Limited-Edition Print of 150 (13x19)
signed and numbered by the Artist.
"Winning the NHRA "WinterNationals" back to back, could be the "Highlight" of any Professional Drag Racer's career, the same could be said for winning the "US Nationals" at Indy, two years in a row, but how about winning all four of those races, and doing it all the same car? In fact, how about going into the third year, with the same car, and winning the prestigious, "Us Fuel and Gas Championships" in Bakersfield? Well that's exactly what Roland Leong did with this Kent Fuller built Dragster!
I asked Roland about this car, (the same car in my “Blue Hawaiian” piece) and I was surprised to hear about its evolution.
The car was originally built for Roland to drive, and it had a wheelbase of about 125". Roland had the dubious distinction of having crashed the car on his first pass...Three things happened after that. One, NHRA mandated that drivers had to pass a driving test and receive an "Official" "NHRA License" before they could compete...The second thing that happened was, that Fuller stretched the car out to a 136" wheelbase, and third, Roland hired "Hot-Shoe" Don “the Snake” Prudhomme to drive the car.
With the car revamped, Roland and Prudhomme preceded to win the 1965 NHRA "WinterNationals." They also match raced several times, with the likes of Tom "Mongoose" McEwen, and others. The car was running a Crower injection system at the time, and then Roland decided to switch to "Enderle" injector in hopes of gaining a little more fuel. The car promptly picked up 10mph, but now it was a little on the lean side. Engine builder Keith Black, built Roland what he called a "Monster" of a fuel pump to meet the demands of the new injector...They took the car to "Indy" and handily won the race!
Black had warned Roland to only use the "Enderle" injector with that big fuel pump. So of coarse Roland precedes to buy a huge "Hilborn" injector, to increase the air-intake and keep up with the larger fuel volumes. Also about that time, the "Snake" decided to part ways with Roland to put his own car together, so Roland then hires "Likable" Mike Snively for the 66 season.
As history records, Roland and Mike won the "WinterNationals" and the "US Nationals" that year, but the trusty old Blue car would have one more transition to make. On the way back from "Indy," an unfortunate traffic accident wiped-out the front end of the car. Fuller quickly rebuilt the front-end, and stretched the car for the 3rd time to 155" inches. This was the final configuration of the car, seen here at the 67 "March Meet" in Bakersfield
Critics of the "March Meet" (also known as the US Fuel and Gas Championships), said 1967 was the "Nail in the Coffin," heralding the "End is near" for the once prestigious race. The "Smokers" car club, started this annual event in 1959, and it quickly became the "Drag Racers" Race. The Who’s Who of Drag Racing attended this annual event. It was claimed that some years the race would have close to 150 "Fuelers" in attendance.
As the story goes, the "Smokers" club turned the event over to some Eastern Organizers in 65, but the club stayed on hand to help run the event. By the time 1967 event had arrived, the organizers had promoted the race primarily as a Funny Car event. This in turn didn't sit very well with the dragster folks, and many of them choose not to run the event...Some would say, "The disorganization at the 67 event foretell the near-further end of this once Great race.”
But the 67 event still had a 32 car field, with "Wild Bill" Alexander sitting on the pole with a 7.19 at 212.26, and Ron Rivero holding on to the bump spot at 7.44 at 212.26. (Interesting to note, the number 1 qualifier, and number 32 cars both ran identical speed of 212.26)
Roland arrived at the event with two "Hawaiian's," he recently acquired a new Don Long built car, and hired Mike Sorokin to drive “Hawaiian II” car it at the event. The new car, had the brand new 426 Hemi as a powerplant, while the trusty "old Blue" still ran the 392. Snively qualified 13th at 7.30, and Sorokin ran a 7.37 for the 24th spot. Snively remarked, "This is a heavy toad,” referring to the fact that the new Don Long car was 200 lbs lighter than his car.
Nonetheless, Snively (the "slipper man") did win the event, and did it with little to no tire smoke, as it was rumored that Mike was master at slipping the clutch. But, Roland told me that the "Hilborn" injector had a lean spot right when you stepped on the gas, and this acted as sort of a built-in fuel stop allowing the car to get up and run without a lot of tire spin...
In this painting, we see the 3rd round as Mike takes out Gary Gabelich in the "Purple Gang" car, 7.19 to a 7.25.... Gabelich would later remark, "They just flat ran away from us!"
Roland retired the car later that year, but the Kent Fuller built beauty (Now residing in a Museum in Italy), was the car to beat for 3 years running, and to me that makes it the "Greatest Hawaiian!"