As a young kid, life in my house revolved around sports car racing, which sort of explains my passion for racing, but it also kept me away from the Hot Rod scene. Of course I loved the cars, any cars, so I was glued to the TV for any sort of racing that might be on. There was lots of drag racing on the tube in the Seventies, so I came to know and love names like Garlits, Prudhomme and Muldowney. I came, like many other fans, to regard Big Daddy as the most important figure in drag racing. A living legend.
Last Summer, I had the chance to speak with Garlits by email leading up to a visit to his shop and museum in Ocala, Florida. Don wasn’t going to be there, but he hooked me up with his assistant, Chris Bumpus, who was going to give me a tour of the corner of the museum that most visitors don’t get to see: Garlits’ race shop.
Brian Lohnes over at BangShift came across this fantastic video of Garlits in that same shop, as he puts together the Hemi in Swamp Rat VIII and then fires it up inside the shop. The big beast cackles and spits raw Nitro inside the shop, while also shooting flames from the pipes. The video also cuts to clips of Garlits telling stories of the early days of racing. This stuff is beyond cool.
In his own story, Lohnes notices that Garlits still has a rather impressive set of pipes. Thanks to my conversation with Bumpus, I know that Big Daddy isn’t keeping fit in the weight room. No, even at his advanced years, Don is in another shop across the compound bright and early every day, building flathead cylinder heads for the hot rod community. That’s right, the man who built his rep racing Hemis, is obsessed with flatties!