In February, the racing world lost a beloved member when the driving force behind “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, his Wife Pat passed away. Garlits does not often give interviews, so it is rather special that he sat down with the cameras at the 2014 Gatornationals to talk about his love for Pat and her last days. Don’s devotion to his partner of 61 years is clearly evident in this heartfelt piece.
Last Summer, I was fortunate to visit the Garlits Museum in Ocala, Florida, after speaking with Don by email for a few weeks. What I found was a place that is far more than just a collection of drag racing cars. A self confessed pack rat, the Swamp Rat collected stuff from pretty much every race he visited, which has allowed him to set up displays chock full of relevant items around every car in the collection. There is an engine room that features not only a multitude of legendary Hemi engines, but there is an entire wall displaying early Ford Flathead performance intakes and carbs.
Garlits told me that the cars that mean the most to him are obviously Swamp Rat 1, the car that started it all. At the other end of his career is Swamp Rat 34, the car that allowed him to hit 323.04 MPH at over 70 years of age. These and every other Swamp Rat are on display. In the rare case that the original no longer exists, Garlits and his team have built exact replicas.
A second building contains items from the Garlits family’s daily life over the years along with a wide variety of Americana that has been donated, along with many special street and movie cars. It really is worth a visit for anyone who is into automotive history or just cool stuff. If you are lucky, you might just catch Don at work, as he is in the shop building Flathead race engines every day.
Source: YouTube via Bangshift