As the new century begins, there appears to be a resurgence of interest in older Funny Cars. Once relegated to bracket duty with Brand X powerplants, more and more classic examples of the cars that ran from 1967 to 1975 are being brought back to life. This Duster owned by Bob Gibson is one such example.
Gibson has a lifelong interest in the sport. He not only works directly for NHRA as a truck driver on the Safety Safari, but he's also the founder of the Nostalgia Funny Car Association, a vintage flopper enthusiast group. We caught up with Bob and his latest project at the Goodguys Hot Rod Nationals in Indianapolis, where his success in securing backing from American Racing Wheels supplied 10 of the vintage beasts, most of which are still capable of running the quarter-mile.
Bob has owned a variety of Funny Cars since the '70s, including restoring the original '72 Chi-Town Hustler Challenger (now on display in the NHRA Historical Collection in Pomona, California) and this '73 Duster-his second such restoration project. The A-Body flopper surfaced in early 2000 in Sewell, New Jersey, and was not much more than a repainted pile of fiberglass and a well-used chassis. Despite the effort needed to overhaul the car, the purchase was made and then it was brought back to Springfield, Illinois. Not wasting any time, Bob completed it by June 2000, in time for the Goodguys meet. Brian Patterson and the staff at American Custom Racing Wheels deserve special credit for financing the effort so it could debut at the event.
The car had quite a storied history behind it. During the heyday of Funny Car racing, these cars were frequently abused. Heavy loads of nitromethane, bumpy racetracks, and nighttime racing made accidents, fires, and other disasters a common occurrence. The chassis was originally under the Bob Banning Dodge Challenger in 1972. Harlan Thompson and the crew at Dragsters Incorporated of Richmond bought it shortly after and mounted a Mustang body to it, renaming the car Tom & Jerry. In 1973 the Duster body became part of the operation, replacing the Mustang, and Bob Mayer took over the controls. The Duster was remonikered Tom & Jerry's Nitemayer, living up to its name when Mayer mowed down the Christmas tree with it at Gainesville in 1974.
Gibson looked at the history and decided it needed to be clocked back to 1973. The vintage Logghe chassis was refurbished, using the original torsion-bar-type front suspension. American Custom racing wheels and M/T rubber are on all four corners. In the rear, the car uses a solid mount suspension and a Dana 60 with JFZ disc brakes, and Bob did the tinwork himself. A Chute Metal parachute is packed into the rear pocket to assist the brakes in slowing the car.
Meanwhile, the tired body was patched, prepped, and the tinwork was updated by Bob, then it was turned over to Spain Brothers for paint. Since the exact original colors were unknown, the car was redone using PPG Competition Orange and Viper Yellow for the main colors, with the lettering done by Canham Graphics, and Bob doing some of the airbrush work himself.
Since the car had run with a Donovan engine, a suitable 392 iron-block mill was put together. This new engine was so fresh, the crew didn't fire it up until the weekend we shot it. Inside the short-block is a Reath Automotive crankshaft, Venolia pistons, Howards rods, with a Crane roller in the center of it all keeping time. A Donovan geardrive keeps the rest of the Crane valvetrain lined up with the pistons. Mondello Head Service, another name out of the past, supplied a set of iron heads using Donovan valves, while a Crager intake sporting a 6-71 Littelfield blower and an Enderle injector top off the combination. Hedman headers and a Mallory magneto ignition round out the engine. Behind this package is a two-speed automatic put together by Trans Specialties. This uses a TCI converter and Trans Specialties valvebody, with Bob throwing shifts using a Hurst Quarter Stick II. A 4.56:1 Richmond gear, coupled with Strange hardware, puts the horsepower to the pavement.
No project such as this is one-man job, and although Bob did a lot of the work, he spreads the credit around. In addition to backing from American Racing Wheels, M/T Tires, Kendall GT 1 Oil, and Crane Cams, he passes kudos to crew chief Terry Scoverni, wife Glenda, Cam Scoverni, and Bob Hamelton. Scott Hughes and Alex Stoddard also helped out.
With a cost of more than $25,000, the Tom & Jerry Duster is ready to return. As mentioned, the team was putting the finishing touches on the machine at Indy, so it unfortunately did not get a lap in at that event. However, if Bob has anything to say about it, the Duster will again be tripping the light fantastic in the near future-just like in the old days.
'73 Duster Funny Car Restoration
Owner/Driver: Bob Gibson
Crew Chief: Terry Scovern
Body: '73 Duster; ex-Tom & Jerry AA/Funny Car
Chassis: Logghe Stamping Company; ex-Bob Banning Dodge
Wheels: American Custom Racing
Engine: 392 iron Hemi
Crank: Reath Automotive
Heads: Chrysler iron by Mondello
Oil Pan: Milodon
Oil: Kendall GTl
Transmission: Two-speed/Trans Specialties
Rear: Dana 60 with 4.56:1 Richmond gear
Bodywork: Bob Gibson
Paint: Spain Brothers
Crew: Glenda Gibson, Cam Scovern, Bob Hamelton