South Central

By Danny White

The 1980s brought us some great racers and pretty funny cars from Division 4. Featured are the well-known, like John Collins, to the obscure, like “The Okie.” — Updated Sep 25, 2005

John Collins was a Californian but moved to Oklahoma in the early eighties. The move to Oklahoma allowed Collins to be centrally located in the United States closer to the races. Collins brought the ‘Audio Express’ to Oklahoma. Pioneer and JVC had sponsored Collins. It was in the ‘JVC Audio Express’ Camaro that Collins had his most success. The car was tuned by famed tuner Bob Creitz from Oklahoma. The first Hume & Foster built ‘JVC Audio Express’ was destroyed in a two-car accident. Ed McCulloch crossed the centerline destroying both cars. The accident was played over and over on television. The rebuilt ‘JVC Audio Express’ was Collins’ best car ever. Collins raced it until the end of his career in 1986. Collins won the Arizona Nationals and ran a best of 5.67, 257.14 with the car according to draglist files. (Photo courtesy of Dave Ferrin; info courtesy of files)

The St. Moritz Daytona is one of the most beautiful funny cars of the eighties. The Dick Moritz owned Daytona debuted with a win in early ’85 at the Green Valley Division 4 race. The paint design was by Kenny Youngblood. Mopar Performance provided the Daytona body with the latest aerodynamics. Jim White drove the car in 1985 and ’86. Ron Dudley drove the car in 1987. Jim White ran a 5.77 best with the car while Dudley ran 5.69. Dick Moritz ran the ‘St. Moritz’ out of his Moritz Machine in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rick Ballantine was the tuner of the car. The Daytona body was damaged in an explosion at the 1987 U.S. Nationals. The ‘St. Moritz’ Daytona was patched but was not the same beautiful car. (Photo provided by Dave Ferrin; info courtesy of files)

Jim White built his own funny car team in 1987. White had been the hired driver for other teams since the mid-seventies. White bought the one-year-old ‘Pegasus’ Firenza from Bill Daily. The ‘Mohawk Express’ got its name from Jim White’s family business of carpet sales. White raced at Midwest races in 1987. Bob Creitz tuned the car to a 5.70, 240.16 best. The team only lasted one year in 1987. Jim White sold the team and took a full-time ride in Roland Leong’s funny car. (Photo courtesy of Dave Ferrin; info from files)

Paul Gordon had his finest moments in AA/FC racing with the Dickie Williams 1981 Horizon. Paul Gordon was a police officer by trade and funny car racer on weekends. Gordon had driven funny cars for more than a decade by the time the Dickie Williams Horizon came into the picture. Gordon had been teamed with Denton resident Dickie Williams for most of his funny car career. The team began racing the Horizon in 1983. The car was typical of the day: Casarez chassis, ½’ Keith Black Hemi. The high point of the team’s season came at the U.S. Nationals. Gordon ran his best ever times with a 5.92 at 243.58 to break into the first-ever all five-second funny car field. The run was also Gordon’s first five. Gordon and Williams continued to race the car into the 1985 season until they both retired from racing. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Roetman; info from files)

Ezra Boggs’ ‘Moby Dick’ Corvette had the perfect match of paint design and body style. In my mind, the whale paint design would have not worked with anything other than the Corvette body. Boggs matched the car’s great looks with performance. He bought the ‘Moby Dick ‘ Corvette and the use of the name from Steve Gold. Jamie Sarte built the chassis in 1976. Boggs had sponsorship from G&K Fiberglass, so he got a new body for the car each year. (Astute funny car fans noticed subtle paint differences in each body). Boggs ran the Corvette mostly in match races until 1985. Boggs ran 6.10, 250 with one of Henry Velasco’s Keith Black engines. Boggs has rebuilt the ‘Moby Dick’ and plans on running the car in Nostalgia Funny Car. (Photo courtesy of Jim White; info files)

Gordon Mineo was a funny car veteran of 13 years by the eighties. Mineo began his funny car career in California but moved to Rockwall, Texas. The move allowed Mineo to be closer to his match race dates. The beautiful black Trans Am was built in 1979. Mike Burkhart was a partner in the car at first but was gone by the time of this photo. The pair had a less than friendly split. The Trans Am was good for low sixes. Mineo quit racing at the end of the 1980 season. He returned to race in 1990. The Trans Am became Ronny Young’s ‘Shock Wave.’ Young won several races with the car in TA/FC. (Photo courtesy of Steve Kirkpatrick; info from files)

Fuzz Miller was from Lakeway, Texas, but based the Miller Brothers operation out of California. Miller resurrected Bob Sullivan’s old name. The ‘Pandemonium’ Challenger was Miller’s second and his best funny car. The first funny car was a Trans Am. The Trans Am, under the Miglizzi family, was a learning experience. Miller’s racing luck started clicking after getting the new Challenger. Miller hired famed tuner Bernie Lewis to tune and oversee the car for 1981. Bernie Lewis had tuned for Tom McEwen and the Super Shops funny car. The Challenger was a 120-inch wheelbase car with a ½’ stroke Keith Black Hemi. Lewis tuned the ‘Pandemonium’ to best times of 6.06 at 237.65. Fuzz Miller finished in the NHRA Top Ten in 1981, then retired after the season. Wally Giavia bought the car and the use of the ‘Pandemonium’ name. (Photo provided by Mike Ditty; info from files)

Dale Tuter’s last funny car was the former ‘Beartown Shaker.’ Tuter bought the Chevy Citation from Bill Schifsky, who had retired from funny car racing. Tuter brought the car back to Oklahoma and renamed it the ‘Wondrous Thunder.’ Tuter raced the car infrequently from ’84 to ’87, mostly in match races. As you can see, the ‘Wondrous Thunder’ suffered a fire along the way, ruining the beautiful candy orange and blue paint job. Tuter struggled with the tune-up for a couple of years, then in 1986, hired famed tuner Amos Satterlee. Satterlee’s tune-up got Tuter to run a 6.36 on the slippery Alamo Dragway, making the run more amazing. The car was standard issue when Sarte built it in 1980. It featured the standard ½’ Keith Black Hemi with a 2-speed transmission. Tuter altered the body before selling the car and retiring in 1987. (Photo courtesy of Hugh Munro; info courtesy of files)

Chris Berg was a New York native who began his drag racing career there. Berg was only a teenager when he started at New York National Raceway. Chris made the move to Texas and kept on racing. Berg made it to the Top Fuel and AA/FC ranks. He drove the ‘Hired Gun’ dragster and funny car. In 1978, Berg had T-Bar Chassis in Dallas build the first ‘Texas Yankee.’ A Keith Black ½’ stroke Hemi was used for power. Berg was a regular in Texas funny car match racing and made the occasional national event like the AHRA Nationals in San Antonio. Chris was not a big winner but his showmanship and dependable performances earned him match race dates. The Challenger ran a best of 6.36 at 238.09. A new Corvette body replaced the old Challenger in the middle of 1986. In his final race, Berg ran a 6.05 at 240 at the first Chief Auto Parts Nationals. (Handout photo from Danny White collection; info from files)

‘The Okie’ Vega was a well-traveled car by the time the eighties came around. ‘The Okie’ was the second funny car Jim Roberts raced under that name. Jim built the Vega in 1974 and raced it into the early eighties. The car was never a great performer, usually qualifying in the bottom half of the field when it qualified. Roberts ran a 426 cast iron block Chrysler Hemi long after the motor was out of style. Jim was the usual driver, but Dale Tuter drove the car to its best times. Dale got the car to run 7.10 at 201 at an AHRA race in 1981. The Gitthens Bros. converted ‘The Okie’ Vega to a TA/FC in 1984. (Photo courtesy of Chris Stinson; info from files)