Bruce Larson Tribute Funny Car
Nostalgia Drag World received this from John Worm, owner of Slingshot Dragsters, a well-known chassis building shop located in Grantville, PA…
Guys, we’re really excited! We just tested the Bruce Larson USA-1 Tribute Funny Car Wednesday at Beaver Springs with Bruce himself at the wheel. It's been a wild six months, but I guess I should begin the story by explaining how we got here…..
We have been building nostalgia front engine dragsters for the last six plus years and for over three years people have come up to us asking if we could build a nostalgia funny car chassis. They all have wanted an old school, true nostalgia funny car set up, similar to what we offer the FED crowd.
I originally was going to build a Ford Mustang for my daughter Audrey to drive, figuring we would get a bit of ink out of a 21-year-old girl driving a nitro funny car. After thinking about it for a couple years, I came up with the idea of talking with top fuel funny car world champion Bruce Larson about building a tribute funny car of his iconic 1968 USA-1 Camaro. I called Bruce and we met for breakfast and discussed using the USA-1 logos and paint job to build a tribute car.
We came to an agreement with Bruce to endorse our funny car chassis, for us to build the car, and for Bruce to drive the car at events nationwide this year. At the California Hot Rod Reunion in October when it was announced that we would be building the car, we were greeted with lots of enthusiasm about the project from the fans at the show. We got home the end of the month from California and decided to start the build November 2nd.
My fabricator Jerry and I laid out the frame and built the one-off bare frame in less than a week. We showed it the next weekend at the Bruce Larson Dragfest Show and set our goal to have the car debut at the Gator Nationals in March.
Thirteen weeks later, we fired the motor on Tuesday night at 5 pm; then loaded the car and were on the road to Florida by 7 pm. We arrived Wednesday afternoon and set up in the NHRA Museum display, where we showed the car to thousands of appreciative fans, cackled the car, and even towed the car in front of the grandstands prior to the finals. Man was it cool!
We brought the car back to the shop and pulled the motor we had used at the ‘Gators and installed the new nitro-burning blown big-block Chevy. Bruce came over to put his tune to it, and we set a date to take the car out for a test. That brings us to Wednesday……
We had a new chassis design, a new motor, new ATI Powerglide and converter, new Moser M9 floater rear - new parts throughout - and one old pro, Bruce. A world champion funny car driver was about to drive our very first, serial #1 funny car we built from scratch utilizing our own design and build philosophy. A non-proven design that we built to bring back the glory days of nitro-burning funny cars that actually LOOKED like the real cars. No swoopy body, no narrowed front end, no A-arm front suspension, no huge spoilers with spill plates, and no 16-inch-wide rear tires.
The chassis we had built certifies and is safe, but the ‘68 Camaro is a dead ringer for the original USA-1 Camaro, which actually looks like a 1968 Camaro! Imagine that... a nostalgia top fuel funny car that, well, looks “nostalgia.” We knew we nailed the look after fans told us at the ‘Gators that they saw that car run 45 years ago and we had to tell them it was a replica, a tribute. We were a bit nervous when everyone who saw the car said the 31 x 12 rear tires looked period, but would not hold the car to the track. We had done our homework and put in the gears and transmission we thought would work... yes an automatic transmission, the same thing the original Camaro had. Heck the car even has a starter on it, just like the....well you get the idea!
So Bruce straps in, and we fire the car. He proceeds to do a short burnout so we can get into a routine for later in the year. That done, Bruce backs up, stages and hits the throttle. The car leaves hard, chatters the tires and pulls right over the centerline. The champ reels it back in the lane and coasts out. We review the videos, look at the track and make ONE adjustment that Bruce tells us to do. I mentioned that I had not had him as straight as I preferred and said we would work on the routine of staging him. All agreed and we fueled the car for the next run.
On the second fire up, Bruce rolls through the water and gags the throttle. Burnout number two done, and Bruce stages the car. At the hit of the throttle, the car roars and leaves... HARD! No chatter, no tire spin, no banging off the wheelie bar, just a nice run with the car barely moving around at two hundred feet out. It was a pretty stellar run to almost half track. We chased down the car with the tow vehicle, got Bruce out of the car and huddled to digest the run.
Bruce said it felt good, REAL GOOD. The car handled well, went straight, and left the line perfectly. On 12-inch tires - just like the original! And with a straight axle front end, no high rear spoiler or spill plates, and…have I mentioned it looks like a ‘68 Camaro? It’s what I – and many others – would call a "true” Nostalgia Funny Car. Yes, it may not run a 5-second run at 240, but it does have the look and will exceed the performance of the original car. It will also do half-track burnouts, have a backup girl to help stage it, do dry hops, and put on a show when we race side by side with the Frantic Ford ‘69 Mustang Tribute car.
Come out and see us when we’re at an event near you. It’ll be quite a show - something we are betting the fans really miss and will appreciate!
VIEW BRUCE LARSON SHAKEDOWN TESTING SESSION WITH BRUCE DRIVING
Nostalgia Drag World - by John Worm, SlingshotDragsters.com; Photos by HotRodPortraits.com and SlingshotDragsters.com