The late 1960s was a time when Drag Racing’s popular “doorslammers” were at a cross roads.
In one camp, the development of Pro Stock was just getting started by those who favored racing production-based cars with high-tech, carbureted, gasoline-burning V-8 engines. While another group modified their OEM cars with stripped-down interiors, full roll cages, chassis adjustments and big racing slicks and they powered their so-called Funny Cars with nitromethane-enhanced alcohol-burning V-8 engines that had fuel-injection, superchargers and individual headers.
And one of the best known of this later assemblage was the “Frantic Ford” 1969½ Mustang Mach I that quickly became a contender for top honors all up and down the East Coast.
The yellow and black Nostalgia Funny Car that is seen at Motorsports 2016, however, is a contemporary recreation of the original racer and it is owned and driven by Rocky Pirrone from Philadelphia. Additional financial assistance and marketing for the project was provided by Al Liebmann while Bill Ellershaw and Bobby Toth are part of the crew.
The history of this car, though, actually dates back to the 1960s AA/Fuel Dragster team of drivers Norm Weekly and Ron Rivero, owner Jim Fox and crewmember Dennis Holding.
Known as the “Frantic Four,” this popular Southern California-based operation won the 1966 & 1967 NASCAR Drag Racing Division Top Fuel Championship and the famous 1968 March Meet in Bakersfield, California, with Rivero handling its wheel-standing, supercharged-and-fuel-injected Chrysler Hemi-powered “red rail.”
Then Fox moved to Broomall, Pennsylvania, and began fielding a Mustang Funny Car with sponsorship from K & G Speed Associates and he tagged his entry the “Frantic Ford.” But what makes Pirrone’s version of the car so notable is that as a nine-year-old he helped with the between-round maintenance on the mid-1970s car and his father Joe built its transmission.
First seen in 2013, the modern “Frantic Ford” has all of the latest safety equipment so it is legal to run at any National Hot Rod Association or International Hot Rod Association track. And its 120-inch-wheelbased, wide-style chassis and period-correct, elongated fiberglass body (the mold was taken from Gas Ronda’s original 1969 Ford Mustang) were each built by Steve Grunewald and Dale Smith at Coyote Composites in Jupiter, Florida.
Under the hood, the car is powered by a nitro-fed 426-cubic-inch Chrysler Hemi V-8 engine with Enderle Bug Catcher fuel injection and a GMC 6-71 supercharger. Additional equipment includes: a 2-speed Lenco transmission by Boss Hydro; M&H Racemaster Tires; real 1970s-era magnesium rear wheels; dual drag chutes by DJ Safety; and, a 9-inch Ford rear end.
Simply stated, the “Frantic Ford” is the best of old and new technology and on the drag strip Pirrone’s driving efforts show quarter-mile runs in 6.50 seconds at 220 mph.