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Owned and driven by Pomona Drag Strip manager, Chuck Griffith
Built by renowned builder Kent Fuller, body formed by Arnie Roberts
2,000+ horsepower 400 Cubic Inch Chrysler Hemi Supercharged V8 engine
Quarter mile time 7.5+ seconds - 200+ miles per hour
Restored by Bill Turney in 2007
In the era of racing when safety features were mostly a roll bar and some seat belts, Top Fuel dragsters were the trump card of all race cars. Lighting up the rear tires and bellowing pillars of fire and smoke, crowds gathered and covered their ears to get a glimpse of these nitro-methane-powered monsters. When the tree turned green, all 1,500+ horsepower coursed through the rear axle and rocketed the drivers to insane speeds in seconds. Fireballs erupted from the ends of the open headers as they made their way down the drag strip, with crowds cheering as their favorite racer made it to the finish line. Top Fuel was easily cemented as of the most raw and powerful forms of racing to ever grace motorsport.
This dragster was built in 1964 for Pomona Drag Strip manager Chuck Griffith. Built by Kent Fuller, who was renowned for his engineering prowess, and a hand-formed aluminum body by Arnie Roberts. Fuller was the go-to builder of the 60’s, supplying turn-key chassis to all of the top teams and drivers of the day. In addition to Fuller and Roberts’ efforts, the rest of the names of the talented individuals who helped build this car reads like a who’s who list of the Southern California drag racing industry. The padded interior was done by Tony Nancy, Ray Muller supplied the aluminum fuel tank and drive shaft cover, the Summers Brothers supplied the rear end and axles, and Mickey Thompson supplied the rear axle housing. In addition, Weland, Donovan, Hays, Crager, and Airheart also supplied various parts of the car.
Built in just 3 months at the end of 1964, the Starlite dragster was featured in the 1965 February issue of Hot Rod magazine. In the spring it was shipped to England for the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) month-long European tour. In March of 1966 it appeared at the famous Smokers U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships in Bakersfield, California. Pulling double duty, Chuck Griffith not only raced the dragster himself but he also built the nitromethane engine. Between 1966 and 1970 it competed in numerous events up and down the West Coast. It qualified for Top Fuel Eliminator at the 1970 NHRA Winternationals. In the day, the car ran the quarter mile in 7.5+ seconds at 200 + miles per hour!
The car was retired from active competition in the mid 1970s. Bill Turney purchased the car in 1999 and began a full restoration to bring it back its proper glory of the 1960s. The restoration was completed in 2007 and the car appeared at the California Hot Rod Reunion. Every effort was made to put the car back to exactly as it was in the 1960s. All the lettering on the car was hand painted (not vinyl graphics) and correct period-correct decals were supplied by the Wally Parks NHRA museum.
The heart of any dragster is its engine, and this engine is the one you’d want propelling you down the drag strip. A 400 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi supercharged V8 engine topped with a massive Clayton/Mooneyham GMC 6-71 blower, built by Ray Ferry, ensures plenty of power to smoke the competition.
In February of 2009 the dragster made its first appearance at Canepa after being purchased from Bill Turney. Unsurprisingly, the Starlite sold quickly to its most recent owner who remained as its caretaker for over 10 years, only recently returning to Canepa for a second time.
This rare piece of dragster history is ready for its next owner looking for something a little different but the pure essence of motorsport. Early Top Fuel dragsters were the purest essence of racing that a driver could get and gained them the reputation of being the “baddest” ride. Now this Starlite III, restored back to its original specifications and with some of the best names in the racing helping build this car, it is nothing short of a stunning example of early Top Fuel racers.
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