It was scheduled to make exhibition runs at the 1973 Supernationals, but Murphy crashed the car on September 23, 1973, at Sears Point International Raceway.
Glen Blakely and Arvil Porter built a rocket dragster for Russell Mendez and Ramon Alvarez. Mendez, from Tampa, Florida, piloted the dragster. 325 mph top speed. Mendez was killed at the Gatornationals in Gainesville on March 16, 1975, piloting the rocket dragster. Click here to see video footage of his fatal crash.
Built by Romeo Palamides. Driven by Roger Gustin.
Ky Michaelson built the rocket engine for a rocket dragster owned by Jerry Hehn, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In September 1974 at Napierville Dragway in Quebec, Canada, Hehn crashed, was uninjured, but destroyed the car. He rebuilt it and engaged Vern Anderson to be his driver. But during testing of the car at a gravel pit in Wisconsin, Hehn was killed while at the wheel in a freak accident on April 20, 1977.
Ky Michaelson built a rocket dragster that was driven at several drag strips in 1974 by Ed Ballinger, of Minneapolis. At Great Lakes Dragway Ballinger set a new track record with a run of 5.65 seconds. His best time was 5.62 at almost 280 mph. He also raced at Minnesota Dragways and Miami-Hollywood Speedway Park. Ballinger was a former auto daredevil stunt driver and had once fought a 305-pound wild Russian boar with a pipe. "You can get a lot of offers to do a lot of stupid things," said Ballinger. "Thank God, most of mine are behind me, and now I'm in a nice, safe race car [Freedom's Flame], just trying to go fast." Click here to see video footage of the rocket dragster and Ed Ballinger and his brother, Ray, the crew chief. Includes footage of the rocket dragster running at Minnesota Dragways.
Romeo Palamides built a jet dragster powered by a Westinghouse J-34 engine for Al Eierdam, of Riverside, California. 257 mph known top speed. Click here to see video footage of a run made in Canada in 1977. Click here to see video footage of "Emergency 1" in a match race against Doug Brown's "Wildfire" in 1980 at OCIR.
Owned and driven by Bob Motz, of Rockford, Illinois. Doug Brown bought the car from Motz in 1978, but shortly thereafter the car was destroyed in a crash. Click here to see video footage, begins at 6:36 mark and goes to 7:03 mark of the video.
Ky Michaelson built a rocket-engined go-kart for George Lavigne, of St. Paul, Minnesota, Lavigne, 22-years-old, was killed while driving the kart at Wisconsin International Raceway on July 24, 1976.
Ky Michaelson built a rocket-engined go-kart for brothers Rick and Pat Best, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. 248 mph top speed.
Built by Romeo Palamides. Initially powered by a Westinghouse J-85, but replaced at some point by a Westinghouse J-34 engine. Driven by Roger Gustin, Tom Brown, and Scott Collins. 255 mph known top speed.
Hydrogen peroxide-powered CanAm-looking rocket car owned by Ky Michaelson. Driven by Doug Brown. 293 mph top speed. Car dismantled at end of 1977 season.
Ky Michaelson, of Bloomington, Minnesota, built a rocket dragster that was driven by Ed Ballinger. 347 mph known top speed. Click here to see video footage of "Conklin Comet" rocket dragster at Minnesota Dragways.
FOR Special/Sherbits Special
Jet engine dragster powered by a Westinghouse J-34-48 engine was built by Romeo Palamides. Driven by Roger Gustin and Lorne Cook. From 1976-77 it was sponsored by F & F four-hour cough medicine. 251 mph known top speed. From 1978-80, it was sponsored by F & F Laboratories, candy makers. 284 mph top speed.
Armor-All Special/Age of Aquarius/U.S.A. Rocket 1
John Paxson and Steve Evans, of Chatsworth, California, built a rocket dragster which they called the Armor-All Special. 243 mph known top speed. In about 1976, they sold the rocket dragster to Ray Alley who renamed it "Age of Aquarius." Alley drove it for a couple of years before selling it in about 1979 to Hayden Proffitt, of Garden Grove, California. Driven by Brad Proffitt. 333 mph known top speed. Click here to see video footage filmed by ABC-TV.
Lew Arrington, of Aston, Pennsylvania, spent 2 1/2 years and over $25,000 designing and building a rocket funny car using a 1973 Ford Mustang body. By all accounts this is the very-first rocket funny car. It was the first rocket funny car to be licensed by NHRA. 249 mph known top speed.
Spirit of 76
Sammy Miller and Ken Poffenberger of Wayne, New Jersey, made a rocket-engined funny car using a 1976 Ford Mustang II. It recorded times in the 5-second bracket and over 250 mph. Sammy Miller was the principal driver.
John Platek, of Markham, Illinois, owned a Westinghouse J-34 powered jet dragster. He had a succession of different drivers including Scott Collins, Bill Crane, and Ted Gibson. 230 mph known top speed. Gibson, of Crete, Illinois, was killed driving the jet dragster at Edmonton International Speedway in Canada on August 27, 1981.
Frank Oglesby, of Atlanta, Georgia, and Jim Johnson. J-34 Westinghouse jet engined dragster. Shown in this photo racing against Bill Mattio's "Chicago Fire" jet dragster in 1977. Mattio ran "Chicago Fire from 1977
Fearless Fred Goeske
Fred Goeske, of Canoga Park, California, ran two rocket funny cars in 1977: "Chicago Patrol" and this 1977 Chevy Monza rocket car. 357 mph known top speed.
Chapman Automotive of Chicago built a AA funny car with a 1975 Ford Mustang II body. It was a promotional device for the Chicago police department. Pat Foster was the driver. Ed O'Brien bought the funny car and sold it to Fred Goeske, of Canoga Park, California. Goeske turned it into a rocket funny car, retaining the whirling, flashing emergency light feature. Ed Ballinger was the principal driver, but it was also driven by Gordon Mineo. Goeske reportedly ran with a '77 Mustang II body in 1977 and later. 246 mph known top speed.
Slamin' Sammy Miller, of Stanhope, New Jersey, built and drove a rocket-engined funny car. 306 mph known top speed. Click here to see video footage of Miller's rocket funny car at Santa Pod, England, in 1982. Click here to see more video footage of "Vanishing Point" at Santa Pod.
Chicago Fire/Lonestar Lightning/Pass-a-Fire/Jet Force
Bill Mattio. J-34 Westinghouse jet engined dragster. 280 mph top speed. He built a new Chicago Fire jet dragster in 1984 with a Pratt & Whitney J-12 engine, having sold his old Chicago Fire dragster to Charlie Hand in 1985. Hand named it Lonestar Lightning. Charlie Hand and Tommy O'Brien, of Garland, Texas, initially employed a Pratt JT-12 engine. Hand drove it himself, but in about 1986, he turned over the driving first to Jerry Segal (of Reseda, California), then to Rod Phelps. The car had a succession of drivers including Marvin Celsur, Tommy Brown, Tom Dargewich, Tammy Gatlin, and Dick Rosberg. 298 mph top speed. In about 1996, the car was sold to Chuck Haynes, who renamed it "Pass-a-Fire" and installed a Pratt & Whitney J-60 jet engine. Leland Blee was its driver. In 2001, Jett Field, of Pocatello, Idaho, bought the jet dragster and renamed it "Jet Force." Field was killed while driving this jet dragster at Spokane Raceway Park in July 2003. Click here to see video footage taken in 1980 at OCIR. Click here to see video footage of Jett Field running at Firebird International Raceway. Click here to see Pass-a-Fire running in Japan; begins at 6:53 minute mark of the video.
Raul Cabrera and Ronnie Poole built this solid-fuel propelled VW rocket car over the course of three years. At the time, it was the only rocket car using solid fuel. 150 mph top speed. While testing the car at Vandenburg Airport in Brandon, Florida, Poole was killed on March 4, 1981. High winds caused him to lose control of the car while traveling at about 150 mph.
After his "Earthquake" jet dragster was destroyed in a crash at Englishtown in July 1978, Mike Evegens had Lee Austin build another jet dragster, more streamlined than his "Earthquake" dragster. 280 mph known top speed.
Terry O'Hare, of Re-Car Consolidated Industries in Sunshine, Australia, built a jet truck using a Ford Louisville LNT 7000 semi tractor powered by a Rolls Royce Avon Mark I engine (on left in above photo). Larry Ormsby was the driver. It had its maiden run at Calder Raceway in Melbourne in a match race against Tyrone Malone in the "Super Boss." The Australian jet truck dragster was beaten by Malone. In 1979 it broke an Australian land speed record. From 1985-89, it was being listed for sale. Click here to see video footage of the match race between Tyrone Malone and "Waltzing Matilda."
This jet dragster was originally built in 1978 by Lee Austin for Les Schockley, of Santa Ana, California. Hayden Proffitt bought it in 1980 and drove it before selling it to Bill Carter, of Atascadero, California, in 1982. It was powered by a Westinghouse J-34 engine. 278 mph known top speed. Click here to see video footage of the Hot Streak jet dragster. Click here to see video footage of Shockwave in 1980 at Sacramento.
Lee Austin, from Chicago, built and drove a jet dragster powered by a Westinghouse J-34. The dragster only made a few exhibition runs at strips in the midwest before crashing. 250 mph known top speed.
For almost four decades, Bob Motz, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, has campaigned a jet semi-tractor truck powered by a General Electric J-79 engine. His first truck used a '69 Kenworth tractor body. In tests in late 1979, he ran a best of 127 mph, but the track was wet and he didn't turn on the afterburners. But by 1980, he had it up to 237 mph. In 1987, he replaced the body with a 1987 Kenworth tractor body. In 1994, he switched to a '93 Kenworth W-900 body. 234 mph known top speed with the '87 Kenworth. Click here to see a TV interview with Bob Motz and video footage of him at Muncie Dragway in 2013.
Fred Goeske built a rocket-engined go-kart. Sammy Miller drove it due to injuries that Goeske was recovering from at the time. In August 1979, NHRA disallowed running of the kart at any of its sanctioned strips. 145 mph known top speed.
Tommy Ivo campaigned a jet dragster powered by a Westinghouse J-34 engine. Click here to see video footage of Ivo's jet dragster racing Les Shockley's "Shockwave" at OCIR in 1980.
Craig Arfons, of Akron, Ohio. built what newspapers described as No. 33 in the line of Monsters, powered by a Westinghouse J-85. 286 mph top speed. Click here to see video footage of it at the 1987 Jet Car Nationals at Englishtown.