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Wed, 24 Dec 2014, 11:13 AM

The Rebirth of the Filthy Forty
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2014 Steve Reyes

A big part of the drag racing world these days is nostalgia. NHRA has really fueled this fan favorite with their Hot Rod Reunions in California, Kentucky and now New England. These events showcase the cars and stars of the golden years of drag racing and show the current crop of drag fans how the sport has evolved into the modern sport of today.

Now a big part of these nostalgic events are restored and recreated cars that were the most popular ever to grace a quarter mile. This is where Larry and Wanda Blanchet fit into our nostalgia based tale. The Blanchet's of Skowhegan, Maine love everything Willys. I first crossed paths with them over fifteen years ago when I ventured to Maine to photograph their pro street Willys. Their Willys was a beautiful candy red creation and I spent almost half a day shooting photos and hangin' with Larry and Wanda at their place in no-where Maine. Now, fast forward to this year's NHRA Gatornationals and I was in the Legends tent next to gas coupe star Barb Hamilton signing autographs with a bunch of Legends of drag racing. As we were finishing up a pretty woman stepped up and asked if I remembered her? This could be an awkward moment for most people but not a photographer with a photographic memory. I responded, "Hello, Wanda, long time, no see." She was floored I had remembered her from fifteen years ago. Anyway, we spoke about their tribute car they now own which is the Charlie Hill/Pork Zartman Filthy Forty C/G Willys coupe.

Wanda told me that they found the car in Pennsylvania in December of 2003 through a friend, Bruce Caswell. The car was an all metal C/G car believed to have come out of the Midwest but they were unable to fully trace the history of the car. The car was in really good shape when they found it and the only thing that wasn't original to the car was the 1941 center section which had been replaced with a 1940. The firewall and front floor had been cut out of it and the frame had been modified.

So the Blanchet's gutted out the frame, boxed the rails and built new cross members for the car. They installed a 1957 'Olds rear with home-built ladder bars. Then drilled out the front axle and added a disc brake set-up. Next they stuffed a 392 Hemi-blown with Hilborn injectors into the ample engine compartment, after which they installed the body and made a new firewall and floor to fit around the motor and transmission. Then the rear fenders had to be repaired as they had been cut out too large. Now it was time for the paint job, so the Blanchet's took everything apart, smoothed the body and chassis for paint.

About this time they saw an article in Gasser Wars Magazine on Charlie Hills Filthy Forty. They loved the look of the white stripe on dark grey primer. However, they did change the grey primer to satin black primer. At this point of the retro gasser project they had become friends with Pork Zartman and the S&S gasser race team. In 2007, the S&S team were asked to be Grand Marshall's of the Gasser Reunion in Thompson, Ohio. The S&S team had all finished their cars so the Blanchet's asked Pork if he would like them to letter the car up so he could use it for the reunion. He was flattered with the offer and took them up on it. The car was a bit hit and Pork had a great time at the event. The car has stayed lettered like that ever since the event in 2007. Pork got to drive the car at the Willys Home Run event in Buffalo, New York but his biggest thrill was driving it at the NHRA US Nationals which was his 45th Anniversary of winning his class in 1963.

Pork Zartman got to enjoy his glory days all over with the help of Blanchet's retro Filthy Forty. Pork passed away on March 28, 2010 which was very ironic because it was Larry Blanchet's birthday. The Blanchet's will continue to travel and display their Willys and keep the memory of Charlie Hill and Pork Zartman alive.

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

No fiberglass, it is an all steel body Willys from
the Midwest gasser wars of the 1960's.

That is a 392 Hemi that lives under the hood
of the Filthy Forty Willys. Topped very nicely with a
blower and Hilborn injectors.

This car has got the typical gasser style front axle direct from the 1960's.
Disc brakes help stop the Willys.

This project started in 2003 and was completed in 2007.
The car was located by Bruce Caswell in Pennsylvania during 2003.
Bruce turned the Blanchet's on to this great find and
they knew they had to own this all steel rare Willys.

The color of the car was chosen when the Blanchet's saw photos
of the original Filthy Forty in Gasser Wars Magazine.
They loved the white stripe on the gray primer.
The gray primer was changed to black to high light the white stripe and lettering.

In the huge Willys trunk we find a custom made aluminum fuel cell and battery.

The inside of the coupe is very clean and to the point.
Nothing fancy, just the typical gas coupe interior.
The firewall was custom built to make room for the 392 Hemi and transmission.

That is the late Pork Zartman posing with the rebirth of
Charlie Hill's Filthy Forty at Indy in 2008.
It was in 1963 Pork drove the original Filthy Forty to
a class win at the NHRA US Nationals.
Zartman even got to drive the retro car in front of a packed house at the US Nationals.

Larry and Wanda pose with their recreation
of the Hill and Zartman Filthy Forty Willys.
This Maine based couple brought to drag racing a great bunch of
memories and smiles on the faces of drag race fans with their coupe.

It was over fifteen years ago I toured up to Maine
to photograph one of the nicest pro street Willys.
The owners were the Blanchet's and it was a great trip
to Maine for this California boy.

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