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Getting Nostalgic with Mark Fullard's Junior Digger

Getting Nostalgic with Mark Fullard's Junior Digger
26.7.05. E-bay has a lot to answer for.   We’ve all heard stories about buyers ending up with purchases not quite as described, but on the other hand, there are undoubtedly far more satisfied customers out there with only good things to say about this trading revolution.  Mark Fullard’s experiences are of the latter kind.  Being something of a nostalgia drag racing fanatic, he’s a regular net surfer and stumbled across a complete, turn-key, front-engined dragster for sale in the US while trawling through the ads.  He was not in a financial position to purchase the whole shebang, however, and eventually let it drift away.  As it transpired, the car attracted little interest from potential buyers, and ended up unsold.


350 Chevy with Enderle injection looks era perfect

Fast Forward by a few months, and Mark is now in the US with his wife at the 2003 California Hot Rod Reunion.  There, friend Steve Dennish of Limeworks Speed Shop informs him of a neat old dragster for sale on e-bay and suggests he should take a look.  On further inspection, it turns out to be the same car, but minus motor and transmission.  More importantly, it’s now within Mark’s budget.  A few days later, and the auction ended with Mark having registered the highest bid – the dragster was his.  There was a slight problem, however, as the slingshot was in Oregon, and Mark was by now back in his home city of Birmingham.  Enter 'kiwi' Steve Davies (the original  builder of the Thacker & Shine roadster), who just happened to be passing through Oregon at the right time with a trailer in tow.  Soon after, the car was in LA awaiting shipping, and it eventually arrived in the UK in February 2004.

 
Classic proportions of those early FED's are hard to beat

So what exactly had Mark purchased?  The car was originally built by Frank Huszar at Race Car Specialities in 1966, and because of the narrowness of the rails, Mark suggests it was built as a Junior Fuel car.  However, the car never ran in the '60s - it was stored from 1966 to 1996 in a body shop in Dufur, Oregon.  The chassis was updated in 1996, with a five-point roll cage and kidney bars but it still didn't see action until the year 2000.  It’s interesting to note that the updates have been achieved while retaining the classic look of a ‘60s digger, and there’s no doubt the car looks fabulous from any angle. This is a true new, old stock racecar, and was only painted for the first time a few years ago. From 2000 to 2003, the car ran in Nostalgia Eliminator with a 427 cu. in. bored and stroked, small-block Chevy and achieved very respectable quarter-mile times, in the 7.65 at 173mph range.    

 
Attention to detail makes this car stand out. Mark even managed to find himself some period-style head gear

Having purchased the car sans engine and trans, Mark sensibly opted for a relatively stock 350 cu. in. Chevy (380bhp approx) borrowed from good friend, Martin Payne, and equipped with an Enderle mechanical fuel injection system (again via e-bay) to get his first experiences of a slingshot on the drag strip.  The motor is hooked up to a shorty Powerglide with drive through an updated back axle equipped with a Mark Williams/Chrysler 83/4 casing equipped with 3.90 gears and Willwood four-pot callipers.  Rolling stock includes American Racing five-spoke wheels with Goodyear rubber at the rear, and Hallcraft wires fitted with rare Avons up front.

 

The first public outing in the UK for the 160-inch wheelbase digger was the Historic Motorsport Show at Stoneleigh, in February 2005, where it made a static appearance.  The first competitive run for the silver Metalflake machine came a few months later, at Gary’s Picnic, when Mark put down an exploratory 11.6-second pass at 113mph.  

“When you are this low to the ground the sensation of speed is immense,” Mark enthused at the time.  “The car feels better the faster you go, and it gives you a real buzz when you cross that finish line.”


Car retains feel of original in spite of being updated 

At their last outing, the Nostalgia Nationals at Shakespeare County Raceway, the team suffered mixed fortunes on track with an off-sounding motor, which effectively curtailed any opportunity of increasing terminal speeds or reducing elapsed times.  After considerable detective work, the problem was diagnosed as blocked injectors, but by the time the difficulties were resolved, it was too late for another attempt.   As ever in motor racing, though, it’s a case of “onwards and upwards”, and Mark and his team are now looking forward with real excitement and anticipation to the next outing for their classic slingshot - the Hot Rod Drags at SCR in August.

Mark would like to pass on special thanks to Steve Dennish for his help in obtaining and forwarding most of the hardware needed to complete the car, and for his input  in sealing the deal in the first place. 

Story & Photos:  Andy Kirk

 
 
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