24 February 2012

Drag Racing History - Mr. Gasket Mustang


‘Ohio’ George Montgomery was already a successful racer, with his ’34 Ford and then his famous ‘Little Eliminator’ 1933 Willys that took class wins in the NHRA Nationals in ’59, ’60, & ’61.

He became one of the first racers to win consecutive Nationals with his back-to-back victories in Little Eliminator in ’59 & ’60. Throughout the 1960s, George was one of the most frequently booked AA/G supercharged racers on the match-race circuit, going head to head against other now-legendary racers of the day. We’ll get to those in due course…
Drag racing’s popularity soon caught the eye of the Big Three in Detroit, who began recruiting quarter-mile talent for their own factory race teams.
In 1966, George was picked up by Ford as one of the racers selected to develop their new 427ci SOHC hemi engine. He quickly made use of the engine’s power, racking up class wins at the ’66 & ’67 U.S. Nationals along with a class win at the ’67 Winter Nationals (note the space; the words weren’t combined until the ‘70s). At this time, he was still racing with the ’33 Willys body, until Ford persuaded him to race with the current model Mustang body – so that the race-going public could connect the car to the ones being sold in Ford’s showrooms. So in 1967 George built a new car, with the Mustang body on a Willys frame, this car became known as the Malco Gasser.

It has a C6 trans, Ford 9 inch rear with halfshafts made by George along with a number of custom-made items, as his profession before becoming a full-time racer was his machine shop business. He immediately took advantage of the new car’s aerodynamics and subsequent handling: “The Willys was actually a very poor handling car; at the time I never realised as it was the only drag car that I drove.” said George at the time to Hot Rod magazine.

A confusing picture; its the Mr Gasket gasser, but still in the Malco Gasser colour scheme...
The first time out with the Malco Mustang Gasser, it ran in the 9s. The new set-up led him to Super Eliminator titles at the Spring Nationals and Nationals in 1969. Next came the Mr. Gasket Gasser, with a one-off 1969 Mustang Mach 1 handcrafted ‘glass body from the Ford drag racing programme.

A 1933 Willys frame with a 110” wheelbase was again used to meet class rules. The car initially debuted with a blown Cammer, but by 1971 had switched to the turbo Boss 429. The Mustang set six NHRA-certified class records, including a Super Eliminator win at the 1969 US Nationals and wins in the same class at the Gator Nationals in 1973 and 1974.

The car's quiet turbo nature and class dominance caused the NHRA to eventually saddle the car with a 0.50-second index, and then in 1975, the rulebook outlawed the turbos. Montgomery's car typically ran mid 8s in the quarter at nearly 170 mph. Regarding the Boss 429 as a drag race engine, Montgomery has been quoted as saying: "I don't know that it was ever a very good normally aspirated drag motor, but it sure did love boost. We dyno'd it at Sonny Meyer's shop in the early '70s, and it was making 1,800 horsepower."

Although the switch to the Mustang body in 1967 improved the performances of his cars, the move proved costly to the class. The newer bodies didn’t have the identity with the fans that was established with the older body styles and the emerging late-model Funny Cars began to grab the fans' attention.

At its sale at RM auctions in 2009
Period pics with the blown SOHC fitted

After back-to-back wins in the Gatornationals ('73 & '74), Montgomery retired the car and built a turbocharged '74 Pinto. The Mustang was retired from drag racing in 1975 (the same year turbos were banned by the NHRA) and Montgomery stored the car in "a little spot behind my office." Car collector Bob Perkins coveted the car for years, saying that George preserved the car in a Plexiglas cubicle. Montgomery sold the '33 Willys, now in the possession of the Henry Ford Museum, and the Malco Gasser '67 Mustang, on display in the Petersen Museum, but the '69 Boss was his favorite car. He says the '69 was never restored because "it never got dirty." This car is in the same guise as it was in '75 and the condition looks amazing.
Montgaomery sold the car through RM Auctions in 2009, but the car became available again, much to Perkins delight. said, "I could never have bought that car if the owner hadn't gotten into financial trouble. He paid Montgomery a million and a quarter for the car and I bought it for a fraction of that price."
More about the car in 2011 here.

Montgomery retired from drag racing in 1985 at the age of 53 and still operates, with his son Gregg, George's Speed Shop in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.

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