19 August 2011
Drag Racing History - Dick Landy's 1964 Dodge: The First 'Funny Car'
In the spring of 1964, Chrysler Corporation built a small number of Dodges and Plymouths powered by its new 426 ci Hemi engine. These were to be used in sanctioned drag racing. California racer "Dandy" Dick Landy was given access to one of the first of these cars, a Dodge 330, and he campaigned it during the summer of '64. These cars were raced in NHRA's Super Stock class with either automatic or 4-speed transmissions. Dick Landy competed in this class at the "U.S. Nationals" on Labor Day weekend of '64 with his silver Dodge. The car had an automatic trans so it was lettered with "SS/A,", super stock automatic, and its competition number "676".
In the fall of 1964 Landy decided to go "match racing" so he made several radical changes to his car. To reduce weight he removed all of the front suspension and replaced it with leaf springs and a solid front axle from a Dodge van. Because traction can be improved by having the rear axle carry the majority of a car's weight, Landy relocated the rear axle forward about 8 inches. The front suspension was moved forward about 6 inches. These changes moved the majority of the car's weight over the rear tires. Landy used the car in this configuration for numerous match races in me last few months of 1964.
In late 1964 Chrysler was building 1965 production cars and several special race cars, the "A/FX's" for the upcoming 1965 racing season. About a dozen of these cars were to be built with the rear axles moved forward 15 inches and the front wheels moved up 10 inches. These were at first called "altered wheelbase" cars and they were intended to compete in NHRA's "A", factory experimental class ("A/FX"). However, given an early preview of me first altered wheelbase car, the NHRA abandoned this idea.
Also in late 1964 some unknown individual observed that the radically altered wheelbase Mopars appeared somewhat silly-looking from the side view. The front wheels were almost touching the front bumper while the rear wheels were very close to the doors. This person came up with the phrase "funny car." Chrysler went ahead and completed several of the A/FX cars. They first raced at the winter AHRA meet in Phoenix in early 1965. Dick Landy received one of the altered Dodges and he ran at this meet. In films of this event the announcer was calling the Mopars the "first funny cars".
Note that Landy's 1964 Dodge was converted to an altered wheelbase configuration and was at the strips at least three months before the factory's '65's raced at Phoenix. Although the factory '65's had more "alteration" (10" front/15" rear versus Landy's 6" front/8" rear) it is clear that Landy's 1964 Dodge is truly a "funny car". Since Landy's 1964 Dodge was on the tracks first, it could legitimately claim the title of "The First Funny Car".