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Fri, 24 Feb 2012, 17:10 PM

Fuel Altered's Forever II
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2012 Steve Reyes

The AA/FA class was starting to expand in the early 1970's but NHRA stopped that by putting my favorite nitro class into the Super Comp Eliminator. Now instead of having their own eliminations, they had to win their class at NHRA national events and then have a handicap start in the Super Comp qualifiers. The owners did not like this and felt that any sponsorship opportunities would fade because the AA/FA was not being highlighted like the other nitro classes of Top Fuel and Funny Cars. Also, Pro Stock was being touted as the next big thing since sliced bread.

Yes, there was a nationwide tour of Fuel Altereds that hoped to get the drag fans interested in the class. But while the class remained strong in Southern California, it was still weak in most of the United States. Seeing that the money that the Funny Car and Top Fuel cars were securing, many of the Fuel Altered owners switched cars and classes and the fate of the Fuel Altereds was sealed. Without the show of Altereds at the Southern California tracks, the open altered shows vanished as well.

Not all owners succumbed to the Funny Car temptation, some reinvented their cars by putting their Roadster, Bantam or Fiat bodies on a Funny Car chassis. However, for me and many other fans of this once mighty class it wasn't the same.

If you still wish to relive those Fuel Altered memories, I have been helping the folks at ACME Diecast with their Fuel Altered line. They have some really cool diecast coming featuring The Super Rat Fiat, Twentieth Anniversary Rat Trap (CHRR Special), The Harrell and Borsch Winged Express, Pure Hell, Randy Bradford's Fiat, and Pure Heaven. For release dates and pricing go to

If you wish to purchase prints of the photos below, they may be obtained by contacting us at Other photos may be viewed by following the link at the bottom of the page at

Comin' at Ya! Frank Pitts in Nick Otto's Warlock AA/FA. The Warlock was one of four Fuel Altereds based in Northern California.

A Fuel Altered favorite in the late 1960's was the Beaver Hunter AA/FA. Here it checks out the bite at Orange County International Raceway.

It was the only Fuel Altered I ever saw with an all steel body. Here is the Thurmond Brothers Wild AA/FA with Butch Thurmond at the controls sideways at Orange County International Raceway.

The only Fuel Altered I ever saw based in Michigan was Stan Rosen's Altered Ego with John Schumacher at the wheel. Stan tuned the 426 Ramcharger Hemi and Schumacher guided the roadster on many a low 7 and high 6 second pass.

The late Gary Hazen drove Top Fuel and Funny Cars but his first love was the AA/FA class. Hazen's Panic AA/FA was a favorite of Southern California fans. Hazen and I did a huge smokey burnout in the pits at Irwindale for the cover of Popular Hot Rodding. The roadster dug two holes through the pavement on the burnout. Oh yeah, the track was closed that day for repaving, so we used the pits. I guess they could fill in those two holes with the left over pavement from the track.

Talk about your nasty Fuel Altered, that was the Hill and Parmer Bad Habit Fiat. This Northeastern based Fiat hauled ass. Bob Parmer and the Charlie Hill Fiat ruled the AA/FA class on the right coast.

Two guys that came on strong in the early 1970's were Don Wilson and Howard Haight. With Don tuning and Howard driving they won many a race at Southern California tracks and won the Fuel Altered Nationals at Tucson, Arizona.

There was a junior and there was a senior Groundshaker and junior was the Fuel Altered. On any given weekend you might find Glen Way, Tom Ferraro or Gary Read at the controls. It was short, had gobs of horse power produced by Bill Demerest. I was a big fan of this AA/FA. If you need to know, Groundshaker senior was the team's Top Fuel car driven by Gary Read.

Another early on AA/FA racer was Lee Lebaron. Lee not only drove and tuned but also built from the ground up many other AA/FA in Southern California.

Okay, here "Rapid" Roger Garten is making a two wheel pass in the Tocco, Harper and Garten AA/FA at Irwindale. This car was a rolling test vehicle for Bishop & Buehl race components.

The Horchar Brothers Super Thief AA/FA had an almost funny car type suspension but it still didn't help with handling. The Thief was a handful for driver Chuck Horchar.

The only Fuel Altered ever to run down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood belonged to Bob Hankins. His Blue Blazer AA/FA was there for a photo shoot for your truly. Bob parked his rig a few blocks from our photo sight, unloaded and fired up the AA/FA and then calmly drove the AA/FA to our photo sight. Yes, it was at night and yes, he was on the city street.

A legend in Fuel Altered wars, the one and only Gabby Bleeker and his 392 Hemi powered Bantam. This Midwest based racer was racing fuel burning roadsters before the class even existed.

The world's fastest Glassman, Dennis Geisler and his Instant T AA/FA. Geisler was one of those AA/FA owner/drivers that held on until the money diminished in the AA/FA class and then he went Funny Car racing.

The world's fastest and quickest pickup truck was The Mob AA/FA. Here driver Ed Moore lines up against Howard Haight in Don Wilson's AA/FA at Irwindale about thirty eight years ago.

The first Rat Trap really looked like a rat trap. George "The Stone Age Man" Hutchinson was at the controls here at Orange County International Raceway. Then came the all new super Trick Rat Trap driven by "Dangerous" Danny Collins. This Rat Trap was one of the best of the show and go race cars. Fast forward about 35 plus years and Ron Hope has kept the spirit of Don Green's Rat Trap alive with his recreation of this very cool AA/FA.

Mike Sullivan owned and drove one of the baddest AA/FA Fiat's ever to grace the quarter mile. When the class was fazed out by NHRA and the race tracks in Southern California started closing, Sullivan quit instead of going Funny Car racing.

I had a great time whenever I photographed Dave & Lynn Hough's Nanook AA/FA. We did some nutty stuff for pix. But it paid off, at least four covers and color spreads in different magazines. Even Hallmark got into the act and did a Springbok puzzle of the green and white striped Nanook.

Ohio's Frank Graf started racing his transplanted Purple Passion A/FA in Southern California and then he got together with Miko Yoshioka and the Stone T was born. First racing it as an injected nitro burner, they would trailer the blower cars. Soon the blown altered drivers complained to promoters about racing the injected Stone T. So the race tracks in Southern California told Frank and Miko that if they wished to race in the Fuel Altered events they must run a blower. Okay, Frank bolted a blower on the Stone T and the duo started mowing the blown Fuel Altereds down in 1971.

Two funny car style altered's were Mac and Suzie McCord's Midwest based the Gorilla AA/FA and Louis Sweet's central California based Sweet Thrills AA/FA.

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