News From The Past
In the news Ford U.S. was building six new era Funny Cars. They were supplied to five U.S. drag racers starting with Don Nicholson, Rupp and Steffy (driven by Eddy Shartman), Kenz and Leslie, Jack Chrisman, Howard Neil and one was given to Ford of Canada (driven by me).
Summer of 1966
In the summer of 1966 I was approached by John Philipps of Ford of Canada to discuss my drag racing career. John asked me if I would be interested in driving for Ford of Canada. I just wanted to go fast and a Funny Car would be perfect. Now that Ford U.S. had a program within their Mercury division to promote the Mercury Comet in the U.S., Ford of Canada at the same time was promoting the Mercury Cyclone, same body style with the minor changes to the front end and rear end of the car. Fran Hernandez of the U.S. Mercury Division had the idea to change the look of the current altered wheel base Funny Car to an actual manufactured car body look and model to promote the sales of new vehicles. This marked the beginning of the new era of modern Funny Cars. Ford U.S. had the right idea to build a Funny Car that looked like a passenger car in shape and size but was intended to set new ET and MPH records. During my early years of drag racing, car manufacturers did not directly sponsor drag racers. However when the mid-60’s came along, they showed more interest in racers such as Barry Poole, John Philipps, Linda Pleva, Scott Wilson, myself and others. Ford of Canada saw the potential for performance car sales and wanted maximum exposure for their vehicles.
Lean and Mean
The fibreglass bodies weighed approximately 225 lbs. The chassis were built by Logghe Stamping Company of Michigan with a rugged (1431) chrome moly steel frame which mounts a unique coil spring and shock absorber rear suspension. In race ready form the complete car weighed in at 1860 lbs.
British Petroleum (B.P.) was my major sponsor for the Mercury Cyclone. The car was named the B.P. Experimental MK I, white body with a black roof. This was the first color scheme used in 1967. The cyclone was named the B.P. Experimental MK I for a good reason. B.P. wanted to test their new oils and lubricants to see how well they would handle the wear and tear of a Funny Car’s 1500 HP engine. I am sure that all the testing that was done helped B.P. to formulate products for high performance engines for the street and track.
Summer of 1967 (Ford 427 SOHC Injected Funny Car S/XS)
The Mercury Cyclone Funny Car was the first car that I had ever driven with an injected 427 Ford Hemi Engine. This engine was unique in every way. It boasted a single overhead cam per head with enough timing chain to make the valve timing very tricky. The car was a ground breaker with its new Flip Top fibreglass light weight body and its Logghe chrome moly chassis. This combination began a new era of Funny Cars thanks to Ford. I started off when the car was brand new running mid 9’s and soon after that I had the car hooked up running low 9’s and mid 8 second runs with the injected Hemi.
During my 1967 and 1968 campaigns with Ford of Canada, I was offered a position at Mainway Ford in Toronto. I was appointed Performance Advisor of Mainway Ford’s racing division. I was involved with all aspects of Mainway’s Performance programs. I decided to leave Mainway and compete in drag racing at a professional level. Driving and maintaining the Funny Car was a full time job.