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Sun, 12 Jan 2020, 15:13 PM

Invasion of the Jeeps in the Funny Car Class
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2020 Steve Reyes





When the funny car craze ramped up in the mid-1960s, quite a few owners looked to cash in on the popularity of the plastic bodied floppers. Making a car into one of a kind became paramount to many in the class. Heck, anyone can have a Chevy, Ford or Mopar bodied funny car. A few brave souls went for the "one of a kind" funny car.

It was the latter part of 1966 when Ed Lenarth and Roger Wolford teamed up to bring the drag racing world The Secret Weapon funny Jeep. Yes, the US military would be proud of the Lenarth and Wolford Jeep as it did battle with GM, Ford, and Mopar bodied funny cars. I thought the funny Jeep was very cool when I first saw them at Fremont in late 1966. The open cockpit with Wolford in his fire suit just hangin' out in the wind as The Secret Weapon blasted down the quarter mile. The Jeep got a great response from the Fremont crowd.

Meanwhile, fellow Los Angeles based AA/GS racer Gene Conway was making plans to enter the SoCal funny car wars with his own Jeep bodied funny car. Conway's Destroyer debuted in the S/XS class at the 1967 NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, California. Both The Secret Weapon and Destroyer were at Pomona but alas they didn't race each other in the S/XS class. Lenarth and Wolford were looking to tour their Jeep across the nation while Conway and his Jeep stayed close to home because of Conway's business.

Unfortunately, the Lenarth and Wolford partnership did not last thru the 1967 season. Conway was busy with the Destroyer at local and Northern California events through 1968 and into early 1968. Conway made the switch to a Pontiac bodied funny car in 1968 and his Destroyer was sold to LA racer Ken Coleman.

After his failed partnership with Roger Wolford, Ed Lenarth was down but not out. He came up with the yellow brick, a.k.a. The Holy Toledo funny Jeep. Yes, Lenarth was back in a big way with an all new funny Jeep. It was big and yellow with Lenarth at the controls. His Holy Toledo became a big fan favorite in Southern California.

At the same time Coleman brought the Destroyer back into the funny car ranks. At the end of 1969 NHRA set the funny car rules for 1970 and guess what, no roofless bodies or open cockpit funny cars! Therefore, 1970 marked the end of the funny Jeep and Roadster style funny cars.

Ken Coleman made a bracket car out of the Destroyer, Lenarth sold the Holy Toledo to sand racers. So ended the saga of Jeep bodied funny cars in drag racing. But wait, the Jeep bodies were still very much legal in the world of sand drags. The Jeep bodied funny car really wasn't dead, it continued in the sport of sand dragging to this day.

If you wish to purchase prints of the photos below or any others, they may be obtained by contacting us at breyes@reyesontour.com. Other photos for purchase may be viewed by following the links at www.reyesontour.com.




The Lenarth and Wolford Secret Weapon came to Fremont, California, in the late part of 1966.
The crowd loved the military style Jeep and Wolford hangin' out in the Jeep's open cockpit.
The Jeep put on a great show that long-ago day/night at Fremont.



The 1967 NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, California, was the place to be seen by drag racing promotors.
The Secret Weapon was there to drum up bookings for a planned tour of the USA in the summer of 1967.
Putting an ad in Drag News got the word out to promotors who didn't attend the race at Pomona.



Gene Conway got into the funny car class in a big way with his Destroyer Jeep.
The funny Jeep ran very well against all comers and put on a heck of a show wherever
it ran in California. Because of Conway's business he raced close to home, mainly in Southern
and Northern California. He also ventured to nearby Las Vegas, Nevada.


When Conway switched to Pontiac Firebird and Corvette bodied funny cars,
the Destroyer was sold to local LA racer Ken Coleman. Coleman raced the Jeep
for a short while in the funny car class and then converted it to a bracket racer.




Ed Lenarth came back to the funny car class in a big way with his Holy Toledo funny Jeep.
The big yellow brick became a fan favorite at Southern California race tracks.
With Lenarth at the controls, the big yellow Jeep put on a great smoke-filled show.



The Holy Toledo lived on at the Bakersfield March Meet in 2009.
Ed and his son Ron raced this new modern yellow brick in the
retro-funny car class. Ed has since passed away but the memory
of the Holy Toledo and Ed Lenarth stays with all that knew him.





The funny Jeep lives in the world of sand drags.
Darryl Woody and Jim Depasse's Fuelish American Jeep
took on Butch Blair's Vega funny car. Then it was Al Westfall
driving the South Bountiful Auto Parts Jeep vs. Hank Eckhart and
Steve Brooks Mustang funny car. Don Prudhomme was
interviewing the late Al Westfall for NBC's sand drag coverage.


A pair of Jeep bodied funnies go at it on the sand.
The Beautiful Noise Jeep is a back motored creation with an injected Chevy engine.


Yes, that was a Jeep body. Butch Blair's 1948 Jeepster bodied fuel burning sand funny car at Coalinga, California.



Just a little bit of information on how the Jeep got its name.


A Jeep in a Jeep.





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